Total War: Rome II
|Total War: Rome II|
|Developer(s)||The Creative Assembly|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|Genre(s)||Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics|
Total War: Rome II is a strategy game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega, released on 3 September 2013 for Microsoft Windows. The eighth standalone game in the Total War series of video games, Rome II is a successor to the 2004 game Rome: Total War. The game suffered from significant technical problems upon release, but was a commercial success, surpassing all other games in Total War series in both sales and number of concurrent players on its release day.
Total War: Rome II is set in classical antiquity, and focuses on portraying each culture of the classical era as accurately and in-depth as possible, as opposed to its predecessor, which portrayed many factions anachronistically. The grand campaign begins in 272 BC, and lasts for 300 years. However, the player also has the option to play further, as there are no timed victory conditions in Rome II.
The Warscape Engine powers the visuals of the game and the new unit cameras allows players to focus on individual soldiers on the battlefield, which in itself may contain thousands of combatants at a time. The Creative Assembly has stated that they wish to bring out the more human side of war this way, with soldiers reacting with horror as their comrades get killed around them and officers inspiring their men with heroic speeches before siege towers hit the walls of the enemy city. This is realized using facial animations for individual units, adding a feel of horror and realism to the battles.
Armies and navies have changeable stances on the campaign map. Stances determine factors on the campaign map, such as total movement points per turn or the ability to deploy traps for an ambush. For example, the "Forced March" stance can enable an army to march further, but will also tire out its men and reduce their fighting ability and leave them vulnerable to ambush; the "Defensive Stance" enables the player to place fortifications such as stakes or redoubts, and the "Ambush Stance" enables the placing of traps such as fireballs and sulfur pits. Armies and fleets in Rome II can be made up of a maximum of 20 units and must have a general or admiral to lead them. An individual faction's power, or "imperium", determines the number of armies it can raise. A faction can gain more imperium by conquering more regions and acquiring more gold. Players also have the ability to name units in an army and change their emblems.
When an army is formed, the player must pick a general from a list of available faction members to lead the new army. When it recruit new units, the army enters muster mode and cannot move until the new units have been added to the army. Both armies and generals can gain skills and traits as they level up after a battles. Each skill can be upgraded up to three times to enhance an army or general's performance. Furthermore, if an army loses its general, a new one will be appointed by the player prior to the battle in which the general was lost. These rules also apply to fleets and admirals of the faction's navy.
As with Total War: Shogun 2, the player will be prompted with decisions. The Creative Assembly have expanded on this mechanic, with each decision leading the player down a particular 'decision path' based on the player's previous decisions. These decisions will then affect the way the campaign plays out, such as turning the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire through a civil war. Additionally, rather than solely assigning traits to generals and family members as with previous Total War games, the player can assign traits to legions as they gain combat experience through their years of conquest. Players can customise legions by choosing their weapon loadout. Players will still be able to determine the composition of individual cohorts, even though they will be building entire legions at a time, unlike in previous Total War titles where the player had to build all units of an army separately.
Navies play an important role in Total War: Rome II. The Creative Assembly introduced mixed naval and land combat for land battles and city sieges. This will reflect the naval strategies of the classical era, where coastal cities were conquered and destroyed by a combination of land and naval power. Legions can attack the enemy's ground forces and cities, while naval units provide supporting fire or engage in naval warfare on the seas. Navies can conquer poorly guarded coastal cities by themselves. In addition, naval combat has been modified to suit the times. Navies are now composed largely of troop carriers, designed to ram and board opposing ships, and land units can now commandeer merchant vessels and embark as makeshift naval units. Naval units were made bigger in size and as a result a player may recruit several naval units at a time allowing construction of a formidable navy more quickly. Naval regions, which were introduced in Medieval: Total War, have returned. Their purpose is to prevent players or the AI from slipping an invasion force right past a huge enemy fleet as in previous titles. Entering a naval region where an enemy fleet is present will trigger a naval combat automatically.
There are three core types of agents in Rome II: the dignitary, the champion and the spy, and each culture will have its own variants for these. When spawned, each agent will have a "profession" that is determined by its supposed background or ethnicity, for example. A player can invest points to an agents profession in addition to its skill tree as the agent levels up. Each agent will be able to assassinate/wound other characters or convert them to join the cause of their faction. This is to make each agent type as useful as possible, but naturally different agents will have different skills and purposes only they can fulfil. When an agent is asked to perform a certain task, there is a deeper set of choices on how to complete the task. For example, when getting rid of an enemy agent, one can bribe him, convert him or murder him.
Developer The Creative Assembly have tried to ensure the uniqueness of different cultures and fighting forces in the ancient times. Lead unit designer Jack Lusted stated that instead of the "rebel nation" of the original Rome: Total War representing minor states, there are a large number of smaller, individual nations and city states represented by their own faction. Each ethnic group have a unique play-style. A tribe of British barbarians looks and feels completely different from that of a disciplined Roman legion, for example. Different agents and technologies are implemented for different factions. There are over 500 different land units in the game, including mercenaries, who have made a return from Rome II's predecessor. Also, over 30 different city variants are implemented to avoid siege battles feeling and playing out the same every time.
In addition to the traditional sieges and field battles, a myriad of battle types are available in Rome II. These battle types include the following:
- Combined naval/land battles: These battles occur when assaulting a coastal city, or when two armies are near the coastline. In the case of the latter, navies can arrive by sea to bolster the land forces with their marines.
- Settlement outskirts battles: These battles are fought near regional capitals, which are too small to have walls. In these battles the primary objective is to capture the city rather than destroy or rout the enemy army, although victory can still be achieved by routing your opponent.
- Siege battles: These battles occur when an army assaults a provincial capital or a fortified settlement. In these battles, the cities include multiple capture points which the defender has to defend in order to win the fight, as seen in the Siege of Carthage trailer. The attacker can build siege equipment in preparation of the assault.
- Encampment battles: These battles are triggered when an army attacks another that is in defensive stance. The defending army has had time to build fortifications around its perimeter, including wooden palisades or small forts. All in all, the battle will resemble a small scale siege.
- River battles: River battles are fought when an army tries to cross a major, navigable river and another army tries to stop it from doing so. Navies can aid in this fight, although armies will be able to build transport ships of their own when crossing rivers.
- Ambushes: Ambushes have been revamped in Rome II, and feel completely different from before. The ambushing army has the ability to place traps, such as flaming boulders, spikes and so on. The defending army must find a way to escape the siege area to win, although it can also attempt to destroy the ambushing army. These battles will be similar to the battle of Teutoburg Forest historical battle.
- Port sieges: Another combined land and naval battle type, port sieges are triggered when a navy sails into an enemy coastal city with a port. The navy will attempt to land its marines in the city, while heavier ships intercept any enemy vessels and provide supporting fire to the marines using catapults and other projectiles, like in the Siege of Carthage historical battle.
The diplomacy system is revamped with a new artificial intelligence, so players can plan their way to power diplomatically. The Creative Assembly has acknowledged the various anomalies in previous games, where the AI could perform strange or even suicidal actions, such as small factions declaring war on the Roman Empire. This has been looked into in the sequel and the AI is said to be more "intelligent" and cunning than ever. The player's own actions during the campaign will determine whether or not the enemy AI will be a trustworthy ally or a suspicious traitor.
The political system of Rome II has been completely remade. The factions of Rome and Carthage each have three political entities that vie for power inside those factions. Players will choose to be part of one of the entities once they select the faction they want to play. Other factions have internal politics between a single ruling family and a class of nobles. The political standing of different entities is based on a resource system, that is in turn based on the deeds and actions of generals and characters belonging to a certain political entity. If one's standing drops too low, they may find himself powerless to affect his nation's affairs, or if one becomes too powerful, rivals might unite against him. In certain cases, a player can attempt to take all power for himself, thus becoming emperor or king. This requires a civil war, however, another part of the game completely redesigned by The Creative Assembly.
Generals can now be both military leaders and skilled politicians, depending on their traits and skill trees.
The campaign map for Rome II spans from Bactria (Afghanistan) to Lusitania (Portugal) and from Caledonia (Scotland) to Garamantia (in the Sahara). It is divided into 173 regions, which are grouped into 57 provinces. Provinces are groupings of up to four regions, and each region within a province can be conquered separately. However, the control of an entire province will allow a player to pass edicts on provincial level, edicts that provide bonuses such as increased public happiness or military production. Construction options for regions within a province are displayed on a single menu, while public happiness is also province based. This means that if public happiness drops too low in a province, the most unhappy region will rebel instead of the entire province.
Individual villages and resource buildings are absent from the campaign map in Rome II, and are instead confined into the regional capital. Each regional capital generates an automatic garrison, the size of which is defined by the settlement's size and can be increased by construction of various buildings. To compensate for the removal of resource buildings, armies now have a raid stance, which automatically generates loot and reduces their upkeep cost. A player can raid in both friendly and hostile territory, although raiding one's own regions is detrimental to public happiness.
Each province has one provincial capital with walls. Siege battles and the building of siege equipment will only occur when fighting in a provincial capital in an effort to lessen the amount of siege battles, and to provide alternative fighting scenarios for smaller settlements (none of which require the attacker to first scale or destroy the walls.) Because of their larger size, provincial capitals also have more building slots than regional capitals.
The game features 117 different factions around the campaign map, each with their own unit roster and agenda. Eight of these are playable on the initial release, with more included as either free or paid downloadable content. The playable factions are divided into nine cultural groups: Hellenistic, Latin, Punic, Celtic, Germanic, Desert Nomadic, Iberian, Tribal Nomadic, Balkan and Eastern. Each have unique traits associated with them, and each bring a completely different experience. Some of the factions focus on military conquest (such as the barbarian factions), while others (like the Hellenistic or Eastern factions) focus more on diplomacy and trade.
Specific faction traits are listed below:
Roman Faction Bonuses: +1 food in all provinces, +1 experience rank for Roman infantry recruits
- House of Cornelia: public order penalty (minimum of -4) from presence of Latin culture, moderate diplomatic bonus with all Hellenic factions (cultural affinity), +3% tax rate
- House of Julia: +25% public order penalties due to presence of foreign cultures, +4 to cultural conversion, +10% morale during battles against barbarian tribes
- House of Junia: moderate diplomatic penalty with all factions (cultural aversion), public order bonus (maximum of +4) from presence of Latin culture, 10% wealth from agricultural buildings
Total War: Rome II features numerous playable factions from the classical era, including some of the most famous civilizations in world history.
The Caesar in Gaul DLC added numerous Gallic tribes not present in the main game. The Hannibal at the Gates added two new Iberian factions as well as Syracuse. Imperator Augustus has also been said to introduce new factions, including Armenia.  
Much like in Shogun 2, Total War: Rome II has several packs of downloadable content (DLC) adding Factions, Units and new standalone campaigns which play off the base game.
- Caesar in Gaul
Released: 17 December 2013
Caesar in Gaul is the first standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II, which covers Julius Caesar’s war of expansion against the Gallic tribes. Three new playable factions, the Nervii, Boii and Galatia are also included in this campaign pack.
- Hannibal at the Gates
Released: 27 March 2014
Hannibal at the Gates is the second standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II, which focuses on the Mediterranean during the outbreak of the Second Punic War. Three new playable factions, the Arevaci, Lusitani and Syracuse are also included in this campaign pack. Carthage also received some free units.
- Imperator Augustus
Released: 16 September 2014
The third standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II was announced alongside the Total War: Rome II: Emperor Edition. It will focus on the Second Triumvirate War between Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus in the closing years of the Roman Republic. It will be released alongside the Emperor Edition, and will be available free of charge to owners of Total War: Rome II. 
- Greek States
Released: 3 September 2013
This pack included three new playable factions, Athens, Epirus, and Sparta. This DLC was free for Pre-purchase customers of Rome II', but was made available for purchase upon release date.
- Nomadic Tribes
Released: 22 October 2013
This pack included three new playable factions, Massagetae, Roxolani, and Scythia. This DLC pack was free for the first week upon its release, available for all Rome II owners.
- Pirates and Raiders
Released: 29 May 2014
This DLC pack included three new playable factions, Ardiaei, Odrysian Kingdom, and Tylis.
- Blood & Gore
Released: 31 October 2013
The Blood & Gore DLC added to the savagery of front-line combat to viscera-splattering life with decapitations, dismemberment, and devastating impalements.
- Beasts of War
Released: 17 February 2014
The Beasts of War DLC added seven new battlefield units to Rome II. Beasts of War brings further variety to Rome II’s already diverse unit roster.
- Wonders & Seasons
Released: 26 March 2014
This DLC introduced seasons into the main Rome II game, and added some of the ancient wonders of the world to the battle fields within the base game. The DLC was included in the 11th patch update free of charge.
- Daughters of Mars
Released: 15 August 2014
This DLC added some female units to the factions of the Suebi, Lusitani, Rome, Sparta and Egypt. The Suebi and Royal Scythia received some free female units. The Suebi also received some other free units as well.
Released: 3 September 2013
Pontus was added to Rome II's playable faction roster on release day as the first DLC for the game.
- Seleucid Empire
Released: 18 October 2013
This free DLC added the Seleucid Empire to Rome II's playable faction roster.
Released: 5 December 2013
This free DLC added Baktria as a playable faction to Rome II.
Released: 27 May 2014
This free DLC added the Getae as a playable faction.
According to The Bookseller website, Pan MacMillan and Thomas Dunne Books have purchased the rights from The Creative Assembly to publish a series of novels based on the video game Total War: Rome II. Author David Gibbins has been tasked to write the aforementioned novel series. The first of the novels were released in October.
The game has received an average score of 76.67 on GameRankings and 76/100 on Metacritic, with the latter indicated as "generally favorable" on the website's rating scale. The average user score however, was much lower at a 4.0 out of 10. PC Gamer scored the game 85%, praising the cinematic scale of the battles and attention to detail, calling them "stunning" and "the most marvellous moments of the fifty plus hours I've played so far". In the same review however, there was also criticism towards apparent glitches on its initial release, including issues with the AI, calling it "floppy". Edge similarly praised the visuals and battles while noting on release bugs, stating that "even as it topples, it's glorious to look at, and to live through." Daniel Starkey of GameSpot enjoyed the variety of units and what it called "spectacular sound design and great attention to visual detail". However in the same review he also noted "problematic" camera angles and control, particularly during siege and larger field battles. Justin Clouse of The Escapist also enjoyed the unit and visual variety, stating "to its credit, Rome II does an excellent job of giving all the factions a unique feel", in what it called "impactful variations".
Outside of the battles, Game Revolution called the campaign map "a treat to look at" while also praising the new features and depth, yet took issue with the wait times between player and AI turns., a view echoed by Steve Butts of IGN who reported "a single turn can take as much as 10 minutes... those little inconveniences add up. Don't get me wrong; Rome II is a game worth savoring, but it also asks you to tolerate difficulties that don't need to exist". Paul Dean of Eurogamer enjoyed the new additions to the game play systems while also felt "stagnation" with others, concluding that "for all that the game may have promised, it isn't such a big step forward for the series. It's Total War done a bit bigger, a bit better and a bit different." Adam Biessener of Game Informer unfavorably compared the game to the previous title in the franchise Total War: Shogun 2, calling it a "step backwards", in that "where Shogun 2 accelerated into the massive endgame war just as administrating your empire started to become tedious, Rome II slows down far in advance of a campaign’s finale", concluding by calling it a "disappointment coming off of the brilliance of Shogun 2". Mike Suskle of GamesRadar however called it "a worthy continuation of the franchise and an overdue update to one of the greatest strategy games of all time".
Technical problems and controversy
Upon release many users reported technical faults such as being unable to load the game following installation, crashes, texture optimization problems and broken Artificial intelligence, poor game performance was also constantly reported. In a negative review by Rich Stanton for The Guardian, he reports having to re-download the full game following problems with his own review copy, noting that his "PC runs Shogun II at ultra settings without any issues but Rome II on medium makes it choke like a dog, and judging by the developer's own forum many others are having the same issues." On the official forums, an "anonymous developer" from another studio posted his own complaints, including numerous bugs and poorly implemented features such as "capture the flag" style battles, feeling that the game had "comprehensively failed" to be tested, blaming the publisher Sega for its state on release. In a review by critic and comedian Joe Vargas (AKA Angry Joe), he also complained about AI problems and unit balancing with in game video examples while also noting differences with the preview builds, while William Usher of Cinema Blend supported Vargas's review while questioning other reviews due to the number of reported problems on release prior to patching. Following its release, developer The Creative Assembly announced regular patching in order to fix the reported issues, with the first update coming the Friday the same week of release. On the Total War official forums, admins on behalf of Creative Director Mike Simpson issued an apology along with a statement, promising to further patch the game, encouraging players to report all problems given the variety and difference of issues between players. Simpson would later go on to state, in a second public announcement about new and upcoming fixes, about asking for further player input while also "hoping we can fundamentally treat our releases differently in the future."
As of 31 March 2014, the game has sold 1.13 million copies in Europe and North America.
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