Total War: Rome II
|Total War: Rome II|
|Developer(s)||The Creative Assembly|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, OS X|
|Genre(s)||Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics|
Total War: Rome II is a strategy video game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega. It was released on September 3, 2013, for Microsoft Windows as the eighth standalone game in the Total War series of video games and the successor to the 2004 game Rome: Total War.
Rome II received mostly positive reviews from critics, but suffered from significant technical problems upon release. However, it proved a commercial success, surpassing all other games in the Total War series in both sales and number of concurrent players on its release day. In September 2014, an Emperor Edition was released, which added Mac OS X support and addressed many of the technical problems in the game, as well as overhauled AI battles and upgraded certain visual elements. It was offered as a standalone edition and a free upgrade to all current players.
Total War: Rome II is set in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East in the Classical antiquity period. The grand single-player 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.
Like its predecessor, Rome II blends turn-based grand strategy and civilization management with real-time tactical battles. The Warscape engine powers the game's visuals and new unit cameras allow players to focus on individual soldiers on the real-time battlefield, which may contain thousands of combatants at the same time. Creative Assembly has stated that it wished to bring out the more human side of war, with soldiers reacting as their comrades get killed around them, and officers inspiring men with heroic speeches.
Rome II features more sophisticated portrayals of each culture and civilization of the period, which in its predecessor had been portrayed anachronistically. The Creative Assembly tried to ensure the uniqueness of different cultures and fighting forces. Lead unit designer Jack Lusted stated that instead of the "rebel nation" used to represent minor states in the original Rome: Total War, Rome II features a large number of smaller, individual nations and city-states represented by their own factions. Each ethnic group has a unique play-style. A tribe of British barbarians looks and feels different from a disciplined Roman legion. Different agents and technologies are implemented for different factions. There are over 500 different land units in the game, including mercenaries. Over 30 different city variants avoid siege battles feeling and playing out the same every time.
The diplomacy system has been revamped with a new artificial intelligence. The Creative Assembly has acknowledged anomalies in previous games, where the AI could perform strange or even suicidal actions, such as very small factions declaring war on very large ones such as the Roman Empire; the AI is said to be more "intelligent" and cunning in Rome II. The player's own actions 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 redone. The factions of Rome and Carthage each have three political entities that vie for power. 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, which is, in turn, based on the deeds and actions of its generals and characters. If one's standing drops too low, they may find themselves powerless to affect their nation's affairs, or if they become too powerful, rivals might unite against them. In certain cases, a player may attempt to take all power for himself to become emperor or king, which requires a civil war—another part of the game completely redesigned.
As with Total War: Shogun 2, the player is prompted with decisions throughout the game. The Creative Assembly has expanded on this mechanic, with each decision leading the player down a particular "decision path" based on previous decisions. These then affect the way the campaign plays out; for example, the Roman Republic may become the Roman Empire through 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 entire legions as they gain combat experience. Players can also customize legions by choosing their weapons. Players can still determine the composition of individual cohorts, even though they will be building entire legions at a time, unlike in previous Total War titles where all units had to be created separately.
As with Rome: Total War, special units known as agents play important roles in gameplay. There are three core types of agents in Rome II: the dignitary, the champion, and the spy, and each culture has its own variants. When spawned, each agent has a "profession" that is determined by its supposed background or ethnicity. A player can invest in an agent's profession as well as its skill tree. Each agent can try to assassinate other characters or convert them to their faction. 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.
In addition to traditional sieges and field battles, a myriad of other battle types is available in Total War: Rome II. These include:
- Combined naval/land battles: These occur when assaulting a coastal city, or when two armies are near the coastline.
- Settlement outskirts battles: These are fought near regional capitals that are too small to have walls. 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 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.
- Encampment battles: These are triggered when an army attacks another that is in a defensive stance. The defending army has time to build fortifications around its perimeter, including wooden palisades or small forts.
- River battles: These are fought when an army tries to cross a major, navigable river and another tries to stop it. Navies can aid in this fight, although armies are able to build transport ships of their own to cross rivers.
- Ambushes: These have been revamped in Rome II. The ambushing army can place traps, such as flaming boulders and spikes, and the defending army must find a way to escape the area, although it can also attempt to defeat the ambushing army. An ambush battle is also triggered when an army attacks an enemy that was sabotaged.
- Port sieges: These are triggered when a navy sails into an enemy coastal city with a port. The navy will attempt to land its army in the city, while heavier ships intercept any enemy vessels and provide supporting fire using catapults and other projectiles.
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, to reflect the naval strategies of the Classical era. 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. Navies are now composed largely of troop carriers, designed to ram and board opposing ships, and land units can now commandeer merchant vessels as naval transport units. Naval units are bigger in size and a player may recruit several at a time. Naval regions, originally 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. Entering a naval region where an enemy fleet is present will trigger naval combat.
Armies and navies have changeable stances on the campaign map. Stances determine factors such as total movement points per turn or the ability to deploy traps for an ambush. The "Forced March" stance allows an army to march further, but will tire out its soldiers, reducing their fighting ability and leaving them vulnerable to ambush; the "Defensive Stance" enables fortifications such as stakes or redoubts and the "Ambush Stance" enables traps such as fireballs and sulphur pits. Armies and fleets can contain a maximum of 20 units and must have a general or admiral to lead them. A faction's power, or "imperium", determines the number of armies it can raise. A faction can gain more imperium by conquering more regions or acquiring more gold. Players can also name units in an army and change their emblems.
When an army is formed, the player must pick a general to lead it from a list of available faction members. Generals can now be both military leaders and skilled politicians, depending on their traits and skill trees. When an army recruits new units, it enters muster mode and cannot move until they have been added to the army. Both armies and generals can gain skills and traits from experience in battle. Each skill can be upgraded up to three times. If an army loses its general, a new one must be appointed by the player. These rules also apply to fleets and admirals.
The game's primary campaign map extends from Bactria in the east (present-day Afghanistan) to Lusitania in the west (present-day Portugal), and from Caledonia in the north (present-day Scotland) to Garamantia in the south (present-day Libya), and is divided into 57 provinces and 173 regions. Each province is a grouping of up to four regions, and each region can be conquered separately. However, control of an entire province allows a player to pass edicts at a provincial level, which 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, the most unhappy region will rebel instead of the entire province.
Individual villages and resource buildings are absent from the campaign map and are confined to the regional capital. Each regional capital generates an automatic garrison, with its size defined by its population, which can be increased by constructing various 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 a provincial capital with walls. Siege battles only occur when fighting in a provincial capital. Because of their larger size, provincial capitals also have more building slots than regional capitals.
The game features 117 factions, each with a unique unit roster and agenda, as well as overall bonuses and penalties. Eight of these are playable on the initial release, with more included either free or as paid downloadable content. The playable factions are divided into ten cultural groups: Hellenic, Latin, Punic, Celtic, Germanic, Desert Nomadic, Iberian, Tribal Nomadic, Balkan, and Eastern. Each has unique traits. Some factions focus on military conquest (such as the barbarians), while others (like the Hellenic or Eastern) focus more on diplomacy and trade. Playable factions from the Classical era include the Roman Republic, Carthage, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, Parthia, the Iceni, the Arverni, the Suebi, and Macedon.
The Caesar in Gaul DLC pack adds numerous Gallic tribes not present in the main game, while Hannibal at the Gates adds two new Iberian factions as well as Syracuse. Imperator Augustus adds Lepidus', Mark Antony's, Pompey's, and Octavian's Roman Factions, as well as several other factions such as Dacia and Armenia.
Much like the other games in the Total War series, several packs of downloadable content (DLC) have been released for Rome II, adding new factions, units, and standalone campaigns to the base game.
|Caesar in Gaul||December 17, 2013||Caesar in Gaul was the first standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II, covering Julius Caesar’s war of expansion against the Gallic tribes during the 1st century BC. Three new playable factions, the Nervii, Boii, and Galatia are included in this campaign pack.|
|Hannibal at the Gates||March 27, 2014||Hannibal at the Gates was the second standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II, focusing on the Mediterranean during the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 218 BC. Three new playable factions, the Arevaci, Lusitani, and Syracuse are included in this campaign pack. Carthage also received some free units.|
|Imperator Augustus||September 16, 2014||The third standalone campaign pack, Imperator Augustus, was announced and released simultaneously with the Total War: Rome II: Emperor Edition. It focuses on the Second Triumvirate War between Sextus Pompey, Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus in the closing years of the Roman Republic. A new playable faction, Armenia, is also included in this campaign pack. Emperor Edition was made available free of charge to owners of Total War: Rome II.|
|Wrath of Sparta||December 16, 2014||The fourth standalone campaign pack, Wrath of Sparta, focuses on the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the late 4th century BC and features two factions exclusive only to its campaign: the League of Corinth and the Boeotian League.|
|Empire Divided||November 30, 2017||The fifth standalone campaign pack, Empire Divided, was announced on November 8, 2017. It focuses on the Crisis of the Third Century and includes event chains for certain factions. This campaign was released alongside a major update that again overhauled the political system.|
|Rise of the Republic||August 9, 2018||The sixth standalone campaign pack for Total War: Rome II was announced on July 19, 2018. It features a prequel campaign set 127 years before Rome II's campaign, during the expansion of the early Roman Republic. This campaign was released alongside the Ancestral Update, which introduces the Family Tree and graphical updates.|
|Greek States||September 3, 2013||This pack included three new playable factions, Athens, Epirus, and Sparta. The DLC was free for pre-purchase customers of Rome II, but was made available for purchase upon release date.|
|Nomadic Tribes||October 22, 2013||This pack included three new playable factions, Massagetae, Roxolani, and Royal Scythia. This DLC pack was made available for free to all Rome II owners for the first week upon its release.|
|Pirates and Raiders||May 29, 2014||This DLC pack included three new playable factions, the Ardiaei, the Odrysian Kingdom, and Tylis.|
|Black Sea Colonies||November 20, 2014||This DLC pack included three new playable factions, Cimmeria, Colchis, and Pergamon.|
|Desert Kingdoms||March 8, 2018||This DLC pack included the Masaesyli, Kush, Saba, and Nabatea as new playable factions with unique units to accompany.|
|Blood & Gore||October 31, 2013||The Blood & Gore DLC added to the savagery of front-line combat with viscera-splattering life, including decapitations, dismemberment, and devastating impalements.|
|Beasts of War||February 17, 2014||The Beasts of War DLC added seven new battlefield units to Rome II, bringing further variety to the game's already diverse unit roster.|
|Wonders & Seasons||March 26, 2014||This DLC introduced seasons to the main game and added some of the ancient wonders of the world to the battlefields within the base game. Wonders & Seasons was included in the 11th patch update free of charge.|
|Daughters of Mars||August 15, 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.|
|Pontus||September 3, 2013||The Kingdom of Pontus was added to Rome II's playable faction roster on release day as the first free DLC for the game.|
|Seleucid Empire||October 18, 2013||This free DLC added the Seleucid Empire as a playable faction to Rome II.|
|Baktria||December 5, 2013||This free DLC added Baktria as a playable faction to Rome II.|
|Getae||May 29, 2014||This free DLC added the Getae as a playable faction to Rome II.|
|Armenia||September 16, 2014||This free DLC added Armenia as a playable faction to Rome II.|
|Massilia||November 20, 2014||This free DLC added Massilia as a playable faction to Rome II.|
According to The Bookseller website, Pan MacMillan and Thomas Dunne Books purchased the rights from The Creative Assembly in 2012 to publish a series of novels based on Total War: Rome II. Author David Gibbins was tasked to write the series, with the first of the novels released in October 2013.
Total War: Rome II has an average score of 76/100 on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews". 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 bugs on release, 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 gameplay systems while also felt "stagnation" detracted from 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".
The Emperor Edition was released on September 16, 2014, as a standalone release and a free update to all current players. The update integrated all prior fixes while adding improvements to the AI battles, political system, building chains, and visuals. Softpedia, for example, gave Emperor Edition a 90, saying that it "shows how much the title from The Creative Assembly has evolved since it was originally delivered and the way the entire experience has been updated based on the needs of the community and the cool ideas of the development team."
Technical problems and controversy
Upon the game's initial 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 and blaming the publisher Sega for its state on release. A review by critic and comedian Joe Vargas (aka Angry Joe) 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' 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."
Total War: Rome II surpassed commercially all other games in the Total War series in both sales and number of concurrent players on its release day. By August 23, 2013, Total War: Rome II had achieved more than six times the number of pre-orders of Total War: Shogun 2, making Rome II the most pre-ordered game in the history of the Total War franchise. As of March 31, 2014, the game had sold 1.13 million copies in Europe and North America.
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