Eyes on “Total War: Rome II”

After disappearing into the mist behind “Medieval 2: Total War,” “Empire: Total War,” “Napoleon: Total War” and most recently “Shogun 2: Total War,” “Rome 2: Total War” comes crashing back into our line of site like the Roman Empire trying to retain the last vestiges of power before its fall. By the looks of it, it’ll be just as glamorous and blood-soaked as the real life empire.

Whether you call it “Total War: Rome 2” or “Rome 2: Total War,” you’re still talking about an installment in one of the most highly acclaimed historical strategy franchises of all time. Developer Creative Assembly’s “Total War” titles have been compared to “RISK” and the “Civilization” games with the flair and drama of a real-time-strategy game’s combat mechanics. Beautifully rendered and geographically accurate maps of nations and factions set the stage for the bloody battles that the player can command in fields or at the gates of their enemy’s fortresses.

The “Rome” series was the third incarnation of the “Total War” name, and many have claimed it is one of the best despite it being one of the most graphically inferior games to share the name. That being said, it’s been several years with tons of improvements and mechanics added to the games that have come after such as naval combat and hauntingly realistic character models and animations.
Some would say that the greatest improvements made over the years have been cosmetic. The artificial intelligence and gameplay suffer at times in certain areas such as battles and game complexity. Occasionally, stories like the American Revolution were used to try and garner more players, but those tactics fell somewhat flat as die-hard fans of the series didn’t seem to care for the olive branch extended toward newer players.
Certain titles that were expansions or even sequels to some of the other titles were also less than impressive to gamers. “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” and “Brotherhood” are to “Assassin’s Creed” as “Napoleon: Total War” is to “Empire: Total War.” These titles were good, but were not the most impressive and certainly not the most loved due to their lack of innovation and being widely perceived as mere filler.

“Rome 2: Total War” inspires high hopes as both “Medieval 2: Total War” and “Shogun 2: Total War” were both highly acclaimed and received better than their predecessors. One would hope so after giving the teams several years to improve on the graphics and gameplay.

This is either a scene from the film Troy or a really good screenshot…

While no one has actually seen any gameplay at all from the announced title, that hasn’t stopped the team from speaking on it. The most noticeable difference that fans can see from the screenshots is the graphical quality. Compared to “Shogun 2,” which was called stunning and beautiful, “Rome 2” seems to put them to shame. Lead designer James Russell told IGN that the budget for the game is markedly larger than that of “Shogun 2” and that they’re going to try and push even the most advanced PC rigs to the limit.
Of course, the biggest fear players have now is slowing their real-time battles filled with literally hundreds to thousands of soldiers to a crawl with the new facial animations and detail that are supposed to be in the game. Not to mention the staggering amount of detail in the world itself.
Map design from “Rome: Total War,” the previous game in this line of the “Total War” series.
That’s only half of the game as the majority of it is played on a sprawling digital map of the Mediterranean. In the past, each country or region had a singular stronghold that needed to be taken by a faction for them to control it. Russell said that there will be multiple areas within a region that can be controlled by a number of factions to ensure that no one can headshot and take the whole area in one fell swoop.
While this may be much more realistic than the simulations in the past, it greatly increases the difficulty of the game itself and makes the map that much larger if there are multiple strategic points per region. All in all, a full etenxion of gameplay and a more life-like twist.

But of course, there’s the buzz about the live-action trailer that surfaced some weeks ago. Since these have become somewhat of a trend in the last couple of months – maybe the whole year, in fact – it’s surprising to see an RTS franchise using real actors to promote their game that isn’t exactly action packed or filled with stunning stories.

Adding a story to the franchise now seems like an odd move, but there’s no harm in trying the game to see if it plays out well. For all anyone knows, Creative Assembly could be a powerhouse in the literary field and could create one of the best RTS narratives of all time to go with its gargantuan game. Or it could fall flat and no one could care. We’ll see when the game comes out.

Roma Invicta