Creative Assembly’s next grand strategy title has finally arrived, and is the best strategy game I’ve ever played to date. It lives up to its name in every possible way and is a shining example of what the RTS genre is all about. Everything we love about Total War games is here, managing empires, raising and battling armies, a diplomacy system that actually works, and strikingly good historical accuracy.
Rome II’s scope itself is a behemoth to behold and tasks players from the beginning with leading their faction into being the world’s next superpower, either through military action, economical means, or diplomacy. There are so many different routes for players to go down that the game should keep players preoccupied for weeks to come. 45 hours in to one of my campaigns and I had only 5 of 7 ultimate goals done. The game is huge!
The core mission for Rome II remains the same in where players will conquer their way across a huge map one turn at a time, all while managing your ever growing empire and keeping public dis-rest at a low so people don’t rebel. The game sprawls from ancient England all the way to Egypt and beyond, making for the biggest Total War campaign map yet.
And every culture in between has its own unique tech tree to customize, units to recruit, and buildings to construct. Roman Legions will clash with other units in a disciplined, systematical fashion while the howling barbarians to the north descend upon their foe in an overwhelmingly frightening action.
Rome II’s campaign map is constructed a little differently as well this time around, opting for a new province system which has one large walled capital surrounded by one to three smaller, non fortified settlements that can be captured independently. Capturing an entire province allows for the player to issue an edict there which can be anything from increased food production & public order, to an increased cultural conversion rate or more income from taxes.
Unifying provinces will also make it a lot easier to micromanage your empire as players will only have to click on one city to open the building project screen for a slew of others.
The one change I loved the most about Rome II is its new army system. At first, I didn’t think I’d like it, but in the end, I turned out to love it. Armies can now only exist under the leadership of a general, and you can only have so many generals under your command in correspondence to your empire’s size.
While that may sound problematic, the garrison system in Rome II is extremely well done and now provides players with an adequate amount of troops to defend their cities from attack against foreign invaders and rebellions, eliminating the need for an army to be garrisoned there.
And the best part is that this doesn’t cut into your upkeep, meaning you can focus only on your armies when it comes to expenses and not the safety of your settlements, which is handled by how big it is and what kind of buildings you have constructed there. I almost never had to bring in an army to help out with the defense of city except for only a handful of times that I can probably count on two hands.
90% of the time I could make due and defend my territories with the garrisoned army. It may require a little strategy on your part to emerge the victor, but heck, that’s what the game is all about!
The diplomacy system is another great feature in Rome II, and for me, it’s the first game to actually have a working alliance system. If you’re attacked or go to war with another faction, allies will actually send armies over to help you, defend your cities, and even put down rebellions if one arises and they’re nearby. It actually pays off to make friends in Rome II!
You can even make non aggression pacts with other nations, meaning neither of you will attack each other so long as the pact stands. And at times, they’ll assist you in the fighting if they think it protects their interests as well (for instance a foreign nation invades the province bordering between you and them).
And this makes declaring war on other factions all the more difficult since you’ll want to check in on who they’re allied with, trading with, who they have pacts with, etc. Because you definitely don’t want to start a war with someone who will have four armies suddenly pop up from allies ready to support them because most likely, you aren’t going to win that fight.
As far as battles go in Rome II, there isn’t many new things to talk about here besides that it’s a blast like always and the presentation is second to none. The one new feature I noticed here were the combined naval and land battles everyone’s already been buzzing about, which were fun, but nothing super special. They only really came in handy when you were besieging a city and could sneak into the settlement via the port, or maybe land troops at another gate more quickly to spread out the battlefield.
Many of the multiplayer features are back with Rome II as well, minus the avatar system that Shogun 2 had where you could level them up and receive bonus’s for different things. With Rome II, you can challenge other players to a battle, or do a campaign with them either head to head or via coop.
Total War: Rome II is Creative Assembly’s best Total War entry yet. Despite the few bugs I’ve found here and there, the massive scope of the game and near flawless AI system has left me in awe and jittery for what lies next (expansions?).