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Rome: Total War II Review (PC)

Rome: Total War II is the latest entry into the Total War franchise, and looks to bring in a slightly dumbed down but still pleasing version of the game to the table. It definitely has not been without its bugs since release, but each patch so far has brought excellent fixes to the problems that persisted since launch.

The Roman Era will always be the best setting for a Total War game just because of the history at the time. The multitude of diverse tribes and empires scattered across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East creates a unique and entertaining game environment, as you can control one of the many factions in your own bid to forge an all encompassing empire.

With the different factions comes a multitude of different units as well, each with their own advantages and weaknesses. From Africa we can see things like Elephants, which crush infantry units in a single charge, or the mighty Legionnaires of the Roman Empire. The new way battles are handled on the map makes for often unique situations where your outnumbered army can take down a vastly superior army thanks to the terrain where the battle takes place, which can often turn the tide of a war in your favour.

The map for Rome: Total War II is the biggest Total War map to date, and encompasses northern Africa, the entirety of Europe as well as the Middle East, all the way down to the border of India. Needless to say this is not a small area, I am two weeks into a co-operative campaign and we are just about half way with our mission.

Your mission in the singleplayer and multiplayer campaign is to forge a vast empire, and will have to control a vast majority of the map if you want to win. With the AI having the same idea, what seems like an easy goal at first soon turns into a massive brawl, as you take on Empires fielding as many armies as you do.

In previous Total War games your towns were all managed individually, but Creative Assembly have changed that for Rome: Total War II with a slightly dumbed down version of the previous management system, but ultimately easier and more user friendly as well. Your city management is now done by provinces, so you can access all the buildings in a certain province just by clicking on one of the cities in that province. The provinces also share the upgraded buildings, so your armies just have to be standing somewhere in the province to benefit from any military buildings that gain you access to better units.

The tax system is the one thing that bothers me a bit, as it is now a global tax, where in previous Total Wars you could manage tax individually on each city, now you no longer have the choice. This often makes fixing newly acquired city’s happiness more tiresome and slower, as you often have to leave an army there to stabilise happiness instead of just exempting them from tax for a short while so that you can upgrade the buildings.

Each province has one walled capital and then some un-walled neighbours, so you end up getting a mixture of siege battles as well as some urban brawling. The AI when it comes to sieging is definitely not the best (to put it politely), but Creative Assembly have said that it is something they are actively working on.

You only have so many building spots per province, so it is up to you on how to specialise each province in your empire to best fit into your purpose. You will always need a mixture of public order buildings so that happiness stays positive and from there on it is really your choice to specialise however you see fit.

Armies can now replenish from anywhere in a province, and the replenishment happens on the army itself instead of in a town. Only starting a new army or fleet requires purchasing from a city, as a general will be required to start off a new army. Generals replenish over time, and some are definitely better than others, as purchasing generals that upset your senate or council can cause rebellion.

My friend who was playing Rome in our multiplayer game was struck by a Senate Rebellion thanks to some uncontrolled happiness, and then proceeded to lose seven provinces in a single turn. After some aid from myself and much fighting, we eventually managed to end the rebellion after about 20 turns, but it was the toughest challenge the game has thrown so far, and it came from absolutely nowhere.

Rome: Total War II is not just about the strategy side of things however, as you can fight it out in multiplayer battles so far, and out – strategising a friend is a rewarding feeling any day of the week. The array of units to choose from is staggeringly diverse, and since the AI is currently not very good, make for the most challenging battles the game has to offer.

The multiplayer battles are refreshingly uncomplicated after playing the campaign, as managing a large empire is not the easiest of tasks. Although Creative Assembly have made it as easy as possible, the system is still at times quite tedious and time consuming, and might frustrate the average impatient gamer.

There are downsides to Rome: Total War II, the biggest of which is definitely the less than perfect AI. Throwing armies at a gate when they could easily split and win is not a strategy that should be decided upon, and the AI is oft times left confused as to what to do, making for very drawn out battles.

The empire management system is definitely not perfect, and keeping track of all your armies is still quite a difficult task. The game itself is very hard on the PC as the world is huge, and tends to get drop in frames as time progresses, so there may be a memory problem there as well.

Anyone that is a fan of the Total War franchise will enjoy Creative Assembly’s latest instalment, but be warned Rome: Total War II is not for the faint of heart. If you want to give the game a try, make sure to set aside some time, as it is one of the slower games you will ever play.

Score: 80 / 100