Return of an empire — A Total War: Rome II review

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It is hard to believe that the Total War series is already 13-years-old. I first fell in love with the second game of the series, Medieval: Total War, and I have been a strong supporter ever since. Sure, the games do get a little repetitive. and each installment is very similar to the previous games. But when you have had a rock-solid computer strategy series for over a decade, you may as well stick to what got you there. The newest edition from Creative Assembly does exactly that. Rome II builds on the staples of the series, while also putting in enough wrinkles to keep veteran generals interested. It is the best Total War since Medieval II, and it still sets the bar for all historical strategy games.

Yay Rome!

One thing that you will immediately notice is the multitude of factions available to play from the start. The series is known for making you work hard to unlock extra factions, but thankfully Rome II takes a step back from that. While Rome I only let you control 1 of 3 factions to begin with, Rome II allows you to choose from 8 factions spread all throughout the known world. Each faction offers different gameplay options and experiences, but the overall goal is still the same for each: kill em’ all. This is one of my favorite features of the game. I played about 20 turns each on Celtic, Gallic, Roman, and Carthaginian campaigns. and they all played differently. While I tend to follow the same strategy and battle tactics regardless of faction, the difference in units, agents and buildings all helped set each experience apart from the others.

A map of the 117 factions.
A map of the 117 factions.

The battles are still top-notch. The battle system in Total War has put other series like Crusader KingsAge of Empires, and Mount & Blade to shame for years, and it continues to do so. The graphics have had a noticeable upgrade, and the units and scenery interact with the fluid realism that we have come to expect from the franchise. When two armies clash, it looks like two armies are clashing. It doesn’t lag, the armies don’t awkwardly position themselves right before or after the actual fighting starts and it actually sounds like people are ripping one another to shreds. The fighting isn’t simply a numbers game either. Tactical genius will still get you out of some tight binds, especially in the multiplayer modes.

The battle screen.
The battle screen.

The construction is similar to that of Total War: Samurai II. Cities will begin with limited building space and will grow as the population and wealth of the leader grows. You can initiate and participate in naval battles, but they are a little boring simply because naval battles of this era involved ships just running into one another until one sank. There are a few different types of agents, and the colorful Roman-inspired art found in the recruitment panels is a nice touch. The AI is still merciless at the higher difficulties. I would definitely recommend starting out on normal, especially if you are playing one of the smaller factions.

The bottom line is that if you enjoy strategy, historically based games and/or the other games in the Total War series, you will absolutely love this game. If those things frighten and confuse you, then Rome II is a good place to start broadening your horizons. The only real negative is the price point. $59.99 is pretty steep for a PC game (or any game in my opinion). That may be the one thing that holds up a lot of buyers, and that’s probably why you are reading a review. It is a great game, but is it worth the price? Ehhhhhh– do yourself a favor and wait for it to go on sale on Steam.

This post was originally featured on Corrupted Cartridge.

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