And it is now in the realm of pretty fucking awesome. Last year, if you bought Rome: Total War 2 it was a bit of a mistake for everyone involved, players, developers, fans, families of all involved. I’m a long time fan of the series, having started with Medieval Total War back when it was sprites on a 3D map (looots of spriiites!!!) and it was a great game, though the fact that it was one single fight per territory (you didn’t move your armies around inside territories in the older games) made it a bit small. Reminiscent of Ghenghis Khan 2 by KOEI, it was still totally awesome. Rome 1 brought the jump to 3d and was, along with Warcraft 3, the best game of the decade. While the newer games were amazing in their own right, especially Medieval 2 and Napoleon Total War, something happened during the second run of the Shogun Series to sour me on the battles– and while the strategic part of the game is important as a framework– it’s all about the fucking battles. Suddenly, they felt cartoony and too fast and too arcade like, which is silly to say since the graphic details went through the roof in quality. When I first saw the asymmetric uniform designs of the units in Medieval 2, I got a huge claymore-sized boner for real. Yet the battle gameplay in Shogun 2 was not good despite the game’s overall polish, I just could not get into it. Rome 2, at first, followed suit much to many player’s disappointment.
With a series that has so much going for it, and has such pedigree it was shocking to me to suddenly get a Roman Shower from the company with the 2013 release. I played for about 20 hours (a SLIVER of the amount that I would normally play a big TW release) and uninstalled the fucker until a couple months ago, when I noticed that some of the guys that make TW battle videos had switched back from Medieval 2 to Rome 2 after apparently giving up on the game. I checked out some battles and noticed that formations worked much better, phalanxes actually PHALANXED and the archery didn’t look so shitty like it did in Shogun and Early TW. Added to this, the Emperor Edition upgrade was free to all previous purchasers which included a massive campaign detailing the Roman Civil War.
Now I’m merely 85 hours into the grand campaign and I can say I won’t be going back to any of the other Total War games for a long while. Over the year since release, they shined the hell out of this game. Performance is much better, the battle AI, the battle mechanics and the flow of the game has been completely tweaked. While battles are the most important core part of the game, the campaign play is actually where you spend most of your time and it’s far superior to the launch version. The AI especially is now quite brutal and with suprising frequency will cause you all sorts of problems– including sea borne invasions which were impossible for the AI to pull off before Napoleon Total War (just a few versions ago!). So you could sit as England or Italy and just send out armies to conquer everything around you on the ocean, with no chance or reprisal. Not so anymore. I had a really tough time as Rome early on. What’s brilliant about the AI now is that if they percieve you are strong, they won’t mess with you, but if you are seen as weak, like losing a bunch of battles in a row, they will join in and try to take a piece of you before someone else does.
Later in the campaign game it becomes less about gobbling up small kingdoms and more about HUGE wars that take decades and decades to finish up (if ever) with massive empires. Since coalitions of factions normally stick together, and factions will become client states of you (unlike other TW games where the option was there but they never would actually do it), sometimes taking out a small kingdom on your border leads to war against EVERYONE on the side of a map. I found it out the hard way when I accidentally went to war with the entire Achemedian empire (Persia and the like). I was able to eventually take the war to them, but not before many legions were swallowed in the desert and mountains of Asia Minor…
So here are a bunch of pictures. This is a long post about a really great game that finally came into it’s own. I think the developers have done right by the series after a really fucking huge misstep last year.