Rome Total War 2 in the works

As suspected, after Empires, Napoleon and Shogun 2, Creative Assembly has announced Rome Total War 2.  This is a long time in coming, but the company had a lot of ground to cover before getting back to the best!  Needless to say, I’m stoked: just the rumor of this is fappable to the extreme.   Rome Total War was my second favorite game of the early 2000’s, and the only contender against Warcraft 3 for the game of the  decade.  CA made so many improvements from Medieval Total War to Rome that it was almost a completely different game.  It was the first where you could move your armies around inside a territory, rather than just attack at territory and have it go right to battle (ala Genghis Khan 2).    While a smaller map than Medieval, Rome felt huge, both because you really have to work it to hit the edges of the map, and that each faction/nation/city state had a ton of character.  When the eventual civil war happens, it’s both challenging and very rewarding as you crush the other Roman factions as well as the lesser nations.

That said, Rome 2 has to be a masterpiece and likely it will be: CA knows what it’s doing and, other than CIV, has the most successful strategy franchises out there.  While I am not the biggest fan of Shogun 2,  Empires was amazing– I played it so much that I haven’t even cracked open Napoleon.   Medieval 2 wasn’t my favorite either, but coming after Rome, it had massive shoes to fill.

So what will we have in Rome 2 that we didn’t have in Rome:

  1. Detailed real-time naval battles
  2. MAYBE naval+ground battles at the same time (per the screen shots, this looks like it’s happening)
  3. Better AI for marine landings – Shogun 2 had the AI doing bag-around-back army landings from the sea– a first! So no more hiding in Britain knowing the AI can’t get to you because it doesn’t know how to put troops on a boat and drop them off.
  4. Better sieges – they’ve been getting better and better each game, and it’s the best thing about Shogun 2
  5. “Well of Nations” – Rome Total War barbarian invasion players will know what I’m referring to here– the Cimbri, Huns, Parthians seem to come out of nowhere in massive hordes historically and while the original Rome didn’t do much with this– the expansion had it in spades and was, ever so slightly, the better game for it because you never knew what was going to spill over the horizon into your empire.  This was a key factor in the post-Punic War era.

Empire: Total War commentaries on completion

Finally, I was able to press END TURN enough to get the short, generic VICTORY movie at the end of the grand campaign in Empire: Total War (I had completed the victory conditions 30 turns before the end of the game).  It was a long, long slough as Sweden, moving through Russia, south through the Caucases  into Kashmir and then shooting west through Pomerania, Bavaria and onto France.   Empire is a giant game, encompassing the biggest map of the world so far in a Total War game (I actually got to fight a battle near my house in the midwest!).  The idea of conquering all of it by the time alloted is pretty daunting, but once you get on a roll, entirely possible.  I had little trouble with any of the enemy nations with the exception of Spain and England.  England managed to keep my Swedish ships out of the water for decades at a time, and against Spain, I actually lost some major land battles before they finally succumbed to a three prong attack from France, Portugal and up from the Mediterranean.

Overall, Empire: Total War was a big step up from the graphically excellent, but rather mediocre Midieaval Total War 2, with major refinements to the campaign mode, the removal of the management  of families and lineage, reduction of the importance of religion and missions from the pope or some governing body (I’m my own governing body dammit!).  In the Grand Campaign, I felt a lot more free to hack through whatever part of the planet piqued my interest at the time, regardless of race, creed or religion.  I love the fact that each of the nations speak in their own language— a really wonderful touch that I didn’t realize until I couldn’t understand anything my Swedish troops were saying on turn 1.

As for the real time battles, I found the engine to be more fun and more intense than anything in MTW2 as well, handling musket and pistol just as well as arrows and swords.    The typical AI quirks fans of the series have learned to love after all these years are still around, making flanking and harrasment your best tools against an easily flustered AI.   Sieges are still not very fun, and I would have to say they are worse than their Rome/Midieaval TW counterparts because they don’t follow what was going on during the period at all.   Sieges during this time rarely went into initial assault, instead the attackers would build, over time, a massive mine and trench system around fortifications.  Eventually, if left unmolested, the attackers would get bombards close enough to fire over the walls at which time the defenders would either surrender or prepare to receive 3 assaults through breaches, after which they could surrender with their colors.  None of this is represented in TW: Empires and I feel that’s a grevious lack of attention to detail as well as simply not being very fun to play out.

We did finally get sea battles in this version and it’s something I am really looking forward to as Creative Assembly continues to revisit the series (Shogun next!).  The sea battles are slow and tactical, but the first time you see an enemy’s magazine blow up all the build up is worth it.  That said, most of the time I let the auto-fight figure out who won unless it was a major throw down.

As for the special people: Spies, Gentleman and Priests, I really didn’t do much with two of the three.  Priests are necessary if you want the people that you just conquered to be happy by being converted to your religion, but they just sort of stand around.  Gentleman give bonuses to research and production and can duel other Gentleman, but I really didn’t pay much attention to them other than using them as semi-spies here and there.  Spies I used a great deal and were a key to success in most of the campaign, nothing new here from the early days of the series.

To conclude, Rome Total War is still my top dog in the 4X genre.  Sure the graphics are no where near TW: Empires and the campaign game is certainly not as mature, but Rome just something  about it that resonates with me. Possibly that the scale seems more appropriate, or the period is one I find entirely more compelling.  Next on my list is Napoleon Total War, but that will have to wait until I upgrade my tired socket 939.

Top Ten Games I couldn’t finish in 2010.

I must admit, my eyes are far bigger than my stomach sacule when it comes to buying games.  If I dedicated my few moments of free time each day to the games I have instead of buying new ones, I would save a lot of money.  But then, what would money be for?  Would GOG and Steam still exist?

This year was one of abject failure in the realm of completing games.  I’m simply astonished at the pile of games for the PS2, 360 and PC that languish, unfinished on my hard drive or save slots.  Why? Kids, work, freelance, boardgames and, for the first time in quite a while, reading books outside of the Aubrey/Maturin novels.  There I’ve gotten quite stuck, but I digress.   Below is my list of gamefails along with conjectural excuses of note I care to make, as well as an expounding at how good the games are in most cases.

10.  Bayonetta.  This is not a difficult game, and it is quite a fun platformer, item hunter and boss-fighter.  The plot is ridiculous and if I had finished it in the first week or so, I wouldn’t have had time to mull over what I think is going on between plays.  Since I do, I have to say that they could have kept the plot all very simple and still been successful, instead they went for a really wacky ploto-obscuro that is largely irrelevant when you are fighting building size angels who’s pristine armor comes off to reveal demon-like MEAT as the fights get heated.  I aim to finish this one up this winter.

9. Empire Total War. As I am a Total War freak, this is quite embarrassing as they came out with a new version of the game before I was able to finish the grand campaign to Empire.  I blame it on the fact that I had the victory conditions completed 70 turns before the game ends– and yet saw no victory screen asking if I wanted to stop and savor my victory rather than wait until the end.  I can essentially press NEXT TURN over and over to complete this one, but I just can’t stop myself from mucking about with unconquered Spain or Italy, making the turns take over an hour each at best.  This will be finished or I am not a man.

8. Red Dead Redemption.  Any of the two people that regularly read this blog will remember my lingering obsession over the summer with the Old West action brought on by yet another viewing of The Good the Bad and The Ugly and two reads through of Blood Meridian.  This obsession manifested itself in some stints of miniature painting, looking at various Old West skirmish rules, and of course the purchase of probably the best old west game in existence– one I have barely scratched the surface of.  Frankly, this may never be ‘finished’ insofar as the % complete goes but I’ll give it a good college try.

7. Portal. Just didn’t finish.  It’s great and I know it’s short but I got bored and felt like shooting some shit instead of bouncing balls around.

6. Mass Effect. This is really a movie game with some sort of lame fights in between and some extremely tedious side missions that fail to really keep up the impression that you have the freedom to move around the galaxy.  Still, some really fantastic pieces of game here.  Someday I’ll wrap this up.

5.  Dragon Age Origins. This is long.  It’s a long movie game like mass effect.  I found myself waiting for the good parts people talked about while trying to pretend it didn’t suck.  Bottom line: the combat is just plain bad compared to almost every other party-based fantasy game I have played.  I just wish people would look at Temple of Elemental Evil by Troika and realize that, for all it’s faults, that and Jagged Alliance are the way to do party based RPG combat.  This probably won’t be finished as when I play it I start to daydream about other stuff I should be doing instead, like home repair and basic grooming.

4. Painkiller. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get this one completed as I started playing multiplayer (the same thing happened in 1996 with Quake) and sort of forgot about the single player.  I may try to rock through this again, but it’s unlikely.

3.  Gratuitous Space Battles. This one I really can’t blame myself for. I started the campaign twice only to have a patch to the game invalidate my current save.  Though fun, the campaign game did not live up to my hopes though I still think this little indy game is one of the most important 4X space games for the genre that’s been out since MOO3 destroyed it.

2. Left 4 Dead 2.  I got it late, the year ran out.  We are going to finish this and it’s going to be awesome.  As my buddy Graham says: The undead aren’t going to destroy themselves.

1.  GODHAND. This is number 1 for three reasons.  First, because it is the most difficult game on this list both in terms of gaming stamina and technical skill. Second it’s the most embarrasing because one of my buddies completed Demon’s Souls before I was able to finish GOD HAND, and I started GODHAND in early 2009.  Third, this is one of those games like Metroid, Mega Man, Samurai Shodown, Urban Reign,  and Guilty Gear Accent Core that are truly difficult to complete, a game where by necessity you have to learn the system of play inside and out before you have any sort of chance of victory.  It’s a game so difficult that the hapless and fail-ridden reviewer at IGN gave the game one of the lowest scores to date, totally discounting any review IGN does as valid forever. This has to be finished.

Faster than I can finish them!

Shogun: Total War 2 just announced by Creative Assembly.  Sadly I haven’t been able to get through a full campaign of Empire Total War (though I’ve already fulfilled the victory conditions, you have to wait until 1799 to actually win).  With Rome Total War and Empire Total war being some of the high points of modern strategy PC games for the rest of us who find Civ a whole lot of zzzzzz…. Shogun 2 is awesome news and it shows that the developers are doing something right as with games and expansions popping out right and left the series must be maintaining sales.  With Napoleon Total War it was only a matter of time before Creative Assembly veered away from the looming late 1800’s where the game would have to change drastically due to rifled barrels and especially artillery.