Total War: Rome II
Gazing over the burning ruins of Rome my brother wondered where it had all gone wrong. Syracuse had snuck up behind him and landed an army and gone straight to Rome bypassing his Southern garrison in Brundisium bypassing all of his defences and destroing his empire at its very heart.
Creative Assembly is back with their latest take on the ancient Roman Empire taking advantage of the advances in technology to produce their most detailed historical strategy title yet and that is the knd of experience that is at the very heart of the Total War experience.
From the top down Creative Assembly has reimagined the 3D campaign map introduced in Empire again offering a gorgeous textured overview of a world packed with potentially dangerous enemies but also ripe for conquest.
From the campaign map players have access to the full array of expaned and reworked empire-building options options. Every returning feature has been carefully refined to add more depth and make them more intuitive to use.
For instance building structures in settlements is no longer a case of just adding new buildings to expand your features. All new structures can be upgraded now and new buildings can only be added as the settlement grows.
The technology trees have now been reworked as well, with research required to unlock structure upgrades which in turn brings in new units and sources of income. The tech trees have been split into seperate research options for military and civilian research.
Then, they're split into different threads for economy, philosophy and construction in the civilian arm of research and management, tactics and siege research options in the military tree. All of this adds a entertaining Civilization-themed dimension to the proceedings.
The political side of the game has been reworked as well to incorporate the ambitious nest of vipers that was the Roman senate allowing players to keep a watch over their key commanders, dignitaries and other agents securing them promotions or marriages or even having them assasinated if they prove to be too ambitious for their own good.
Diplomacy is also more nuaced allowing players to construct more detailed and balanced proposals to other factions to achieve your goals via diplomacy rather than through military might alone.
Another refinement comes in the way that commanders level up. The character page is now part of thir army's menu and the army itself will also level up earning traits from their experiences in battle.
For the most part each new refinement that Creative Assembly have brought with Rome II has been for the better adding depth and complexity while making the game more accessible in the process.
The most significant of these is the handy notification that pops up if there are any actions still requiring attention like assiging new skill points to characters or assigning new research projects at the end of each turn. It's a simple addition but it helps given that there is so much added complexity in Rome II.
You could say that the complexity of Total War: Rome II could be a bit off-putting but that would be to misunderstand the game. The depth is welcoming and shows a faithful understanding of the historical details that underpin the whole game.
While it may seem a daunting prospect at first playing through the gentle prologue which requires new players to conquer the Samnites and unite Italy under the banner of Rome before the true wars of the main campaign begin. It teaches the basics of empire management and commanding an army in battle.
From there you are on your own, choosing between one of the eight factions included in the release version of the game plus the release day addition of the Pontus faction.
As well as the exceptionally capable Romans players can take on the challenge of former elements of the empire of Alexander the Great such as Macedonia or Egypt as well as the Celtic tribes of Northern Europe including the ancient Britons of the Iceni and the German isolationist Suebi.
Each presents their own unique challenges requiring unique approaches to ensure victory with most factions other than the Romans present at least a normal difficulty level.
The ultimate challenge is presented by Carthage, Rome's arch enemies across the Mediterranean who are eager to rebuild the glory of their empire which was brought to a halt by Rome in 202 BC when they defeated the armies of Hannibal at the Battle Of Zama.
With the new tools that Creative Assembly have crafted strategy fans have been gifted one of the most elegant and deeply rewarding experiences that PC gaming has to offer and there's plenty more in store where that came from.
Total War: Rome II was reviewed on a PC with an Intel Core2 Duo 1.86GHz, 4GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 4550 graphics processor with 512 MB of VRAM running on Windows 7.