bittah.com!~ [Game] Total War: Rome 2 (2013)

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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:13 am

[Game] Total War: Rome 2 (2013)

With a few campaigns under my belt, I felt it was time to put together a review of Total War: Rome 2. In a nutshell, it’s a great, but flawed game, and in many regards a step back from Shogun 2.

On release, the game was an absolute shambles of bugs and performance issues. Graphical performance was abysmal, with many players stuck using low quality textures on even high powered machines. The campaign map was sluggish (even more than usual), and would take a massive FPS hit whenever cities or armies were selected. AI was completely passive both on the campaign and battle maps, and things like diplomacy with your rival factions was near on impossible. The enemy AI would throw tiny armies continually at your cities, while easily auto-resolvable, were a complete annoyance, and bespoke some terrible programming.

Most of these issues have been greatly reduced or fixed with three successive patches, bringing the game up to a state that it should have been on release, but it makes you wonder just how it scored so consistently highly across the professional review world, when it really was coated in a layer of turds.

From a gameplay point of view, the game is both a forward and backward step. Individual cities are now grouped in provinces, which add an extra layer of depth to your overall strategy. Things such as public order, food production and the like are province wide, which means if you made one city your ‘food town’ and you lose it to the enemy – it can impact you in a much bigger way than ever before. Controlling an entire province (generally consisting of 3-4 cities) also allows you to issue an edict (think of it as a buff), adding much more incentive to capture the entire province – although geographically this can be really challenging.

Another great new addition is garrisons, where each building now potentially comes with its own protective units. This means that while you’re rampaging out in the borderlands, you have some small element of defence in your cities back home. While this will still not automatically fend off a large enemy army, in many cases, it gives you a fighting chance – particularly if supported by a friendly ally.

The cinematic camera also deserves all of the praise you can possibly give it. For the first time, you’re taken right down to ground level with the units. The first person camera in Shogun 2 was good, but this new cinematic camera absolutely rocks. It’s from this level where you can truly admire the amazing unit details and graphics. In particular, the naval units look terrific.

On the flip side, the new political system is completely terrible. A convoluted system based around families and obtaining gravitas means that if you take too much power for your own faction, you’re potentially faced with civil war (similar to Shogun 2’s realm divide) – which basically translates to having 10-20 armies auto-magically appearing around your capital city. The problem is the political system itself is both poorly implemented and explained – what’s that old term…oh yeah, half-assed.

To add insult to injury, there’s no longer a family tree, and moreso, one turn = one year, which means you’ll be losing your Generals and Agents so often that you’ll quickly lose interest in who they were. The rapid turns also means they’re levelling up practically every turn, where amazingly, then choosing their extra levelled skills becomes underwhelming and I’d even go so far as saying a chore.

What can you achieve in one year then? You can march approximately half the length of Italy. If sieging an enemy city, you can build 3 siege ladders etc – as you can see, it’s out of whack.

And to now add vinegar into those well salted wounds, all General/Agent portraits are now replaced by these fugly low-polygon 3d models. Remember those beautifully hand-drawn portraits in Shogun 2? (the Shogun 2 agent portraits actually changed as they levelled) – GONE! The 3d unit models on the campaign map look fantastic; in particular, the motion captured fighting animations when two armies clash – but these new 3d models – oh em gee. They’re terrible.

And talking about omissions? Those engine rendered intros to each faction? Gone. Agent action animations? Gone! The beautiful tech tree UI of Shogun 2? Gone! Instead, we have a new tech tree that’s spread over three separate windows (and stinks of console design), and is about the most uninspired thing you’ll ever come across.

And jumping to the main menu, gone are the shifting backdrops. There are only four historical battles, only 2 of these having a proper intro (arguably one of the better parts of these battles, for any history nuts). Multiplayer is also missing drop in battles and the fully featured Avatar conquest – but co-op campaign is still there, and apparently much better now with the 3rd beta patch.

Now despite all of the above, the game IS still very enjoyable, and since patch 3, considerably more challenging (just ask my 130 Macedon campaign on very hard – I’m getting my ass kicked from every compass point direction), but you considering they said it was the highest budget Total War to date – and sequel to arguably Total War’s most popular title (Rome 1), you cant help but wonder just where that budget went, for despite the beautiful graphics and solid underlying gameplay – it’s missing all of the bells and whistles that made Shogun 2 a superb game.
Shogun 2 was not everyone’s cup of tea, but it took the 1500’s period of Japan and instilled it into a game. Every element of the game, from the music, to the UI’s, the graphics, ALL of it, absolutely bespoke that theme. Rome 2 is missing all of that fluff. And while the game is still enjoyable without it, you still cant help feeling underwhelmed.

Total War fans would have already purchased this – but for everyone else, I would recommend holding off until either a) a steam sale, b) a few more patches, or probably the best option c) its first expansion. Shogun 2’s Fall of the Samurai expansion was absolutely brimming with new features and refinements. If Rome 2’s inevitable first expansion can match it in quality, then we might, just might, get the Rome 2 game we wanted on release. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my money, but I’m getting more sour than sweet.

3 stars


Pros:
+ New province structure
+ Beautiful map and battle graphics
+ Massive campaign map
+ Superb sound effects
+ New line of sight system
+ Tried and true TW gameplay formula

Cons:
-Often lengthy wait between turns
-Squalor management in provinces sucks the big one
-Fugly 3d portraits
-It’s taken 3 patches to get to an acceptable release quality
-Performance is still not as good as Shogun 2
-Missing most of the fluff/polish of previous titles
-AI can still be too passive
-Diplomacy is random – good luck ever forming a military alliance or trade agreement without you first becoming powerful.
-Tech tree UI a step backwards
-Political system is horrible
-Only 4 historical battles
-Missing multiplayer features (drop-in battle, avatar conquest)
- I could go on.... ;)
Deepjay
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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:05 pm

Nice work, pretty much covered everything.

Some observations on the single player campaign:
Tried Rome on legendary difficulty(among other campaigns); after a solid start, I did a mistake that eventually cost me all of my cities and armies. While exchanging blows with Carthage lost an army.At the same time, the Libyans and another “minor” faction declared war on me without provoking them, invaded Italy and cleaned out. So the AI now can be swift and aggressive, given the right level of difficulty.

In many cases it was difficult to pin down a tough enemy army in a battle that advantaged me, but in other cases, the enemy threw his understrength army to be defeated only by my garrison. So, yay and nay.

I agree about diplomacy being impossible in its current state (at least early game). How are you supposed to establish diplomatic relations with another faction if there is always a penalty for the cultural difference? You get brownie points for having a common enemy but hardly enough to get in their pants.

Shogun 2 was a big step forward, Rome 2 is barely a step forward. I get the feeling that it was released at least one month too early, and it could have benefitted from open beta phase, considering how ambitious this game is (was it too ambitious, map size wise?). But it’s still a TW game, and still worth playing.
Freddy
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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:20 pm


I agree about diplomacy being impossible in its current state (at least early game). How are you supposed to establish diplomatic relations with another faction if there is always a penalty for the cultural difference? You get brownie points for having a common enemy but hardly enough to get in their pants..
You know the relationship values for diplomacy? These are awesome - for example, you can see the direct reactions from certain cultures on whether you have entered their lands, or their allies lands, or are trading with someone they dont like, or have attacked someone they dont like and scored brownie points etc.

I've had cultures with like 300+ in this (on the friendly scale), and they still will not engage in trade, defensive alliance or military alliance. I fluked a few Client States, but their worth is debatable, as not only did they create for me expotentially more enemies, but they dont help me out when i need it. I haven't been able to make a single military alliance, no matter what i do. It's very annoying. In Shogun 2, clans would form these with you, they'd also be more willing to engage in trade if you had a neutral relationship. In Rome 2, there's no rhyme or reason to it.

The only way i've been able to form trade relationships or client states is when ive become powerful, i suddenly and randomly have these cultures approach me with deals, never the other way around (other than the client states, which is what i initiated).

The reason why diplomacy is so much more important in rome 2 than Shogun 2 imo, is because the map is so massive, and you have so many potential fronts, that you seriously need some wingmen out there covering your flanks.
Deepjay
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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:33 pm

I've had cultures with like 300+ in this (on the friendly scale), and they still will not engage in trade, defensive alliance or military alliance. I fluked a few Client States, but their worth is debatable, as not only did they create for me expotentially more enemies, but they dont help me out when i need it. I haven't been able to make a single military alliance, no matter what i do. It's very annoying. In Shogun 2, clans would form these with you, they'd also be more willing to engage in trade if you had a neutral relationship. In Rome 2, there's no rhyme or reason to it.
:shock: that is worse than what I thought. Yea, I gave up on forming allies, because, unless they are a powerful, self sufficient faction, they will drag you into unnecessary, back breaking conflicts.
Freddy
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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:40 pm

The game is TOTAL WAR.

Declare war on EVERYBODY.

8-)
Rougey
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Post » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:54 pm

:)

Touche. Unfortunately I am still recovering from the last time I have done that.
Freddy
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