Total War: Rome 2 Caesar in Gaul DLC Review
Total War: Rome 2 was a major disappointment when it was released in what appeared to be a half-finished state in September 2013. There’s a reason it made IncGamers’ “Worst PC Launches of 2013” list. Actually several reasons. Including severe performance issues, bugs, and confusing design choices. It’s now the glorious new year 2014, Rome 2 is eight patches deep and has a new extension: Caesar in Gaul.
This expansion isn’t free (it sells for $15.00), so the question is whether the players burned by Rome 2 Basic title should even give Caesar in Gaul a second look.
If the answer was “No, it’s still all horrible,” it would be a lot easier to judge. Inevitably, it’s a little more nuanced than that. Caesar in Gaul doesn’t solve everything Rome 2 Remaining issues, but it makes the most of where the game is after eight patches and makes some positive changes to the title’s campaign map. If you can stand giving Creative Assembly and SEGA more cash, it might be worth it.
It’s important to separate the improvements made through the developers’ regular patch schedule from the exclusive mechanics Caesar in Gaul. Anyone who owns the main game has access to the former, so while the DLC plays better because it’s been patched for three months, it’s not the DLC itself that’s to blame.
Some of the more egregious examples of AI idiocy seem to have been dealt with, like the inability to ever actually use siege gear. Don’t expect to see it with the gear Good, or build up too many armies even fit for sieges, but expect the odd ladder or battering ram to show up against your walls. Out on the field, the AI still suffers from predictable maneuvers and a tendency to sit still and let you shoot them, but (if backed by enough numerical advantage) it’s slightly better at standing on its own .
Faction-to-faction diplomacy remains a bit odd at times, but you can count on the AI to act largely in its own best interests. That means if you have an army parked near their capital, they can either bow to your demands or race to a nearby tribe to form a confederacy.
Campaign map performance is still fairly sluggish, but feels improved since my last try (around October) and apart from the occasional stutter, battles can now hold more stable FPS at higher settings. Turn times are faster, although that’s not surprising in the case of Caesar in Gaul reduced faction numbers. Unfortunately, people are still reporting desync issues with cooperative play, so that’s clearly not fixed yet. I noticed some minor issues, but they have been resolved; My generals have rediscovered an interest in women and are actually getting married now.
Two of the worst aspects of Total War: Rome 2 were the gruesome naval battles (along with the way the AI mishandled the boat ride on the campaign map) and the bizarre, underdeveloped political system. Caesar in Gaul takes a brutal approach to fixing these things by pretty much writing them out of the game entirely. With only a few port cities on the map, you’ll have to struggle to find encounters at sea in this expansion. There is also no risk of civil war as all playable factions now have a single “party” within them. Instead, this add-on features a “Realm Divide” style mechanic that triggers when your faction becomes too powerful.
It feels pretty strange to hail the feature removal as a positive move, though Caesar in Gaul is all the better for losing the half-baked internal politics and most of the absurd boot-based antics of its parent game. This gives the add-on a tighter feel and frees it from unnecessary sprawl.
The same feeling is evoked by the smaller scale of the Gallic map and the associated victory conditions. I’ve always believed that Total war Games benefit from the absurdly prevailing map sizes, which is probably why titles like the original are there shogun and Napoleon speak to me more. In everyone there is a turning point Total war Campaign where you know that given enough time you have the power and armies to roll over the rest of the map. The incentive to actually do this is much greater if your campaign goals are to conquer another five or six regions instead of another fifty.
Seasons, one of the few changes that are unique Caesar in Gaul, are also doing a lot to shrink the game’s vast scope while improving how it works. With 24 campaigns per year (instead of just one), it’s entirely possible that your generals actually pull off an entire campaign. The approaching winter has a real impact on strategic decisions as it paralyzes large parts of the map with devastating attrition conditions. The seasons also affect public order (people really don’t like it when it’s cold), while “off-seasonal conditions” can randomly have both negative and positive effects on individual provinces.
On a purely aesthetic level, it’s great to see the landscape changing with the coming seasons and to see weather effects like rain in certain areas of the campaign map. From a tactical point of view, the greater number of bottlenecks and the increased importance of the roads are to be welcomed.
Aside from a narrower focus and the addition of seasons, Caesar in Gaul doesn’t really bring many significant changes to the Rome 2 Formula. The playable barbarian tribes offer a few new variations of short swordsmen and spearmen, neither of which are very different from each other, while the list of new auxiliaries is fairly short at just four. However, having an indestructible Julius Caesar (he can only be wounded) at the head of the Roman forces adds a slight touch of character to the game. Like the excerpts from Caesar’s book, The Gallic Warswhich may emerge as provincial flavor text.
Thanks to the smaller, more interesting campaign map and seasonal weather strategic quirks, as well as the progressive suite of bug fixes brought over the past three months of patching, Caesar in Gaul is a moderate improvement over Total War: Rome 2. But it also costs $15 on top of what players have already spent on the base title. After the game’s launch debacle, gritting your teeth and dumping that extra charge might be harder than subduing the tribes of Gaul.