Total War: Rome 2 Review
As one of the many tiny factions scattered across the vast campaign map, Total War: Rome 2 has been attacked from all sides by raging technical issues, militant strains of AI troubles, and the enchanting darkness of mysterious and poorly explained new features. If you’re among those who pre-ordered or bought the game, you’ll be aware that Creative Assembly’s latest entry in the series has the feel of a game that catapulted itself onto the world stage too soon.
This probably sounds familiar to you because this process has (more or less) repeated itself since the release of the original Shogun: Total War in 1999. The problems reached their peak Empire: Total War, a game released in such an untested state that AI opponents were literally unable to attack the human player across a expanse of sea. This is despite the much-touted addition of exciting naval warfare.
It’s pretty clear why this keeps happening. Creative director Mike Simpson practically put it in one post.Rich Blog entry from November 2009 in which he wrote:
However, we have one other client that we make the game for, and in a way they are the most important of them all. It’s our publisher [SEGA], driven by the grim necessity of commercial reality. These needs tend to be short-term compared to the development time of a game or the lifespan of a series. They’re also necessities that we can’t ignore — if we do, it’s game over. Empire: Total War Happened in the only way possible – it had to be in a box in February 09.
Judging by the current state Total War: Rome 2, you could change the name in that last sentence and change the box (Steam) date to September 2013. I have some sympathy for Simpson and his studio because there’s a tired truth to the words. Far superior Rome 2 List of issues is SEGA; a mid-sized publisher keen to sustain recent financial upswing. It seems that the editor has a relatively calm, pre-GTA V September and decreed that the title must be launched in this window.
Perhaps as a result of this pressure, technical issues are rampant that seem to care little about a gamer’s specific PC parts. From the most powerful processor and dual Nvidia Titans setup to the bare minimum of specs required, people have reported serious FPS issues at both campaign and battle map levels. This, along with exaggerated load times, convoluted AI turn times, and weird graphical glitches galore. I’ve run into trouble with a few of these myself, including a horribly sluggish campaign map that a couple of hopeful patches haven’t fixed so far (the only thing that’s had a positive effect so far is this bizarre DirectX-based fix.)
From all Total War: Rome 2 However, I’m most optimistic about the technical issues that will be fixed. When I previewed an early build of the game back in August, the situation was actually worse, with regular crashes during battles and some lighting models that appeared to be completely unfinished. In the time between versions, Creative Assembly has at least improved slightly that Location.
AI issues, a long-standing thorn in our side Total war side, can be a little harder to address. As I noted in the preview, some of these things are from the earliest titles in the series. Pathfinding around large obstacles like city walls is still a problem, but it’s some recent additions that are also causing problems for the AI. Siege battles present him with particular difficulty, as he tends to either send up to the gates one unit at a time (so you can systematically shoot down missile weapons) or just try to make a straight line to the main siege point and get knocked down like everything in his path ignored.
Disembarking boats in combined sea and land attacks also causes a lot of stress for the AI, often resulting in their units walking around beaches with no clear plan of action. Maybe they just love sandcastles? It also seems like charging soldiers at player units and then turning away at the last second. This isn’t so much a clever ploy to lure your men out as a display of total confusion.
A word on the standalone naval battles: these are frankly bizarre, and are fast becoming a sort of ocean-going version of bumper cars, in which (supposedly) weaker troop carriers seem to wield just as much, if not more, power than purpose-built seafaring ships.
On the campaign map, the AI doesn’t fare much better. The new economic system (more on that later) seems to confuse the AI enough to either build massive stacks of cheap spearmen and slingers, or a decent mix of just five or six units. Occasionally, it throws itself into such chaos that its armies literally starve from attrition. Those smaller stacks I just mentioned? The AI loves to send these on suicide missions, repeatedly breaking them against the player’s heavily defended cities with no discernible effect. Nobody expects the AI to be a regular match for a human player in an even-numbered battle, but the current level of incompetence is a little ridiculous.
These problems exist regardless of difficulty. Legendary allows the AI to cheat a bit more and appears to make it more aggressive (perhaps by changing what resources it has access to), but otherwise suffers from the exact same flaws.