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Review: Total War: Rome II

Well, I’m not the biggest strategy game player, but fresh off Europa Universalis IV, I thought Total War: Rome II would be a perfect fit.

I was partially right.

I don’t play PC games that often, but when I do, I’m grateful to have a really decent rig that lets me bump up settings as high as they possibly can be. In that respect, Total War: Rome II is absolutely beautiful. As you progress the game, year after year with each turn, it’s great to just watch the cities you’re in control of or have come across in your travels as they build themselves up.

Real time battles? Awesome and gorgeous, rolled into one.

On the flipside, because it takes your AI opponents a minute or two to get through all of their decision-making processes, you’ll get sick of staring at Rome II‘s picturesque vistas damn quickly.

Sadly still, even with a laptop that FAR exceeded recommended settings, the game just chugs along at points. I was tempted to go back to my beloved sliders and just turn them way down to compensate.  Though, to achieve that same look and feel, all I really needed to do was zoom WAY into the map to get a look at the horridly low-res textures that were there waiting for me. Protip? Just stay zoomed out as much as you can. Deny the urge to check things out at a micro-managed level.

Moving on to gameplay, Total War: Rome II is another strategy game that tries to simplify itself in order to attract more players. It succeeds in some aspects, and fails in others. Maps are large and sprawling, a change from Shogun II. Your ultimate objective is simple: conquer. Unlike Europa Universalis IV, your objectives are always clear.

The basics are quite easy to grasp as well: you need to build an army, obtain resources, research new technologies and build infrastructure to support your efforts. Once you’ve got that under control, you just conquer the crap out of those around you. When you’re in control, it’s actually great fun – provided you forget about the boredom you’ll incur when waiting for your next turn.

Outside of that, Rome II‘s metagames were lost on me. I wasn’t sure how to make those I’d conquerer happy, so I just tried to roll-through the land as quickly as possible. Any attempt I made to stop and really think about how to handle non-conflict issues just resulted in a loss of patience… and an increase in frustration. Disappointingly, other aspects of the game didn’t need my input at all; random rebel camps kept spawning and attacking my garrisons… but those garrisons could repel the raiding parties without anything resembling input from me.

I think the worst part of Total War: Rome II right now is that I can see how good the game could have been with just a tad more polish. The game’s basically broken right now; Creative Assembly released their first major game update yesterday to combat this — and have planned a second one for some time within in the next week and a half – but I’ve been unable to confirm as yet if they’ve addressed the issues I encountered. Good on The Creative Assembly and Sega for acting so quickly, but I think gamers deserve better than that. We deserve a game that’s ready to go as soon as it hits store shelves, and not a week or two later. I’ll hit up the game in a fortnight to see if I can’t confirm the game runs a bit better then.

If you’re super keen on Total War: Rome II, give it a couple more weeks to have everything ironed out and then jump on in. There is potential. For those that aren’t super keen, there’s a multitude of strategy games on the market – including Sega’s Company of Heroes II – that you can grab right now with little fuss or frustration.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist nearing twenty (TWENTY!?!) years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.