Total War: Rome II is a behemoth of a title, it’s no wonder the sequel took this long to surface. Even our time with the game, which took place in a narrative prologue - a mini campaign that precedes the grand campaign - spanned several hours over. Though this preface serves as a tutorial for the meat of TWRII, the essence of the game was still very present.
Creative Assembly’s massive RTS takes place in 272 B.C., however, our prologue begins before this, during the time of the Samnite wars. The period where Rome begins to build its legacy of dominance within the Italian peninsula.
You take control of Gais Silanus and are immediately thrown into the Siege of Capua. The overwhelming siege seems all but lost, however, through the aide of your advisors - who provide you with advantageous intel - remember it’s a tutorial - set the playing field for Total War’s primary game functionality, war.
Yes, the prologue is largely scripted, but stage the has to be set somehow. You may not be able to control the fate of all allies within this preliminary skirmish, but you can strategize and engage opposition. From here you begin moving along the peninsula, intercepting any Samnite invasions from taking over neighboring territories. The tip - of the tip - of the iceberg, really.
Politics and War:
Before you set forth across the battlefield, it’s encouraged that you maintain your political agenda thanks to the new political system. Decisions you make will ultimately determine your dominance within your faction and eventually the world. Such choices include military investing, which affects training, weapons, and recruitment. In addition, your power to select will also affect other families, allied influence, and whether or not you need to off leaders - not willing to play by your rules.
Upon completing your pre-war to-do list, conquer and defend is the next step. This is where real-time chess-like strategy comes into play. Just like previous Total War games, you’re privy to a turn based phase where you can position troops for optimal engagement. Adverse terrain and weather conditions can be also be used to your advantage.
With your armies set, real-time combat takes the forefront. Knowing what units to use when, where and how are vital to victory. This includes being mindful of unit stamina and attributes - like dismounting calvary for ground assaults - and of course flanking.
A.I. difficulty has improved since the original TW so the wrong move will result in defeat, however, the same can said of your enemies if you fight with your wits. Just as you maneuver through battle, so does opposition, which creates some dynamic action on screen.
Though our playthrough did not yield a thorough inspection of the unit variety in Total War: Rome II, it’s no secret that this sequel houses over 700 different units. An astronomical feat to say the least.
Total War: Rome II stands leaps and bounds from its predecessor and that of interim entries. Managing armies and territories, while satisfying political responsibilities, whether that be corrupt or pure, is enthralling experience, even in the prologue.
Creative Assembly has stacked the bar high with TWRII as far as we can see. And again, our game session only grazed the surface. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities given you take on the role of another faction, or how Hannibal’s elephants can turn the tide in battle, not to mention the precision required during naval combat; or if you decide to rule under corruption and tyranny. One thing's for sure, your choices will alter the course of history for better or worse.
Total War: Rome II hits PC on September 3rd of this year.