Content of the article: "For The Love of Total War, and in Hopes of a Great Future"
I came on here today just to draw attention to the detail and complexity of Rome 2 Total War, as well as preach about what we all love here, Total War. I have recently revisited the game after spending a long time marching around Lustria in Warhammer 2. Though I have not played Three Kingdoms just yet (waiting for a decent sale), I must say that Rome 2 feels like the deepest Total War experience CA has created thus far. Now, this is not to say that Atilla, Medieval 2, Napoleon, Empire, Rome 1, Shogun 2 (my other favorite), or the Warhammer saga are bad games. I love each one for its uniqueness and the evolution of its systems and complexities. Also, a note: in this little write-up I do not include sagas such as Britannia or Troy because I have always felt as if those are testing grounds for CA, and not full-fledged releases like Warhammer 2 etc. Again, this is not to say the sagas are bad, just not what I am addressing.
Getting back on topic, Rome 2 is fantastic. Yes, it had MASSIVE issues at launch and afterwards, but CA really put time and effort into polishing the game over the years and releasing new content. I am not even the owner of the major expansions such as Caesar in Gaul, Republic Divided, Wrath of Sparta, or Hannibal at the Gates, and I can still say CA polished the hell out of the vanilla game. The initial product was nigh unbearable, with bugs, dumb AI (still an issue even in the newer titles), and just badness all around. Then CA moved on to create a ton of micro-DLC transactions that we despised because it was the first time we were exposed to the DLC transaction Chaos Lord (looks angrily at Chaos DLC). DLC’s are important, but only the type that show up as a new campaign with massive overhauls, i.e. we should not be paying for factions already present on the map that a modder could unlock his or herself. However, despite the launch and DLC catastrophes for Rome 2, the game has been vastly fixed to a point where I can honestly say it is more polished than a few of the newer titles.
Perhaps it is because CA stuck with the foundation of Shogun 2 for Rome 2. It added some nuances and complexities such as improved provincial management, better naval battles, and the leveling up of your characters/armies, but it primarily stuck with the same formula. It worked. The outrage muddled the release, but I feel as if CA has not gotten the praise it deserves for literally resurrecting a husk of a game to a polished masterpiece. So, kudos CA.
The reason I say “polished masterpiece” is because it is the last game that feels stable (again, waiting on that Three Kingdoms sale CA!). It is a game where most systems, if not all, can run it. It is nicely optimized and is not overly complex. Rome 2 is also the final game (please correct me you Three Kingdoms fans) where you made a army group and were presented with *generally* historically accurate formations you could use for the battle (I’m looking at you Triplex Acies). Even if they were not historically accurate, it is fun to use because you can experiment with them.
Furthermore, the improvement of the cinematic camera was an incredible add by CA. I spent part of the past week just sitting in cinematic camera for a large part of my campaign battles listening to the soldiers’ and officers’ banter. If you pay close attention, it will immerse you into caring for your soldiers instead of sending yet another cohort to die for Rome. For example, an officer will shout, “That man’s armor is a disgrace! Get that man’s name and number at once!” The replying second in command screams from somewhere else in the unit, “YOU! WHAT’S YOUR BLOODY NAME AND NUMBER!?” Another example, a young solider remarks, “The unwashed bastards! They’re fighting back!” and a veteran soldier responds, “Aye, enemies tend to do that.” I could go on an on with incredible examples of soldier banter that just multiplies the feeling of immersion.
Another immersive detail is the first of army/navy traditions, and the experience of your general made you feel attached to that army. You would do nearly anything to keep that army you favor most alive, even in the face of certain defeat. The painful tragedy of losing an experienced general to disease or age would leave you saddened, and worried about the next candidate for command. The system exists in Atilla, but it feels stale because your primary objective is to either destroy everything or hope to god that the province you are staring at will not rebel this turn. Shogun 2 was really the first Total War game to mingle with RPG-like general/character traits, and it worked well. Obviously, in Warhammer this immersion is missing because, well, most of them are immortal powerhouses that tangle and kill entire units by themselves.
Now, the other Total Wars (Medieval 2 comes to mind primarily) have banter too. I am not saying it is unique, but I find it to be a startling contrast from some of the newer titles. In my experience with Warhammer for example, it is rare to hear a race of units speak unless you are playing as the Empire or Skaven. I know, fantasy compared with realism is a bad road to stroll down, but it is the entirety of Total War franchise we are talking about, and we do not want to go backwards with the immersion we have already been given from these games. After 100’s of hours in the world of Atilla, I do not think I have heard much banter at all, which is strange seeing as it is a blood relative to Rome 2. Atilla is fun, but it felt too large/chaotic, and came at a time when Total War fans generally wanted to go back to Medieval times (Medieval 3 come on CA) or fix up an Empire 2. Yes, the time of Atilla is meant to be portrayed as chaotic, but again, I do not want to spend my free time on Total War playing against my country’s rebels. Also, the only worthwhile expansion for Atilla is Charlemagne, and even then, it was only an attempt to sooth the screams for Medieval 3 (it failed). Atilla also felt like a weird expansion of Rome 2 that was used mainly as a playground for CA to test out new physics for horses, fire, sieges, and new map dynamics.
I guess this writeup was mostly stating we need immersion. Rome 2 had it, I am sure Three Kingdoms has some semblance of it, but moving forward we need more. We need to return the foundations of Total War, eliminating ridiculous hero gameplay (Troy), make us love our units again instead of looking for the cheesiest way to rank up or take a settlement. Make us commit to siege battles, like in Rome 2 where your army was also inflicted with attrition, so you felt the need to commit to the assault. Games like Rome 1 (for nostalgia mostly), Medieval 2 (novel in so many ways and the time period is marvelous), Rome 2 (for bringing it back with extra spice and later, love), and Shogun 2 (broke open the Total War franchise and truly revolutionized things) are why we love Total War so much.
Really, I am screaming for Medieval 3 with Rome 2 mechanics, returning us to where we belong. End of rant.
Cheers, and good luck in your quest for domination and TOTAL WAR.
A note: Like I said at the beginning, I love all the titles. I own every single one (again glances at The Three Kingdoms empty slot on my CA launcher) and have QUITE a lot of hours invested into each. I am simply highlighting Rome 2 and CA’s marvelous job recovering the game. I am also highlighting some issues we are having with the franchise at times. Although they may seem minor when we are killing millions of human-sized rats, we need to go back to the basics. I play Total War religiously, I love Total War, grew up on it, and will continue to live on loving each title. Also, wow if you made it this far; cheers.
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