This latest edition of the epic game series Total War, brings new units, siege equipment, cultural styles and buildings and a whole new campaign allowing players to attempt to change Roman history and conquer Northern Europe and all of the known world, or take on the role as a leader of one of the nomadic Gaulish tribes including the epic *Arverni, the *Suebi, or the *Nervii. Fight as the **Spartans and make the Spartan empire the worlds strongest empire. With units such as the Spartan Immortal Spearmen, The Barbarian Bloodsworn and Longbow Hunters, Scout Riders, Chariots, Legionary Cohorts, Giant flaming balls, sharks with lasers on their heads, ok I made up that last bit. But prepare for some intense battles. With desyncronised animations, finishing moves and a fantastic variation of unique looking soldiers, this game has never looked better.
Witness new naval and ground battles in the new Rome 2 engine, as well as the added ability to use naval siege equipment and attack from both sea and land simultaneously. Play as a multitude of different factions and add more with a wide selection of DLC. Hire mercenary units or bribe enemy armies to switch sides. Play online in an alliance with one or more friends or in an adversarial campaign of dominance. Make political decision like helping allied faction that are under attack, changing the religion of an area, raising a settlement, looting it or occupying it peacefully, marry family members to allies family to strengthen alliances, negotiate military access, make trade agreements and much much more. As players of the original game will know, the series has always been hugely in depth and currently holds a personal record for me, for the most hours spent in one video game series, which by now is around the 4000 mark and that is no exaggeration.
The one disappointing factor of this game, was the relatively flat terrain. For those of us who played the original game Shogun: Total War (a game I had the fantastic privilege of getting paid to test), terrain played a huge part. A smaller army could retreat up a mountain, as they would do in real life, to slow down and tire the advancing army, increase the range of their archers and increase the potency of their charge, due to charging downhill. It is a shame bit that Creative Assembly seem to be slowly fading this mechanic out. There also appear to be a number of things in the previous games which have slowly disappeared from the game series over time, including the ability to sap (dig under enemy forts), the advance, retreat and increase and decrease rank and file buttons have all been removed and although archers and units with high charge attack still seem to benefit from a more potent attack when placed on hills etc. it no longer seems that using archers or javelinmen from higher elevations actually yields longer range shots, which is a bit of a shame as it used to be a great way to force an enemy to change tactics and charge at you.
The new tech tree is also fairly convoluted leaving players wondering how to develop in a particular area, like research as opposed to just attaining a particular building. And the new ramming mechanic in naval battles means winning when outnumbered becomes impossible, since once you ram an enemy you become engaged in a boarding action which means for a couple of minutes your ship is vulnerable to the extra enemy ships ramming it, which usually destroys a ship in one hit. Your unit will also not attempt to board and capture the enemy ship when rammed, but instead just stand on their own ship while it sinks, which seems like a strange design. The mechanic for forced marches also prevents a player from attacking, which seemed reasonable, but also prevents that army from reinforcing a defending army, which also seems like a strange mechanic and would have worked better if the reinforcing army simply started out exhausted and with lower morale. I also now find myself getting sieged and wondering why I would try to sally out and break it, since oddly enough it is now the attacking army and not the defending army which suffers attrition from sieges (historically, with the limited sewage capabilities and cramped conditions along with the fact that the attackers would fire rotting dead animals over the walls, the defenders would basically have X amount of years, depending on the site of the castle, because at that point if they waited any longer they would have no army left to fight with).
But the game also adds a lot, such as custom battle features like the enemies attacking direction, riverside crossings, port assaults, the combined land and navy battles as opposed to just being able to call in naval support in the last game, a new stance mode for armies allowing for forced marches, ambushes (which now include some interesting deployable weapons and defenses), a fortify stance and a raiding stance. There is also a new town edict feature which allows for customization of a provinces policy or political agenda. A new Gravitas mechanic, which dictates the size of your army and is increased by winning great battles. As well as an additional skills and traits tab for armies on top of the ancillaries (which are now simply referred to as family members). The weather system, particularly for navy combat also seems to be improved with some battles occurring in terrifically realistic violent and hostile storms. Ships are broken apart more realistically and the effectiveness of cavalry has been improved to a more realistic level (against light troops).
The game has suffered some criticism from a handful of reviewers and as a long term fan of the series, I was hoping for a few more new features, but as strategy games go, this series is the most realistic series of war games created to date and as a new-comer to this series, you will not be disappointed. All in all, it is a highly in depth, beautiful and engrossing game and I highly recommend it, it will keep you entertained for a good many hours. The DLC content is pricey, but I recommend having a look at them too if you are a fan of a particular area or unit from history.
*Requires the Caesar in Gaul DLC
**Requires the Wrath of Sparta DLC
Note: Video review is not by The Guardians Of Earth. Please give credit for the video review to IGN. Thanks.