Before you even hit the battlefield, you'll have to carefully consider your political standing.
By David Wildgoose on June 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm
The battlegrounds of ancient Rome are reminiscent of Westeros. Yet while the real-time combat may not be quite as up-close-and-brutal as a Game of Thrones style throat-slitting, it’s in the courts of political intrigue — the wheeling, dealing and figurative backstabbing — that the wars of Rome II are won and lost.
Creative Assembly’s E3 presentation of Total War: Rome II focused heavily on the changes made to the part of the game that happens before you even hit the battlefield. In a 20-minute hands-off demo, the developers talked us through how they’ve revamped the series’ strategic layer to reflect political life in ancient Rome and beyond. You have to manage the competing interests of various internal and external factions, Houses and ruling families, adopting sons and marrying off daughters to keep the upper hand in the overall power struggle for control.
This is all tracked in a new system called Political Capital. You can Support, Extort, Discredit and Assassinate the factional leaders in an interlocking effort to secure friends and make life much tougher for your enemies.
Reaching beyond your own borders, this game of thrones is further tracked by the new Relations Panel. Here you can see all the historical and still relevant interactions you’ve had with a foreign leader. It informs you at a glance what actions you’ve taken–both to them and to their allies and enemies–that they either like or condemn. So if you’re wondering why Egypt is unwilling to cooperate on a trade agreement, a quick look at the Relations Panel will provide a number of likely explanations. It’s all reminiscent of the diplomacy screen in Civilization V, albeit stocked with what appears to be even more specific details.
Next, Creative Assembly highlighted the overhauled campaign map. However, calling it a map any more seems like a gross understatement. The strategic world of Rome II has left behind much of what was previously abstracted, instead presenting a gorgeous aerial view of Europe and the Mediterranean in all its geographical glory. Cities sprawl over the countryside as you expand your territory and you can even see key individual buildings appear inside its walls as you order their construction.
Territorial control also extends to the numerous pockets of flora and fauna dotting the world. Take over an area native to elephants or camels, for example, and you’ll be able to train and recruit unique military units that utilise these resources. Similarly, natural and (oddly) man-made wonders can be absorbed into your territory to provide bonuses to your income via increased tourism (though quite how the pyramids of Giza were existing away from any civilised society in the first place is a question for the videogame gods).
Finally, just before we jumped into a short real-time battle, the developers noted that your military has been granted an RPG-like upgrade system. Once you’ve named a division, it can earn Traditions that confer permanent bonuses to any units marching under its banner. These perks, if you prefer, persist even after defeat as new recruits follow in the footsteps of those who came before. Generals, too, are able to be differentiated through a system of personal traits and skills that enable you to tailor their abilities to your playing style or the demands of the scenario.
The battle that followed was too short for us to really pay much attention to new features beyond the obvious graphical improvements, but we did appreciate the ability to pause proceedings at any moment to reassess our options and give new orders. Just personally, as someone who typically prefers to auto-resolve Total War battles and focus on the strategic game, the simple option of pause may make me more willing to get my hands dirty in a scrap.
Rome II is very much what you’d expect: no surprises, no major changes to warrant alarm or concern, just an accumulation of relevant tweaks and considered new features aimed at extending the strategic depth where appropriate.