Although Rome 2 introduces new levels of politics and treachery, there's nothing quite like a spear to the face to prove a point.
By Stace Harman on August 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm
In a recent introduction to the more civilised side of Total War: Rome 2 we looked at how diplomacy and manipulation can win you allies without a single drop of blood being spilt. We also explored the benefits of effective territory control and learned how to discern a willing trade partner from an arrogant ambassador.
All useful stuff, but honeyed words and devious machinations will only take you so far and while the pen can indeed be mightier than the sword, nothing proves a point quite like a gladius through the gullet.
Playing through the opening hours that form the prologue of Total War: Rome 2, it’s apparent that there are many reasons to mount your enemy’s head on a spike and an even greater number of opportunities to do so. City defence, border expansion, senate missions and civil insurgence must all be effectively managed as the prologue teaches you to tend to military affairs both at home and abroad.
The opening level puts you in charge of a well ordered but inexperienced company of soldiers. They are led by Tribune Gaius Fulvius Silanus, a commander of a grain store who is more accustomed to defending his rural outpost during minor skirmishes than charging headlong into battle. Nonetheless, it is up to Silanus to march his men to the aid of his compatriots who are under siege by a vast number of Samnite soldiers.
As you might expect, this first mission is a hand-holding exercise designed to teach you the basics of battlefield management and troop control. However, there are a number of fundamental concepts introduced here that form the basis of more complex strategies later on. The advantages of moving troops quietly through a forest in order to ambush an enemy or of maintaining the higher ground during a skirmish are key lessons that you’ll draw on time and time again.
As the prologue progresses, these early lessons become an ingrained part of your battle strategy. Manoeuvring individual legions to outflank an enemy is often more effective than spamming them head-on with your entire force. Conversely, leaving your own flanks undefended can easily result in you snatching humiliating defeat from the jaws of certain victory.
Unsurprisingly, the fewer casualties you take during a conflict the better, but not just for your own sense of pride. Replenishing an army can be an expensive business and so a poorly managed skin-of-your-teeth victory can prove almost as costly as outright defeat. In this way, Rome 2’s economics extend into battlefield management as a smarter victory means more money to spend on improving your armies rather than simply propping them up.
A host of technologies, edicts, and city improvements can further enhance your army’s combat prowess. These cost money and time to come to fruition and so it can be beneficial to accept one of the many optional missions set by the senate to help boost the coffers. From the very beginning, Rome 2 advises patience and warns that recklessly rampaging through the campaign map can leave you overstretched and exposed to counterattack.
Likewise, out on the battlefield it can be tempting to thunder over a hillside to sweep aside enemy skirmishers with your cavalry but you must be mindful of the spearmen that might be lying in wait just out of sight over the crest of the hill. Even very early battles have the potential to ebb and flow as you gain ground before ordering a tactical retreat to regroup. It’s immensely satisfying to enact a battle plan and emerge with minimal casualties due to cunning rather than because of sheer force of numbers.
As armies and their commanders survive multiple battles they gain bonuses and traits based on their actions. Experience points can be spent to boost a commander’s authority, cunning or zeal, which brings with it a suite of unique abilities. Similarly, attributing a Tradition to a legion allows it to specialise in training accomplished skirmishes, artillery experts or formidable fighters. This further individualises your army, informs your battle tactics and strengthens your connection to your troops.
Politicking plays a major role in Total War: Rome 2 but Creative Assembly is also ensuring that a keen mind will serve you as well on the battlefield as it does in the senate. Ultimately, brute force will win you a battle or two but it’s cunning and guile that will better serve you in the long run as you seek to further the glory of mighty Rome.