I am a huge total war fan. You only need look at my glowing retrospective of the original Rome Total War to ascertain that. It’s still a game I play to this very day almost a decade on. Which is why the mess that was Total War: Rome II was so heartbreaking to me.
Briefly the Total War series is a Real Time Strategy game that simulates battles through multiple eras. In this case the ancient period. It mixes these real time epic clashes with a turn based strategy campaign map where you build armies, manage cities and conquer your enemies as you build up an empire. The game is huge in scope and a immensely unique gaming experience when done right,.
The main issue was that the Rome II was released in a state that could barely be considered beta. The graphics were grimy and washed out, the UI was cumbersome, each turn in the campaign took an aeon to load, everything lagged horribly on the simplest of settings. The battles were over horribly quickly meaning any form of long term strategy you wanted to build up in a game was relatively useless. Tactics such as wheeling your troops, striking and then retreating, attempting to sweep units around a flank were all rendered mostly obsolete by how quickly the battles were over. By the time you’d got your unit to flank charge they’d usually already broke.
To compound this units would bundle together like they were fighting in a mosh pit, which might make sense for barbarian armies but made very little for disciplined Roman fighters. Every fight was essentially like those stupid fucking fight scenes from brave heart and lasted about as long as well. Huge ranges of bugs were reported by multiple people. Personally I had battles were archers would break ranks in a siege and charge my infantrymen, armies that just forgot to bring their siege equipment to a siege and the campaign AI suiciding wave upon wave of tiny useless units at my cities for seemingly no gain.
Then there was the issue of having to pay £6.99 ( or preorder the buggy, incomplete game) to unlock the Greek faction. Which is a horrible case of extracting even more money out of players and a kick in the face when the game is already so incomplete. The game shipped with 9 factions, 12 if you bought the Greeks the extra three just being different Greek states Athens, Sparta and Epirius. In contrast the original Rome Total War had 17 playable factions.
The worst part about it is how easily it seemingly could have been fixed. There’s constant glimpses of a spectacular game and all the preview material seemingly backed this up as well. But in reality what came out was not a finished product but rather a buggy mess. Creative Assembly have had some bad history with this kind of thing, Empire Total War comes to mind. The release of Shogun 2 was pretty much without a hitch so the broken mess that was Rome II seems bizarre. The only explanation I can think of is a development team that was being brutally rushed by management.
To their credit Creative Assembly have been pumping out a huge slew of patch notes and having dabbled back into the game recently it’s certainly improved from the original.They also threw in a fair few extra factions, although many you still have to pay for although some were given away for free as a good will gesture. However I still feel there’s some glaring issues in the pace of the combat, the campaign map AI and . Not to mention how releasing a product that is clearly broken on release is simply inexcusable.
What we learn from this is please hire QA testers and please just take that extra bit of time with your game. As a result of this debacle the game has a 3.9 user score on metacritic and a relatively low although seemingly artificially inflated critic score of 76. They’ve damaged their reputation with thousands of fans. I certainly wont be buying any new Total War game at release any time soon.