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Total War: Rome II preview

For Total War fans, it was nice to see the series return to its roots in the Shogun era. They liked the colonial era-themed Empire Total War as...

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For Total War fans, it was nice to see the series return to its roots in the Shogun era. They liked the colonial era-themed Empire Total War as well. But every new Total War announcement has been consistently met with the same refrain: When is the series going back to Rome? Sega communications manager Al Bickham laughs: "They would say, 'Yeah, yeah, that's great, but where's Rome 2? Rome was enormously popular. It probably has a lot to do with how strong it is in the popular imagination. The swords and sandals fighting, the gladiators, and everything else." The Roman era has not just the fans under its spell, but Sega as well. In an effect to capture the true scope of what developer Creative Assembly lead designer James Russell rapturously describes as "an unbelievable era in which great people influenced history," Sega has kicked the budget up by roughly 40 percent. And it shows too: Rome 2's setpieces rank among the most the ambitious the series has ever seen. Consider the invasion of Carthage, which is meant to be a mere taste of what's to come. Being the only civilization to seriously challenge Rome during its golden age, the capital of Ancient Carthage is suitably large and impressive, and Rome 2's depiction doesn't disappoint. Russell describes Carthage as being "much larger than anything we've ever tried before"--a vast city with multiple entry points and a substantial number of capture points. The Roman invasion would not look out of place in a show like HBO's The Pacific. The legions pour off their ships and charge ashore, where they are met with flaming arrows that look not unlike bullet tracers. The camera zooms in on a pack of Roman soldiers inside a siege tower. One of them turns and yells, "We fight for Rome!" Then the door slams open, and they are battling through the avenues of Carthage as walls crumble and streets burn. You can guess how it ends: a herd of elephants abruptly comes crushing through the Roman forces, because you can't have Carthage without a few armored pachyderms. The scope is tremendous, no doubt about that. But Russell is also interested in getting a soldier's view of the battlefield: "We really want to convey the feeling of the Roman meat grinder. I want the camera to go down to the Saving Private Ryan-level perspective, then zoom back to the epic level with the armies and the tactical map." In the end, the goal is to give the soldiers of Rome a human face. Ideally, the units will interact with one another, and they will react to a buddy getting an arrow to the face. At the macro level, individual legions will develop based on their experience on their battlefield, lending them a degree of personality that goes well beyond their assigned numbers. Russell also hopes to integrate heroes like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra in the campaigns in some capacity--the "great people who influenced history" mentioned earlier. It's all very ambitious, which suggests that Sega has even bigger plans than usual for their popular strategy series. As befits Rome 2's scale, it will be set during the absolute height of the Roman Republic and cover what looks like several-hundred-years' worth of history, including the aforementioned destruction of Carthage at the end of the Punic Wars, all the way through to the rise of the Roman Empire and beyond. Among the choices available during the campaign will be to preserve the Republic, become Emperor, or simply to become rich and play as many sides as possible.

The massive land battles of Rome II

Russell's goal is to take the emphasis off micro-management and put it on "fewer, more significant battles" instead. Among the changes, it will now be possible to take provinces and other surrounding regions without having to rush the most important city. As Russell puts it: "You're not always just head-shoting the capital." Ships will also be taking on an enlarged role. No longer mere containers or warships, ships will be able to properly capture territory, and take part in combined land and see battles. But in keeping with the theme of making it all more personal,' there will be plenty of dilemmas, some of which will be chained into mini-storylines. This is where it will be possible to throw unfortunate slaves to the lions, or maybe get together with Cleopatra. It's here that you will be able to put your personal stamp on Rome 2, even more so than in the way you organize your armies or manage your Empire. It might not be the "human level drama" that Russell is promising, but such storylines are certainly intriguing for the way they take the focus off the intense number crunching and multi-level strategy and put it on the developing narrative, if only for a little bit. For all the new mechanics, chained dilemmas, and everything else though, it's pretty clear that Rome 2's biggest selling point is its pedigree and its setting. The original Rome: Total War remains one of the most popular games in the series, and retains a loyal modding community. For more general audiences, it's hard not to get sucked into the sight of ancient armies crashing through enemy phalanxes, looting, pillaging, and burning as they go. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Total War fans as they return to their favorite game--maybe even more so than with Shogun 2. For Sega, meanwhile, the stakes seem higher than usual. Aware that they are dealing with most popular game in the series, they appear to be going all out with Total War: Rome 2. The sense is that they want to take that next step and leap into a part of the mainstream consciousness normally reserved for seminal strategy games like Civilization. Come 2013, we'll find out if Sega is indeed ready to rise to the rarefied level of the first Rome: Total War and beyond, or if it will be condemned to the ash heap of history alongside Carthage.
This Total War: Rome II preview was based on an event for the game at the publisher's office.

From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 2, 2012 6:15 AM

    Kat Bailey posted a new article, Total War: Rome II preview.

    For Total War fans, it was nice to see the series return to its roots in the Shogun era. They liked the colonial era-themed Empire Total War as...

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      July 2, 2012 11:07 AM

      Boner achieved.

      • reply
        July 2, 2012 11:35 AM

        I really, really hope this is the first comment for Kat Baileys news contributions. Welcome.

    • reply
      July 2, 2012 11:08 AM

      ...Who the hell is Kat Bailey?

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        July 2, 2012 11:20 AM

        She wrote the ending to Mass Effect 3.

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          July 2, 2012 11:22 AM

          I guess I was just meaning, has she worked for ECO for long, or is she a new addition?

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        July 2, 2012 11:21 AM

        Apparently a new writer. The shack should do an introducing article or thread for the new staff members so that we can abuse them get to know them better.

        • reply
          July 2, 2012 11:23 AM

          Kinda what I was thinking. Random names popping in triggers my xenophobia. >=(

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            July 2, 2012 11:33 AM

            Actually Kat is a contractor. Occasionally we will have freelancers do reviews or previews. Some previews (such as this one) were out of SF and we don;t have any staff there.

            Kat has written for us before.

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              July 2, 2012 11:36 AM

              Interdasting. Thanks!

              You know what would help nix any confusion? Profiles. Just sayin'.

              • reply
                July 2, 2012 11:46 AM

                Just waiting on a short bio from one of the team, then the profiles will be added to the About page on Shacknews.

                • reply
                  July 2, 2012 11:55 AM

                  I enjoy small dogs, laughing at children falling down, and long walks off short piers.

                  • reply
                    July 2, 2012 12:06 PM

                    We'd almost be compatible. I enjoy children falling down, laughing at short piers and long walks for small dogs.

                  • reply
                    July 2, 2012 12:07 PM

                    You do not enjoy your hobbies frequently enough, it seems. >=(

        • reply
          July 2, 2012 11:29 AM

          It seems like they've added a couple of new staff and I have no idea who they are, if they post here, or when they joined.

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            July 2, 2012 11:35 AM

            The only official staff we have are me, Andrew, Steve, Alice, Jeff, Ozzie, Tyler, and Garnett (although Ryan has been doing some Shacknews Dailys for us when Garnett has been unavailable).

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          July 2, 2012 11:36 AM

          They need to just jump the fuck into the bear pit and post an abortion thread or something.

      • reply
        July 2, 2012 2:40 PM

        seems to be a fan of japanese games

        http://www.1up.com/do/my1Up?publicUserId=5725436

      • reply
        July 2, 2012 4:18 PM

        A woman! Git 'er!!

    • reply
      July 2, 2012 12:18 PM

      Rome II is gonna be the sickness

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      July 2, 2012 2:04 PM

      I'm kind of confused about the choices like "preserve the Republic, become Emperor." How do those manifest in game? Being that I've never played a Total War game where I was a specific avatar or person it seems weird to me to think of being an emperor in that you are -always- the emperor of your civilization in the TW series because you already make all of the choices.

      That and wasn't there emperors around at the same time as the republic of Rome? I thought it was a shared power deal, my history is probably terribly inaccurate....

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        July 2, 2012 2:30 PM

        The early propaganda was that the emperors were just continuing the Republic; Augustus styled himself princeps civitas, rather than imperator or other grand titles. But although the emperors pretended to be continuing the Republic for a while, it didn't last long, and everyone quickly figured out what was going on anyway.

        I would say that once Julius Caesar took power, the Republic was dead. So no, there weren't any emperors around at the same time as the Republic.

        In the original Rome: Total War, the player started out leading a faction (the Julii, Brutii, and Scipii). You have to do what the Republic's senate tells you to do. Eventually, as you become more powerful and successful, the Senate gets scared of you, and begins giving you missions you can't achieve, so that they will have an excuse to get the other factions to attack you when you fail. You then have to fight the other factions to try to get control of Rome and as many other territories as you can.

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          July 2, 2012 3:58 PM

          And if you step back a few generations to Julius Caesar, Pompey, Sulla & Marius then the question becomes even thornier. The Empire evolved out of the Republic in many ways.

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          July 2, 2012 4:01 PM

          Ahh, that makes a lot more sense. Now I can see you'd be fighting against the senators if you chose to try and be emperor or you could possibly work with them if you retained the public (but be limited in what you could do since they hold part of the power.) Sounds interesting.

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          July 2, 2012 4:04 PM

          Rome Total War's version of rome was fucking stupid. I don't need historical accuracy but that just wasn't fun.

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            July 2, 2012 6:43 PM

            I wanted to have the option of continuing to obey the Senate without trying to take over the whole thing, but I guess that would be too far into an alternate history.

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          July 2, 2012 6:10 PM

          Hardcore history has very interesting series about all of these issues

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      July 2, 2012 2:55 PM

      I played Medieval: Total War, but it was Rome: TW that really sucked me into the franchise and made me a serious fan. Can't wait to see how this one pans out. :D

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      July 2, 2012 5:15 PM

      Give me Shogun 2-esque coop campaign (at least) and you have sold 2 copies to me.

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      July 3, 2012 6:14 AM

      Sega may come and take my money...