I'll start by saying that if you are considering buying Rome 2: Total War, don't. Wait until it goes on sale for under $10 before you plunge in, if you choose to get it at all. Then the frustration may, repeat, may be tolerable.

I'm a gamer and a huge Total War fan. For those who don't know what that is, it is a series of games that let you fight battles through the centuries from Roman to Napoleonic times. When I'm not writing, I enjoy playing computer games to both relax, and work off the stresses of the day. However, when the game I'm playing causes more grief than what I started with, it's time to vent.

The original Total War: Rome game was brilliant. I have over ninety hours of play on that game and it is simply one of the best games ever made. I had high expectations for Rome 2, but it turns out to be one of the worse.

First, the good. Hi-res graphics, smooth multi-unit animations showing individual soldiers whacking at each other if you zoom in close enough. Great stuff, but I suspect they spent all their time making it look good rather than being playable, or even logical.

The bad: You are limited in the number of units you can field. In the original Rome: Total War, you could have as many units as you wanted, as long as you could pay for them. Rome 2 limits you in the initial campaign to two legions and two fleets. You cannot move those units unless there is a general/admiral in charge. You get more units as you pick up more provinces. I know it's only a game, but Augustus had 28 legions to control his empire.

To transport troops, you simply take your field army into the sea and boats magically appear to transport them. Huh? I know why they did that. With only two initial fleets, you have to have that functionality. However, the magicly appearing fleets are more powerful than the actual admiral led fleets you create. The computer generated forces can also use that  method to invade your homeland. You look up and see no fleets anywhere on the map, next turn you have two marauding armies sitting off your capital city. WTH?

Last night was the final straw. The game came up with an alert that said "Slave revolt imminent" in a province I owned. My strongest legion (16 units, fully manned) with my best general was in the area so I sent him in. Next turn, a fleet of "slaves" appears. Not only do they have much better ships than me, but their armed force (according to the in-game comparison) was three times better than mine. I lost, badly. Their fighters had full units (two chevron Italian swordsmen) of 120 men each, compared to my three chevron Hastati of 80 men each. Note, I mentioned chevrons. After fighting multiple battles the troops get better and earn chevrons. Mine, having been fighting from turn two were very experienced. The "slave" force appeared with each unit having two chevrons each. The battle took place on the bank of a river crossing. I placed my force on the riverbank and let them come to me. Defending troops broke formation all across the line allowing the attackers to go through my lines like a hot knife through butter. In Rome, I fought the same battle type and lost a tenth of my troops, while decimating the attackers. With Rome 2, I lost all 1500 defenders and the attackers lost just over 400 or so. Pretty good slaves, and completely unbelievable.  

Another nasty bug is the flag system. The flag of a unit indicates how powerful it is. The more bars, the more powerful. I seiged a city with troops inside with nothing on their flag telling me it was weak or a force limited in numbers. As soon as the battle started, I was outnumbered 2:1 with a massively better force than mine. Where the heck did they come from?

In the original Rome, I think I lost two battles out of seventy or so on a campaign. The two I did lose were ambushes by superior forces. I have no issue with that as I cannot be powerful everywhere. However, Caesar defeated Vercingetorix at Alesia when outnumbered four to one. The quality of roman troops was pretty damned high.

Several major gaming sites have rated Rome 2: total War at 80% or better. I have no idea why. The comments from actual gamers on the same articles hold stinging criticisms of those reviews. Suffice it to say I will not go back to those sites in the future. Nor will I be playing Rome 2. The irritation of having to deal with buggy AI and illogical game play is simply too frustrating. They say they are patching bugs, but honestly, there is too much broken and I suspect it will never get to being a decent game.

After writing the above, I found this YouTube review. For those of you that are not easily offended by strong language, see Angry Joes review of Rome 2 here:

Angry Joe - Rome 2 Review


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