With the popularity of TV shows such as Spartacus, interest in all things Roman seems to be at an all-time high. Sega has chosen this moment to release Total War: Rome II, the sequel to its 2004 strategy game. Massive battles have been a trait of past Total War games, and Rome II makes use of today’s modern PC technology to recreate epic clashes between Romans and their adversaries. See all PC game reviews.
Bigger and better than ever
The main upgrade over the first title is the improved graphics, which is a given considering the first game came out nine years ago. The jump is not as pronounced if you’re used to playing more recent titles, such as 2006’s Medieval II: Total War and 2011’s Total War: Shogun 2. Even so, there is no denying that Total War: Rome II is an impressive looking game, with wider and more varied environments compared to past games. In the past, the environments had a tendency to feel a bit closed, making it feel like a virtual sandbox. Significant improvements have also been made to units to make them look like individuals rather than the same unit copy and pasted into an army. See The 5 best gaming PCs: What's the best gaming PC?
Since the size of the game map has been increased, you can now implement more complex strategies than before. Management of buildings has also improved over past games for a more streamlined experienced, where the focus can remain on building up troops and armies without needing to micromanage structures and their upgrades. The ability to track the development of towns, as well as issue orders directly to them, is particularly useful considering the increased scale of the game world and the complex battles that take place on it.
Demanding of resources
Beyond the graphical overhaul and the various tweaks made to the gameplay experience, Total War: Rome II does not feel too different from past titles in the series, particularly the more recent ones. The familiar turn-based gameplay is intact, which makes it easy for seasoned players to get to grips with the controls. However, those of you who are new to the series will need more time to get familiar with it. Unlike a typical RTS, you have to wait until the computer AI makes its move following a turn. In past titles, this would typically last from a few seconds to a minute or two at most. In Total War: Rome II, the AI takes a lot longer. It was not uncommon for us to wait a couple of minutes for the computer to respond, and we think this tends to break up the flow of the gameplay.
Total War: Rome II is a gorgeous looking game that requires fairly recently PC hardware. We tested on a relatively modest PC running a now old Intel Core i5-750 CPU and 8GB of RAM, but with a solid state system drive and a current-generation AMD Radeon HD 7790 mid-range graphics adapter. Using this configuration, the frame rate fluctuated from good to bad. Turning down the detail helped to improve the performance somewhat, but the game still stuttered and was prone to freezing, particularly on busy segments of the game when it had to display complex environments or large armies. Considering a large portion of the game is spent panning around the map to keep track of towns and armies, both your own and the enemy’s, the jittery performance becomes an obstacle during crucial moments in campaigns.
Despite the above technical issues on our modest hardware, Total War: Rome II is still a fun game that does a good job of capturing the scale and ferocity of army warfare.