Since their inception, the Total War games have been the benchmark as to just what PC strategy games can offer, cementing themselves as the go to game for historically accurate scenarios alongside some huge and in depth battles. With Total War: Rome 2 it is more of the same, yet again delving into the Roman era circa 272BC and letting you control not just the Roman army but many other factions, all vying for territory.
The main campaign is split into two areas, the first being the map, which is very RISK like in its presentation, giving you a huge area to spread your armies through, hosting numerous forts and cities. Even though war was very commonplace during these times, the Romans were also a civilised race and Total War: Rome 2 also caters for this with a larger focus on diplomacy and trade. This is reflected in the numerous campaign objectives, you can go the cultural way and ally yourself with neighbouring provinces, slowly building up the library’s and such, the economic way is all about opening trade offers with the surrounding cities or you can go for the military win, getting you empire built with brute force. Either way you go about it, it is a long journey, taking time not only to build armies but also concentrate on areas like tax control and also upgrading and managing your villages and hamlets as the last thing you want is a rebellion whilst you are fighting on a far off land. Though initially daunting, the layout of the menus are very easy to follow, plus with an alert noting what you may have missed when ending your turn, the game really tries to look after you and make sure nothing has been overlooked.
Once you have made your decisions you then turn over control of the game to the opposing sides, who then move their pieces around the map until your forces meet. It is at this point that all that careful planning and building of your army pays off as you are about to go into battle. Now at this point you can either let the game auto fight or you, with the AI taking into consideration the strength of your army, or you can participate and have a hand on approach.
The main battle screen is where the most fun was had, granting you a full view of the battlefield, with you acting as a general to the proceeding real time battle. Be it on land or sea, you can place you units and carefully work out the lie of the land, taking into account forests, towns and even hills that may block your view or paths that can be used to make your men walk quicker. Once in battle, controlling your troops is a very easy exercise, with either clicking the units or highlighting a group of them and then commanding them to move, or you can go a little deeper and alter their formation or send other orders like quick march and rapid fire, resulting in more ferocious attacks but at the cost of exhaustion.
The sheer amount of units available is staggering and to make matters more confusing to the unlearned they all have their correct names though thankfully the icons and banners that these troops carry will give you a hint as to their function, be they pike men, cavalry or ranged plus, there is an encyclopaedia that you can call up at any point, a small window popping up that will detail whatever it is you need to know. It is this information that will often lead you to victory, learning the strengths and weakness of each unit.