Monday, February 23, 2015

Some random observations on Total War: Rome 2

Finished the prologue campaign last week and I am now alternating between a Roman grand campaign and a Briton grand campaign. Here are some random thoughts:

1. The game was criticised for bugs and technical problems when it first came out for. This is not unusual for a Total War game but happily Creative Assembly tend to stick with their games and diligently work to fix them up. At this stage a year and a half after release the game seems stable and works well. I can only guess how poor the initial release was from the fact that whole sections of the in game documentation are separated into "Old" versus "New" and from the fact that they felt it necessary to give the patched game a new name "The Emperor Edition".

2. In true Total War fashion I managed to screw up the tutorial (Prologue Campaign). I thought I was faithfully adhering to advisors  instructions when a large Samnite army managed to sneak around me to march on a weakly defended Rome. Happily the prologue now allows saving after a certain point so this wasn't a complete disaster. 

3. I find that I am using the auto-resolve for battles a lot more frequency than in previous games. this is despite the fact that tactical battles in the game are very enjoyable. Possible reasons: 
  • a)  To save time.  Massive battles with hundreds of soldiers are no longer the novelty they once were so I am happy to skip through unimportant ones to progress the game faster.
  • b) I tend to play a cautious game and I try to make sure I always have an overwhelming local advantage before initiating combat. Therefore there are very few battles where the computer needs my help to win. 
  • c). The auto-resolve has gotten a lot better over the years and throws up fewer surprises. I particularly like  the fact that Rome 2 allows you to select aggressive, defensive or neutral tactics. Aggressive tactics work very well at annihilating enemy armies, something that auto-resolve did poorly in previous games. 
4. Learning to love velites (well at least not to hate them). Roman velites light skirmishers fall between two stools. They make poor melee troops because of low damage and light armour and they make poor ranged troops because of low range and limited ammunition. In the original Rome game I skipped over Velites as quickly as possible to get a decent ranged unit: The Roman Archer. Rome 2 doesn't have Roman Archers. I believe this is more historically accurate but it means that Roman armies cannot recruit a decent ranged combat unit until they travel far afield to recruit ranged auxilliaries or mercenaries from the local populace in somewhere like Crete or Iberia.  With no other choices available I had to reassess the humble velites. Their limitations are obvious but they have some advantages: They can run far and fast, their javelins do high damage while they last, and they are cheap to recruit and replace. I have come to the conclusion that mobility is their best asset. They don't have enough ammunition to stand on a hill raining down a continuous hail of fire and they will not win a ranged battle against archers or slingers. Far better to put them in front of the line of battle to taunt the enemy into engaging before running to safety once the enemy starts to attack. Then when the front lines are engaged the velites can  circle around behind the enemy and punish them with javelin fire from the rear. You might be surprised how quickly this breaks even hardened troops. Of course you cannot safely do this while enemy cavalry is around so careful management of unit position and timing is essential. 

5. I find the in game documentation alternately comprehensive and frustrating. There is a huge amount of documentation and just about every item in the game has multiple levels of explanation. If you hover over it briefly you get a name and quick explanation. Hovering for longer may bring up an expanded explanation. Selecting units and buildings will bring up further information panels with numerical details. Right clicking on an item will almost always bring you to the relevant page of the comprehensive in game manual. So far so good. The problem arises when you want to find information about an item that isn't immediately in front of you to select. The search function is terrible and regularly fails to find answers to the most straightforward queries. That leaves two choices: try to navigate through menus or try to build a path from something you can find to the item you want. Both of these approaches fail because of the vast number of choices and paths available in the game. Any given building for example might allow you to recruit one of twenty different types of unit depending on the campaign you are playing, the dlc you have installed and the region you are building in. All of these units are listed in the documentation making it hard to find the ones that apply in your case.

6. The blurring of lines between navies and armies is both interesting and confusing. Any army can hop into a boat from any shore and any navy can land troops to fight land battles. Dedicated naval ships are definitely superior on the water than improvised troop transports but a lot of sea battles still end with boarding parties and hand to hand fighting so landlubbers can certainly play their role.  For the most part it adds a great extra dimension but I have noticed that defeated generals have a frustrating habit of fleeing out to sea which makes them harder to hunt down. 

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