Rome 2: Total War – Scaling To A Whole New Level

Creative Assembly’s Total War series reached an entire new level of fame after last year’s mighty successful release of Total War: Shogun 2. Their next in-line project, which is also the freshest addition in the Total War series, is none other than Total War: Rome II.

The fact that CA has decided to go back to its 2004 game obviously shows the team is looking to bring a setup that is both familiar and new. No doubt the two Shogun games will always be treated as the hallmark of the studio’s career, especially Shogun 2, but that’s only one more reason to want to know what Rome II will be made out of.

Thankfully, CA hasn’t been shy in revealing enough information about the game to make people’s heads turn around and have a look. They’ve gone back to the classic Rome setting, going far west to a place that many more people can actually relate to or have heard of.

It’s the gladiatorial Rome that we’ve all virtually encountered once in a while, especially often in movies – a Rome that lives in an era with so much diversity and lack of respect for human life that one wonders whether the fight is for conquering or simply for the fighting itself. While Shogun 2 was about culture, Rome II is about diversity.

A lengthy yet informative interview with James Russell by CVG got the lead designer to make a mind-sketch of what Rome II will be about, how it will play, and what setup it will have.

“It’s an epically huge world, and that’s what makes it so exciting. In Shogun we were focused on one culture, but here we have barbarians in the Northern forests, exotic Eastern kingdoms in the deserts. We’ve got a huge variety of cultures to show off in our next-generation Total War engine.”

Because of this new engine, there is special emphasis on the sea/land combat in the game, which will be a large part of the entire strategic aspect of the gameplay.

“On the campaign map, we’re breaking down the boundaries between armies and navies. It means that navies can now capture territory in a way that’ll transform how important the interplay between land and sea is on the map. The Punic Wars were about naval domination of the Mediterranean. In order to build empires on land, you’ve got to have safety at sea. All the great powers of that era were built around coastal cities.”

The massively enhanced scale to which warfare and battling will take place is in itself the highlight of Rome II. Russell promises us that we’ll encounter the most awe-inspiring battles ever witnessed in games, and the sea/land battles will be the core element of all the action.

But with such a general enlarge scale, one would feel odd commanding a set of archers to fire arrows, while an uncountable amount of ships bombard the lands with both invaders and canons. Therefore, the scale of battle commanding has also been upped a notch; you’re not thinking of individual units anymore in Rome 2 – you’re thinking of armies, large battalions of troops or Legions, which you will be commanding.

There will be an entire “Legion Legacy system that will give your Legions traits that they’ll get as you use them in battle.”

And so the trend of scale multiplication will continue, from the management your Legions to the maintenance of the regions you have conquered.

While most of the up-scaling has led to grouping and generalizing of entire sets of men and locations, one new feature that will scale in the completely opposite direction is the new zoom-in option, which will allow you to magnify ‘into’ individual soldiers, seeing the entire battle through their eyes, and experiencing a real-time strategy game through an entirely new and different perspective.

“What’s special about Total War is that there’s always so much going on in the battlefield. Any unit you look at, something is going on with them. Whether they’re in combat or marching somewhere. So we wanted to have more emotional connection to them. Things like if one soldier gets hit by an arrow, his buddy will look ’round and react. Or if a guy gets injured, his friend might help him up. We want them to behave more humanly.”

“When you go into the unit camera, we’ll have the commanders shouting orders and so on. It’s really important to make the game look amazing at that micro level, to get you immersed in the action. But it’s not just aesthetic. We want to make sure it lets the player do something. Otherwise it’s just eye candy. We want the player to be rewarded for giving up some of their attention to focus on one part of the battle.”

With epic-ness to such an incomprehensible magnitude, it would be natural to expect a weighty spec requirement. But according to Russell, the new engine will allow this impressive scale of warfare to run even on an average-by-today’s-standard machine.

“…we want to run on machines that aren’t the best machines. We want to take advantage of the best PCs that are out there in a year’s time, but at the same time we know people are playing on laptops more, and we want to make it accessible to lower end machines as well. Shogun 2 has a reasonably forgiving min spec, and our intention is not to change it. We can’t guarantee that obviously, but that’s our intention.”

The fact that Creative Assembly is making the game with ‘good intentions’ and bringing in something so new and immersive, and with depth rarely ever seen before in RTS games is itself enough to excite all those who have played and adored the brilliance of the previous Total War games.

The developers are definitely standing on the glory-podium of the RTS genre, and by the looks of things, Rome II will ensure they stay there for a good while.

Thanks, CVG.