E3 2013: Total War: Rome II Preview

June 14, 2013

Early September this year real time strategy fans will be delighted with The Creative Assembly’s next foray into the Total War franchise, finally catering to fan demands and delivering Rome II. Yep, we’re returning to the Roman Empire, to lay siege to whatever stands in the way of triumph and glory in the battle of Rome vs Egypt. And we got to see all of that in action thanks to a live demo at E3 2013.

As with past Total War games you’ll begin each battle with an overhead display and tactical map, ready to deploy your units into formations that best suit your strategic planning. Getting a hold of the strategic map is pretty easy, as all you have to do is tap the TAB key to see an overlay of troop positions and terrain. Deploying your units strategically stands as one of the most important elements of Total War, and Rome II is no exception. Stick units on high hills for an advantage, for example archers increasing shooting range, and other units able to roll boulders down to squash enemies. You’ll also get a charging bonus, the natural gravity and incline of hill giving formations extra oomph. Other areas, like forests, also provide an advantage, as formations placed in forest will be covered in a fog of war, remaining hidden until the enemy passes by. Rome II places a lot of importance on formations and terrain, going as far to tweak where and how units stand based on the terrain type.

Though Rome II focuses on large scale battles, formations with hundreds of units, the actual units themselves are just as important. You’ll be be able to task units to do everything from turtling (raising shields above and to the sides to form an impenetrable shell), to rushing forward wildly to smash right into enemies. You can even do this with ships, allowing one ship to collide with another, smashing them to splinters. New units like the Roman Chariots will bowl over enemies with spectacular physics, and Camel Archers pelt arrows from humpback, meanwhile slower Egyptian Elephants will stomp through formations while absorbing a ton of damage. The price of using an elephant is that they may get scared and go berserk, stomping through not just enemy units but your own. Once that happens, good luck trying to stop them.

The Creative Assembly don’t want all those little details put into units to go to waste, and so Rome II adds in a new unit-specific camera perspective that gives you a more personal view of the battle. You’ll hear soldiers talk amongst themselves and fight one-on-one with enemies. And the technology powering the game does a fantastic job of bringing these two visions together – on one hand you’ve got this massive scope of battles with thousands of units going head-to-head, yet on the other the ability to zoom in and see just how one single character is responding to their situation. All without any slowdown (though this will depend on your hardware).

Total War: Rome II is coming along very nicely. RTS fans will be able to conquer the known world all over again come 3 September on PC.

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