War has come a long way since the ancient battle grounds of almost two thousand years ago. Most battles nowadays are won by dropping a bomb or missile with a use of a piloted drone, but back in the days of the Roman Empire wars were won by thousands of men violently clashing their swords together, on massive open battle grounds. It was a sight to behold, but wait a second, I am not 2000 years old (or am I O_O), so how would I have any idea what a battle in 290 BC would even look like? Well thanks to developers, Creative Assembly, I have a pretty good idea from playing Total War: Rome 2 – Emperor Edition.
The Emperor Edition serves as the definitive version of Total War: Rome 2 that was released last year. The original Total War: Rome 2 was torn apart by fans for lacking many features and it had various glitches and unbalancing issues. Fans hated the broken siege AI and politics system but luckily Creative Assembly have not left their fans out in the cold, and have fixed most of the major issues from it first release. Some engine optimization has also taken place, and massive battles, involving thousands of units, won’t make your rig sound like a jet engine powering up as your GPU tries to take flight. The Story in Rome 2: Total War is one of world domination as you play the Grand Campaign and re-write history. You move troops around a strategic map as you conquer cities and manage resources. You can also gauge your influence in an area through the politics system and even improve the roads to help your troops move easier.
You can also fight battles from this view, however these battles are represented by two soldiers having a quick sword fight, and are nowhere near as satisfying as jumping to the tactical view. The tactical view is where you can control your massive armies in real time, and it’s where you will want to spend most of your time. Many strategy games can do turn-based combat, but not many of them can do large scale battles like the Total War series. Rome 2: Total War does large scale land battles better than any other game in the series, and possibly any other strategy game. Soldiers have individual animations, and you can zoom the camera close enough to see the faces of each unit, which is highly impressive considering the size of the armies.
The UI is very clean and easy to use, you can hold down the right mouse button and drag it across the terrain for a quick formation setup, or you can choose one from the options at the bottom of the screen. You can only control groups of soldiers and there is a very handy quick select tool that makes giving orders between different unit types a breeze. Watching two massive forces charge towards each other is pure eye candy, and it will make you feel like a powerful general sitting up on a cloud somewhere (sipping on a cocktail) as you command the fates of your men.
Your cocktail better be in one very tall glass because watching battles play out can take a very long time. Luckily you can fast forward battles if you want to speed things up, but the tide of battle can turn against you in a heartbeat so you better be sure you know what you’re doing when you use it. What doesn’t help matters is that the game has a very steep learning curve. In one game I tried to setup a massive line of archers behind my troops, but the AI quickly turned my carefully-planned formation on its head, by sending a hidden flank of cavalry to cut down my archers. I experienced many crippling defeats but once you learn the strengths of each unit type the reward factor shoots through the roof as you start to win your first battles, especially in the custom game modes. You can face off with other would be generals online but unless you have taken down the AI on the hard difficulty, you will most likely be brushed aside by some mouse-wielding Julius Cesar in mere minutes.
There are also some historical battles to play, such as the battle in Gaul where Julius Cesar almost lost his 6 year footing he had in Alesia after being surrounded by the Gallic Chieftain and his men (you might just learn something in-between all that mass slaughtering).
Rome 2: Total War – Emperor Edition is a very well thought out experience. There is enough depth found in its various systems such as the politics system and plenty of micro management to keep you busy. If large scale battles are all you want then you can skip all the politics and jump straight into the action. If you have last year’s version then you will most likely want to skip this, but if not then this is the version you want. Most of the glitches have been resolved and you also get the Emperor Augustus Campaign Pack included on the disc too. If you have never played a Total War game but have been curious to see what commanding thousands of men on the battlefield would feel like, this would be the best possible entry point into the series.