Total War: Rome II – Preview with Al Bickham, The Creative Assembly
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and The Creative Assembly’s upcoming Total War: Rome II has also been a long time coming. This will be the eighth standalone game in the Total War series and is the successor to the 2004 game Rome: Total War. It will be published by Sega this September for Microsoft Windows and will offer both single-player and multiplayer gameplay.
As with the previous titles in the Total War series, this one is a turn-based, strategic-level game that also includes real-time tactics. This game certainly lives up to the moniker of “Total War” and is grand, epic and could easily be the best the series has yet offered.
Whereas the original Rome: Total War focused on the late Roman Republic and offered players the chance to control one of three Roman factions, Total War: Rome II is very much about the transformation from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire and allows players not only to lead the great Roman houses but also to control rival powers of the era. Playing as Carthage, Macedon, Parthi, Egypt and others, there is the ability to stop the Roman expansion and defeat the Republic.
Within certain powers are individual factions; Rome will include the Julii, the Junii and Cornelii, as well as a Senate system, so it is much more than just ruling and conquering. In fact, there is as much danger in the Roman Senate for an ambitious general on the rise as there is on the battlefield.
As with other Total War games, this will be very much two unique game styles in one. The first is the strategic level gameplay, where players can make various grand moves throughout their (hopefully) growing empire, including recruiting soldiers, improving cities, conducting diplomacy, and generally plotting and planning. This is conducted on the campaign massive, which spans from modern-day Portugal in the west to the Persian Gulf in the east. It is divided into 173 regions that are grouped into some 57 provinces.
The game’s designers have promised that the AI has been refined to make for better diplomacy—in other words, with more realistic moves and likely with greater challenges. The result should be less of a chaotic enemy, and no doubt a harder one to defeat.
Speaking of defeating, the other part of the game is the massive—and we do mean massive—battles. While sea battles have become bigger than ever, in Rome II the land and sea battles are combined into one, so actions at sea can impact a land battle. In addition, the game will feature a variety of battle types including settlement-outskirts battles, siege battles, encampment battles, river battles and even supply train battles.
The game will certainly have a “cinematic” style to it, but let’s be honest—most people’s experience with the Roman Republic comes from movies such as Cleopatra and HBO’s Rome (and, unfortunately, from the not-exactly history of the Spartacus movie and TV series). With that in mind it made sense that Sega would call in actor Mark Strong to voice the power-hungry General Silanus in the game’s tutorial to help players in the opening stages of the game. Strong has generally played villains in movies like Green Lantern and Sherlock Holmes; players of the Warhammer 40k: Space Marine video game will recognize him as the voice of Titus.
Rome II also features music performed by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by renowned composer Jeff Atmajian.
Here is what Al Bickham, studio communications manager for The Creative Assembly, developers of Rome II: Total War told Armchair General, about what else we can expect when the game is released this September.
Armchair General: The Total War series has been going strong, so why the decision to return to Rome?
Al Bickham: Two reasons really—it’s what fans of the series want, and it’s an era we’re thrilled to go back to. Plus, we have the team and the technology to give that period the kind of treatment we’ve never been able to before.
ACG: With this game you’re focusing on the late Roman Republic, so could we see expansions that cover some other periods, such as Constantine’s Wars or other Roman Empire Civil Wars, and will you consider a fall of the Roman Empire expansion again?
AB: We’ve a number of ideas about where we may take the game, but right now we’re laser-focused on finishing the core game, which, incidentally, starts the player in 272 BC, so very much in the Republic era. Whether you engage in your own series of Punic wars, and ultimately cross your own Rubicon … that’s kind of up to you!
ACG: In this one we’re also seeing some familiar characters. Is there any concern that with TV shows and movies coloring the history it is hard to keep the facts straight from the fiction?
AB: I don’t think it’s hard to find thrilling events or amazing characters in the history books—characters who need little embellishment, as their deeds were so incredible to our modern minds. We carefully balance gameplay with historical authenticity, but we also do very much want the player to have a powerful, thrilling, epic, cinematic experience. You just have to see one of Rome II’s battles to experience that in action.
ACG: This games a lot of elements, both political and strategic. Is there any concern that you could cross the line and make the game include so much that it becomes overwhelming?
AB: It’s a balancing act. We want to create a game of great depth, one that offers many hours of incredibly absorbing play. But we don’t want players to have to struggle to get to grips with it, so your first point of contact with Rome II will be The Prologue, which is a short, three-hour mini-campaign that leads you simply and easily through the features of the game. But it’s more than a tutorial, as it’s a carefully constructed narrative experience too—it’s a lot of fun.
ACG: What are you including to make the game manageable for new players?
AB: When it comes to capturing the complexity of warfare, diplomacy and management of an empire while keeping things intuitive, it’s all about the little details. For example, we’re also diligent about use of tooltips to help the player see things at a glance, and we have a whole raft of new effects designed to give players intuitive visual feedback about a great number of things—such as when their armies are suffering attrition for example, or when one of their units is hidden from the enemy’s view.
ACG: Finally, what can we expect next from the Total War series? Would we see anything in the 19th century, perhaps with the Age of Imperialism?
AB: We have a long, long list of periods where we’d like to take Total War… we‘re still deciding where we’re going next with it, but suffice it to say, we are rather spoiled for choice!
Rome II: Total War will be out for the Microsoft Windows September 3.
About the Author
Peter Suciu has been collecting militaria and playing military simulations since he was a child. He’s been reviewing computer games for nearly 20 years, and when he’s not waging battle from his desktop he is a business reporter for several magazines and websites. His work has appeared on CNBC.com, Fortune.com and Forbes. He also collects military helmets and runs the MilitarySunHelmets.com website.