From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
I was fortunate enough to attend one of the closed Rome II preview sessions at PAX AUS recently. Rather than queuing for two hours, I walked up five minutes before the start and asked if there were any spaces remaining. My luck was in, and there was one space.
Three Creative Assembly staff members were on hand, and one of these took us through a sample battle, in this case Rome versus Egypt. A staff member (Beck) took the side of Egypt and successfully held a ridge line against the Roman advance, while tying up their seaborne reinforcements to keep the tide of battle in her favour. Naturally this gave us a closer look at the Egyptian army than the Roman. There were elephants, archers, warriors, ballistae, and pikemen in evidence. The Romans were duly sent scurrying down the hillside, and the battle ended in a close victory to Egypt. Close since some Romans made it to the top and took out one of the two ballistae unis, while the Roman cavalry made short work of the mercenary camel riders fighting for Egypt.
There was also an introduction to the in-game campaign map, and the flyover started in Egypt, and moved up into Germany to show the differences in landscapes and settlement types. As cities grown, nearby areas become cultivated, woods are cut down, and the cities grow in an organic fashion, meaning they won’t necessarily take on the same appearance from one game to the next, a nice bit of variety for those like me, who enjoy gazing at the campaign map during games.
Also covered in the map demo was the idea of army and general experience. Both banners and those who lead them gain experience and abilities based on the battles they fight and the foes they defeat. In the case of Roman legions, these abilities become so closely associated with a given legion, than new recruits will immediately adopt the legion attributes. Even if your legion is wiped out (Varus!), you will have the opportunity to re-found that legion and reclaim your bonuses. Sounds good.
With the map and battle introduction out of the way, it was time for the question and answer session. Yes I got to ask a question, I have grouped the information as I recall it below.
1. Historical Accuracy: One of the audience picked up that the look of the Egyptian army was a more hitorically accurate Greek-style force than the more classical look of the previous game. There was a discussion about historical accuracy. Where they could, they have gone for accuracy, stopping where there is a need to balance the game and factions. Also when you zoom in on Rome you will see the Colosseum even though it wasn’t built yet. That one was in response to every playtester looking at Rome on the campaign map and saying “where’s the Colosseum?”
2. Active Factions (my question): Having looked over the interactive campaign map, I’d noted that many of the unaligned provinces had existing alliances and enemies. Were these going to continue to be diplomatically active during the game I asked. Yes. Unaligned provinces are no longer lumped into ‘rebel’ factions, they have their own imperatives, and it’s quite possible in one game for (as an example) Dacia to start spreading over the map, even though it isn’t a playable faction. This is going to create a living campaign map, and a truly different experience from game to game. Having played Medieval II Total War for years, the inactive rebel provinces started to grate since they simply sit there waiting to be conquered. On this map they will be active even if not a playable faction. Yes, I’m sure we’ll have more playable faction downloads in the future. There are over 700 unique units so far.
3. AI: Can the in game factions learn your tactics and adapt to them, was a question that prompted a few grins. Sadly, learning AI is something that doesn’t exist yet, so the factions and provinces will build to their strengths and take their chances.
4: Religion: Religion in this game will work more or less identically to how it worked in Rome I, with temples providing a buff to units coming out of a given city, and that’s it.
5. Warhammer: Total War: The inevitable question was asked about this, if it even exists, and the staff apologies and handed over to Beck for the PR reponse. To wit; they have a licence to create Warhammer themed games but aren”t ready to announce anything more concrete at this time. It was worth a shot.
In my case, this was a success for Creative Assembly, as I have gone from sitting on the sidelines with this one, to preordering my copy on Steam. The living campaign map, and the ability to play as Pontus are simply too good to pass up.