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The remnants of the Sixth Legion stood shivering in the snow, watching their enemies approach. Their ragged breath formed fog in the air. There was blood on their weapons, on their armour. Some from the foe, some of friends who lay still on the hard ground.
It had been a battle of two acts. In the first, the Sixth had mounted a stunning defence against the rebel forces calling themselves the Senate Loyalists. Two rebel leaders had been hacked down, and their armies had begun to march away from the battlefield.
Two thirds of the remaining Sixth Legion had followed at a distance as the rebels marched into the trees. As they turned though, so did the rebels, who had used the tress to reform into a typical Roman chequerboard formation. They marched out of the trees at speed towards the Sixth. The hastily reformed line was smashed. Of the seven pursuing units, only two made it back to the general’s standard.
Then the Senate Loyalists made their mistake. Instead of marching on the remaining Sixth they split in two, with one part pursuing the broken Sixth units, and the other marching on Appius Clovius Tubero and his men. Clovius was no fool, taking the fight to the enemy, the Sixth held firm once more, breaking the enemy with a decisive charge from their general’s cavalry bodyguard.
Now only three enemy units remained, having spent their energy running down the Sixth’s comrades in arms. They were Romans too though, and were not about to meekly accept defeat.
It ended quickly. A clash of arms, a few screams and curses, and the remaining Senate Loyalists were broken. This time Clovius held his men in check; there would be no more pursuit today. The pass south was held, the rebels would not march their armies across the Alps into Italy. Any gains they made would be in Belgica. The Sixth had bought time for two more loyal legions to march on the rebels. It would soon be done.
So ended my most memorable battle in Rome: Total War 2. It lasted maybe 30 minutes, but felt like several hours.
This review is based on 50 hours of gameplay, played on a third generation i7 with 16MB RAM, and an nVidia 650M graphics card.
The best of the game you have already read; the emergent narrative is what makes this game fantastic. Battle mechanics, movement, balance. These are petty concerns. The game forms itself around your decisions to tell an alternative history. As your guide you have the various chapter objectives, which help you towards your ultimate game-winning objective.
The chapter rewards give you some idea of what was actually happening at the time, but this is background. This game makes you the centre of the ancient world. You have the ability to raise and shatter empires. The independent actions of over 100 minor and major factions gives you the feeling of stepping into a real, organic world.
You can ignore what is going on around you, but there are many advantages to be gained by paying attention. Strategic cities can be attacked during periods of civil strife, giving you an acceptable excuse for what would otherwise have been classed an invasion. You can pick off the strongest faction in a region, or else wait for them to be weakened by war and attack when they are unable to defend.
Levels strategic options are there to be explored. The game will pay back whatever time you put into it with interest.
This game is not one for those who like their games in short bursts. It takes an hour or two to get any sense of progress. Victories do not come by accidents and require careful planning ahead of time. Fail to plan, and you’ll find yourself facing rebellions and starvation regardless of your battlefield prowess.
The game has been patched a number of times since release, and I only have one issue – the fast forward button. In games past, you could speed battles up by a factor of 6. This was especially important in sieges, where nothing may happen for 30 minutes. Now, the fast forward button make every second last 0.8 seconds. Seriously. You have to stare at the timer while counting to see the difference. That needs changing.
Other than this, if you don’t care for strategy games that demand 100+ hours, then you won’t care for this title. For strategy game fans, it’s a visual treat that has the required depth and variability in gameplay. Jump in, and soon you will be telling your own stories.