The battle should be won before you even take to the field. Sun-Tzu probably said that. It sounds like the kind of thing he’d say. As the Egyptians, fighting the Battle of the Nile in Rome 2, you could say the same thing. I outnumber the Romans. I’ve got artillery. I’ve got elephants. I’ve got better troops, and better boats. And I’m on top of a hill.
It should be an easy fight. Hmm.
Rome 2 should be an easy win for Creative Assembly, too. Rome 1 is, in my estimation, their best game. But in the Battle of the Nile, the Egyptians were flanked, by the raw cunning of Julius Caesar. The Egyptian commander Ptolymy slipped as he boarded a ship, fell off the gangplank, and drowned.
Best laid plans, eh?
There are two parts to my demonstration. The first is entirely hands-off: I get a guided tour of Rome 2’s new campaign map.
And it’s beautiful. There’s no two ways about it: the sheer sensation of just zooming back and forth over Europe is riveting. It’s a perfect toy scale: like a dinky animated matt laid across a table. It feels more jagged that I remember Shogun 2 being; the mountains really look like impossible obstacles. It’s more varied, too. The Nile delta is bounded each-side by lavish and fertile swampland. That then gives way to the hot dust of the Sahara. Travel over to France and you realise the size of the area you’ll need to defeat: it’s endless forests and grasslands that flow on and on. At it’s most eastern tip, Rome 2 stretches all the way to Afghanistan. It’s vast; a terrifying mass of land to paint your faction’s chosen colour.
It reminds me, as studio communications manager Al Bickham flies across it, of the intro sequence of Game of Thrones; a painted stylised landscape, part model, part moving. More so when he extends the town walls of Antioch and the new buildings rise up out of the ground, as if Winterfell is now a Roman province. It’s beautiful.
The Game of Thrones metaphor continues, a little, with the new political and ‘subject’s systems. Politics and diplomacy has been the series’ achilles heel. Partly because Total War’s focus on expansion and militarism has reduced the role of diplomacy: an alliance is rarely more than a pause button on an eventual conflict. But partly because diplomacy is such a bag of spanners in previous games; wildly unpredictable at best, downright lunatic at worst.
The new diplomacy screen takes a cue from Civilization. Your stances, alliances and actions over the previous turns are displayed as modifiers, adding or subtracting from zero for neutral, negative for opposed and positive for well disposed. Subjugating enemies of your friends? /highfive. Trade agreements with opponents? /deepfrown.