Sun Tzu has very little to say about attacking an entrenched force that holds high ground, consists of greater numerical superiority and contains elephants, chariots and what can only be described as ‘great balls of fire.’ What he does say about the matter basically boils down to ‘don’t bother.’
Last weekend’s Rezzed presented me with a long-awaited opportunity to get my hands on an early build of Total War: Rome II. After hearing that playing as Egypt made for the easier time, I instead rolled up my sleeves and desperately tried to remember some latin as the forces of the Roman empire were placed at my disposal.
Having been very familiar with previous Total War titles, it took a matter of seconds to reacquaint myself with the control schemes. Although there are a few extra bells and whistles on the new UI, including an extremely useful overhead map view that grants a full view of the battlefield, anyone who has played previous titles will have no difficulty jumping into Rome II. Even better, from what I saw on the show floor, even complete newcomers were able to pick things up fairly quickly.
The battle scenario on offer was a roman assault on an entrenched egyptian position. On the offensive, the roman force needed to clamber up an incredibly steep hill whilst under fire from ballistae, arrows, elephants and crudely thrown insults from the heavily defended egyptian position. Out at sea, a small roman navy faced off against a considerable egyptian force.
To say that I was defeated is a slight understatement – My forces were destroyed, utterly, almost to a man. Marching in a manner reminiscent of a certain light brigade, my brave legionnaires stayed in perfect formation as they moved up that hill. Perfect, that is, until a horde of rampaging elephants drove through the middle of them.
And they were the lucky ones.
As my primary ranks were engaged in their session of elephant diplomacy, a line of scythed chariots shredded through the auxiliary force I had sent to reinforce them. Despite my severe losses, I still had some units remaining, so regrouped for a final assault.
And then it happened.
From nowhere, great balls of flammable material rolled down the hill towards my force. They looked big, they looked heavy, and they looked on fire. Following the contours of the terrain perfectly, the burning balls showed off improvements to Rome II’s physics engine as they bounced down the slope towards my forces.
“Goodness gracious,” I said, as my men scattered like skittles hit with a bowling ball that also just happened to be on fire.
With the battle on land clearly going well, at least for the egyptians, I turned my attentions out to sea where the brave soldiers of my navy were… were… well they were drowning, to be honest. Engaged with a numerically superior enemy force, I sent hundreds of brave soldiers to their deaths simply to prevent the enemy navy from flanking my forces. There was no way they could win, all they could do was just die pointlessly by the hundreds in a fruitless attempt to hold off the navy for a while.
I didn’t have too much time to play around with the navy before they finally slipped beneath the waves, but controlling the massive ships was a simple affair that moves not too far from Shogun II’s established formula. Ramming two of these heavy vessels together is a brutal, physical affair that sent me cheering, even when it was for the wrong side.
From what I’ve seen and played at Rezzed, Total War: Rome II looks absolutely beautiful and plays incredibly. I’m just not very good at it.
Total War: Rome II is due for release September 2013. For further information, visit the main site here