Fives Things I Hate about Rome Total War 2

 

Thank you based Listmas for giving me a chance to take something that has been gnawing at me for a while and letting me get it off my chest. I am a huge fan of the Total War franchise. I have logged hundreds of hours playing Medieval and Rome Total Wars. I don’t regret any of it, but there are some things about the newest game that really bug the heck out of me. I hope to write a larger, more coherent, review on this later. Until then…

1) Lack of Unit Variety: This bugs me in two categories. When you break the game down, there really aren’t that many different unit classes. There are melee infantry, spear infantry, spear cavalry, melee cavalry, javelin missile troops, archer missile troops, hoplites and that’s pretty much it. Sure each faction has subtle varieties of this, but that is basically all you will primarily see.

I wouldn’t mind this nearly as much but the units tend to look the same regardless of which faction is playing them. Hoplites look the same wherever you are. Swordsmen in Asian Minor look the same as those in North Africa. I know the Mediterranean world at this time was largely homogenous, but when the units in the original Rome Total War still ended up looking and actually being quite unique to each faction you really start to think that Rome Total War 2 could have done a lot better job at giving us some unit variety.

2) The AI: What can I say. Total War games have always been lengthy endeavors to play. You end up logging many, many hours playing against computer opponents, and if you’re like me, you want a bit of a challenge out of your AI opponents. So far, the Rome Total War 2 bots have been quite lackluster. Their strategies appear to be quite linnear, and any time they control more than one settlement at the start of the game they seem to lose them quite quickly. This is kind of problematic because when you are playing a faction like Rome you are kind of hoping that a few other empires will rise up to challenge you. So far, this rarely seems to happen.

I won’t deny that changes have been made and the bots do seem to be getting smarter, but then you start a siege battle where you bombard the computer defenders with missile troops and you laugh as the AI refuses to attack you and dumbly holds their defensive lines while you cut down all of their troops, unscathed.

Their campaign map strategy also seems to resemble how most people play the board game Risk. Wait for your opponent to let his guard down then try and roll him up with one long attack. Then watch as your neighbor does the same to you next turn. Hopefully some middle ground could be found for the poor bots.

I know Creative Assembly would probably tell me that I should be fighting humans if I want a real challenge. I admit that I could do more of this, but I honestly just don’t have the time to regularly start and play through multiplayer campaigns. Thus, I would like the AI to be just a bit smarter. I know Creative Assembly can do this because they did it in the older Total War games.

3) The Unfinished Feel of the Game: Once again, this is something that Creative Assembly has worked hard to remedy, but when I am paying $60 for a game I kind of expect it to be finished. Factions that should have been playable weren’t done, the AI was silly and game features were bad (having to defend stationary points for no reason in defensive battles). The first couple of months playing Rome Total War 2 were downright painful. Creative Assembly recognized this and apologized to fans for it – even offering free content to fans.

Despite all of the fixes Creative Assembly have thrown out you can still find things in the game that just leave you shaking your head. Just the other day I was trying to fight an enemy army using multiple armies. I moved my armies into position and picked one force to launch the attack, expecting that my other armies would be available as reinforcements. Unfortunately, because the enemy army was in force marched stance, I kept ambushing the enemy force. You would think this would be a good thing, but because I was “ambushing” the enemy the game would not allow me to bring in my other armies as reinforcements.

I understand that armies that are BEING ambushed shouldn’t be able to call for reinforcements. You would think that the armies doing the ambushing should be able to bring in as many troops as they would like. Oh well, maybe my understanding of how things were in 240 BC is lacking. I only have a history degree, what do I know?

4) Unpredictable Allies/Diplomacy: This one is a little weird, but it has come back to bite me a couple of times. No one wants to fight their wars alone, but I am learning that sometimes it is more worthwhile to leave your allies at home in Rome Total War 2. In order to get the maximum economic value from your provinces you must control all of the territories in said province. Thus, when you look to conquer a new province you are looking to take the entire province.

Unfortunately, it seems like any time you invite your allies to take part in your wars they manage to send a small detachment of troops to take one settlement in the province you are attacking – essentially blocking you from benefiting from your new conquest. At this point, you have no way to pick up the missing settlement from your allies except to attack them. To me, this doesn’t seem quite right. In real life you would likely work out some kind of agreement to get the settlement handed over from your ally or simply bullying them into doing it with your superior military strength (if you have it).

This may seem like a fairly minor detail to be unhappy with, but honestly the entire diplomatic system could use some work. If the Civilization games taught me anything it’s that most games of this ilk tend to struggle in this category. No matter how much you’d like the AI to deal with you like another human would it never quite happens. I would never expect perfection in this area, but I would at least like to see a few fixes, like some options to get settlements from your allies without attack them down.

5) Roman Infantry not being able to fire at will/tons of unique abilities: I admit that this is a very specific item, and you will not get this if you don’t play the game. Historically, a lot of Roman infantry units carried spears that they would throw before engaging in melee combat. In Rome Total War, your infantry could throw about three volleys of spears into the enemy, causing quite decent damage, before either charging or simply continuing waiting for the enemy attack.

In Rome Total War Two, Roman infantry (and other javelin carrying melee infantry) will only throw their spears if they are charging in to attack. Now again, I’m no expert in ancient combat, but you would really think that soldiers probably threw their spears at other times then when they were charging. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if Roman infantry wasn’t such a huge part of the Rome Total War games. I mean Rome is the namesake faction and they have the biggest variety of infantry of any faction. Leaving them without this ability quickly becomes very noticeable and really takes away an important tool for Roman commanders.

Maybe this was a balance thing that they did to try and make Roman infantry less powerful. But when they give pretty much all sword infantry the ability to do this why not just let all of these units throw their spears from a stationary stance?

My other problem is with the large number of active abilities the game now includes. Your general can have around five or six abilities he can activate to improve everything from your unites morale to their stamina. Honestly, I liked the game better when it was all about how you built and used your army, not about how many special abilities you could spam from your general.

In conclusion, Rome Total War 2 is still a work in progress. I would contend that the new game has introduced more potential than it has introduced negative features, but the lack of unique units and graphics is a very concerning trend. The game does a lot of things well, especially the multiplayer which us Total Wars players have been dreaming of for years, and I really hope they take the time to make it even better before they start releasing all of the expansions.

If you’re itching for a new Total War game this holiday, I think the time is almost right to buy Rome 2. Don’t expect it to feel totally complete, but it is a lot better than where it was at when released.

Advertisements

What’s New with Twohp2few

You know you haven’t been blogging much lately when WordPress makes you enter your password and seems to stare at you accusingly. “Where have you been?” I can hear it say. I honestly don’t care what WordPress thinks, but I do miss interacting with all of you guys. So here’s what’s up.

After roughly  a solid year of searching I finally found employment, and it even happens to be in my “field.” I use that term loosely because, as a guy with a general Arts degree and a Public Relations diploma, I’m basically qualified to do anything involving talking, writing or researching.

But it is nice when I can actually use some of the things I learned in school and work at a place that will give me even just a little bit of that all mighty EXPERIENCE (roughly five months worth in this case).

Just when I thought I was done with bumming around campus, I find myself doing communications for my university. I’m actually doing communications for one of their major extra curricular events that they call International Week. It’s a fun week, and there’s lots of cool things to learn about and to see.

The days have been keeping me nice and busy, but the downside to it being my first week back to living like an employed human being is that I come home and basically collapse into my chair. I barely seem to have enough energy to game, and today is the first day I found myself actually able to string together words.

Hopefully I’ll get the hang of this in not too long, but this new beginning has given me even more respect for those of you who consistently are able to work long hours and then still write amazing blog posts – you guys are heroes!

In a few days I hope to get my sleep schedule sorted out and plan to be back on here blogging, reading and liking up a storm. In the meantime, I just want to thank you guys again for being the best blogging community a guy could ever be part of. You helped me stay strong when I wasn’t sure writing was something I wanted to do. You read my work when no company would, and you keep teaching me so many great things about life and the things that make life special for each of you.

Thank you so much everyone. You kept me writing and working and it payed off. So forgive me for taking a few days off, I hope you can understand. I’ll be back soon, and I will definitely be looking forward to everything and everyone that I have missed this week.

Gamer Trash Talk – Limerick Style

Next time you enter into chat acting all tough, consider surprising your enemies  with this:

There once was a very young gamer

who issued the following disclaimer

that whoever they faced

would soon be disgraced

and their moves would get lamer and lamer

Haha ok I know it’s a little rudimentary, especially considering what I have seen some of my wonderful readers publish. So here’s my challenge to you guys: hit me with your best gamer trash talk, poetry style. Heck if we get enough people involved I might even come up with a prize for the best submission, even if it’s just an unofficial Twohp award of excellence.

Just think of how much fun it would be if we get a few delightful poems to throw at our opponents. I will tell you right now that a trash talk poem would probably blow some League of Legend player’s mind – and that’s all I need to make it worth it for me.

Credit needs to go to FordFocusing for this opening Limerick. Not too bad considering she came up with it in about 30 seconds. You can find her tweeting @sisterfords. The sisters have a pretty good sense of humor, and they follow some pretty neat stuff.

Age of Empires II HD and Me

Just the other day I received quite the blast from the past. I had heard that a new, high definition version of Age of Empires II had hit Steam, and to be quite honest, I was in no rush to pick it up.  What always seems to happen when you are trying to convince yourself not to buy a game? You watch a friend play it, and it becomes all that you want and desire. Now that I been given it, I cannot really say that I find this SHINY NEW HD RELEASE to actually be that impressive, but it has led to my taking a second to think about how the Age of Empires franchise is responsible for who I am as a gamer.

Today, when a game attracts me I can usually give you a couple of quick reasons why it attracts me – except for League of Legends which has led me to simply believe I am a masochist. Back in 1997, a young 2hp did not really have the same motivations that this one does today. He didn’t have a set list of things that he looked for in games, so what was it that first got that crazy kid to play AoE? I had to think on this one for a second. Yes, I have always been a huge history nerd, and even then, I was well on my way to loving Greek and Roman history. This would have sealed the deal, but it was not my young self’s reason for first playing the game.

No, what got me into AoE was a friend of mine named Michael. Michael and I were an excellent pair for each other. He always had the latest and greatest video games and a strong desire to play them. I was rarely the first person to get games, but I was blessed (or cursed) with the ability to sit and watch others play, sometimes for hours on end. AoE had everything my young brain wanted. Ancient civilizations straight out of my history books fishing, farming and fighting for supremacy. There was so much cool stuff to do, so much cool stuff to see, and I would have never experienced any of it if it wasn’t for a friend taking the time to show it to me.

I had to wait a little while, but I soon followed in Michael’s footsteps and made AoE mine. I was found a delightful challenge in putting together an economy I did not always understand to kill units I knew just as little about. Interestingly, my love of this game actually helped drive my love of history. If there was something unfamiliar, or that I did not understand, I was quick to look it up. I am a compulsive reader of manuals and AoE was done in the golden age of manuals. To this day I contend that the AoE book contained more relevant history than my first year university classics textbook did – and that text probably cost me four times as much. The game play and the history helped make AoE amazing, but I do not think those things would have been enough, by themselves, to keep me playing it over and over again. What did that was the multiplayer.

Watching friends play was pretty ok; actually getting to play in the same game as them was absolutely mind blowing. We could chat about how the game was going, bask in awe at our amazing civilizations and share in the numerous humblings we received at the hands of the AI. Rarely did we fight each other. It was much more fun, and less likely to end friendships, if we teamed up to defeat our foes. Sometimes, this would even involve one person packing up and moving their civilization to start closer to the rest of us. Tactically, this was a very poor decision. To us young gamers, it provided us with a sense of security that can only come from surrounding yourself with friends – in a multiplayer game.

I would not say that the AoE multiplayer was overly ground breaking, but a game that was already accomplishing so much probably did not have to include multiplayer capability to sell copies. Look at the Total War franchise. They were built on the strength of all of the unique and cool things you could do by yourself. In 1997, AoE would likely have fit the same bill, but the folks over at Microsoft took the time to throw in the ability to play it with others (which was probably not as difficult as it would be for Total War games but bare with me). The combination of it being an amazing game and one that you could play with your friends made the two features synonymous in my head. For another game to be as good as Age of Empires was it needed to have multiplayer.

It was also around the time I started playing AoE that I think my parents realized they had a gamer on their hands. My parents have not always been super thrilled with my gaming, but they actually facilitated a great deal of my multiplayer shenanigans. My dad always had an old computer or two lying around that my friends could use. His work in I.T. ensured that we were among the first to embrace the internet and hook our computers into a LAN. When I had friends over, my parents gave up their computers, basement and sanity to allow three or four young boys to wage war for hours on end. When a friend who could not come over wanted to play, my parents would give up phone access for hours while my dad helped to enter in IP addresses until a dial-up connection with my friend was forged and games were underway.

In their own way, my parents were also helping to shape the way that I gamed. They knew that they couldn’t get their son to give it up entirely, so they made sure that at least he was getting some socialization out of it and was not so wrapped up in it that he had no time for friends. Thinking back to it, there is a pretty big chance that I could have turned out a lot worse for wear had my parents and AoE not teamed up to ensure that most of my gaming was done with friends. I will always be thankful to my parents for teaching me, possibly without their even thinking of it that way, that it was better to game with friends.

When AoE II arrived the first thing I remember doing was begging my good friend, Andrew, to come over and play it with me. My ulterior motive: to get him to buy the game so we could play it together.Good guy that he was, and remains, Andrew was quick to get the game and we were soon playing it together. My greatest accomplishments in AoE II were rarely done on my own. They almost always came from Andrew and I making some heroic last stand or developing some crazy strategy together. Despite all of the fancy new game play mechanics, graphics and history to explore it was still the opportunity to play the game with friends that brought me the greatest joy.

Today, the love of multiplayer games is very much alive in me. I would much rather watch League of Legends than solo que, but the minute a friend or two of mine comes online I am immediately good to play all night. Even in shooters I always look for games that have Co-op before all else. Left for Dead has become the standard by which I judge most shooters simply because I never have a better time than when I am killing zombies with some good friends. It is rare to find me staying in all night to game by myself, but I have been known to round up a group of people with the sole purpose of not leaving my basement until several games of Heroes of Might and Magic III have been played out. For a game to really keep me interested, or even just get me started, it must have some kind of decent multiplayer.

I admit I have only played a game or two of AoE II HD since I got it. The “changes” that they made to it were just enough to prevent people from accusing them of having not done anything to it. They were looking for some money and the way they decided to get it was through nostalgia. What I wasn’t expecting was that I could actually get more out of that nostalgia than actually playing the game. I look back on all of the hours I spent playing those games of AoE and AoE II, surrounded by friends and family, and I have no regrets. Nor can I be too mad at Microsoft for putting the game out there again. At the very least, it is now a lot easier to play online than it ever was before. Kids these days who complain about lag should have to try playing on a dial up connection. You do not know lag until you have done that.

I came into this article ready to badmouth AoE II HD and rip Microsoft a new one for what I viewed as being a shameless cash grab, but instead I want to end this piece by giving my thanks to both the game and the company that first made it, all those years ago. Without the Age of Empires series not only would I have not become the gamer I am today, I would not have become nearly as well rounded an individual. Playing AoE with others built me some of the strongest friendships I have, and my love of games like it continues to help me build friendships to this very day. I will always be glad that I would rather play games with friends than alone in my basement. Age of Empires and Age of Empires II convinced me that good games should always have a good multiplayer function, and that is something that I would gladly play a $20 re-release to be reminded of.

 

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: I should probably stop making this sound like I bought AoE II HD when I was actually given my copy by my good friend, Shierra, who I now owe an even larger thank you to! If you’re not above a little profanity and general insanity with your gaming, you should check out his streaming adventures by going through his Twitter here. I can be a pretty awkward guy on stream, but Shierra has none of those problems. I am glad that our solid love of gaming, and occasionally drinking (Root beer) while gaming, has brought us much closer together.