It took me a long while to click with Rome 2. A nine-year wait between the original and its successor meant I came into my first campaign with the highest of expectations, making it all the harder to look past the series' flaws that have somehow remained. However, five hours into my campaign as the head of House Julia, my influence growing, I finally started to see how the new elements were fitting into place: the naval combat, for example, wasn't the write-off it initially seemed to be. I soon, very happily, realised this was the improved Total War I was expecting. Even if, at times, it'll do its best to convince you otherwise.
Technically, this is easily Creative Assembly's most impressive title to date, with a greater variation of battle types that can now accommodate both land and naval forces. The most impressive scraps take place when attacking or defending one of the major capital cities of the era, and managing a fleet of reinforcements as you defend a siege provides a brilliant challenge. These encounters are just as intimidating as they are exciting, making the addition of a top-down, tactical viewpoint near essential.
After spending so long with Europa Universalis (the new king of grand strategy in my eyes) over the past two weeks, my main concern stems from the actions of the AI. As you can see in the video feature below, nations will consistently refuse mutually beneficial trade agreements and diplomacy ends up being more about bribing the AI into accepting proposals than shrewd international politics.
When it comes to combat too, the AI can be just as exploitable, often over-committing when tempted by fast-moving cavalry or light infantry. These faults were present within the original game, but it's harder to forgive today.
Rome 2 is a technical behemoth, but at the moment, it's the little details that are holding it back. Still a great game, but not the masterpiece I was hoping for.
Game played for 20 hours. Click here to read about VideoGamer.com's new review policy.