Rome II: Total War Review And Giveaway

Matt Smith 12-09-2013

The Second Punic War killed my interest in fiction. Tolkein’s fantastical Battle Of Helm’s Deep seems but a minor skirmish compared to the Battle of Lake Trasimene, where Hannibal managed to hide his entire army, surprise the Romans, and drive them into the lake, killing an estimated 15,000 with less than 2,500 causalities of his own. My mind can’t begin to comprehend what such a fight might have looked like, or the desperate thoughts that must have risen in Roman men forced to choose between drowning in their armor or dying on a Carthaginian spear.


Surprisingly, most games abstract this chaos with numbers and stats. Only a few games have tackled it head-on, and of those that have, only Total War has had consistent success. When I cut my teeth on Medieval: Total War, the first game in the franchise I owned, it was a revelation. The brutal drama of war was no longer confined to the pages of history, but instead had been freed to run rampant inside my PC.

In the latest installment of the series, Rome II: Total War, developer The Creative Assembly once again returns to familiar ground. The “original” Rome: Total War 10 Great Strategy Games You Can Play On Your Mac Mac gaming can be frustrating at times. The problem is finding games that are available on the platform. Even today, after Steam’s adoption of the Mac, finding games to play can be difficult. That doesn’t... Read More $60, released in 2004, remains the most highly-reviewed game in Total War’s history (according to Metacritic). Yet the developers felt they were far from done with the setting. In this sequel they’ve improved, added and refined, creating a model of the ancient world unlike anything gamers have enjoyed before. Is this the ultimate take on Roman warfare, or has Total War stretched its line too thin?

We are giving away three copies via Steam to three lucky readers. Keep reading to the bottom to enter for your chance to take home Rome II: Total War.

Have You Ever Wanted To See Pontus Fight The Iceni?


Though Roman history is culturally significant in most of the western world, most people only know the broad strokes, forming  a hazy portrait that includes, besides Rome itself, Carthage, the Huns, the Celts, the Gauls and (maybe) the Greek states.


Reality, of course, was a bit more complex. The ancient Mediterranean consisted of countless kingdoms and tribes; even the Roman republic relied on a coalition of smaller cities, known as the Italian Allies, to provide the troops and resources a growing city-state craves. Rather than abstracting all of this detail into larger entities, Rome II: Total War gives almost everyone their due. There’s over 100 factions in total, and playable sides include not just Rome and Carthage but more obscure entities like the Iceni, Macedon and Pontus.

All of this culminates in a detailed, beautiful model of the ancient world that’s as historically accurate as one could hope a mainstream game to be. Even difficulty falls in line with history, as rather than attempting to balance factions, The Creative Assembly simply designates those which start with a bad hand as “hard,” while those with an advantage (like Rome) are considered “easy.”


Yet, like so many models, Rome II’s map breaks down once it’s set into motion. While the number of factions has increased, the way the game handles AI turns has not, which means the player must wait for well over 100 other factions to complete their turn whenever the End Turn button is pressed. Even on a beefy system, this can result in several minutes of tedious waiting even with AI movement animations turned off.


Additionally, the sheer scale of the world is overwhelming. I was shocked when I viewed the victory conditions and saw that, for most factions, a military victory requires the conquest of 140 settlements or their control through client states. That’s a staggering number, and it’s made worse by an inevitable mid-game slog of civil unrest. Total War is, as the name suggests, is supposed to be about war, yet players are often forced to press pause on their war machine and instead attend to the needs of the citizens. Armies must sit idle until the population is adequately happy, as moving them away will allow rebels to spontaneously appear.


Creative Assembly does deserve credit for trying to make the campaign map more entertaining. The massive scale of the game is countered by a new provincial system which lumps multiple cities into one shared interface, making new construction possible without hunting down each individual town. There’s also an edict system that provides provincial-wide bonuses, a better selection of buildings, more robust garrisons, and more diplomacy (due to the larger number of factions).

Yet all of these improvements serve only to mend an injury Creative Assembly crafted. I’ve always enjoyed Total War games for the battles, not empire management. The continued attempt to blend Civilization with the traditional Total War experience is as misguided as ever, no matter what niceties or mechanics are tacked on.


Dramatic Battles, Busted AI


Perhaps the greatest flaw of the strategic map is its failure to reliably create interesting conflict. Of the many battles I fought during my time with the game, I’d guess that only a quarter of them took place “on the battlefield.” The rest were auto-resolved because the numbers were in my favor, and the game’s auto-resolve feature is ridiculously effective. Attacking an opponent with a 2:1 advantage doesn’t just guarantee a win, it ensures you’ll lose no more than 10% of your troops, unless you’re attacking a particularly well-fortified city or with sub-standard troops – in which case, you might lose a terrifying 20%.

The real fun begins only when an enemy army of equal or, ideally, greater size appears. Such battles won’t auto-resolve favorably, so personal command is required. Total War’s unique approach to real-time combat, which sees “units” of over 100 men clashing sword-on-shield, has always been the franchise’s real draw, and it’s become bigger and louder over time. Most units in Rome II are between 120 and 160 men, except for calvary, which often consist of 80 horsemen. A large battle might see 15 such units on each side, which puts well over 5,000 men on the field. Creative Assembly’s game engine still isn’t capable of reproducing antiquity’s largest battles, but it’s getting closer.



Winning a battle is about creating fear in the enemy ranks, rather than outright destruction, as all but the toughest units will run well before every man meets his end. Flanking an opponent, overwhelming him with numbers, or shocking him with drastically superior troops will cause his troops to run, and once they run, they can be cut down with ease. While Rome II does introduce some “magical abilities,” like formations that boost attack power or charge speed, victory usually stems from strategy rather than pressing the right buttons, a trait gamers with a phobia of micromanagement (like me) adore.

But while there’s the potential for glorious battle, incompetent AI can spoil the fun. Rome II relies far more on victory points (flags on the map that must be controlled) than previous games in the series, and the enemy AI is obsessed with capturing them. This can lead to hilarious charges in which entire units ignore the player’s defenders as they try to push their way towards the flag. At one point, I saw ten enemy units do this simultaneously; hordes of infantry, even slingers, ran through one small gap between buildings. They paid no mind to the two units of veteran Legionaries I’d positioned there and literally threw themselves on my soldier’s waiting swords. Over 1,500 AI troops were slaughtered, while I lost only 48 men, most of whom were part of a weaker javelin unit that I’d placed in front of my Legionaries in anticipation of a stand-off.


Such shenanigans proved less amusing when executed by my own troops, however. One strange AI bug caused my assault troops boarding an enemy ship to suddenly jump in the sea and drown. In another instance, my troops become stuck along the edge of a building during the defense of a city, allowing enemy troops to storm the gates.

Yet, in spite of these issues, smashing big armies together remains as entertaining as ever. No other game franchise replicates what Total War makes possible, and the battles in Rome II are the biggest and most dramatic yet. Assaults on provincial capitals are particularly outrageous, consisting of miles of walls and huge siege engines that can send troops over, or knock down, defenses. These fights don’t just look cool, but also test the player’s skill, as they require precise coordination between siege weapons and the troops that swarm through the holes they blast.

Barely There Multiplayer

While the value of its new mechanics is questionable, there’s no denying that Rome II tries to expand almost every area of the game; the campaign map is huge, the mechanics more complex, and the battle larger than ever before. Yet one area is a notable step back; multiplayer.

Shogun II, the last game in the franchise, offered an entertaining “Avatar Campaign” mode which brought Total War’s multiplayer 6 Video Games With Fantastic Local Multiplayer For Dorm Room Gaming There are still some titles that faithfully provide an excellent couch experience for multiple players. They either allows for up to four people to play at once, or provide an entertaining enough experience to keep... Read More into the modern age of never-ending progression. Players received experience for wins, which could be spent on various upgrades, and significant cosmetic army customization was available. Players could even form clans and fight over virtual territory on a simplified version of the campaign map.


Rome II has none of that. Custom and quick matches are the only options. While custom matches can be a blast, good ones are hard to find, and skill levels are all over the range. Quick matches, on the other hand, are readily available, but they throw the player into a random map against a random opponent without any explanation or context. This makes them hard to care about; you’ll never form a rivalry, never make friends, and never receive any reward besides a higher rank on the game’s leaderboard.

Yes, the battle themselves are still entertaining, but the bare-bones feature set reeks of premature release. To make matters worse, the only interesting game mode left, multiplayer campaign, is notoriously buggy. I couldn’t even launch it, and some users are reporting frequent crashes even if they can get the campaign to begin.



Rome II: Total War is a return to the bad-old-days of Creative Assembly’s 13-year-old franchise marked by Empire: Total War, a game that was at once fantastic and hopelessly bugged. There’s a lot to love here, including a huge map, some interesting campaign enhancements, and battles that turn the epic up to 11. There remains no better game for watching huge armies clash in melee combat, and despite its issues, Rome II is one of the most accessible historical strategy games 4 Excellent Real-Time Strategy Games You Can Play On The Cheap The real-time strategy genre is one of the staples in gaming today. Other genres, like first person shooters and role playing games, are saturated with hundreds of different titles, but real-time strategy doesn’t hold the... Read More ever made.

For every positive, however, there’s a con, and many of them stem from the game’s apparent premature release. A few months from now, after Creative Assembly has released its promised patches, this game may be the best yet. But right now, Rome II falls victim to a thousand wounds. Any one issue would not sink this game’s fortunes, but together, the bugs and strange decisions all too often overwhelm whatever fun the player may be having.

How do I win a copy of Rome II: Total War?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, September 20. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

The Winners

  • Marco Morelli
  • Richard Bonifacio
  • Sean Baker

Congratulations! If you were selected as a winner, you would have received your license via email from If you require any assistance, please get in touch with Jackson Chung before November 14. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Submit your apps and software to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

Related topics: MakeUseOf Giveaway, Steam, Strategy Games.

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  1. Shaurya G
    September 30, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I already have this game and this is awesome!

  2. Faizan
    September 21, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Rome Total War is a huge scale game, I agree with the review but lets keep our fingers crossed for patches.

  3. Nero T
    September 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Yes, this game is great.

  4. Norbert G
    September 20, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Well, haven't palyed it yet, but the review seems to be detailed, and Matt is a long time fan of the franchise. The article reveals positives and cons of the game, so I would have to go with YES, a do agree with your review, but I might change my mind once I'll play it :)

  5. MorePeanutButter
    September 20, 2013 at 2:09 am

    I'd have to play to give a definitive answer. Here's hoping the patches come as promised.

  6. Tom W
    September 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    I haven't played it yet, so I can't say if I agree with the review or not.

  7. Rich L
    September 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I don’t know I haven’t played it.

  8. Sam K
    September 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Yes, I agree with ur review. :)

  9. Michael P
    September 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Yes I agree with the review..

  10. Chris Larson
    September 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm


  11. Lesley F
    September 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I have not tried the game yet but I would love to!

  12. Zachary Carling
    September 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I would have to agree with this review. The game was released too early. However, that shouldn't stop it from being an incredible game once all of the patches are released.

  13. Matthew Carling
    September 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Excellent review. I would have to agree that they released the game prematurely. However, this game should be spectacular once they fix the bugs.

  14. Joshua L
    September 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Your review goes in line with some people ive heard talking about it, so I must agree :D

  15. Flavio Zuka
    September 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Fair review

  16. Keith W
    September 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I don't know I haven't played it.

  17. Tiago A
    September 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Fantastic game and great review

  18. Prayag V
    September 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    The review was very detailed which covered nearly all the aspects of the game

  19. dave
    September 18, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Looks like a great game. Hope to win a copy!

  20. Mrinmoy Das
    September 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I love strategy games

  21. Kurt Liget
    September 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I can't agree until I win and you send the game... then I'll agree.

  22. Scott M
    September 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    It looks like an amazing game.You have pointed out very clearly that it is much more than just another war game.

  23. Jonathan H
    September 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I've been intrigued by this game for a while. ^_^

    A great review :D

  24. chuckzwood
    September 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with most of the review, except for the part about the "interesting conflict." I don't see the point of THIS game is to be all about the fighting, it is much more than that.

  25. Cristian M
    September 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Very good review, great game.

  26. Kenneth M
    September 17, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Good Review looking forward to playing

  27. Henrique
    September 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Awesome review, guys! It showed the points I was afraid of seeing in the game, but well, I still want it :p

  28. Jason Caylor
    September 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I'm sold... I will definitely be playing this.

  29. Cory Mc
    September 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    It looks like a great review, but I have no idea how accurate it is until I actually play the game! :P

  30. Bart
    September 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Not played yet but sounds reasonable.

  31. Daniel J
    September 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I don't know why, but I love games that are like Age of Empires. Not like Civilization!!

    Hope Rome II will be good

  32. Gregori G
    September 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Do not agree on the part it says it's slow to wait for battles to happen. In my pint of view, it makes the game more real and dramatic.

    The rest I agree. Nice review thnx.

  33. Ciprian H
    September 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Of course. It's very interesting.

  34. Matthew Koziorowski
    September 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I can't tell you if I agree or not since I have yet to play it.

  35. David
    September 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    If I win and can play the game, then I can see if I agree with your review. Looks like a cool game to play though. Thanks for the contest.

  36. Michael Cooke
    September 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Your views seem very fair, however as I haven't played it yet I don't know yet.

  37. BrianP
    September 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Won't know until I have tried it.

  38. job
    September 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I'm a fan of strategy games, and I would like to try it.

  39. Lasse
    September 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    It looks like Age of empires or Lotr and because that, I want to get my hands on that :P . Nice Review , Guy(s)! Very nice!

  40. alro
    September 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    sounds interesting,cant wait to explore it.

  41. Daniel Ooi
    September 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Yes, Looks like fun. It reminds me of Age of empires.

  42. Pete Greenacre
    September 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Yes I agree, the whole Total War series is excellent and having just got back home I can't wait to get Rome II

  43. briareoushex
    September 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Definitely! Its a good written rewiew.

  44. Andrew H
    September 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

    It sounds like you relied too much on autoresolve. In the previous games, I'd only use it if it were an absolutely crushing victory with no chance of losing. Even a 2:1 battle like you describe should be fought on the battlefield.

  45. Thomas M
    September 15, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I definitely agree with this review. It has gotten me interested in Rome II and i have my eye on it as my next gaming purchase.

  46. Thomas M
    September 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I definitely agree with this review. It has gotten me interested in the game and i have got my eye on it for my next gaming purchase.

  47. Terry
    September 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    i do like the overall review of the Rome 2, but i would prefer to wait until the next patch before i seriously put more time into it

  48. prabhath
    September 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Hard to tell since I haven’t played it yet. ;)

  49. Bryan
    September 14, 2013 at 6:56 am

    I do agree but however,the game does provide a new experiencefor players. It need not be the same for all their previous game like the avatar in shogun2. Overall im still quite satisfied with what they have and i also believe that they will keep improving

  50. Thomas
    September 14, 2013 at 3:02 am

    This looks like a lot of fun. The kind of fun a weekend disappears into!

  51. Paul
    September 14, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Totally! Great game!

  52. Rajat K
    September 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Perhaps... :)

  53. Aaron
    September 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    The review is good, but I'll tell you if I agree when I win. :)

  54. Jesse McGrory
    September 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm


  55. Mustafa ÇA?r? Ç
    September 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you!

  56. Wu Kyin Woo
    September 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Yes, agree

  57. Garcon De Piss
    September 13, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I kind of agree, though they just released Patch 2 Beta today and it looks very promising. Looks like a lot of the issues will be fixed very quickly

  58. Bob F
    September 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Would like to try it, have played earlier versions and enjoyed them.

  59. TechnoAngina
    September 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I liked the review. It's actually really well done, and goes into a lot of the features in depth. i'm not actually turned off by multiplayer being weak, as that's not how I prefer to play, but the AI is a bit disconcerting while micromanaging. I think I've got to pull out my old copy of Caesar 4 and get my build and battle on.

  60. Movva D
    September 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    looking forward to play

  61. michael
    September 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    I agree with the review for the most part, hope patch 2 will fix a lot of the problems. i still would love to have the game, even with the problems.

  62. Sampath
    September 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Its nice but when i play i agree to the core

  63. Robert B
    September 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Looks like a great game. I would like to play it. Until then, all I have is your review.


  64. Leon
    September 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Yes, I agree with your review. The game is good but it has a lot of bugs that should be fixed soon in an update.

  65. Mishaal F
    September 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    not yet

  66. baldo
    September 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm


  67. Jim
    September 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Best review I've read so far.

  68. Frank V
    September 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Haven't played the game yet, so no idea what to think of it

  69. Rúben Lopes
    September 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Well, I haven't played this game yet, but the review seems to be quite in-depth and well made. Keep it up MakeUseOf ;)

  70. robert john
    September 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Can't say because I haven't played the game yet.

  71. Jeroen
    September 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Will tell you how good it is if I win it.

  72. Peter C
    September 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Bring it on !!!!

  73. Dmitriy S
    September 13, 2013 at 10:34 am


  74. Tate S
    September 13, 2013 at 10:21 am


  75. Elisabetta S
    September 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Yes, saw the game, and i agreed.

  76. Tibor G
    September 13, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Yes, it`s a good review.

  77. Denis K
    September 13, 2013 at 8:32 am


  78. Victor O
    September 13, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I can't agree or disagree. I've heard it's a great franchise, but haven't played a single one of the games. I'll let you know if I get picked!

  79. Umit Aslan
    September 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I hope to agree with you after receiving my free copy :)

  80. Terry B
    September 13, 2013 at 8:06 am

    I agree its spot on!

  81. Chris Jenkins
    September 13, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I'll have to play the game first to really know how good it is!

  82. Sudip Kumar Das
    September 13, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Nice review. Hope I will win to test it first hand.

  83. Samuel J
    September 13, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Good Review But Will Know Exactly When Will Play It

  84. Jack
    September 13, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Yes, It seems legit.

  85. Sergei
    September 13, 2013 at 6:41 am

    good review

  86. Alexander D
    September 13, 2013 at 6:05 am

    I agree, other reviews mention the bugs and bad KI too.

  87. John C
    September 13, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Haven't played it, so no idea.

  88. Mohit N
    September 13, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Even though it has bugs, I'd still like to try it myself

  89. Dan D
    September 13, 2013 at 5:04 am


  90. Va D
    September 13, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I'm going to trust your review as well as the others I have read, however, free is free. I never decline a free game.

  91. Titus L
    September 13, 2013 at 4:42 am

    Can't wait to get it but a tad bit too expensive

  92. Paul Y
    September 13, 2013 at 4:06 am

    The reviewer certainly knows what they like in a strategy game. However having not played personally I could not possibly comment..

  93. Milos D
    September 13, 2013 at 3:34 am

    I didn't see game...

  94. Jack Q
    September 13, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Haven't played yet, so I can't agree. But it is a very good, well-written review!

  95. Roman K
    September 13, 2013 at 3:08 am

    Done stepps, thanks

  96. Commandor W
    September 13, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I would like to have this one!!

  97. Chris M
    September 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Looks fun if that is the Genre you play.

  98. Tiago R
    September 12, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    haven't played it!

  99. Stephen F
    September 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    It seems like many of the problems to the game that are outlined here are problems that have plagued the series throughout the franchise. Hopefully CA will get all the bugs worked out!

  100. Gregory B
    September 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I find the review to be good information, however agreeing with the review would not be able to happen until playing the game has happened.

  101. SEppe
    September 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    it's strange that you say that Macedon is an obscure entity in Rome II. It's a faction who had one of the biggest empires in the history of earth, conquered by Alexander The Great. A well known piece of history, imo.

  102. Eric
    September 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Based on my experience from Medieval, yes

  103. Andrew
    September 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    It's hard to agree or disagree with a review of something that I know only from the review, but you seem to thoroughly cover the positive and negative aspects of this ambitious game.

  104. Howard B
    September 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    You had me right up to the point you said "Steam." I've as yet found no use for rented games I can't resell when I'm done with them.

  105. Boris
    September 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I'll tell you if I agree when I get my hands on it ;)

  106. Mel Jove
    September 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    The reviewer apparently values battle sequences over resource management. I believe both aspects to be equally important most of the time.

  107. Patrick S
    September 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I do agree with the review. It was very insightful and worth reading.

  108. Tomasz J
    September 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Yes, it`s a good review.

  109. Josh G
    September 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Hard to tell since I haven't played it yet. ;)