Previews

Rome 2: First look at the biggest Total War ever

We feast our eyes on the huge strategy sequel

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For the team at Creative Assembly, Shogun 2 was a chance to refine and polish the series' tactical gameplay on a relatively small scale, but in Rome 2 they're going all-out. It's not just the battles that are bigger, but the campaign map too.

It'll be bigger than Shogun 2's, and bigger than the original Rome's, and will be rendered using the same visuals as the battle engine. In previous games you'd control individual units, but now you have to think about entire armies.

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The idea is that you'll make fewer, but more important, decisions. You won't be spending all your time nudging a single unit of archers around, or adjusting endless tax rates. Battle objectives will also be more varied and interesting, and city invasions are expanded with multiple control points.

Naval battles are also grander in scale, and offer richer tactics. A unit is no longer a single ship, but a number of ships. Because you're able to disembark on land now, you could potentially stage an assault on a city from multiple beach-heads. Some cities, like Carthage, even have entry points for ships to actually move inside them, which will allow you to use ship-mounted catapults on defending infantry behind their walls.

Russell is keen to stress, however, that this increase in scale doesn't mean you'll be swamped with hundreds of units to control; it's the bigger maps, richer tactics, and more interesting objectives that will make battles feel more epic.

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The demo we saw was brief, but tantalising. The graphics, even at this early stage, are unbelievable. But it's more than just flashy visuals for the sake of it: Rome 2 is as in-depth a strategy game as its predecessors, if not more so thanks to the merging of land and sea battles, and the bigger maps.

The Total War team has almost doubled in size since Shogun 2, and the game's budget has increased by 40%, so this'll be epic in every sense: from those enormous battles, to the production values. Sega have yet to release any gameplay footage, or even a trailer, but when you see the demo in action that we saw running in real-time, you'll really understand just how insanely good the game looks.

Whether you're commanding the battle from high in the air, or viewing the action through the eyes of a lone soldier, everything will look super polished and hyper detailed. You've got until the end of next year to get a monster new graphics card and enjoy that new engine to the fullest.

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