You might be interested to know that while The Greek States DLC including Sparta, Epirus and Athens for ROME II is free when you pre-order from participating retailers, it will be £5.99/$7.99/€7.49 if you prefer to pick it from release day.
While we’re talking about them, I thought I’d share this homage to Sparta’s glory days that one of our artist’s created using game assets; but in ROME II of course that time is sadly long gone…
I asked our design team what it would take for a cunning player to bring them back from the brink of extinction and why they think Sparta will be one of the hardest factions to start ROME II with, here’s what they had to say:
When Total War: ROME II begins, it’s been more than 200 years since the famous Battle of Thermopylae, a moment that enshrined the Spartans as a force to be reckoned with and made their strict training methods and fearsome battle tactics the stuff of military legend. Though ultimately defeated, a tiny force of Greeks, including the famous 300 Spartans, held back an enormous Persian army for 3 bloody days.
From then on though Sparta’s fortunes waned as they found themselves left behind by the growing military and economic strength of their neighbouring Greek States. An unfavourable outcome to the Punic Wars and a final conquering by the Roman Empire in 146BC meant an ignominious end for classical Spartan culture as a tourist attraction for the wealthy Roman upper class.
As our game starts though, you have the power to change all that. Sparta is certainly on the back foot, in decline and, compared to some of its closest neighbours, looks like it could be quickly outmatched. But Total War is all about rewriting history, so what advice do the CA design team have when it comes to playing the aging underdog…
Sparta is done for, right?
James Russell, Lead Designer – “Not quite, but it’s not looking good for them at the start of ROME II, no. If you pick them for your grand campaign you are facing a very tough early game against some difficult and varied opposition. In particular, you are already at war with Epirus to the north who, while perhaps being more economically strong than particularly mighty in the military sense, cannot be underestimated. Your lifeline politically, at least for the time being, is Athens who may not be your best friend but are a client state of Macedon, who you are at least allies with.
“It’s not a cast iron safety net should Epirus look to press their luck, but it’s certainly a help to know you won’t be fighting on two fronts. Unless you really mess up your diplomacy…”
Jack Lusted, Lead Unit Designer – “They’ve definitely got the edge on the infantry front with Spartan troops earning increased experience per battle, they will learn fast and get better sooner than most factions, but the magnificent ranks of hoplites and elite ‘Heroes of Sparta’ are effective but costly. Depending on how you build out your first armies you may struggle to match your opponents numbers so a player who’s shrewd with ambush battle tactics and making the most of smaller forces will find a lot to pique their interest here. Sure, Spartan infantry can eat a lot of punishment, but an inexperienced player can easily risk throwing away that early game advantage by rushing in and not picking their fights appropriately.”
So it’s likely they will be overwhelmed pretty quickly?
Janos Gaspar, Lead Campaign Designer – “No, actually overwhelming Sparta, conquering them outright, should be a challenge in itself. Defensively strong, their starting province is also easier to protect than most, plus they have a unique building in the form of the Monument of Leonidas which, alongside other benefits, brings a huge morale bonus to land units in the home province. If you can build it though.
“Rather than being overwhelmed, the real risk is being contained in your starting position. Your neighbours have good trade links and powerful incentives to buff up their military strength to survive. The Seleucid Empire is not far to the east, Rome to the west and the looming threat of barbarian cultures in the north mean that your immediate neighbours might be distracted by weightier concerns than poor old Sparta, but those threats could make them hard as steel in response. The upside is that while the giants fight amongst themselves the clever player could spot opportunities to strike out at a weakened state. Investing in spy and scout agents early on will help you spot these chances as the other factions move against one another.”
Dom Starr, Campaign Designer – “Being imprisoned in their own borders is certainly the biggest threat to the Spartan player in my mind. One major weakness is their lack of a trade port in their home region, so maintaining cordial relations with Athens or indeed a decisive strike to take their territory and harbours would be at the front of my mind. The latter could easily leave your relationship with Macedonia in tatters and your armies stretched too thin if you go too early. Leave it too late and you won’t be able to build a large enough force to go against your fellow Greek States.
“That precise moment when you decide to move would be a strong indicator of a great Total War player; that moment will arrive at a different point in each player’s game and if you miss it, it could be turns later until your mistake finally dawns on you.”
Aside from the tasty infantry, have they got anything else to help them out?
Mike Simpson, Creative Director – “Well there are some distinct advantages you can play to. Their starting region contains a wonder, Olympia, and the bonus this confers means that Spartans tend to party particularly hard when you enact the festivities edict. Such is their fervour in the belief that Zeus favours them at these times that your population happiness is easier to manage, or at least more effectively prop up in a crisis.
“There’s also the question of slavery. Sparta had a long history of effectively repressing their large slave population, the Helot underclass. In the game this is represented by a bonus Sparta receives that ensures slaves are less likely to revolt than those of other factions. These elements mean that while the odds are stacked against Sparta, they do have the advantage of a stable home territory and powerbase, however small, to work from. It’s not fool proof though, neglecting your slave population’s happiness will still eventually lead to revolts and in the opening turns that will be catastrophic for the unwary Spartan player.”
Hope you all enjoyed that!