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Being that last week was my university's spring break, and HatG dropped, I figured it would be an optimal time to review the current state of Total War: Rome II. No mods were used, but I will talk about them at the end.
Hannibal at the Gates I started my first and complete playthrough of HatG as Syracuse, on Very Hard. The first few turns were nothing interesting, as Rome was content to ally herself with me, and fight a series of proxy wars to her north. Carthage was busy, presumably in Iberia, leaving me to mass my forces and build up Syracuse itself. After building a single full stack army and a a half stack navy, I moved my forces across the sea and invaded Carthage itself. I naturally joined Rome's war, extorting about 6,000 talents from the Republic as my price for fighting Carthage.
The invasion of the city itself was easy, I auto-resolved and lost 2 units of Tarantine Cavalry. That's fine, I don't like missile cavalry anyway. Within 40 more turns, I had established control over Africa and Numidia. Tripolitana was still entirely Lybian, but it too fell within 15 more turns. Sitting on about turn 70, I had three full provinces, a military alliance with the Estruscans and the Samnites, defensive alliances with Rome, Veneti, and Massilia. Massyli and Carthage were both exterminated from the game, and the Iberian peninsula was entirely barbaric. Cessetani, Lusitani, and Arevaci.
The rest of the game was simply a slog. I had to bribe Rome for a military alliance, adding their territory to mine, and conquered much of Iberia before the game declared victory. I then started a game as Carthage, because, you know, Hannibal. I just smashed up a few Iberian towns with him and then quit the game. Unfortunately, the SAI and the CAI seem very flawed here, as the SAI has some unique problems above and beyond the normal ones.
In HatG, capturing a town's square will not end the battle, instead it gives the team that holds the square a bonus to morale. However, the SAI is apparently unaware of this fact, and will rush the square and sit there. This ends in a victory for the defenders, and makes even non-walled settlements nearly impossible to lose.
The CAI here too seems worse than the normal game. In my complete Syracusan game, neither Rome nor Carthage actively expanded. Rome was caught up defending the Veneti and her own territory to the north, and never fought against Carthage. Carthage was getting destroyed by both me and the Iberian factions. It was quite sad to never see either of the big Empires do anything.
In the short Hannibal game, Rome did try to invade Carthage with a half stack of navy, and two other fleets that had 6 units between them. All in all, it was an improvement in some areas, and a massive loss in others. Caesar in Gaul
I had never actually played this expansion until Patch 10. That being said, there isn't much to it. I played as Rome on VH, and didn't have that much trouble with expanding. While I never managed to duplicate Caesar's division of the Gallic tribes, they were sufficiently warlike to smash each other up and let me carefully expand north and west. The map was alright here, far too many small provinces, but it worked. I think that the HatG map is much better.
I have beaten the game multiple times on Hard, Very Hard, and Legendary. I decided to do a VH game as Bactria, however, I did not finish this one completely. By carefully expanding, and endless battles with the Nomads, I managed to expand the Bactrian borders enough to get Imperium V. I decided that was quite enough, as I didn't want to just waste my time fighting a war I knew I could win against the Seleucids.
The AI here and in CiG is horrible at sieges. It can't take a walled settlement for its life, and can't be bothered to actually sit and siege a town either. In my Bactrian game, I lost 2 armies in the field, but didn't ever lose a single town, walled or unwalled.
The CAI is also aggressive, but with low-tier units. I've yet to see a real artillery army, and most of the time armies are comprised of the cheapest units available. Quantity over quality, I suppose?
The BAI is good. It will flank, hide units in trees, and try to sucker you in. If you are pike heavy with some artillery and corner camp, the BAI falls a part, but that is a little too gamey for me.
Breakdown of the Game
Rome II has some unique strengths to it. I like the factions, I like most of the units, and the diplomatic and battle AI is quite good. That said, Rome II has plenty of weaknesses too. The Siege AI is horrifically incompetent, the Campaign AI relies on nothing but weak units, and the political system is an utter and complete failure.
Even the economic, recruiting, and city management systems are a step down from Shogun II. In Shogun II, there weren't artifically important towns. (Why does Rome always have to be a capital? What happens if the Epiriots smash Rome within 10 turns?) The provincial system seems like it could have been a great step forward, but it is poorly implemented. The towns contain all of the important buildings, just like Rome I, because CA stripped the best feature from Empire, the non-city buildings. Why are farms back inside the city limits? Why aren't they dotting the countryside like Empire or Shogun II? How does Bread and Circuses increase my food output? Aren't I feeding the masses? Shouldn't that take away food? In the end, the provincial system favors all towns being the same, just like in every other TW game. (Excepting the one or two military provinces. They are built differently.)
Generals come and go much too fast in the GC, and the general and army traditions are also poorly implemented. There are just a few traditions that are mechanically best. I end up always walking down the exact same paths every time. Tactician -> Better Movement -> Night Battles.
Grand Campaign: 65/100, if you don't have it yet, wait for a 50% off or more sale. AI and Battles: 13/25 (The incompetent SAI is just too much. The BAI, while improved, isn't that much better than Shogun II, and the CAI seems to alternate between good and horrible.) Empire Management: 18/25 (The provincial system doesn't add much to the game, and politics is a total wreck. The economic system is a step down.) Graphics and Optimization: 20/25 (The lack of multi-card support annoys a lot of fans, and the fact that high end machines still struggle at times, and the incessant stuttering.) Tilt, DLC, and Factions: 14/25 (The buggy release, the lack of working politics, the horrible AI that has never been addressed, and the inundation of DLC and the fact that the Greeks are a DLC only faction pulls this down a lot. Even seasons being added only brings it up some.)
Caesar in Gaul: Not worth buying. Nothing is really new here, excepting the new map and two Gallic factions. I don't think it is worth the money.
Hannibal at the Gates: Worth buying on sale. Finally added in Syracuse and some Iberian factions. The map is detailed, and is somewhat more fun than the base game.
Rest of the DLC: The Greek City-States: It is unbelievably annoying that it is a purchase. How is this not relevant to the main game? It should have been a part of the base game.
Nomad DLC:Not worth it unless you really love horse archers. Worth it on sale.
Blood and Gore Pack:Not worth the money. Beasts of War:Not worth the money, and also stripped content.
Final Analysis: Rome II missed the mark. It is a major step down from Shogun II, and could have been so much better. The product seems rushed, and is just now starting to get to an acceptable point, over 6 months after launch. While not the worst title in the Total War franchise, it certainly isn't good.
Mods like Divide et Impera can really make this game a lot better, and bring it up to the 72/100 you see in my signature. Without mods, this game is a solid 65/100.