It's 2020 and I can't get unstuck from RTW and M2TW.
I've tried, I've really tried, but I just can't get there. Hoping you can help me - if indeed that is even possible.
I have spent SO MUCH time enjoying these games. Thousands of hours indulging my imagination in so many wonderful ways.
I love getting lost in the music, voices, and board game style mechanics of exploring and conquering alternative histories on a "living map" which unfolds as the empire grows. Just so addictive. Must... conquer... one... more... city... before... bed.
When Empire Total War was released, all of that changed. The magical interactive board game was turned into a FPS shooter. Strange camera mechanics. Uninspired interfaces. Not much city management or temples or fun surprises or upgrades. Loss of freedom of movement... the world felt smaller. More like a video game than an interactive living map. Just sort of clicking on things to advance the story rather than feeling free to explore the possibilities.
Tried Napoleon. Better, but still not at all engaging by comparison. Did not care about naval battles at all.
Tried Shogun 2. Beautiful & better still... but same unsatisfying interface and game mechanics. Not much diversity between the clans. Not much to do in city views. Again, the feeling of being limited by camera angles and loss of freedom.
After watching the way things had gone (and the tepid response to Rome 2 and its game-killing list of bugs), I didn't buy in to anything after that.
I've seen gameplay videos for the newer TW's on YouTube and the graphics are indeed far more amazing. But the feel... the potential for imagination... the living map. It still looks more videogamey and less cerebral/imaginative/playing with an epic sandbox experience.
I recently returned to RTW and M2TW and all of the Kingdoms expansions to play every last possible insane scenario I hadn't yet completed. Elephant artillery in America. Germania bezerker armies in Cairo. Turning the entire Teutonic map pagan through sheer force of will via Lithuania. Chichimech "spitting fork" strategy using captured handguns in the Americas campaign. All on VH/VH of course.
But I'm afraid I'm about to run out the clock. Lovely as these games are, they're getting a bit clunky compared to what's available nowadays, and I'm missing out on newer stuff which might be a better experience.
Tried some mods: Europa Barbaroum and Rome Total Realism. Yet as amazing as these are, they strive a little TOO much for accuracy at the expense of fun. This is a game, after all, not a documentary film. Having some goofy powerful temples and such is part of the enjoyment.
So... I despair that this terrific little sandbox of a game is the end of an experience that is still as-yet unequalled by anything else out there. Equal parts strategy game and interactive cinema. Somehow a perfect balance neither demanding too much nor restricting that vast "freedom to move" feeling of making empires expand just like you imagine they would.
Thinking I might squeeze just a bit more life out of it with a couple of vanilla-ish mods: Extended Cultures, Vanilla Enhancement, Barbarian Cultures... maybe one of those three? Maybe would be more like a RTW++ than a complete makeover?
As the years pass, I wish another game of this scope could be done with the same board game style interface and loving attention to immersive detail. The pace of the game is perfect. Maybe it was by sheer accident... but damn... really makes me sad how the franchise took a step backwards to the right and hasn't looked back since.
Not sure where to go from here.