Review: Total War: Rome 2 - Rise of the Republic06 Aug 2018 0
Review: Total War: Rome 2 - Rise of the Republic
Released 09 Aug 2018
Ah, the Republic. The most important thing Italians gave the world, besides lasagne (and me). Creative Assembly, ever aware of the staying power of Rome and its legacy, is back again with another expansion for Total War: Rome II. This time, instead of playing as or fighting against the full mighty of the world’s greatest republic, you get to witness its rise.
It’s 399 BC, a century after Rome’s abolition of kingship in 509 BC. Italy is full of Italians and Etruscans, with Greeks to the south in Syracuse and Gauls starting to make themselves comfy in the north, meaning the closest thing to a major power in the region was Carthage, all the way in Africa. Rise of the Republic takes place in that period, serving as a bonafide prequel to Rome II’s Grand Campaign (and covering a similar period as that of the tutorial).
The Republic is still in its early days, with none of the signature military advancements on its belt. Rome’s armies are not a professional legionnaire force, but normal citizens that copy their phalanx fighting styles from the Etruscans (who in turn copied it from the Greeks). Rome has only a couple of cities and is surrounded by rival tribes that want it dead, creating a volatile and extremely war-prone environment.
Aside from Rome, there are eight playable factions in the DLC: the Nuragic Lolei; the Etruscan Tarchuna; the Gallic Senones and Insubres; the Italian Samnites and Veneti; and the Greek Taras and Syracuse. Each has their own bonuses and special conditions, as is the norm in Total War, providing a different set of starting positions and diplomatic relationships. Those factions mostly hate each other, meaning the air tends to get thick with conflicts within the first five turns of the campaign. It forces you to play aggressively, and at times the sheer amount of consecutive battles becomes a little grindy.
The greatest thing about Rise of the Republic is how well it circles back to the beginning of Rome II. This is a very convoluted time period -- one that saw several cultural, geographic, and military developments, lending itself to an enticingly evolving campaign. Marcus Furius Camillus is the leader of the Rome faction, slowly working up towards his eventual status as the Second Founder of Rome. Breakthroughs are happening throughout the region, as Romans find the phalanx is unfit for the hilly landscape of Italy and Syracuse’s dictator Dionysius realises you can throw rocks *really* far if you put them inside a huge ballista. Meanwhile, chieftain Brennus is slowly invading Italy with his Gallic tribe, opening the very real possibility for a recreation of the sack of Rome.
All of that together intensifies Total War’s propensity for changing circumstances, and the player gets to experience first-hand (or change) the events that shaped the region for the next millennia. The technology tree fittingly causes Italian hoplites and swordsmen to give way to early iterations of Principes and Centuria, eventually culminating on the famous Triarii and Equites of pre-Marian times. Rise of the Republic’s end-game is the Grand Campaign’s beginning, and it is wonderful how it all comes full circle.
The campaign map itself is more intimate than the Grand Campaign, due to its focus on the Italian Peninsula, but it retains roughly the same size and number of cities as any other Total War campaign. Each faction has unique buildings, ranging from Carthage’s unique harbour to Rome’s Capitoline Hill that requires two battles to be fought for the city to fall. The developers continue to implement the best lessons learned from Warhammer’s asymmetry, making Rome II a better and more unique game in the process.
The political system is also completely changed, with a set of faction-specific Government Actions and dilemmas that affect gameplay. Rome can appoint consuls or dictators during a crisis or deal with unrest between plebeians and patricians, for example, while Samnites can perform the Ver Sacrum rite and instantly raise an army -- each faction has a specific set of events that create a certain degree of dynamism that make the game a more engaging experience.
In the end, Rise of the Republic is yet another great addition to Total War’s best entry. It’s pacing is a bit harsh, but it adds new mechanics and experiences while retaining the base game’s excellent battle balance, shying away from Warhammer’s unfortunate MOBA-like rush but bringing it’s good campaign map ideas into the fold. The way it circles back to the start of Rome II’s base campaign drives home the dedication and love put into the game as a whole and makes this expansion a must buy for anyone interested in the early days of the Roman Republic.