| Silent enim leges inter arma..Cicero was not far off, especially when it comes to Rome Total War II. Although each of us know that the game has been plagued with issues since launch, I will leave that discussion to the end of the review. Now Centurion, Decanus and Hastatus to battle!
First thing that strikes you about Rome TWII is the gorgeous visuals on both high end and entry level systems. I've caught myself in many a moment aghast as hundreds of javelins and arrow's crash down upon the enemy heads. The level of detail is apparent especially when you see enemy soldiers with missiles stuck in their shields, as they desperately try to advance under fire. To see the expression on the enemy faces when your flanking cavalry attack at the same moment is testament to attention to detail in what must have been a difficult development schedule.
Campaign dynamics are fluid with both overhauls and simplifications of the trade/finance and diplomacy systems, which to this total war veteran makes for a pleasant change. Although sometimes the Computer AI makes some head scratching decisions, since recent patches I have fought some quite high pitched and immersing battles.
A welcome addition to the series is the imperium system. This forces you to pay close attention to your allied generals, senators and associates. When taken into account the detailed diplomacy system, you can find yourself scheming at home whilst your armies wage war in foreign lands. With three distinct agents for recruitment the options for clandestine actions are endless. A welcome perk to your agents is the ability to include them in an army, thus boosting said armies abilities for the length of time that the agent is attached. It's those small wins that can tip the tide.
The list of playable factions within the game are exhaustive at present. Although you will find your favourite, mine encompass Rome, Barbarians and Sparta. Each faction has a distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example the ability to recruit region specific auxiliaries with the Roman faction, follows both historical practices and allows the armchair general in everyone to become slightly sneakier when preparing for another campaign.
With subsequent patches of the game, weekly as per the Ca most of the lag issues,system crashes and hardware conflicts should be resolved. For those that may be concerned about instability within the game itself, it may be worth waiting a little bit longer before forming your testudo and storming the video game shop for your copy. For those Optio's like myself a day one purchase was the only way to go.
In conclusion Rome TWII is a classic sequel to the original game with a vast array of visual and game mechanic improvements. Although it's release was marred by issues, if one can hold the line you will find a game with lasting replay ability and one that will see you through the next 4 to 5 years. You may even find yourself quoting Latin as Rome burns, Ruinis inminentibus musculi praemigrant