Killing the Faceless Unit in Total War: Rome II

In Creative Assembly's upcoming Total War: Rome II, we learn how the team is planning to push human-level drama to the forefront of this strategy game.

Carthage burns. Amid the ruins of this dying city we got our first peek into the world of Total War: Rome II. This game represents developer Creative Assembly's largest investment yet, with a budget that dwarfs even their previous game, Total War: Shogun 2. In this hands-off demonstration we saw how those additional resources are being spent: fine details on unit armor, expressions of agony on unit faces, buildings that crumble apart, and more. Our demo was one of details, starting with the interview below.

Throughout the demo, the film Saving Private Ryan was referenced for the style and tone Creative Assembly is aiming for in Rome II. The film's influence was apparent from the opening scene. Dozens of soldiers lined the decks of warships en route to the flaming city of Carthage. The developers brought the camera in close to show off the small details on the suits of armor the soldiers wore--as well as their stern expressions.

As the ships ran ashore and the soldiers poured into a war zone--not unlike in the movie--the camera pulled back to reveal the entirety of Carthage. The Total War series has always featured massive armies made up of hundreds of units, and Rome II is no exception. Through use of destructible buildings and multiple capture points, the goal is to make city assaults such as this more dynamic and create--as the developer puts it--"cat-and-mouse maneuverability."

While the game's massive scale was apparent, one aspect the team wants to explore more in this game is human-level drama. Wishing "to explore the darker side of war," the team is putting a greater emphasis on individual unit expressions, animations, and design. As they describe it, this was an era filled with individuals who changed history. They want players to connect with individuals, and empathize with their army rather than see a faceless swath of soldiers.

How these desires will manifest in the game itself remains to be seen, but the developers did hint that they want their unit-level camera to bring additional features to the game--not just look pretty. On the macro level, they offered some cryptic comments on the possible structure of the game's camping or other single-player modes. The developers would like fewer, more-significant battles; for players to build their empire from the ground up; and for actual land-to-sea battles (and vice versa).

There are still several fine details that remain to be seen with Rome II. As noted in the interview, what is apparent is Creative Assembly's desire to make this game feel very different from Shogun 2. While Shogun 2 focused more on the traditional Total War formula of massive armies and grand strategy, Rome II is being positioned as taking a more personal approach. We'll be sure to keep you updated as Total War: Rome II approaches its release date sometime next year.

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