The doors of Creative Assembly’s Total War development fortress creaked open a little wider today with the release of a new trailer for Rome II’s Battle of the Teutoburg Forest scenario. I saw this mission being played live a few months ago while visiting CA for the lead feature in PC Gamer issue 250. It was the first time I’d seen the game being played properly rather than running as a pre-scripted demo (or while dressed up in black spandex and dancing around like a moron.)
There was a lot to take in, and you’ll be able to read my full impressions in the preview feature which will be going up next week. Now that we’re allowed to talk about it, however, I thought I’d rattle off a few of the key changes to the Total War formula that were shown off – or discussed – while I was there.
We still haven’t seen the new campaign map, but a few details crept out. When selecting a faction you’ll also choose which political power you belong to – in the case of the Romans, these are the Junii, Julii and Cornelii. You are still playing as Rome, effectively, but the presence of other interest groups within your faction gives you something to consider at home as well as abroad. The designers I spoke to described this as a substantially expanded version of Shogun 2’s loyalty mechanic.
Dynamic Line of Sight
In a first for the series, you are now only able to see what your men can see – no more abstraction of certain battlefield elements, no more always-visible generals represented by a star. This has the effect of making battles much more reactive – in the dense Teutoburg Forest, with its winding forest paths and multiple elevated ridge-lines, units could appear from the treeline or from around corners demanding an immediate tactical shift. According to the designers I spoke to, making this change has allowed them to fiddle with the pace and balance of battle in ways that will hopefully do away with some of the series’ long-standing problems. Heavy cavalry units, for example, will now be limited by the fact that wearing a lot of armour means that they’re not very maneuverable and they can’t see very much. They’ll need to be accompanied by light auxiliaries or scouts to be effective, and this in turn keeps lighter and faster units tactically relevant when a faction has the resources to afford more powerful troops. A modern analogy would be the relationship between a piece of heavy artillery and the advance spotters that mean it can actually hit something.