Jamie Ferguson On Total War: Rome 2, Part 1 - Non Omnia Possumus Omnes

"We cannot do everything." You won't be able to do all things in the new Total War game. We sat down with Rome 2's Lead Battle Designer, Jamie Ferguson, and talked about what's new. In Part 1, Ferguson touches on how Rome 2 puts careful limitations on the player in the name of fun, while providing options to delegate.

I had a brief hands-on with Rome 2, in which I tested out some of the new ideas they've brought into the game. Rome has always seemed like a perfect setting for Total War. The tactics, the lines of battle, zooming in on tower shields pushed against tower shields... And later, the different fighting techniques of each culture Rome comes into contact with.

Line of sight was one instantly noticeable improvement - units will now appear out of the fog of war as your units can see them. It makes ambushes seem that much more real. The Creative Assembly has a list of improvements across all sides of the game - diplomacy, military, sea, grand strategy, etc. I wondered if any research had been done into what players' favourite parts were in such a huge game.

There are improvements to all sides of the game this time around... I'm wondering how much time you find players spending in each part of the game, and how that affects your early decisions regarding what to spend time on?

In previous games, what we've discovered is that basically, all the really important battles the player would fight, and most certainly in the first third of the game, they’d be spending a lot of their time playing all the battles, and going through all of those. As the campaign expands, and you get to that large size, you get more inconsequential battles, people would start auto-resolving those. So we've looked at getting rid of that management chore in a way, by making sure players are always fighting an important battle.

So we've limited the number of armies that is possible for them to actually have. So you don’t have these trails of soldiers spread out across your vast, massive empire. Now, you actually raise your troops at the legion or army level. To get your own native troops, you have to be in native territory, otherwise you have to raise mercenaries. And you don’t have small individual units just marching around on their own, unless they’re spies, or agents, or something like that.

That kind of leads to a very tight and coherent gameplay, it means also that every battle you’re fighting becomes that much more intense and important. And you don’t mind spending that time strategising, trying to work out ways of pulling the enemy in, getting them to give away their advantages.

That seems very much like Rome at the time as well, fighting battles against enemies with more manpower.

Certainly in this period, in the prologue setting, the Romans weren't masters of the Italian peninsula - they had to go and capture it. In the campaign you start out with what you have at the end of the prologue campaign, which is the central part of Italy. And then you have to move out from there. So the Romans definitely had a mindset that they were beset on all sides by enemies, and they seemed to carry that through right until the point until they were the largest empire on earth.

That seems like a better way of going about it than saying, “You can autoresolve battles, but mathematically you’ll always be worse off,” which seems a bit unfair to the player.

What we tried to do there was strike a balance between fairness, and also make sure it’s player agency that causes victory as much as possible. The other thing we looked at is, sometimes people didn't feel as confident in fighting large battles, so for those people what we've done is give them AI subcommanders, and they can drag select some of those units, click on a button that opens up the group selection, and in there you can actually say “AI group control”, you click on a button, and it takes that group of units over to control of the AI.

You give them a basic order, like “Go there and attack those units”, and the AI does everything from that point. If you want to interfere with that, you can just drag select to take back control of them and give them an order to do something else.

Did you find that people were daunted by the larger battles?

The thing is, it is pretty simple to control. If things do get too hectic, we have a pause button, or you can just slow down time. There are ways for the player to manage that situation. Also, the other thing is, even though there maybe thousands of men on the battlefield, the maximum number of units controllable by the player is 40. And that’s with a very large army, and that would be a very late game. So in terms of accessibility, that problem I think we've managed to resolve.

We have actually slowed down the pace a bit - that was something else we picked up from people, that having the game be too fast was something that intimidated people and lead them to the situation of “Whoa, I'm not sure I can control this.” We haven’t slowed it to a point were it becomes dull, but we've kept those speeds to more of a realistic level. We've pulled them back more to human speeds.

Also, If you were able to control all the factions at once there’d be over 700 units. If you were playing as Rome, you’d have a maximum of about 20 types of unit. And that 700 is spread over a number of factions.

Do these all perform similar functions, or have you emphasised the different fighting styles between armies?

We try to kind of create quite a strong differentiation between the factions. There are some factions that are quite similar to one another, for example, the Samnites and the Romans. They’re pretty much from the same culture, therefore they have pretty much the same kinds of units. But if you were to be fighting against the Greeks, you’d get a very different experience, because they have phalanxes, they have spera units, they have a lot of strong heavy hitting cavalry. If you fight against the Eastern factions, then it’s all about their heavily armoured cavalry, they have lots of archers, and lots of lightweight skirmishing infantry. So that creates lots of different challenges. So as you fight across the map you get a very different feel to the battles you fight.

They’ll behave differently. You’ll find it’s an in-built thing, the AI starts to fight differently according to who you’re fighting against. The types of units they have give a very different means of expressions to how it has to fight its battles. You’ll get that very strong sense of different opponents and different strategies.

When you’re up against the Barbarians - if you can survive that initial shock attack, because that’s what they’re all about, is that kind of idea of using force of arms, and using terror of thousands of men hurling themselves at you, it’s that kind of thing of trying to recover from that. The Gauls terrified the Romans. It was something like part of nursery rhymes and stories to frighten children into being good children.

There was a famous phrase that shook the Romans to the core, which was “Woe to the conquered.” that was a famous Gaul general named Brennus, who actually managed to sack Rome. That’s back in the early stages of Roman history, and that stuck with them forever. and they took that lesson to heart, and carried it out against everybody else.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of our interview on Monday!


    My hopes for Rome 2 have nearly sunk. I appreciate all the innovations CA has tried to implement, but limiting armies? Really? Why stifle the enjoyment for the sake of ensuring that every battle is decisive & meaningful? If you were really concerned with this, you would build a better AI, not punish the player. If big grand armies is only something I can enjoy during the late game, than this game is already a disappointment. Sacrificing fun for a more challenging experience was a terrible idea. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive. To think I was going to buy a $500 graphics card just for this game ._.

      I think it does follow the theme though. As empires grow, the become more inefficient, and while at one point Rome had seemingly limitless manpower, they eventually expanded too far and struggled to defend their borders.

        OK this has probably been asked a thousand times, sorry if it has, but are you the same Junglist from Good Game?

      I'm sure that if it's really that bad, the mod community will fix it ASAP. They always have.

      What I took from it was that instead of recruiting one troop in this city, and one if that city, and then having a bunch of tiny armies all spread out and trying to collect them all together, instead you set up your 'legions' and recruit units straight to the legion itself.
      My understanding is you will still have big armies for sure, just your armies themselves grow as you add units rather than lots of tiny units that you have to merge to form a legion yourself.
      Of course It was always quite a few turns I found in previous ones where you would have the cash and facilities to recruit up full-stack quality armies anyway (not just peasants I mean), I think this will just make it easy to increase your army size without the micro-ing of moving units for 10 turns from the city they were recruited in until they reach your army.
      Thats how I read it anyway, I could be way off of course.

        I also think that maybe you have research levels that will increase the number of legions you can field. For example at first at the start of the game when Rome (or your chosen civ) is tiny you might only be able to support one or two legions, so you might be stuck with one or two armies you can use until maybe you research a tech that will let you have 3 or 4 legions, then 6 or 8, etc. Might find that it maxes out at 20 legions (aka armies) or something.

        They had a preview at PAX and showed off a batttle sequence in game and you are correct about grabbing troops and having them instantly appear. As Jamie Ferguson told us that since each turn equates to 1 year it makes sense that the troops would reach you in time. So you can recruit troops immediately from any surrounding cities to you immediately.

      Completely agree, why does it have to be more 'balanced'. I actually loved having overpowered armies towards the end. It was a reward for managing my empire well, organising and training my armies. I liked to have a one sided battles, managing my armies and dominating smaller groups. The easy win felt like a reward for my good empire management. Maybe I was more interested in the empire than the individual battles.

    I've been waiting for some more R2TW articles, its not long until its out now.
    As much as I dislike some of the things they have done, I just know that I will buy this, if for nothing more than the fantastic mods that are sure to come out for it.
    One of the main things I dislike is them stripping out the *very important* greek states to sell as DLC. That's bullshit. I have yet to hear how many other vital states they have stripped out.
    I've probably clocked up 1000 hours between Rome 1 and Med 2 (don't like shogun 2 much, not enough unit variety, same with Empire). certainly 80% of that is playing with some legendary mods, some of the best and most polished I have played for any game ever. Mainly Rome Total Realism for Rome1, and Stainless Steel and Third Age for Med 2.
    I think for the best game experience it might be worth waiting for the 'gold edition' to come out which will actually contain all the stuff that should be in the damn game in the first place, and by that time the modders should have their hands dirty with the new system too.
    I just adore these sword/spear/cavarly/archery stat games...

    I've started however many Total War games and played not much beyond the mid-game because it gets to that point where it's inevitable I'll win, but the chore of maintaining every settlement just isn't fun. Yeah there's automanage but it's still the march to inevitable victory that just makes the start of a new game much more fun to play.

    Musing on what I'd like to see though, I'd like to see spies and assassins be able to do a lot more on the campaign this time around. Cripple armies for a turn and leave them with no movement points by sabotaging their supply wagons or sabotage a sieging army's battering ram or tower so that when they try to assault your walls they find out they can't. I'm not sure if they've added things like this or not already but would be good to see I think

      Yes the best use I found for spies was spreading the plague around enemy cities in Med2 :)

      I'm also glad they've worked on the end game. After all the exciting close fought battles at the start it turns into SimEmpire and not a particularly well implemented one at that. All the armies running round makes it a bit less epic too - look at the Civil War in Rome 1 compared with the real thing which was resolved in a couple of massive and decisive battles. Another thing I'm liking is the effort to encourage battles in the field - 95% of the ones I play in a typical Total War campaign seem to be sieges.

    Seems like a number of good decisions based on community feedback. There are of course people who do enjoy micro-management of every single thing.. so for them it sucks.. but for the rest of us, I think there is still enough management for it be enjoyable

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