Two armies line up on the field of battle. The Roman legions on one side, the barbarian invaders on the other. Romans in their tightly packed formation, shields raised ready to hold their line. The barbarians rush across the field screaming insults hurling spears at the Roman lines. Closer and closer they come, their frenzied charge has nearly found its target. Then suddenly the barbarians turn around, retreat to their original position. The Roman commander looks on mystified as the barbarians try this stunt several more times. That scenario was a common one with the initial release of the latest installment of Total War series from Creative Assembly. I have been a fan of the Total War series every since a friend introduced it to me my freshman year of college. I love the real time battles combined with the turn based campaign management. Building and maintaining my empire provided an excellent distraction from every day life. There is nothing quite like watching my armies march through the gates of a conquered city, as they rush towards the city’s center ready to crush all resistance in their path.
Total War: Rome II was a game that I had quite a bit of excitement for, it was going to be a return to my favorite historical period with revamped graphics, new factions to play as and several game play innovations. I purchased the game on Steam several months after it came out, so the game breaking freezes and crashes had been largely taken out of the game by that point. However, the AI remained a mess. The enemy only ever seemed to spawn large armies of the cheapest units they had. Making combat not only too easy but also extremely tedious boring and repetitive. As mentioned before the AI army would never commit to a full out assault no matter the situation. This often resulted in large portions of their army dying to missile fire from behind my infantry lines making combat even easier when the infantry was finally able to engage. All the things the game did well were overshadowed by the terrible AI, and there are quite a few things the game does quite well. The interface has been streamlined, the campaign map is very detailed, the factions are diverse and varied which adds a lot to the replay value of the game. The game’s issues were also fixed almost entirely with the Empire Edition that came out recently. Which for the first time made the AI in the game intelligent enough to spawn some decent units and put up a strong resistance in battle.
Rome II is indicative of a disturbing trend in gaming that has been going on recently. More and more publishers seem to be releasing games that are unfinished. Or at least with glitches and bugs that should have been caught while they were being tested. These glitches will overshadow all the good qualities that a game has in the minds of its players. The latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed series is another prime example of games being released incomplete. PC gamers complain about game breaking glitches that cause it to crash so often that its almost unplayable. The PS4 version that I played was not a whole lot better, though it never crashed while I was playing it did have several annoying glitches. The most common of which was wall detection, my character kept randomly phasing through walls and diving straight down through the bottom of rivers. Which is unfortunate because I would have really enjoyed the game had it not been for these relatively small issues.
With the amount of money that goes into large game releases it seems like the least developers could do is make sure the games are playable before they release them. Hopefully this trend of contempt for audiences exhibited by some game developers is a passing phase that will be abandoned when they realize that word of mouth will spread information about the problems in their games faster then their marketing teams can sell them. However, as long as people are willing to spend money before they know anything about a game, companies can keep taking advantage of us and unfinished games may become the norm. Here is to hoping that won’t be the case.