This game was a complete disappointment and well beneath the capabilities of this franchise. The game on it's own and in it's current state, I would give a 6/10. HOWEVER, because this game is part of a well known and previously respected franchise I would have to give it a 2/10 as it fails miserably in doing what the previous titles did so well.
Simply put this game is just not fun. I've lost count of how many times I've played through the original Rome, Medieval II, and even Empire in the past. I sunk over 750 hours of gameplay into Empire alone, even though I considered it to be the weakest title (until now). I can understand CA trying something new and it not working as they had hoped and I could forgive it with ease but this game was simply rushed and felt completely half-♥♥♥♥♥.
The AI has never been worse, the battles started as mobs and now consist of awkward formations, kill animations are poorly implemented as they are the only way to kill a unit and therefore result solely in 1v1 combat amongst troops. In the original games, troops were able to help one another meaning that multiple units could engage a single unit and kill it with ease whereas now we have Shogun II stand-offs where a single soldier can take forever to kill because your individual soldiers just stand around looking like ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ until it's their turn to participate in a kill animation. The buildings in this game are very unimaginative and have effects that are completely illogical to the point where the CAI has no idea how to build a proper city and instead is constantly being taken over by rebels. Unit collision is FUBAR as units just clump up together, walk through each other, and feel fake as a whole making any level of immersion impossible.
I recall seeing similar things in Empire which leads me to believe that the Rome II engine is based off of the Empire engine which is complete nonsense as the Empire engine was built for guns and not close-combat. I could go on for hours talking about how this game disappointed me and listing (in great detail) all the things wrong with it but you could go on youtube and find numerous hour-long rants on the subject.
All in all this game is a shell of what the Total War series used to be as many great features have been stripped from it (including good music, good voice-acting, key UI and battle components, family trees, a good diplomacy system, etc). This game feels like more of a cash grab than anything else as CA seemed to only care about DLC whoring, advertising, and focusing on silly gimmicks such as facial animations as opposed to core gameplay elements. They also flat-out lied about what they were selling as the game looks NOTHING like the advertisements.
I honestly doubt that any amount of patching will be able to fix this atrocity and even doubt that the mods will be able to keep this title alive for much longer. If this is to be the future of the Total War series than I can honestly say that this franchise is dead as it will be further turned into the strategy equivalent of Call of Duty.
To all of the apologists that see themselves as the Knights in shining armor defending CA from the onslaught of "neck-beard losers" that have valid criticisms of this game and CA's business practices, I say that you are the reason that more and more game franchises are turning to DLC whoring, releasing incomplete products, and simply worse games in general because now they know that they can get away with it. They are literally crapping in your mouths and you are thanking them for it in cash. You praise CA for listening to it's community and for actively patching it's game but remain blind to the fact that it should be unacceptable for a game to be released in such a state in the first place. Moreso, this is not even the first time CA has done something like this.
I challenge the apologists to tell me how this title improves upon the franchise in some major way.
- Better graphics? Not really as Shogun II looks MUCH better when looked at side-by-side.
- Better design? No, since the game is horribly optimized (if at all) and has countless design flaws (such as huge cities preventing armies from moving)
- Better AI? Lol no. Just no.
- Better UI? No, since most features are missing (such as family trees and general/agent trees).
- Better Battles? Absolutely not. See reasons in review above. Also, capture-points.
- Better Diplomacy? No, since factions can barely be reasoned with and many diplomacy features have been stripped down.
- The addition of something new?
- Politics system is a joke.
- Facial animations are useless and take up unnecessary space, time, and money.
- Units shouting during battle sound (almost comically) terrible, repetitive, and break immersion.
I do not hate CA or the Total War series. I am a die-hard fan of this series as it has been with me since I was 12 years old. I remeber the original Rome being the first Total War game that I played and I remember not being able to look away from the screen because of how intense the battles were and how amazing the game was at immersing me and to my amazement IT STILL DOES, even over a decade later. The reason that I criticize this game so harshly is because of how much I care about this franchise and because of how much I don't want to see it fail or become the next C.O.D. in straregy format. I really think that CA is capable of making something MUCH better than this and maybe even greater than it's original games, but not if it continues down this road. They need to go back to the basics and recreate the elements that made those titles so amazing. They have a very loyal fanbase but they should not take us for granted as they have in Rome II and Empire. I will remain cautious of their next title and will not make the mistake of pre-ordering again but I will keep an open mind and hope that they do not betray us a third time.