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Rome 2: 'We're aiming for the most awe-inspiring battles you've ever seen in a game'

James Russell, Creative Assembly's lead designer, talks about their ambitious new strategy epic

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With such an epic increase in scale, how are we going to keep in control of all our units?

We're trying to execute scale in a different way. It's not about more units. It's about land and sea combined. It's about more ships in a unit, and bigger city environments. More impressive battlefields. It's not just about having more units on the screen. We're not trying to make the game harder to manage. We want to evoke that sense of scale without creating a cognitive overload.

The tactical map will help. We've got AI group controls, so you can set aside a group of units and give them to the AI to control. Tell them to defend a point, or go and attack. We won't be giving you more entitites to control than in previous games.

Zoom

On the campaign map we're really pushing the human level, and the epic scope. The whole spectrum of experience. The map's gonna be bigger than Shogun 2, and bigger than the original Rome. We're going further East. So we have to give the player better tools to think about things at a higher level. Before, you'd control individual units; in Rome 2 we want you to think about armies.

The Roman Emperor's not going to be thinking about a unit of archers; he's gonna be thinking about the 10th Legion, and how the 8th Legion needs their support. So we're gonna have various mechanics to support that. We'll have a Legion Legacy system that will give your Legions traits that they'll get as you use them in battle. They'll develop their own character, almost. This means there'll be fewer, but more significant battles.

We'll also have a province system on the campaign map. So even though there'll be hundreds of regions, they're gonna be grouped into a smaller number of provinces, so you don't have to manage hundreds of tax rates and public order levels. It's gonna be simplified, but the gameplay's gonna be deeper. You're making more interesting decisions, but they won't be repeated over hundreds of different instances.

You can now zoom into individual soldiers and see the battle through their eyes. What do you think this will add to the experience of battle?

What's special about Total War is that there's always so much going on in the battlefield. Any unit you look at, something is going on with them. Whether they're in combat or marching somewhere. So we wanted to have more emotional connection to them. Things like if one soldier gets hit by an arrow, his buddy will look 'round and react. Or if a guy gets injured, his friend might help him up. We want them to behave more humanly.

Zoom

When you go into the unit camera, we'll have the commanders shouting orders and so on. It's really important to make the game look amazing at that micro level, to get you immersed in the action. But it's not just aesthetic. We want to make sure it lets the player do something. Otherwise it's just eye candy. We want the player to be rewarded for giving up some of their attention to focus on one part of the battle.

We want to make the armies under your control feel real, and give you a darker view of warfare. Our battles are like the Saving Private Ryan of the ancient world. Making them feel human does do that, but then when you zoom out and see tens of thousands of them.

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