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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

Want more info? Check out our first look preview of Rome 2.

Rome 2 will be the biggest Total War game yet. The game's budget is 40% higher, and Creative Assembly has almost double the amount of people working on it. After seeing an incredible demo of the game in action, we sat down with lead designer James Russell to talk about the studio's plans.

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Why did you decide to go back to Rome?

It's the one that everybody wants. It's a fantastic setting in terms of the variety, the evocative nature of what Rome is, and what a Roman Legion looks like. The ancient world occupies a place in the public imagination. It's the classic empire-building era in history.

Following on from Shogun 2 we learned a lot about focus and containment. Keeping the feature set polished. But now we're ready to take those lessons and branch out with a broader scope. By the time Rome 2 comes out, it'll have been 9 years since the original. We feel now as if we can do it justice in a way we couldn't back then.

It's an epically huge world, and that's what makes it so exciting. In Shogun we were focused on one culture, but here we have barbarians in the Northern forests, exotic Eastern kingdoms in the deserts. We've got a huge variety of cultures to show off in our next-generation Total War engine.

Naval and land battles used to be separate, but now you can do both in the same battle. What kinds of interesting tactics does this open up?

On the campaign map, we're breaking down the boundaries between armies and navies. It means that navies can now capture territory in a way that'll transform how important the interplay between land and sea is on the map. The Punic Wars were about naval domination of the Mediterranean. In order to build empires on land, you've got to have safety at sea. All the great powers of that era were built around coastal cities.

On the battle map, it really gives you a sense of scale. As well as that, we're doing multiple ships in each naval unit too. Before it's always been one ship, but ancient world battles weren't about 8 ships; they were about many, many ships. So now we've got a few in each unit.

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From a level design perspective, you can now have ideas about vulnerable beaches with defensible points. Defenders can now come out, and won't have to sit behind the walls because the attacking armies are vulnerable when they're disembarking. It's got huge implications for the tactics. It means naval fleets are now more mobile, and could move to another beach on the other side of the battle map, and move faster than land infantry. You can bombard cities with artillery from the ships as you're invading them as well.

We're playing it out, we're prototyping it, and seeing what works best. We're still figuring out exactly how we want those battles to play out. Sieges will be different. There are now multiple capture points, which creates a kind of cat and mouse gameplay within cities. Without multiple capture points, once the walls are breached the defender will just fall back to a safe area and defend it. But here we have dynamic gameplay within the cities, which is much more fun to play.

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