There is no denying that Total War: Rome 2 (which we will now refer to as Rome 2) had a pretty rough start in its life as a Total War game. Plagued by horrid load times, terrible battle AI and many other issues, it was a pretty lacklustre addition to the series. However since its launch in September 2013, the team at Creative Assembly has pulled out all the stops to make everything that was wrong, right. As such the Rome 2 we have in 2015 is quite the fantastic little nugget of RTS. Funny what an additional year of refinement can do…
The latest refinement brings us to the latest addition to the series of Grand Campaigns DLC’s, this time focused on the might of the Spartan Empire around the time of the Peloponnesian War, or for those of you whose ancient Greek history is a bit rough, the time when the Spartans gave the middle finger to the Athenians. Following on from the previous “Imperator Augustus” campaign which focused on the Roman Empire, “Wrath of Sparta” gives the much loved warrior nation a chance to kick some foreign dignitaries down a pit.
The first thing you will notice about the Wrath of Sparta campaign is the revised world map. No longer will you have the entire world to bring to heel, as in the vanilla Rome 2 campaign. Wrath of Sparta now focuses on the area around the greek islands and skirts the Persian empire, because what good is a game about the Spartans without the Persian empire being right dicks about things.
With the cut-down world map, the areas of land that were previously uninhabited now have new outlying towns, provincial capitals and of course a whole new set of factions to kick down wells. As well as the revised world map, the game also progresses a lot slower, with four turns for every season instead of the single turn. The additional turns have flow on effects on all things military and financial.
Waging war in winter will reduce your troops morale, army replenishment rate, as well as the amount of distance that they can cover to put your enemies to the sword. Much like the replenishment rate in winter, your factions income will take a dive in these winter months as the fields can’t be worked and the oceans are too rough to trade in. So much like the clever squirrel in those childhood stories, it pays to store your food and money for those cold harsh winter months.
So what do you do in those four months of reduced wealth and movement speed? Why you do what any good spartan does, you train armies of course! This brings us to one of the other changes in Wrath of Sparta, build queues. No longer will training units take only one turn, in fact the quickest you can train a unit in Wrath of Sparta is two turns. If you wish to train a strong unit, like a battalion of Royal Spartans, a whole four turns are required before they will be ready to set loose on your enemies in the spring time.
If you are looking for a large unit roster and you have selected the Spartans as your faction, bad news bear’s my friend as the Spartans have around 6 ground units to choose from – light and heavy spear troops, short and long range ranged units and light and heavy cavalry. There are some other units available like siege units, but the campaign win conditions seem to be met before I can ever research and unlock them. This of course takes longer than the diplomatic approach, where you make military alliances and braid each others back hair and dance about, but being that with nearly every second end turn some other faction was offering some sort of alliance, before you know it the victory conditions have been met and hey presto – you’ve won..
Another addition to the Wrath of Sparta campaign is the diplomatic penalties for sacking a provincial capital, cities like Sparta, Athens, Korinthos etc. Attack (and defeat) one of these locations and you will suffer a HUGE diplomatic penalty with all the other factions, even if they are your allies. This seems like a super weird addition to the series and feels like a forced step down the ‘diplomatic win’ path, where you wipe out all of the factions towns except their capital to then bully them into sort of alliance. I just dont get it, thankfully my AI companions also didn’t seem to either, so I simply let my military allies take the capitals and suffer the penalties.
Due to the semi-coastal setting of the campaign map, a lot of the battles are going to be fought on the same ‘small coastal town’ battle map. While probably accurate to the time period, it also gets pretty boring attacking time after time. It does however come in handy when you need to defend with an outnumbered force though, as you know where the AI commander is going to move his troops and where the map choke points are. Speaking of choke points, on one occasion I ‘lost’ a battle because even though I had killed all of the enemy’s land troops, three units of their navy had not disembarked from their ships. So while I heavily outnumbered the remaining army, was currently holding the town and had brutally murdered all of their land units, because there was still three naval units sipping their tea on their boats, I ‘lost’. This seems more an issue with the governing systems of Rome 2, than with the Wrath of Sparta DLC, but it was still terrible.
So is the Wrath of Sparta DLC worth the price of admission? As always that is a tricky one to answer. If you love your Total War games and need something to tide you over until Total War: Attila launches, then yes, for $15 you get a new campaign world, a heap of new factions to play as and a chance to kick Persian dignita
ries down a pit. It’s not all good though, so if you are already frustrated with Rome 2, then Wrath of Sparta may feel like more of the same.
For the money though, I am thoroughly enjoying the Wrath of Sparta DLC, sure I would have liked an expanded unit roster, would have greatly appreciated some more battle maps and don’t understand the diplomatic penalties associated with sacking a faction capital, but despite all these things I still am having a lot of fun with it and the reason this review is so late is because I was enjoying playing it so much.