Total War Rome II revisits the battlefields of ancient Europe

Historical video game sequel balances absorbing large-scale strategy and exhilarating frontline tactics
What you need to know: The latest instalment in the Total War historical strategy video game series, Rome II, has been released in the UK. The sequel to the 2004 game Rome: Total War was designed by UK studio Creative Assembly for Sega. Rome II depicts a range of cultures from the Roman Empire rather than focusing solely on the Roman Republic and its politics. The overarching campaign begins in 272BC and lasts for 300 years. Players control one of three Roman families, or a non-Roman faction such as the Barbarians, and engage in small and large-scale battles, sieges, naval assaults and ambushes as well as empire-building projects. Single player and multiplayer modes are available. What the critics like: "The best strategy games feature more violence and action than a hundred first person shooters, and Rome II is most certainly one of the best," says David Jenkins in Metro. The attention to detail in the landscape and buildings is superb, and with half of the ancient world fighting their way across it the effect is mesmerising. The setting and gameplay are a perfect match, giving us "some of the most satisfying and visually striking tactical battles we've ever seen in video games", says Steve Butts on IGN. The campaigns are absorbing and the combat exhilarating and visually exciting. It has an "excellent balance between large-scale strategy and frontline tactics", says Daniel Starkey on Gamespot. It turns the battlefields of ancient Europe into an engrossing strategic theatre and carves out a unique place in the strategy game pantheon. What they don't like: The developers behind Total War: Rome II clearly have enormous talent, but this game is bloated and unfocussed, with too many elements, technical glitches and time-wasting mechanics, says Rich Stanton in The Guardian. "It's a pity, because when you actually get into the battles and it's running smoothly for once, it gives glimpses of a classic." For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free. Source: The Week UK, Open Images