Over the past few days Total War: Rome II has received over a thousand negative reviews on Steam. The reason behind this being a controversy surrounding the game’s latest free update.
Total War: Rome II was initially released in 2013, and has amassed over 21,000 positive reviews in that time, remaining firmly in Steam’s top 100. During its lifespan the game has been updated multiple times and received 14 paid DLCs. The cause of the outrage appears to be from changes made in their new Ancestral update. The patch notes make no direct mention to the increased chance of spawning female units, leaving it to the players to investigate. Much of the information being circulated is word of mouth, and much of it first surfaced last month, so why are players tanking Total War’s Steam rating now?
This heated discussion began on the Steam community forum, back in the middle of August. Players debated whether or not the increase of female characters in Total War was historically accurate. Eventually, a developer from Creative Assembly locked the thread. Here is their comment:
Players with hundreds of hours logged on the game used Steam reviews to voice their thoughts on this apparent controversy. The consensus seems to be that the increased likelihood of female generals ruins the game’s historically accurate feel. For a lot of players, this reminded them of Patrick Soderlund’s comments on Battlefield’s inclusion of women. Soderlund famously told players to ‘accept it or don’t buy the game’. This is perhaps where a lot of the anger towards Total War is coming from.
This review mocking both Soderlund and Creative Assembly pretty aptly sums up the majority of negative reviews the game has received. But is Total War actually historically inaccurate? When recruiting generals players would receive a choice out of eight possible characters. It was widely accepted that following the update more often than not, the majority of the generals that would spawn would be now women. However, reddit user AAABattery03 did the maths, concluding that there’s only a 0.04% chance of that actually happening, and that the screenshot being circulated is misleading. At this moment in time there appears to be a lot of misinformation about whether anything in the game has actually changed, or if all of this began from an inaccurate screenshot.
Youtuber, RepublicofPlay investigated the game’s code in a recent video. In this video he breaks down the actual probability of spawning a female general which he states is a 10-15% chance. He concludes that these statistics are based in historical accuracy, but that the probability has been slightly increased otherwise players may actually never see a female general in their playthrough. The game accounts for the chance of a female being born, and for the historical context of the society they were born into. The game makes female generals in Rome impossible, but for the Kush faction, the chance rises to 50%.
Incoming negative reviews appear to be slowing, and many loyal players of the game have noticed little to no change in their gameplay experience. There are still many unanswered questions about where the motivation for this review bombing came from. The real confusion surrounding the game’s update is whether or not any of these negative reviews have any grounding in fact or reality. Creative Assembly have not yet commented on the validity of any of the complaints made.