Total War: Rome II has been blitzed by a barrage of negative Steam reviews, following a controversy regarding the odds of generals in the game being female rather than male.
Despite the fact that Total War: Rome II has been out since 2013, last month, Steam reports began appearing, which claimed that recent updates had increased the frequency of women generals being put up as candidates in the game. One poster claimed that as many as 50 per cent of proposed generals in the game were women, and the debate quickly escalated, attracting input from the US “alt-right” in a manner reminiscent of GamerGate and recent internet storms aimed at Guild Wars 2’s ArenaNet and Riot Games.
Attempting to pour oil on the waters, Total War: Rome II community content editor Ella McConnell said: “Total War games are historically authentic, not historically accurate. If having female units upsets you that much you can either mod them out or just not play. People saying they won’t buy the game because there are too many women in it is fine with us—if that’s their reason, we’d rather they didn’t anyway.”
That comment – about the ability to mod out women and, particularly, that if people didn’t like the presence of women in the game they could play something else appears to have antagonised certain sections of the internet. Never mind that more detailed subsequent analysis of the game has shown that certain races within it have a zero percent chance of spawning female generals, and only one race has a female general spawn rate as high as 50 per cent: “There have been no changes to recruitable female general spawn rates. But with the addition of the Family Tree feature and the new gameplay options it brings, playable factions may gain more female family members via marriage. If a player has their male family members seek a wife and get married, more females enter the family. This means more female characters may appear as recruitable generals, but again, only in those factions where female characters may be recruited as generals.
The analysis continues: “Female characters appear throughout the game, but have between a 10 and 15% chance of appearing as recruitable generals for some of the playable factions. The exceptions are the Greek States, Rome, Carthage and some Eastern factions, which have a 0% chance, and Kush which has a 50% chance. This is to broadly represent the cultural differences in those factions during the time the game is set.”
The YouTube community has got involved in the controversy, posting videos both supportive of and scathing about Creative Assembly.
If you’re intrigued by the sudden emergence of a five-year-old game as a headline-maker, you might want to check out the Total War website.