Alien has been a victim of its success: the fantastic 1979 movie is now almost impossible to detach from the wildly popular brand it spawned. Despite the fact that the alien doesn’t appear in the first third of the film and even thereafter is rarely seen, we’re tempted as viewers to unduly focus to the sections with the alien or project the alien’s ‘lore’ (mostly established in Aliens and subsequent material) on to the film’s monster. Alien’s greatness doesn’t lie solely or even mostly in its monster, though. Much of its eeriness is due to the message which pervades the film: space is empty and humans are small.
The worst of Total War: Rome II’s many problems is its failure to explain its mechanics clearly and especially how they interact. The internal politics of Rome – something critical to why the Rome: Total War was good – are a particularly badly represented mess: a variety of bars and numbers move around the politics screen without explaining themselves or what they mean in relation to the rest of the game. The food system, newly introduced in this iteration of Total War, is not necessarily the worst offender but it is the one I’ve had the best luck untangling and so it provides a good case study for why Rome II’s obscure, badly implemented mechanics utterly rob the campaign of its joy.