Not all empires are built in intergalactic space, you know. Some are built in history, and that’s the subject of this latest interview: matters pertaining to the latest strategic behemoth from the British studio, Creative Assembly. We chart some of the major differences between this and previous games, with particular attention paid to the turn-based campaign map and the radical changes brought about by the new game’s battle engine. Crucially, Empire: Total War drags the Total War series a couple of centuries closer to the modern age. The 18th century setting is one of ranked, musket-heavy land armies, rip-roaring sea battles, complex revolutionary politics, and colonial ambition. It’s these two elements, as well as a desire to reflect some of the social changes (hiring generals rather than relying on hereditary feudal heirs, for example) of the 18th century, that motivate the designs implemented by Creative Assembly’s lead on the project, James Russell. We were lucky enough to be able to put some questions to Russell. You can read his rather detailed responses below.
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Posts Tagged ‘Total-War’
By Jim Rossignol on October 13th, 2008.
By Jim Rossignol on September 29th, 2008.
Oh boy, this is the big one for strategy types. The land battles trailer for Empire: Total War shows those 18th century musketeers in action, with the ultra-detailed new battle maps that allow proper use of terrain, and of buildings. The game is coming up in February 2009 and I’m already writing off most of the month’s potential productivity… We should have more detailed info on the game for you soon.
By Jim Rossignol on February 4th, 2008.
Creative Assembly’s Total War strategy series seemed like an anomaly when Shogun turned up in the summer of 2000, but now it seems like one of the defining PC games. While the previous generations have focused on ancient or Medieval battlefield combat, with a touch of castle-cribbing, Empire is set to deliver something a little more modern: the European Wars that centered on Imperial France and the adventures of hyper-aggressive pipsqueak Napoleon Blownapart.
That means there are some pretty crucial differences in how those massed brawls play out – there’s a world of muskets out there. But there;s something even more impressive to consider in your Empire building: ships. The Battle Of Trafalgar (which was basically the Britain’s finest hour pre-World War II) is just around the corner…
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By Kieron Gillen on September 9th, 2007.
Following on from Jim’s review, Eurogamer have published my piece on Total War Kingdoms. Which mainly exists as a glorified referral post to my previous first-impressions piece which almost warped into a full review. To avoid repeating myself, I wander into increasingly esoteric terrain. For example…
This is kind of one of the problems running through Total War games. You don’t really get to change history. Sure, you can make – as I did – the Apache run rampant over the continent, but fundamentally the Apache don’t change by their experiences significantly. What would Apache civilisation be like when they’d got hold of the Gold of the Incas, for example? Pretty much identical. One of the standard problems that the harder-core Total War fans have is with the quasi-fantastical units – the flaming pigs in Rome, for example – but when you severely changed history, you need that imagination to cover the holes and populate that alternate history.
I’m surprised I ended up marking this as low as I did – I thought it was a shoe-in for the top end of the marks, but when returning to review it, elements grated more. That I concentrated on the weakest of the campaigns (The Americas). A couple of extra notes though…
1) Completely forgot to mention the install system for the game, which required a full install procedure for each campaign. Clicking through it all four times was incredibly tiresome and a system where you selected which of the packs you wanted to install at the start before sitting back and letting it get on with it all would be far, far preferable.
2) It strikes me as odd that Creative Assembly (Or publisher Sega) choose to announce Empire: Total War just before the expansion pack hits. Following online conversation, it appears to have completely undermined anyone’s enthusiasm for the Kingdoms. Before, more Medieval II sounded splendid. Now, it’s difficult to be excited about. If they wanted to announce at Leipzig, bringing it forward even a couple of weeks would – I suspect – made a huge difference in terms of consumer buzz. Hmm.
By Jim Rossignol on August 29th, 2007.
PC Gamer UK have posted up my review of Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms. I say things like this:
These four campaigns represent a gigantic amount of new material. It’s all presented brilliantly – new animations and cinematics for each of them, and a unique front end and rack of options. This feels like four expansion packs rather than one muscular bundle. The smaller changes mean they all feel different to play, and the tiny tweaks and foibles mean it’s not quite like Medieval II any more.
And we’ve linked this before, but it’s worth reiterating that they got the inside scoop on Empire: Total War. Yes, it’s got ships in.
By Tim Stone on August 26th, 2007.
Empire: Total War enthusiasm is totally understandable, but also horribly plebeian. If you really want to stand out during a forum discussion/pub chat/job interview/speed-dating event, try enthusing about one of the other Napoleonic strategy games currently in production…
If lone French developer Jean-Michel Mathé ever gets around to finishing this groundbreaking tactical wargame then it should make ETW look Fisher Price in several areas. HistWar armies utilize five different levels of intertwined AI (commander, corps, division, brigade and regiment) and can’t be retasked at the drop of a bicorn hat. Credible command-chain modelling means lots of authentic inertia plus the potential for lost and ignored orders. Those that have played Mad Minute’s splendid Take Command series will know just how engrossing this sort of naturalism can be.
Another Gallic offering from a small studio, NC will likely give the ETW strat layer a serious run for its money, especially if the AI turns out to be as sabre-sharp as it was in Birth of America and American Civil War (the last two titles from AGEOD). Though there won’t be any fancy 3D maps or animated army figures, the lovely 2D art of Robin Pirez and Sandra Rieunier-Duval should be ample compensation.
Information on this one is scant at present, but going on the past form of the two parties involved it’s likely to be pretty, puzzle-like, and exclusively tactical. Sharing an engine with Legion Arena would seem to suggest a series of scripted real-time skirmishes in which clicks are rationed and victory conditions are fussy. Though morale, fatigue, veterancy, and other wargame subtleties all figured in LA, it was the tough time limits and casualty thresholds that tended to dominate tactics. Hopefully success and failure won’t feel quite so artificial this time.
The digital version of Avalon Hill’s monster board game has been in production longer than the Little Corporal spent in St. Helena. Finally close to completion, its success is going to hinge (I reckon) on the way computer-controlled powers handle diplomacy. Bluff and bluster, pacts and treachery were the best part of the gruelling-but-great face-to-face experience, and reproducing this in a solo experience is going to be damn tricky. As it’s already possible to play the board game PBEM and online with the help of tools like Cyberboard and Vassal, one wonders how many people will buy just for multiplayer if the SP AI turns out to be dodgy.
By Kieron Gillen on August 24th, 2007.
[Another postmortem from the vaults. I've actually got a lot of these - about twenty. For a couple of years on PC Format, I did one a month for them. The idea was simply to chat to a developer about one of their previous games for a couple of pages, in kind of a more casual, laid back version of the sort of thing Gamasutra do so well. I'll be sticking them up here, one every Friday, until I run out. With the announcement of Empire: Total War, I thought it a good idea to start with Mike Simpson of Creative Assembly looking back at Shogun. This was a fun one - Simpson was completely self deprecating at all times, even in the face of the most ludicrous flattery.]
Shogun was an epic game that changed everything, rejuvenating the real-time strategy game at a time when it seemed that it was just going to be a tank rushing eternally down a game-design cul-de-sac. With its unique, atmospheric setting and its groundbreaking marriage of mass-scale battle scenes and high-level Risk-style strategic management, you presume that it was always destined for greatness. After all, this sort of thing couldn’t just happen without a plan. And you’d be wrong.
“It actually started when I joined the company,” reveals Creative Assembly’s Creative Director Mike Simpson, “Then there were five people, doing a sports game. A rugby game. We were looking at setting up a second team, and wanted to find something which was relatively safe and not very challenging, unsurprisingly. At that point, Command and Conquer clones had come out. Things like Kill Krush and Destroy. We looked at them and thought “These are easy to do!”. It’s fairly formulaic and you can’t really go wrong. And they’re selling bucketloads.”
By Alec Meer on August 22nd, 2007.
Surprise! Well, not really – though Medieval II: Total War was yer bona fide critical and commercial smash hit, most of the flak it did take was for being too similar to its forerunners and being a bit crap at boats. The smart money, then, was on the next Total War including fully-realised naval combat and gunpowder. And it does – Empire: Total War is its name, and magazines across the globe will currently be trying to think up gags abut Napoleon for their preview features on it. Us? Not tonight.
We’ve actually known about this for a little while, but we’re supposed to be a fun blog, not one that mercilessly stabs our friends in the back, as we would have been had we chosen to scoop PC Gamer’s exclusive feature on it. Perhaps in time we’ll grow that cold, but for now RPS is everyone’s chum. Yes, even you, you rude man.
Interestingly, in some ways Empire (its suprisingly hefty slice of history covering the likes of the American War of Independence and the Industrial Revolution) is creeping thematically closer towards the sort of RTS convention that Total War made such a clean break from with Shogun all those years ago. Guns and colonies and soldiers in red coats and tricorner hats – this we know intimately already, yes? That’s exactly why it’s so exciting – it’ll apply new ways of thinking to the over-familiar.
The naval combat looks very fruity indeed, by the sound of it intending to make fine use of the deadly physicality of water and weather. The Campaign Map’s had a beef up, its promise of refined trade, diplomacy and espionage treading it deeper in Civilization’s footsteps than ever. Of the land combat, little has been revealed as yet, so we can’t gauge how the addition of gunpowder will change the -aheh – rock, paper, scissors dynamic of traditional Total War scuffles.
More once we’ve seen Empire, which goes on sale sometime next year, in action, anyway. The official site is still largely banging on about Medieval II for now, but you can repeatedly click this link until it starts spilling over with fresh information if you so wish.
By Kieron Gillen on July 24th, 2007.
I meant to post this before I jetted off to the US for a while. It’s a report on my initial impressions of Medieval: Total War – Kingdoms, which may be of interest to humans.
I’ll confess that I didn’t actually give the original game as much of my attention as I’d have liked. I wasn’t commissioned to review it, so couldn’t give it any of my professional time and there was so much else around that was genuinely new, returning to an old friend like a Total War games was relatively down my list. Which is a shame – and serves me right. Getting stuck into the add-on pack is a startling experience, and that it doesn’t include any Carthaginians doesn’t stop me loving it.
That aside, it’s interesting to note that Medieval II was the first time in the Total War series which it wasn’t determinedly pushing onwards. No matter what your particularly favourite is – and there’s an argument that the less-units in Shogun leads to an increased purity to the actual game, rather than wrestling with dozens of very similar unit types – there was an actual step forward every time in the road from Shogun to Medieval to Rome. The advances in Medieval II are relatively sleight, a matter of approach and polish rather than a fundamental change.
From what rumours I hear, the next proper Total War game is about to be announced. What it includes and doesn’t include will have to be picked over. It could be a sign whether it’s reached the position of static maturity, with the future of the series being one standardisation – the standard franchise slow rise and fall depending on a team’s interest – or whether it was Medieval II which was the mistep (in terms of vision), a stopgap stumble when they prepared their next real campaign.
I suspect it’s the latter. Which may be optimism, or may be me knowing something I can’t talk about yet.