Historical hints from the Total War teams


Total War might have been away in the land of elves and orcs for a while now, but it hasn’t forgotten its historical roots. In fact, Creative Assembly are working on three historical Total War games: one is an expansion to an older title, one is a spin-off of sorts called a Saga, and the biggest of the lot is set in an entirely new era. New to Total War, that is. Being historical it will definitely be something old. A big blog post today gives some hints as to what we can expect and I’m just going to come right out and say one word: Vikings.

It’s the Saga game that has a whiff of Vikings about it. The initial teaser image looks very much like the Irish coast and now there’s this comment: “Oh, and beware the crow.” Could that be a reference to Badb Catha, the mythological battle crow? It’d certainly be a fitting portent for a Total War game, given that they’re all about bloodshed and battle, the very things Babd’s appearance often presaged in Irish legends.

The director of the Saga project, Jack, has this to say:

“It’s a new game in that it’s substantial and stand-alone sure, but it’s like Fall of the Samurai following-on from Shogun 2. We’re taking the base from a previous game, overhauling it and adding new content, but not reinventing the wheel. It’s an extension or magnification of the previous game’s time period, so of course there’s some cross over. And that allows us to add even more new content. Fall of the Samurai is a great example really.”

What of the new era Total War will be visiting though? Janos is the project lead there and we can pick out a few hints from comments in the Q&A.

“We’ve ramped up to the final team size in the past few months, so things are moving along steadily with daily visible progress. For example, it’s nice to see, after having researched historical city-layouts for months, it all coming together in the game. There are still placeholder grey boxes here and there, but the atmosphere is already outstanding and gameplay feels strong.”

“Historical city-layouts” might not seem like a big clue but it does rule out some eras. Pre-city areas. I guess it’s not that big a clue after all.

What else is there?

“Mike Simpson gave an interview years ago that we see fans quote all the time, where he says he doesn’t think we’ll do a “3”. That is a long time ago. We’ve changed our minds a hundred times on that since, so all bets are off when we’re thinking of our next game.

“But this one, will be brand new, and that means we can explore interesting new concepts while still bringing what makes it ‘Total War’ to the game.”

It’s definitely 100% absolutely not Medieval III then. Personally, I’m hoping for the American Civil War. I think the contained nature of the conflict, geographically speaking as well as in terms of its participants, plays into Total War’s strengths in the same way that Shogun 2 did. I also reckon it’s about as modern a war as I can imagine working effectively without enormous changes to the strategic and tactical layers. Not that I’d be opposed to major changes.

Before any of that we’ll have the first new historical project though, which is an expansion to an older game. Project lead Maya says:

“There’s a lot of people still playing this particular game, but there’s also lot more we haven’t even touched in that era yet, some really incredible stories and events that defined history.”

It’s probably going to be something about Rome, isn’t it?

Read the whole Q&A and see if you can find any clues that I missed.


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    Drib says:

    I mean, Twarhammer: Total War: Warhammer is supposed to be a trilogy, right?

    • Horg says:

      Technically yes, but not in the same sense as say a Shogun 3 would have to feel compared to the previous installments. All 3 TWW games will be very similar in delivary, incrementally improving fundemental mechanics and engine tech, with a unique campaign victory for each stand alone game, and all new content contributing to the Mortal Empires map. It’s better to think of it as one game in constant development over several years. Looking back at Shogun 1 and seeing how far the series has developed to Shogun 2, it’s hard to see how they could iterate again on the same conflict while making a similarly distinct design.

  2. Vacuity729 says:

    After the poor patching of Medieval 2, and the obnoxious DRM in Kingdoms, I took a break from Total War games. I then came back for Shogun 2 and boy, that was good. I then preordered Rome 2. Urgh. I took a break again until just over a week ago, picking up Total Warhammer and sleeping very little in the last few days. I’ve been playing these games since the original Shogun.
    CA has had missteps, but overall, they’ve produced an amazing series of games offering a spectacular amount of vaguely intellectual enjoyment.
    I actually worked out the timeline of all the TW campaigns’ start dates, and there really aren’t many gaps at this point in the timeline starting from 432BC’s Wrath of Sparta through to 1864CE’s Fall of the Samurai. Huge geographical gaps though. I am enormously looking forward to seeing what they’ll do next, though I’m always going to be a little more cautious than I used to be about throwing money at them.

  3. Zamn10210 says:

    Only having two available factions in an American Total: Civil War would radically restrict the scope of the game even compared to Shogun 2. Also since that conflict is somehow becoming controversial again I doubt CA would want to go near it.

    The most obvious unexplored period for Total War is the Europa Universalis early modern period, but that might look a bit like copying.

    • Bomarty says:

      You’re forgetting: China

      Also is TW:empire not early modern era? That has been my favorit TW game.

      • Malkara says:

        I think when Zamn means ‘early modern’, he means the era of pike and shot. Empire was definitely more of a horse & shot game.

        Also, I think you have to be one of the few who actually liked Empires… Though, that’s my favorite era of games, the AI was painful. And ship battles were a completely unnecessary feature.

        • Bomarty says:

          When I think of early modern era I think of the time span covered by the EU games(1500-1800ish).. TW:Empire and TW:Napoleon without nitpicking covers this era? I think it’s a sweet era because it allowed for empire building which is a pretty strong foundation of the franchise. I hope to see them remade with waaay improved AI, which as mentioned was horrible (but vastly improved by a certain mod)

        • Intranetusa says:

          Half of the Pike and Shot era was covered by MTW2 and its expansions though. You literally had pikes and musket units in MTW2’s late reform units.

        • hausser0815 says:

          Well, Empire was awesome just because it had by far the biggest map, and it didnt had any heroes, so its my favourite TW as well. About the ship battles, i hated them at first too, but after i read up on how they fought fleet battles back then, they were actually quite fun.

      • MaxMcG says:

        I think China would be too similar to Shogun to be a full new game. It would make for a great offshoot to Shogun though – a la Fall of the Samurai

        • Intranetusa says:

          “I think China would be too similar to Shogun to be a full new game. It would make for a great offshoot to Shogun though…”
          Not really. China is not a small isolated island like Japan. China is literally the size of the entire continent of Europe with many different ethnic groups. There is no way in hell a game based in China would be “too similar” to Shogun.
          Making it an offshoot of Shogun would also make absolutely no sense if the game took place in a different time period and geographical location in Asia.

        • Intranetusa says:

          Not really. China is not a small isolated island like Japan. China is literally the size of the entire continent of Europe with many different ethnic groups. There is no way in hell a game based in China would be “too similar” to Shogun.
          Making it an offshoot of Shogun would also make absolutely no sense if the game took place in a different time period and geographical location in Asia.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Not really, most of the China settings would be earlier than Shogun. The obvious would be the Warring States or three kingdoms but they could also look at the end of the Tang dynasty and the 10th C. or expand the map to include Korea, Mongolia and the Tibetan plateau and really increase the range of potential conflicts and different cultures.

          • Aetylus says:

            My guess is the Three Kingdoms. China is effectively a massive untapped market for CA and the Three Kingdoms is a safe sure win there. Plus the implementation of the Total Warhammer magic system means they can work in some Kung-Fu-esque semi-mystic power. Likewise the Total Warhammer hero system would transfer nicely to the legendary characters of the period, with individual’s directly represented on the battlefield.

    • Aim Here says:

      You’re wrong about the early modern era – TW:Empire more or less did that. The main gap is a little later, in the 18th century.

      TW would be wasted attempting the American Civil War on it’s own, but if they could bite off a suitably-sized chunk of the Victorian era, it would be pretty awesome – there’s a vast variety of people to fight (Zulus, Chinese, multiple flavours of American, Afghans, Americans, British, Russians, Prussians, you name it), places to fight in (the whole planet), and things to fight it with (everything from arrows and spears to Ironclads and Gatling guns).

      • Markman says:

        Actually he is right– Empire already covered the 18th century (1700s). It is the early modern era (1500-1600s) that has only been touched on in the New World expansion scenario for Medieval II.

        • Bomarty says:

          Yeah, you are right, but how different would the warfare be from that era? Would it not be similar to either medieval or empire?

          • TheOx129 says:

            I’d say the pike and shot era is quite distinct from both what preceded and followed it, and it’s an era that’s oddly neglected in gaming: off the top of my head, I can only think of Slitherine’s Pike and Shot and AGEOD’s English Civil War, along with a couple of Medieval II total conversions that cover the period.

            I for one would love a proper TW set during the Italian Wars or Thirty Years’ War.

        • Intranetusa says:

          Napoleon Total War and Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai both covers the 19th century.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        I would love to see a Total War engine that covered the same time period as the old Age of Rifles.

        Franco-Prussian War, Austro-Prussian War, American Civil War and Zulus, thousands of ’em.

        Maybe not even in a Grand War, map of the world style, just self-contained campaigns focusing on the geographies of each conflict.

  4. Maxheadroom says:

    Ive been holding out for a WWI total war since the first Shogun. Flying units always used to be the sticking point there but Warhammer showed they can be implemented pretty well

    Either way I hope its not Vikings, I think every variation of ‘sword & bows’ battles has been done to death

  5. esvyre says:

    Yeah, I understand the appeal of the American Civil War, but that would not go over well right now.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      Creative Assembly is British, not American, so I’m not sure if they’d really care that much about an overseas ‘coming to consciousness.’

  6. BaronKreight says:

    WW1 or WW2 with systems redesigned from scratch and completely new engine wiuld reignite my interest in TW

  7. Zenicetus says:

    Aside from the current political drama, the American Civil War would make for a terrible TW game. Only two factions, using practically identical weapons and tactics would miss out on the unit variety that people are now used to with TW games. On the strategic level, there would have to be a ridiculous amount of artificial economic/industrial support for the agricultural South vs. the industrialized North to even the odds. The South was betting on a quick negotiated armistice after a couple of battles, not an extended Total War style conquest victory. ACW games only work well as detailed battle simulations.

    I’m hoping for China Three Kingdoms as the next big historical game. Maybe not much unit variety there either, but it’s a great setting.

    • TheOx129 says:

      I’d love to see a Total War set in China, but I think the Three Kingdoms period is a bit overdone. If CA ever decides to make a TW set in China, I think they should go with the Warring States period, the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, or the collapse of the Ming dynasty, particularly as the multifactional nature of the above conflicts/periods would likely be more interesting from a gameplay perspective.

    • Intranetusa says:

      If they go for the stereotypical Dynasty Warriors thing then a Three Kingdoms game would not have much variation. If they’re more accurate to history though, then there could be a lot of unit and faction diversity.
      IIRC, during the time period of the Han Dynasty, there were wars and rebellions with many different enemies. Proto-Korean kingdoms in the east, Yue kingdoms and tribes in the subtropical mountains of the South, proto-Sino-Viet kingdoms/SE Asian kingdoms with war elephants further South, mountain tribes and proto-Tibetans in the South West, giant nomadic confederations in the north, other nomads in the north east, Greco-Persian influences in the west, Central Asia and Iranian kingdoms along the silk road, etc.

  8. BobbyDylan says:

    There was a time were any news of a Total War game would make me salivate. All the way up to Shogun 3, the series was an instant pre-order for me. But these days I watch it with only a mild interest. They will have to make the strategic play a hell of a lot more interesting if this is to draw me back.

  9. ohminus says:

    Pike and shot would certainly be an interesting era. From the Italian Wars to Ottoman-Habsburg wars to the 30 Years War, it would allow quite a diverse background. And the English Civil War would be an obvious choice for a DLC set in the period. And the 9 years war with its focus on siege warfare, its introduction of the flintlock and the socket bayonet serves as a reasonably “clear” end to the period, marking the increasing abandonment of pikes.

    • Intranetusa says:

      That might not qualify as entirely new, as Medieval 2 had pike & shot units and that form of warfare, and MTW2 with its Americans campaign went all the way up to the 1500s, which is half the Pike & Shot era.

    • Rich says:

      The English civil war mod for Medieval 2 did a good job at the pike and shot era.

  10. jeremyalexander says:

    The American Civil War would be good, but studying historical city layouts means a bigger focus on urban warfare. This along with other comments and hints lends me to believe we are finally getting WW2 Total War. They didn’t say it’s a new region, they said it’s an entirely new era and they’ve covered most of the important era’s already going from the conquests of Alexander from the 340’s BC to the end of the Napoleonic Wars around 1815. While the American Civil War would be a great Empire Total War expansion as I suspect it is going to be, it fundamentally lacks enough meaningful participants to warrant a full title. Also, they have stated in the past that they were having to develop new “mechanics” for the big project which in my mind, combined with an entirely new “era” means WW2 Total War. The trench warfare of WW1 would be a borefest, and anything between Napoleon and WW2 wouldn’t really involve any new mechanics that would take years of development and specifically require extra study of city layouts. I’m guessing the expansion is an American Civil War expansion for Empire Total War, a Saga game about the Viking era set in Britain, Ireland, and western Scandinavia, and a full Total War game set right before the start of World War 2 and with expansions, possibly going into the Cold War era.

    • ohminus says:

      The problem with a WW2 game would be that it’s very tough to do without pretty much making it a whitewash. All the more when you’re going into urban warfare.

    • Intranetusa says:

      “but studying historical city layouts means a bigger focus on urban warfare. This along with other comments and hints lends me to believe we are finally getting WW2 Total War.”
      Not really. Urban warfare has been around for thousands of years since the invention of cities.
      Studying historical city layouts could mean anything from studying the layout to ancient Rome to studying ancient city of Ctesiphon of the Parthian and Sasanian Empires to studying ancient Xi’ian of the Han Dynasty. It literally could mean anything.
      WW2 would make little sense either as it has zero units fighting in formation. Units fighting in formation has been a halmark of Total War games since the beginning. Otherwise it’s just another RTS or a Company-of-Heroes type game.

  11. fearandloathing says:

    Pre-ordered R2TW, and pretty much hated it and lost my love for CA, it was painful to actually see a game regress in comparison to its precursor. While Attila and especially Warhammer gather praises for addressing the core problems of Total War formula, most reviews remain silent on AI. I frankly cannot give a damn until CA comes up with real, functional AI instead of buffed-up stacks of death.
    That aside, I can’t see WW2 or WW1 working for TW. We’re talking about kilometers long (ww1) and/or dynamic (ww2) battlefronts here. I had my reservations, but reading the Q&A in full really made me suspicious,will they really go into Empire again? Few years ago I went back to it, only to suffer, once again, save corruption bug – that game had great potential but was broken from the beginning. Eh, probably not, especially while NTW is a better base to expand. Still, I’ll support if it’s for R2TW or ETW, especially considering the accompanying free update, it’d show that they -to some degree- care about their customers who were left with half-broken games.

    • Imperialist says:

      I hate to break it to you, but while medieval 2 and Rome had passable AI for their day, they are much less capable and sophisticated than in the later Warscape engine games. (being able to cheese cavalry into AI ranks is a particularly glaring flaw) Actually, Attila i think is probably the best TW game all around in terms of both depth and AI, and its a shame its often overlooked as the Napoleon:TW of antiquity. I totally agree though, i hate doomstacks, and battles somehow felt more decisive in previous games.

  12. MrEvilGuy says:

    War of 1812 would be interesting!

  13. Imperialist says:

    I confess, id like to see a TW game focus squarely on the British Isles. Age of Charlemagne came close, but only let you play as Mercia (which makes no sense as Wessex is the kingdom that would eventually create England) and its depiction of Britannia was good, but small-scaled.

    • ohminus says:

      There was a dedicated Britannia campaign for Medieval II in the Kingdoms expansion.

  14. zombiewarrior07 says:

    Two words: Middle Earth.
    + 2 words: Total War
    = 4 words:
    Total War: Middle Earth.
    Please make it so, CA!

    • Werthead says:

      After the immense success of the WH games (and the Third Age mod for Med 2), I can see CA looking at other fantasy properties to licence. Middle-earth and Game of Thrones have to be right up there.

  15. TotallyUseless says:

    Still waiting for a Total War Genghis Khan. >:(

  16. LuNatic says:

    I’d love to see a post Roman Empire, pre-medieval game focused on Western Europe, with the founding of the western kingdoms through Iberia, France and Britain.

  17. Auldman says:

    I’d be surprised if they ever did Three Kingdoms or anything set in China. I don’t think there is as much of a market in the west for that as some fans of the idea might think.

    They won’t do it to crack a Chinese market either. Chinese game companies are already covering that period and Chinese gamers are already sated with that content.

    • Werthead says:

      I’m not sure about that. You could say the exact same thing about Japan, and both Shogun and Shogun 2 sold excellently. China (and India) are also the biggest gaps in CA’s historical roster as well, assuming they’re not going to do the American Civil War or something more recent for the main series.

    • Intranetusa says:

      You don’t need to be Chinese to buy a Chinese themed TW game. Most of the people who bought Shogun 1 & 2 weren’t Japanese. Most of the people who bought Napoleon weren’t French. Most of the folks who bought Attila weren’t descended from nomads. Most of the folks who bought Rome 1 & 2 weren’t Italian and didn’t speak Romance languages. The biggest gaming market on the planet is the United States, and the US has no historical connection to any of these TW games except Empire TW.

  18. Werthead says:

    So what we’re looking at for the schedule is this:

    Unnamed Expansion for Older Game
    I think people are missing out on the bit where they’re saying it’s an expansion for “their biggest ever game”. That’s not Rome II, that’s Empire. They also mention the expansion will revamp and update the base game (presumably graphically and fixing bugs). Rome II doesn’t need that after the Emperor Edition, whilst Empire certainly does. There’s also scope for adding any number of dedicated sub-campaigns to Empire given the history period (you could even do the American Civil War as an Empire expansion if you don’t think you can get a full game out of it). So, whilst it would be surprising to see CA go back and add new content to an 8-year-old game, I wouldn’t rule it out either, especially since it’s the same engine running under the hood.

    Warhammer III
    I’m assuming a mid-2019 release and focused on the Dark Lands, Tomb Kings, Chaos Dwarves etc. Not Araby as there is zero lore to call upon. Possibly a tie-in with the End Times, although it’d be a bit grim to follow that storyline through to its natural conclusion. I wonder if Games Workshop might be down with them having the End Times campaign but it’s possible to “win”, and that then allows them to roll back End Times for the next edition of the WH FB tabletop game.

    Total War Saga
    This looks like it will be a small(ish), stand-alone game set in Ireland, maybe involving Vikings.

    Next Main Historical Game
    An “all-new” historical period and setting, which is quite interesting. Most likely China, simply because of the DLC possibilities (base game would be Three Kingdoms but you could have Warring States, An Lushan, the Jin-Song Wars etc all as DLC) and I’m not sure what else would really count, apart from India, South America and maybe the American Civil War. Or they roll back and go for the ancient world, the Greeks, Persians etc, but that’s not really “all-new” as we’ve already had Alexander: Total War.

    • Jimmy says:

      A good clear summary without the hype. The blogpost referencing ‘Saga’ has an image which seems to refer to the slaying of the Ard Rí, Brían Boramhe at the battle of Clontarf in 1014AD, after which the captured Lochlannach was forced to walk around a tree to which his entrails were tied…

      • Werthead says:


        An exciting addition to your campaign where your soldiers can now disembowel enemies on the battlefield, wear their intestines as necklaces and convert their bladders into working footballs mid-battle. £2.99

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      They could go earlier in the bronze age though – total war:Troy?

    • Vacuity729 says:

      “Biggest game ever” is almost certainly business-speak, in the same way that a singer’s biggest album ever isn’t the one with the most tracks on the track listing or with the longest runtime, and in the way that the biggest movie of the summer isn’t the one that has the most actors, or the one with the longest runtime, it’s the one with the most ticket sales. In the same way, that means it’s almost certainly whichever of the games from the last few years which sold the most, or made the most profit (not quite the same thing with older games being deeply discounted). I’m pretty certain that’s not Empire, though only CA and Sega likely have access to the relevant numbers.

      • Werthead says:

        If it’s from that sense, then I believe Warhammer I is the biggest-selling game in the series (in a comparable timeframe). Rome I or Medieval II I believe is the biggest-selling game in the series overall due to their age and how many people jumped on board with the Rome engine (plus lots of people buy Medieval II even today for the mods).

        Empire has the biggest scope in the series, although in terms of the actual physical size of the world map, Rome II may be the largest (until Mortal Empires anyway). But when they were talking about upgrading the base game as well, then Empire is in the direst need of that in the whole series, unless they feel that Rome II’s Emperor Edition still left some stuff untouched that needed fixing.

  19. maninahat says:

    Well Total War love the Hollywood settings (Your Gladiator, Patriot, Braveheart etc), so we have to look at what popular blockbuster they can ape. I’d personally love to see Africa explored more as a setting, but realistically we’ll get something a bit more familiar and mainstream. Vikings, Black Sails and West World might be future inspirations? The Wild West as well as the Civil war seems like an obvious route.

  20. KOVERAS says:

    Oh yeah, because Medieval Total War never had Viking Invasion as an expansion pack…
    Still it could be as great as the Viking:Expeditions indie game!

  21. Otha says:

    I hope the older game that get’s a revamp and expansion is Empire. For all its flaws, it’s still one of the TW titles that I enjoy most, maybe because of its sheer ambition. Attila would be my next choice. The AoC expansion was exciting, but half-done.

    • Otha says:

      Ah, well, I’m late, I missed the announcement. An R2 expansion isn’t what I was hoping for, but I suppose it’s promising that they’re willing to revisit previous titles.