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.
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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.