Developed by Creative Assembly, Total War is a game series for history enthusiasts and strategy game lovers alike. Spanning many ages and geographical locations, from the Shogun age of Japan, the Roman ages all the way through to the times of the Napoleonic Wars and the age of Empire which featured new continents as the known world expanded. Most recently the franchise has dived head first into a series of Warhammer Fantasy Total War games to great success.
Just take a look at Creative Assemblys’ long lineage of titles beginning at the start of this millennium with Shogun, they’ve started to become a part of our history themselves;
This article will be focusing on the Thrones of Britannia title, which has been pushed back to be released on the 3rd of May. Good, you can’t rush a good thing. Unless you’re just in it for the money ….
For those of you who don’t know the franchise I’ll give you a quick rundown on the style and gameplay of it just to set the scene a little, those of you who do. Maybe skip this section now and move on to the next subheading where I get stuck into the newest instalment.
It is essentially a grand strategy campaign map in the vein of the classic Civilization games of the 90’s and beyond, but with the twist of real time strategy combat thrown in. To speak of it in 90’s gaming terms of antiquity it’s as if the Civ and Command and Conquer series had a child at the turn of the millennium. Kinda … I’m getting a bit carried away there, but I digress.
What I’m saying is, this series combines RTS battle gameplay and tactics with a large-scale grand strategy turn based campaign map which features management of different aspects of your faction, from keeping the populace happy, city building, tech researching to army building. As well as of course army movement and depending on which TW game you’re talking about, potentially much more.
But usually the faction management isn’t too in depth like other such grand strategy games, for example, Crusader Kings which has a great more deal to consider and deal with. TW on the other hand is usually simpler than most but with enough depth to make your decisions matter and for you to take note of your actions, for the most part of the series at least. I felt it lacking in some titles. Overall though I find you can take control without things getting too bewildering, which is a plus for a simpleton such as I who manages to give away my entire kingdom in Crusader Kings with a simple confused click.
I love this intertwining of slow, turn based planning and decision making combined with the faster paced action of unit based RTS combat of large scale armies. It’s just a mix that works so well, as I find I often get disinterested without controlling units in combat and feel like I’m watching the computer play out the game for me personally when I can’t influence battles directly. I like to have a say in things at a ground level as well as at an overarching god emperor level.
Without further ado onto the game at hand and what’s new and old this time round with a focus on what I’m looking forward to and what I’m fearful of…
Setting And Historical Focus
Since my younger days I have always wanted a TW game that focused on an historical aspect of my home islands … small though they may be, there has been some big history here, as with most places. I’ve always wanted to see one that focused on the isles where I was born, being biased and all, so I’m super excited about this one and supposedly it’s going to be the most detailed version of Britain ever to feature yet, 23 times bigger than the Atilla campaign map! Which is interesting considering the size of the subject matter being one of the smallest areas of land dealt with, more on that later.
Britannia takes place after the eventful saga of Viking Ragnar Lodbroks’ epic insurgencies into the British Isles through which the raiders from the North gained a foothold amongst the existing kingdoms. Ragnar died at the hands of the Anglo-Saxons, his sons swiftly took revenge raiding the isles and splintering kingdoms in a trail of slaughter that swept westwards. This game is focused around the clash of kingdoms between the Welsh, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon and both the Great Viking army and Great Viking sea kings. Your fight to rule Britannia will ensue between these clashing cultures and ambitious powers.
Check out this trailer that does more justice than I in setting the scene for the newest fight you’ll be swept up in for your quest to make history;
As a history lover in general, with a particular penchant for this period of time in the formative years of the now apparently ‘United’ Kingdom in which I live, I cannot wait to play out this saga. And am looking forward to seeing how the history aspect of the different cultures and lands plays out in this one. Something TW is usually pretty good on although not always 100% in the name of balance and gameplay. Which as a self-proclaimed semi history buff can be forgiven, if it makes it a more enjoyable experience, after all it’s foremost a game and not History 101.
Campaign Map And Style
As previously mentioned (as far as my geography knowledge goes) this is the smallest location ever put into TW form, and it is the most detailed map of Britain yet. Splintered down into many provinces inhabited by a wide variety of factions, 10 of them playable. As can be seen below;
Each province has a capital city with a web of connected smaller and weaker towns unfurling outwards across the land about the capital. I suppose this is where the most detailed part comes in. There are much more building slots for capitals focusing on military and more prestigious buildings, with the little orbiting towns being more focused around fewer slots and economy slots more specifically. However, of course these profitable towns and villages are smaller easier targets and so being, must be protected more closely or can be exploited in enemy territory.
I think this will suit the play style of factions well and add dynamism to the game, what with the raiding and pillaging of Vikings as well as the castle and garrison style warfare of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms for example. I feel this will do nicely especially since there’s so much more to focus on strategically and tactically in both defensive and offensive situations, with the extra detail added. Nice one but as ever we shall see how it works once released.
If you’d like to know more in depth facts about the map and the historical aspects of it as well as size comparison to previous games, check out TWs’ blog post map reveal here.
Just a quick note on style, I love the sort of ‘Ye Olde’ look they’ve gone for with the unit cards and character portraits, nice to the eye and thematically pleasing as well as varied enough to tell units apart. See below;
Tech And Recruitment
Now for something a bit different and new, which I think in theory sounds grand. Instead of your unit upgrades being linked to what level buildings you have, they are now to be linked to what tech you have. Sounds much more logical and realistic if you ask me, you wouldn’t need to rebuild training grounds every time you get a new type of advanced unit, just the equipment and training really, right? So once the required training grounds are completed, you need to upgrade using your tech tree choices.
Tech is also more difficult to reach, making you work more for those unlocks and advancements. You have to meet prerequisites such as having enough of a specific unit type before being able to research further down the line of tech. It’s more learning by doing than just choose, click, and wait. More of a goal to aim for. Additionally there are restrictions on the type of tech re-searchable by each faction that can be unlocked by discovering their potential from other locales and cultures on the map. The building options remain geographically specific, however you can unlock the tech to utilise them once you venture into these areas and capture them.
Again, logical and realistic I feel. Making the maps location more geographically meaningful and influential, something I’ve always liked in TW games, with regards to holding resources and region specific unit types. So glad to see this being taken into account with tech giving variety to play style depending who and where you are.
When you unlock units to recruit, armies that are in the stance ‘fortify’ can recruit from a global pool wherever they are on the map. Not exactly new, except when you take into account you do not get the full unit, only a quarter of their full size. You must spend longer, waiting turns to muster them up to the complete outfit. I think that to be a nice touch that also brings a bit of, (third mention now) logical realism to the matter and I’m a sucker for the more realistic side of gaming so am very happy about all this. It brings a nice bit of balance and another side of strategy to it, meaning that you can’t just whip up massive hordes if you’re rich. You too have to wait and therefore make better prior planning and preparation.
Making strategy and tactics the name of the game (as of course it is) as well as a bit of historical realism, like it, like it.
Character Progression, Loyalty And Dilemmas
In Britannia there is some old familiar in the progression of generals and rulers, however they have done away with the skill trees and allowed a more natural development via action based progression. Characters have 3 fundamental stats; governance command and zeal. They will each develop as they do the respective jobs of fighting or governing, with zeal acting as a bonus multiplier on the other 2 stats.
I really think this is great, giving you more choice to focus and hone the characters for the roles you want, rather than choosing from an almost identical blanket of perks from a skill tree. In the past you would gain followers of your court by sheer chance, now you can influence which you get by picking them yourselves whenever a character levels up, giving specific bonus boosts to the character.
Loyalty has been brought back into play for this one meaning your generals and governors can defect if things aren’t favourable regarding you in their eyes. You can appease people with landed titles and estates dished out when you want to placate a particularly ungrateful bugger. Bringing this back is great as it gives a bit more to keep an eye out for with regards to ambitious jealous rebels, like back in the good old days of the earlier games such as Medieval TW.
Dilemmas are pop-up text events such as the ones you would get in the likes of Crusader Kings or other such Paradox games. These offer you choices on how to respond , as well as giving a more eventful play through, adding yet another avenue with which to influence the game. They are designed to give historical context and help influence your fight for victory, with possible negative outcomes also of course.
Often there is very little choice to how to respond which lets these kind of in game choices down, so I’m hoping they will be done justice, be interesting and be more than just an annoyance you rapidly click off the screen.
War Weariness And War Fervour
Not exactly a new mechanic, however it has been updated. Using a sliding scale which you have to balance to keep your populace content. To keep it short and sweet, if you aren’t at war for a long period – people are going to get mad and want to fight. If you’re at war too much, they’re going to get mad and need a break. Some people eh?
This is great for the strategic and planning aspect of the game, you can’t just have all out …. erm … total war? Can you? It’s in the name … but like … it’s not really possible in reality. Something the Americans learnt in Vietnam.
I look forward to this annoying me as I love to constantly be fighting and over expanding to point of collapse. Ah well, better put a leash on myself in that case.
If you’d like to have a closer look at some of the new developments in this game I’ve touched on in a way which explains them with visual aids of the gameplay and UI have a little look at this. As it embellishes a little on what I’ve touched upon;
DLC And Non-Playable Factions
In the good old early days of the franchise you could actually unlock previously unplayable factions by completing campaigns. Now and for a long time, the game has been taking every opportunity to introduce micro-transactions and DLC. Payable features to unlock more diverse parts of the games, that just used to be a part of the game. Widespread practice these days I know, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it as their consumers. It just sours the whole experience and takes away from the progression and meaning of victory and the overall diversity in who you can play as, what units you can field. Variety is the spice of life after all.
Take one of the hitherto latest instalment in this long line of great titles, the Warhammer takes on the game. Both amazing in many ways in my opinion however not without their criticisms. My main gripe being they brought out two separate games in quick succession with absolutely oodles of DLC which when combined cost more than the game itself and didn’t really add more than factions you could have been rewarded with as unlockables…. ah well. Profit is profit. But when you’re bringing out a £1.99 blood and gore DLC to be added to the game, you’ve gotta start questioning your morality.
I haven’t seen any news on DLC in this game but I’m not holding my breath for a micro-transaction free game knowing the history and trend. Ah well, can’t have everything but we will see, perhaps this can be the redemption and return of rewards for beating the game in the TW series. Considering that previous negative backlash disheartened Creative Assembly, it seems likely it’s their end game to make these extra costs a permanent feature.
All in all what seems to be minuscule changes to the outside eye, seem to me to be actual fine tuning and honing the game to better deliver the crème de la crème of what TW can offer fans. Except in the world of DLC and the game actually rewarding you.
Using their years of experience to deliver and effect positive changes that are going to have big implications on play style and the strategising and decision making side of things. Switching things up for the better. It appears the team behind this game have designed the map and factions around historical accuracy and great gameplay. Combining both to create what I feel could be the best TW title to date.
This focussing on yet more specific periods of history shows that we can expect yet more new sagas to come in this old familiar series. I for one welcome this, as every culture and region of history should be explored in this game style I believe, it’s a game series that just begs for more to be released and justifiably so I’d say. Even with the new found tendency for DLC and micro-transaction cash grabs …. the games themselves tend to not be cash cows.
I wager that this release will be what lovers of the game are looking for, the old tried and tested formula that works well, with a hint of added freshness for us to all salivate over. Exactly why I’ve pre-ordered it and am subconsciously counting down to its’ launch.