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A look back at Total War Games

A look back at Total War Games

By Declan Barry

A look back at Total War Games

By Declan Barry - 31st Jul 2020

The award-winning strategy franchise has been gracing our PCs for the past 20 years

A look back at Total War Games

Creative Assembly’s popular Total War franchise has captured the imaginations of strategy fanatics everywhere. The series has gone to the Roman empire, the Middle Ages, and even the fantasy universe of Warhammer for its brutal take on warfare.

Here, we will take you through the history of the main series games from the first release of Shogun: Total War, right the way through to the 2020 game - A Total War Saga: TROY.

Shogun: Total War - 2000

The first title in the series, it set the standard that we have come to expect from Total War games. Combining turn-based grand strategy via the map and real-time battles, the game takes place in 15th century Japan with historical authenticity. These will all be the key points of the franchise going forwards.

Medieval: Total War - 2002

Taking the Shogun: Total War formula, Medieval: Total War builds upon the foundations set by adding in new siege battles, as well as enhancing the realism.

Within the game, the player has a map of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. Players have to focus on warfare, religion, and politics with historical accuracy for the time period in order to conquer.

Rome: Total War - 2004

Taking place between 270 BCE and 14 CE, Rome: Total War focuses on the final centuries of the Republican period of Ancient Rome.

With a choice between three Roman families to take control of at the start of the game, plus other non-Roman factions to unlock later in the game, the game plays similar to Medieval: Total War but adapted for the new time period and including the addition of family members which can be married, adopted and eventually die.

On release, the game won numerous awards such as PC Gamer’s 4th best PC game of all time and E3 2003’s Best Strategy Game.

Medieval II: Total War - 2006

Refining the Total War formula rather than being a revolutionary change, Medieval II: Total War was still a hugely popular addition to the franchise with over 200,000 copies sold in the UK and an average score of 88 out of 100 on Metacritic.

The title was the first sequel in the franchise taking place in the same time period as Medieval: Total War and including some significant historical battles including the Battle of Hastings and Battle of Agincourt.

Empire: Total War - 2009

Commanded as one of the greatest strategy titles of all time, Empire: Total War took the visuals and accuracy of the series to the next level.

Set from 1700 until the end of the 18th century. The game showcased a new game engine and the addition of real-time naval combat that was prevalent during the time period. There were also two campaigns with a special campaign following the development of the US, including the American War of Independence, featured in the game.

Napoleon: Total War - 2010

Containing four campaigns around French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, players assumed the role of the statesman during the revolution.

Due to cannonballs being in the game, Creative Assembly created a new physics system that leaves damage on the ground, as well as smoke having an influence on the soldiers’ visibility.

The game also introduced a new “drop-in” multiplayer campaign where you can fight other players in the single-player campaign battles.

Total War: Shogun 2 - 2011

11 years after Shogun: Total War, the sequel returns the series to feudal Japan but this time in the 16th century. Unlike previous games, the title only focused on the Islands of Japan, rather than spanning continents.

The game featured more role-playing than the series had seen so far with leaders and generals having more personality with characteristics and abilities making them akin to heroes. Those will then be able to level up with experience to unlock more traits and abilities.

Like many other titles in the franchise, the game won awards for Best Strategy Title and was highly praised by critics.

Total War: Rome II - 2013

With a 300 year campaign, plus no timed victory conditions, Total War: Rome II is one of the longest in the Total War franchise.

A new unit camera allowed players to focus on individual soldiers during the real-time battles, showing off soldier reactions to the events and giving an even greater realism than previously seen.

The game also saw the diplomacy system revamped with new AI in a move that saw the game difficulty increased, as well as the realism thanks to a remake of the political system that saw internal politics play a part in your family, as well as the external factions.

Total War: Attila - 2015

Set within the Late Antiquity at the start of the Medieval age, the game spanned from Asia to Portugal within a new dynamic campaign featuring new army types.

With 56 factions, 16 of which are playable, there were more enemies in Total War: Attila than most Total War games. The game was also called one of the most difficult games in the series with advancements in AI lending to more of a challenge.

Total War: Warhammer - 2016

Total War: Warhammer became the first Fiction based game in the franchise. Based upon the popular Warhammer Universe, this crossover granted players access to a fantasy war where magic reigns supreme.

A new feature is that of agents about to participate in battles. These super-powered heroes will have abilities on the battlefield and cause big damage to the enemy. Plus, they can be sent on missions in a Total War first with success unlocking new abilities.

Total War: Warhammer II - 2017

With a new story and specially built cutscenes, players could jump back into the Total War: Warhammer story with this sequel. The game saw four new races based off Game Workshop’s franchise - High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen and Skaven.

There were also new features such as rogue armies that roamed around the map attacking any army insight. Plus, treasure hunts meant that factions competed to find valuable materials in ruins and shipwrecks for bonuses and loot.

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia - 2018

The first in the ‘Saga’ series. The game is akin to Shogun 2 in that it focuses on a single region. Set on the British Isles in 878AD as ten playable factions compete to take control of the region.

Dilemmas in the game added different options and narratives that posed new ways to achieve a win state while being tied to the historical events at the time. Whilst the map added lots of previously unseen detail making for a rich world.

Total War: Three Kingdoms - 2019

Set at the collapse of the Han dynasty in China, Total War: Three Kingdoms placed power-hungry warlords against each other as they sought control of China.

The game offered two versions of the campaign - Romance mode; which gifts generals superhuman abilities, or Records; which is a more authentic version of events. The generals had a big part in both modes. They had to forge relationships with characters and their happiness dictated performance and set off various events, dependent on the their personality.

A Total War Saga: Troy - 2020

Based on the legendary Trojan War story by Homer, the game is full of Gods and Monsters that you can recruit to help you besiege Troy. Whether that’s asking for favors of the Gods to boost your soldiers, or having a Minotaur roaming around the battlefield, these will give you an advantage in the war. 

Unlike other Total War games, there is a greater emphasis on soldier to soldier combat to reflect the source material. Infantry classes will have greater variances between speed and strength meaning you will have to plan your army accordingly. There will also be new abilities, such as flanking and anti-flanking, which determine weapons, and stances of the soldiers.

A look back at Total War Games

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