After a controversial launch, Empire has gone on to become one of the sleeper hits of the Total War series. A few weeks before the standalone Total War: Shogun 2 expansion, Fall of the Samurai was released, we asked Creative Assembly studio director, Mike Simpson about Empire's strange journey. "It’s weird isn’t it?" he said. "It does keep going – that’s one thing about Empire, it’s still selling now as much as it was a year ago and that just doesn’t stop."
Empire was to be The Creative Assembly's most sprawling, ambitious Total War yet, but its release in 2009 was overshadowed by AI bugs. Passive enemies and weak AI frustrated Total War players. Simpson admits that The Creative Assembly "did take on a little bit more than we were actually capable of delivering by the date."
"We had to have it earlier, so it was buggy on release, and it took us quite a few patches to get that sorted out. But when it was done it gets closer to the product that we originally intended, and it had long, long, long legs."
Empire's vast campaign takes place across three major theatres of war, America, Europe and India. Those are just the land battles, additional coastline zones host naval battles for international trade routes, vital for securing the huge resources needed to fuel a hungry global empire. Simpson described how The Creative Assembly approach each edition of Total War, in stages of "revolution" and "evolution." New titles like Empire are designed to refresh the series and update the engine, acting as a platform for future expansions like The Warpath campaign and, follow-up games like Napoleon.
"Empire was one of those revolutionary steps, but at that point the revolutions were starting to take too long to do, so it started to take more than three years to go around and that cycle was too long," said Simpson. "So at that point we realised you can’t actually throw the whole codebase away and start again, we have to do it in chunks. So we’re going into more of a continuous revolution process, which seems to be working pretty well."
Empire is available on Steam now for £10 / $19.99, and there's a demo available if you fancy trying it out. It's improved immensely in with the patches CA have added over the years, and there are plenty of mods out there keeping it fresh.
More recently, Total War: Shogun 2 could be considered the next "revolution" of the cycle. We've since had Rise of the Samurai and Fall of the Samurai, which means we're probably due another big step into a new theatre soon. Where would you like Total War to go next?
The standalone expansion to Total War: Shogun 2, Fall of the Samurai, is out, and it's a very handsome game, as these launch screenshots demonstrate. Of course, most of the time you'll be floating high above the battlefield, surveying the landscape and dishing out orders to vast armies, but if you take a moment every now and then to zoom down to ground level, you'll get to see every cut and thrust. Thanks to the influx of guns, Fall of the Samurai's battles are much smokier, noisier places.
If you're wandering whether or not to pick up the expansion today, check out our Fall of the Samurai review. If you've already taken the plunge, have a look at our guide to taking Japan. If you want to see men with huge moustaches being rushed by a unit of samurai swordsmen, check out these screenshots.
An epic Shogun 2 patch has landed alongside the standalone expansion, Fall of the Samurai. If a dozen sumo wrestlers were to combine into a twelve foot tall Megazord of sumo wrestlers, the resulting horror would not be as large or fleshy as this update, which adds 40 vs. 40 units battles to multiplayer, 22 new land and sea maps to fight on, Steam cloud support, reduced battle load times, "greatly reduced" AI turn times and some 3000 words worth of balance shifts and bug fixes. Bikkuri shita!
The fixes listed in the patch notes below affect every aspect of the game, from the campaign map, to the real time battles and multiplayer. There's a bit of good news for anyone who bought the Blood Pack for Shogun 2, it'll apply the same effects to Fall of the Samurai's battles, too. Here's the full change list.
Headline additions – also available to Shogun 2 players
40v40 unit battles available via ‘control large armies’ option in Custom Battles and Multiplayer Numerous Battle and Campaign AI improvements (see Battle and Campaign sections below) Greatly reduced save-game file sizes and full Steam Cloud support Battlefield load time improvement (approximately 30% dependent on machine spec) Greatly reduced AI turn-time 22 brand new Land, Naval and Siege battle-maps
Full patch notes
The majority of these also apply to Shogun 2.
Fixes for known multiplayer campaign desyncs Introduced option to auto-trigger abilities through right-clicking Towers can now be ordered to fire at specific targets Domination (capture all points) victories added for multiplayer General optimisations across all areas of the game Ability to queue technology tree research Ability to set groups to AI control Ability to lock group formations with new UI button Fixed missing siege models New front-end background camera pans Campaign AI turn-times reduced due to pathfinding optimisations Naval campaign AI improved significantly
Fixed attack intercept position when in and around islands Fixed bug where some submerged ships did not surrender Fixed several rare crashes in naval battle. Improved circling behaviour for all ships Improved range detection for Fire Bomb Kobaya Removed stop-start movement for AI ships moving in a group. Improved target selection for naval AI
Modified the Standard Camera in naval battles to ensure that the horizon is always visible. Added UI toggle to battle HUD (bottom left corner), so can hide UI elements Mousing over unit cards now highlights the corresponding unit as if mousing over them Double pressing group frame or double pressing group number shorcut zooms to groups Added lock formation button for groups; groups act like did before, locked into formation by default, but can be unlocked to behave like a selection group. This provides an easier interface for players just wanting selection groups. (Can still quickly create a selection group pressing ctrl+g, which can also be used to toggle lock) Added UI support for more units in a single battlefield, card system now goes onto double rows when required Cursor no longer gives option to attack unmounted horses, as doing so would give order to attack riders which could be confusing Inspiration range now drawn for all units with inspiration aura, not just for the general (like hero units) Added ship schematics to info panel for boshin ships, to provide more detail on ships state Fixed graphical issues with naval fire arcs in night battles Added player names to MPC tooltips Added fade transitions to info panels Unit cards now coloured based on unit category Added support for unbound keys, so can disable shortcuts rather than having to give obscure shortcut Added page numbers to tooltips New group frames to support double rows, and now highlight when moused over or group selected; as well as showing group number rather than japanese number for easier access via shortcuts Multiplayer postbattle screen reworked Added option to invert camera's x-axis Can now move around battlefield when battle results present Can no longer use debug camera from preferences while in multiplayer battle Fixed text running off battle tooltips for some gempei units Fixed bug where info panel would not update while paused during a replay Bridge icons on battle radar given better image, and now orientated correctly Fort walls now visible on radar map/loading map Pings placed on invalid terrain no longer appear in middle of map Ship tooltips/cards number of men take into account officers Inactive battle hud buttons have tooltips Fix for rotated UI images behaving incorrect when running widescreen resolution Fix for realism mode setting being lost for campaign Officers taken into account for ship numbers on unit cards/tooltips Fixed in game chat highlight issues Building info panel resizes unit entries dynamically to fix unit names being clipped in certain languages Can now use context and tracking cameras in replays Fixed issue where pasted invalid characters into text inputs Neatend effect bundle tooltips so not larger than need to be Can now double click on ground in battles to move to that location Drag out units display now shows two arrows when will result in run on release, 1 arrow when will result in walk Improved target/path marker spline quality so doesn't stretch out, and head now represents movement speed of unit it represents (so know if running or walking to current target) Added ability to view replays at end of battle/replay, rather than routing player back to front-end then back into battle Post-battle screens now appear for replays Tweaks to main menu button animations Fix for inconsistent naval crew-icons on ship cards between front-end/campaign and battle Battle-lobby countdown timer moved so retainer panel not obscured Tweaked UI banner-scaling (slightly smaller) and UI splines brought closer to ground (fire arcs, paths, etc) Fixed cinematic borders not always being flush to edges of screen, resulting in gaps at top and bottom Added UI to toggle auto-triggered abilities. Right-clicking on a supported ability button will toggle it to auto-trigger, where the AI will decide when to use the ability, in order to save the player some micro-management. Chat-toggle button now hides all chat when currently visible rather than input, and button is highlighted when player has unread messages Group number shortcuts are now rebindable Moved pings to left-click rather than right-click for UI consistency Realism mode changes: radar visible during deployment, morale visible on minimal tooltips
Fixed rare case where pre-battle camera would trigger too early if an agent or neutral army was between the attacker and the defender under certain circumstances. Campaign variable "family_rounds_between_wife_offers" now also determines the earliest round a wife can be offered Stopped generating movement extents for armies on the pre-battle screen Fixed rare campaign lockup caused by an agent being forced out of its reserved area Fixed very rare campaign lockup involving an ambush across a land bridge, where an agent or third party neutral army is between the acting army and the ambusher Fixed multi-turn AI actions against the human player causing the game to drop out of speed-up mode even though the action will not complete that turn Changed format of campaign height-map to reduce load time and significantly reduce memory usage Fixed very rare crash caused by autosave saving an army in an incorrect order Fixed bug when issuing orders to agents on navies against target agents in armies Fixed trade-route tooltip which showed only one imported resource per route Fixed a rare lockup caused by a successful agent action causing an army to move, whilst another army is also in motion under certain circumstances Fixed rare crash when two multi-turn embark orders – to embark two different armies onto two different navies – resulted in an attempt to perform both embarks at the same port in the same turn Fixed rare crash caused by the Daimyo's brother not being demoted from command of an army when the Daimyo dies while there is a superior general in the army Fixed a few issues with commerce-raid value updates when merging and splitting raiding navies Added information about when a diplomatic action would be considered dishonourable by other clans Selecting an agent in an army now shows the agent’s movement extents. Improved rope visuals on campaign map buildings Fixed trade-route information not being updated when a port is damaged Fixed obscure issue which prevented other factions’ movement extents showing if they had military access to player’s territory, but player did not have military access to theirs. Modified several game areas to fail gracefully instead of crashing when loading incorrectly modded data Various memory-usage optimisations Fixed being able to get more than three agents in a city Fixed unusual crash in pathfinder related to blockaded ports Fixed crash in event-log system Fixed crash when issuing an order to a previously merged army Fixed crash related to capturing artillery Fixed bug where reinforcement armies solely comprised of units that can't enter as reinforcements (such as artillery) were counted as reinforcements in pre-battle Fixed bug where region ownership for unseen rebel regions was visible Fixed bug where attrition-indicator showed on rebel banners when they weren't suffering attrition Fixed crash when bribing cities that are under siege Fixed issue with missing army-templates causing lockups Fixed crash in sound tracker Fixed crash in agent-options dialog Fixed issue with ‘surrender imminent’ message Fixed issue where certain melee and charge bonuses were not working correctly in battle Fixed issue where shroud was updated many times when a Clan dies, causing some slowdown Fixed unit exchange issue when in ports Fixed issue where some characters destroyed in battle remained alive Fixed issue where pre battle UI appeared in odd order when player was playing as AI in MPC Fixed issue where campaign thought ships needed 0 crew to function Fixed case where MPC players are forced to spectate an AI-vs-AI game Fixed issue where MPC co-op allies received message that enemy is retreating when allies are retreating Fixed issue where ambush cursor did not show for characters in garrisons Fixed bug where a force would act on incorrect orders after capturing units Fixed issue where recruited agents were unable to enter the settlement they were recruited from on the turn they were recruited Fixed missing building name in ‘legendary building built’ event-log entry Player now gets full spying information on a force after attacking it Improved campaign experience-handling Removed timer from certain battles to prevent exploit Port selection marker is now centred around the flag Armies now only get region-unrestricted replenishment in enemy regions Tweaked some message events to be more informative Various campaign load-time and memory usage optimisations Reduced memory usage in front end startup process Reduced campaign animations memory-usage Improvements to campaign building-display resource usage Fixed religion/allegiance zeal display in religion tooltips for more than two religions Various mission bugs fixed Fix to clear military crackdown repression on handover of region Only primary generals now get full XP in battles; generals commanding reinforcements get reduced XP Technology goal can be selected to guide auto-selection of next tech when research completes Save games: compression and other size reductions to make files dramatically smaller; Steam Cloud support added
When units are climbing walls men can now fire their bows or guns when at the top of the walls while men in the same unit are still climbing Movement arrow now appears when units are ordered onto positions on zones such as fort walls Fixes for units not being able to fire at units behind fort walls in certain circumstances Unit destination proxies (shown on space bar) now update when the game is paused Fire arcs now only turn off when ‘fire at will’ is off and melee mode is enabled Improvement to display of fire arc facing when defending a zone (e.g. on a fort wall) Fix for not being able to turn off fire at will when defending a zone (e.g. on a fort wall) AI unit shooting-line analysis tweaks In siege battles where the AI is attacking, artillery can now deploy on multiple lines. Units now change their tactic state more effectively if they are idle and under fire in siege battles (when AI is attacking) Stopped units behind fort walls being unfavourably targeted by artillery Fixed several fort-reinforcement AI bugs Stopped units from being issued attack orders when they are climbing fort walls Stopped units from prioritizing the capture of distant towers in siege battles Fixed several bugs with idle cavalry during AI-attacking siege battles Fixed bug where AI was unable to place units on a sensible fort approach Fixed strange movement bugs in AI fort defence Fixed rare crash-issue resulting from a scenario where the player enters a battle with no units because they are reinforcing another player, and all their units are artillery (which cannot be deployed as reinforcements) The ‘last stand’ morale state, triggered when castle defenders are fighting to the death, now imposes penalties on ranged accuracy and reload rate Battle AI is more likely to deploy cavalry on both of its flanks, allowing for greater opportunities when flanking and executing a double envelopment Fixed an issue where naval reinforcements sometimes did not fully enter the map Introduced a variety of improvements to the battlefield AI's use of outflanking and double envelopment manoeuvres, making these tactics more effective overall Fixed a rare issue where some reinforcement units did not enter the battlefield because they were not correctly resized to avoid obstacles outside the playable area Battle AI now performs a deeper analysis when it decides between walking and running, resulting in the AI moving more swiftly when appropriate and tiring its troops out less often Fixed an issue where ships left a battle with incorrect experience data, causing them to gain experience prematurely Fixed an issue in Battle AI which delayed its ability to move to a good defensive position outside its deployment zone once the battle starts Fixed several issues in the way that the Battle AI assembles and holds a defensive line. The AI is less likely to reform when an enemy is near, and will be more stable when holding the line Battle AI now does a better job of advancing a firing-front towards an enemy, by performing a more robust selection of a direction from which to attack Mounted shooters now avoid shooting through friendly units before firing in the same way that infantry shooters do The duration of the friendly-fire penalty has increased from 6 seconds to 30 seconds When trying to set buildings alight, archers no longer continue to fire on buildings after their flaming arrows are spent When a unit is within range of multiple friendly passive inspiration auras, it is now given a bonus equivalent to the largest single aura; the multiple auras do not stack. Previously only the commanding general's aura was ever applied
General multiplayer fixes
Fixed issue where a veteran unit could gain its statistics bonus prematurely during the battle, once enough experience points had been earned but before the end of the battle Fixed issue where LAN server browser contained wrong information Fixed some crashes with multiplayer Improved chat-room population system Fixed issue where battle voice was not working Fix for rare case where land units could be taken into naval battle
Stand and fight: melee attack bonus reduced from 3 to 2 Standand Fight: reload bonus reduced from 10 to 5 Hold firm: melee defence bonus reduced from 6 to 3 Rally: morale bonus to non-routing units reduced from 2 to 1 (bonus for units already routing is unaffected) Naval whistling Arrows duration halved Special abilities for towers
MP unit caps
Kisho Ninja capped at 4 per army Mounted Samurai capped at 3 per army
Infantry officer: +1 morale Way of the Ikko-Ikki: +1 morale, +2 melee defence & +5% cost for monks and ashigaru Rennyo's teachings: -1 melee attack, +3 melee defence all units Stricken unholy forge: -1 armour to enemy melee troops World-Weary: -1 morale (enemy veterans) Shirabyoshi dancer: +1 morale (veterans), +5% cost (monks, nuns) Naginata Warrior Monk Cavalry no longer affected by retainers affecting all monks, to bring them in line with their Samurai equivalents.
Fire by rank: cost reduced from 250 to 120 Rapid Volley: cost reduced from 250 to 120
MP key buildings
Reduced morale bonus from Shrine
MP unit costs
Yari hero (decreased from 1200 to 1100) Bow hero (decreased from 1500 to 1400) Bow ashigaru (decreased from 450 to 400) Matchlock ashigaru (decreased from 500 to 450) Bulletproof samurai (decreased from 1000 to 950) Nuns (decreased from 900 to 850) Tetsubo monk hero (increased from 800 to 850)
The following brand new Fall of the Samurai maps will also be made available in Shogun 2:
Awa Ridge Pass Gigu Crossing Happo Ridge Ishiyama Ruins Iwaki Foothills Jigokudani Valley Kawabe River Kurobe Gorge Nishizawa Valley Osaka Plain Ubayu Onsen Usui Pass
Hokuriki Coast Seto Inland Sea Tohuku Sea Tokai Coast Tsugaru Straits Sea of Japan
For every Total War game, there are dozens of ambitious mods. Some, like Europa Barbarorum for Rome, overhaul the game to reflect the period in which it's set with a scholarly degree of historical accuracy. Others, like the Darth mods, prettify everything with a bundle of graphical updates tweak enemy AI to make the games more challenging.
Despite modders' enthusiasm for the series, the Total War games have never been especially easy to meddle with. If anything, they're getting harder to tweak. Is this a deliberate move to help sell more DLC by reducing fan-made alternatives? We asked Creative Assembly studio director Mike Simpson that very question.
"That isn’t the case. If anything, we tend towards: the more mod support, the more DLC you’ll sell," he said. "It has always been quite difficult to support mods quite well and it’s quite a lot of work, so we’d end up not doing something else."
The increasing complexity of the Total War engine will have made modding trickier, but it also makes creating user friendly mod tools more difficult on the development side, too. "We’ll do more," Simpson said. "We will do more."
We asked Mike Simpson if the team at Creative Assembly have been watching the launch of the Steam Workshop, and the explosion of TF2 and Skyrim mods that have resulted.
"Yeah, we’re looking at that as well. We should be letting people do this," he said. There’s no philosophical problem with modding at all."
"I can imagine situations where it might run into trouble if someone started to do a mod that happened to be the thing we were doing in the next game, then we’d be thinking do we really want to encourage that?" he added with a laugh.
The standalone expansion, Total War: Shogun 2 Fall of the Samurai, is coming out on Friday. It's good. Find out why in our Total War: Shogun 2 Fall of the Samurai review, and have a peek at our ten top tips to help you take back Japan. Hint: use guns. Lots of guns.
Fall of the Samurai's new steamboats explode as you might expect when you consider the racks of torpedoes stored within those mighty hulls. The new steam ships and sturdy ironclads of the era are just a few of the powerful new weapons that standalone Shogun 2 expansion Fall of the Samurai brings to Japan. It's set 300 years after the events of Shogun 2, at a time of rapid modernisation triggered by the arrival of boisterous Western traders from America, Britain and France. The rising number of foreign troops and advanced technology would grow to infuriate the traditionalist samurai classes leading to unrest and eventually, full-scale uprising.
As leader of a pro-imperial or pro-shogunate faction, you'll have to deal with these rebellions, ideally by using the devastating new gatling guns. Plonk one on a hill in front of a unit of swordsmen, halve the game speed and you'll get something akin to the final scenes of The Last Samurai. A fitting way to crush one's enemies. Fall of the Samurai is due to drop on March 23, check out our Fall of the Samurai preview for a detailed overview.
Total War's biggest expansion will also feature their most modern setting to date. That doesn't mean that we'll lose out on cavalry charges and mass infantry melee, though. Japan's traditionalist forces will put the art of war to the test against new threats like long-range artillery, gatling guns and well-drilled ranks of gunmen. Each of the six new factions will be fighting for or against the Shogunate. Your role as the leader of one of those factions will be to push Japan in one direction or the other, ideally by creating an army that consists entirely of horses and rampaging them from one end of the country to the other, trampling the enemy underhoof. Horses FTW.
Fall of the Samurai is a standalone expansion, so you won't need a copy of Shogun 2 to play it. The expansion is due out on March 23. Which side will you take?
Which are better, guns, or bows and arrows? Guns, of course, you might think, but then you have to consider the long reload times, their tendency to explode, their unreliability in wet conditions. These are some of the issues that Total War lead designer James Russell and the team at The Creative Assembly think about every day as they balance the clash of old and new weaponry in Fall of the Samurai.
"Bows can be better than guns in the hands of a skilled user" says Russell. "If you fire arrows more frequently than you a fire a gun it can be more lethal. It's not direct fire, you can fire above, and behind a rank of guns in front of you."
But then there's the cost of teaching men to wield a bow effectively. It can take years of training and strong arms to fire a bow effectively. A unit of marksmen can be taught to use guns in weeks. A big advantage. The improving technology and craftmanship also made guns a tempting option.
"This is the era where the guns start to become more effective than bows," Russell says. "The effective ranges start to become greater. This is the last hurrah of archery, guns are really taking over."
In Fall of the Samurai you can choose to embrace the new gunpowder weaponry being brought into Japan from the West, or you can fight for the Shogunate and try to save the Samurai, and find out once and for all whether bows can beat an army of gatling guns and rifles. The standalone expansion is out on March 23.
"We've got a huge pile of options we'd love to set the game in," says James Russell, Lead Designer of the Total War series. And we can't wait to see them happen. With three games in Steam's top 20 most played, it seems PC Gamers can't get enough of Creative Assembly's franchise. Probably because it's consistently great. Watch the video above for more from the closest thing Creative Assembly have to their own general.
Standalone Shogun 2 expansion, Fall of the Samurai, is due in March. It's going to be noisy, bloody and brutal. We're talking cannons, gatling guns, repeating rifles and spears: all being used against squishy human/horse flesh. The expansion will be set during a time of modernisation that marked Japan's transition into an industrial state 300 years after Shogun 2's campaign.
For more on Shogun 2's latest expansion, check back tomorrow or pick up a copy of PC Gamer 236, where you can read Tim Stone's in-depth feature.
The Samurai are doomed. That's according to the latest batch of Total War: Shogun 2 screenshots, which show off lots of new imperial weaponry. Cannons, gatling guns and muskets will make defending the Shogunate a very tough task. Fall of the Samurai's new weaponry has to be dramatic, mind, "mild decline of the Samurai" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. We'll get to fight with the expansion's new land and naval units on March 23.
You'll find plenty more in our big preview in the latest issue of PC Gamer UK. Meanwhile, see samurai being blown apart and roasted in the new grabs below, which also feature some of Fall of the Samurai's new Agents.