Few things make me as happy as modders taking one game and stitching it to another. As Troy and Abed said, it only makes them more awesome.
Medieval 2: Total War is getting pretty old in the tooth, but modders are still working hard to find us some new ways to play it. The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod means you can now pit the various factions of Tamriel against each other in a war that can only be described as, well, total.
There are 20 factions to choose from, including The Kingdoms of Skyrim, Daggerfall, and Wayrest, the Clan of Blackmarsh and the Clan of Crowns, and the Great House of Hlaalu, Telvanni, and Dagoth, just to name a few. You can play as monsters too, like the hordes of Oblivion or an army of undead warriors. They're all custom skinned, so if you choose to side with Oblivion you'll really be marching around an army of Daedra.
There's a full map as well, based on The Elder Scrolls games, and appropriate custom banners will snap in the wind as you march your armies into battle.
The mod is not yet complete, but from my play session I'd say it's off to a good start. The campaign isn't finished yet, and there are some bugs, but I played a few custom battles and they worked just fine. It's also entirely in Russian, so in addition to the mod, which you can find a link for on this page, you may also need the English language patch. Even with it, some of the text still appears untranslated, though they're working on a better one.
Installing Medieval 2 mods isn't always easy, but there's a nice guide here on Reddit.
I don't know how successfully it comes across on the TV show, but the Game of Thrones book series makes the storied history of Westeros as important and intriguing as the current, rather messy state of affairs. Westeros: Age of Petty Kings, a mod for Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, is set during the Andal Invasion of Westeros, thousands of years before the events of the series, which means now you can take part in the shaping of the turbulent continent and forge your own version of the history of Westeros.
The true, full name of the mod, it appears, is Westeros: Total War: Ages of Petty Kings for Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms, but I get fined by PC Gamer if I use more than three colons in a single headline. I'll begin by quoting the modder directly, since he does a fine job of explaining the sitch:
Long before the rise of Valyria, Westeros was divided into countless Petty Kingdoms. In the south, the Reach is consumed by fire as countless Andal Kingdoms are drawn into an ever growing civil war. In Dorne, the deserts run red with blood and in the north four kingdoms struggle for supremacy, even as they face invaders from all sides. As chaos descends upon the lands of Westeros it remains to be seen which Kingdoms shall forge dynasties to last a thousand years, and which will fade into history.
You'd think one Stark, once, would move somewhere warmer.
I don't blame you if you're more interested in the current batch of characters from Game of Thrones than in the generations that came before them. The thing is, even though the mod is set thousands of years prior to the events we've been watching and reading about, there are still plenty of familiar names around. Some families have been in Westeros for a very, very long time, so yes, you'll still find the Lannisters at Casterly Rock, the Starks are chillin' (literally) in the North, the Arryns are in The Vale, and the Martells are over in Sunspear. What bright futures they all must have!
It's your chance to be the Lannister who never pays his debts.
There are a whopping 29 different factions to choose from in the mod, including House Reyne, The Stormkings (who have a stag on their banner, which was later co-opted by the Baratheons), plus House Bolton and House Umber in the North, and then a bunch more I've never heard of because I sort of skimmed through certain parts of the book, okay? No need to Google while you're selecting a faction, either: the modders have provided a hefty chunk of lore and history in their descriptions.
Lore-friendly and packed with info, it's like Wiki of Ice and Fire, the game.
The map of Westeros we've come to love is faithfully rendered, and though King's Landing may not exist yet, plenty of still-standing cities predate it. The source material seems to have been well researched and respected: even cities and castles that are mentioned only in passing in the books appear in the mod in their proper spots. There are quotes from historical characters on the loading screens, and you'll even get to listen to the familiar Game of Thrones theme song that I hope is legally okay to use in this mod but I'm not sure that it is. Point being, the mod is really drenched in the feeling and flavor of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I think fans of the books and show will feel quite at home here.
Not sure who these guys are or why we're fighting. But that's true when I read the books sometimes.
If you're not super interested in the politics and city building, you can of course whip up some custom battles on some familiar battlegrounds, like the Wolfswood, Golden Tooth, the Vale of Arryn, the Iron Islands, The Reach, and lots more. I pitted a bunch of Starks against a mass of Boltons for the Dreadfort, for no particular reason and definitely not to exact some sort of revenge. I also had Cracklaw Point battle the Lannisters in the wintery North. Why? I dunno. Why the hell not?
Lions versus Crabs. I know who I'm betting on.
The mod is still in development, and has a lot of plans for the future, including doubling the number of castles on the campaign map and bolstering them with both lore-friendly houses and some created just for the mod. There are also plans to add more units, including unique ones, as they're not particularly varied at the moment. Mercenaries will be added (sellswords, if you want to get all Game of Thrones-y about it), and there's an effort underway to add even more factions like the Night's Watch and the Wildlings.
Installation: Download the mod here. Again, I'll let the modder explain how to get it set up, because he does it well and it worked for me.
1) Make a copy the "Launcher.exe" from your M2TW folder and rename it "kingdoms" (if you already have a "kingdoms" you should be fine).
2) Put the Petty_Kings folder into your mods directory and DO NOT CHANGE THE FOLDER'S NAME.
Assuming you have the "kingdoms.exe" and the correctly named "Petty_Kings" then you can simply double-click on AOPK.bat in the Petty_Kings folder and it will launch the mod.
Sega used to spend their time faffing about with console boxes and a blue hedgehog. Now they spend their time more productively: publishing cool PC games (and occasionally trying to resurrect the blue hedgehog). Sometimes these many projects collide into a single, gloriously incomprehensible mess of different games and styles. It happened with the bizarrely compelling Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed - a game in which an anthropomorphic fox could lose a kart race to the football manager from Football Manager. It's also now happened with this week's Humble Weekly Sale.
The pack collects some of the publisher's more celebrated series, along side smaller projects and a collection of classic console games.
At the lowest pay-what-you-want tier, you'll get Alpha Protocol, Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. Pay more than $5.99 and you'll also receive The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, Binary Domain, Renegade Ops, Medieval 2: Total War, and a collection of 10 old "Genesis" games. The Genesis, in case you're unaware, is what incorrect people call the Mega Drive.
The deal also includes Total War: Shogun 2, available for purchases over $14.99. In addition to supporting Sega, the money will also go towards the following charities: Make-A-Wish, Whale & Dolphin Conservation, Willow, Special Effect and GamesAid. As always, the bundle's sliders will let you choose exactly where your money will go.
It's probably one of the best Weekly Sales that Humble have run in some time. Company of Heroes, Rome: Total War, and Medieval 2: Total War are often considered among the best entries of their respective series. In addition, Alpha Protocol and Renegade Ops are definitely worth checking out for the sort of price you can grab them for here. Also, there are a few Mega Drive games - including the Golden Axes. Weirdly, there's no Sonic anywhere in sight, although at this point, maybe it's for the best.
The Sega Humble Weekly Sale will run until March 20th.
Jul 22, 2013
It's time for a confession: when it comes to Zelda, I'm dangerously ignorant. I could try to hide this fact from you - casually mentioning how the green dude is called Link, and thinking that would be enough to conceal my shame - but then I'd probably mess it all up by calling the Triforce, "that thing from Sword & Sworcery EP". Despite this historical deficiency, there are some things I do know: 1) Total War games, and 2) that Total War games would be much improved by the addition of magic, a weird tentacle eye-bug, and a giant Cyclopean scorpion. All of these things can be found in Medieval 2 mod, Hyrule: Total War.
This trailer marks the 3.0 release of the mod, which is available for download at ModDB. It offers 19 factions, a campaign mode, custom settlements, and four missions of a new "Hyrule Historia Campaign". While it's a nice amount of fantasy Total War to enjoy, the mod is still in development - and the final, feature complete version remains "TBD".
You can find more on Hyrule: Total War's status over at the mod's development forum.
We still don't know much about Total War: Arena, the PvP strategy spin-off that will pit teams of up to 10 players against one another, each controlling small units led by historical generals. We don't even have concept art to speculate over yet. But in a recent interview with Edge, Lead Designer James Russel has shared some tidbits about the game's free to play business model, and the reasoning behind it.
It may sound incredibly obvious, but Creative Assembly says it's going with free to play because they feel they need as many players as possible in their multiplayer pool. “The first is the reason why we’re doing this is to make this great multiplayer experience…to have a player population on a different level,” says Russell. Previous games in the series have suffered with long matchmaking times and deserted lobbies—something I docked Shogun 2's otherwise great Avatar mode for. Thus, it stands to reason that something would need to change for a Total War title intended to stand on the strength of its multiplayer.
Creative Assembly also reassures that "pay to win" won't be a concern in Arena. Rather, the plan is to sell accelerators that "let you level-up your character faster so you get to high-level content more quickly." Again, nothing we haven't seen before in the free-to-play space, and nothing all that unexpected. If you haven't already, you can head over to the Total War: Arena site to sign up to be informed of when the closed beta goes live.
Aug 29, 2012
If you don't have an iOS device, you may not have heard of The Creative Assembly's mobile take on Total War. How on Earth do you fit the scale and spectacle of a Total War campaign onto a smartphone? Well, you can't, so Total War Battles tries to offer an entirely different take. It merges building and combat onto battlefields overlaid by grids of hexes. You can channel your troops down lanes drawn across the map and harvest resources with structures placed nearby. It's designed to be quick and easy to jump into, two qualities that Total War titles have traditionally lacked.
Sega's blurb boasts a ten hour campaign with bonus challenge missions. The visuals have been spruced up for the big screen and the PC version will come with bonus concept art showing off TWB's loud, colourful style.
Total War Battles is available now on Steam for $7.99 / £4.99 / EUR 9.99. Find out more on the Total War Battles site, and get a feel for how it plays in this here trailer:
I don't know if you noticed, but yesterday Total War: Rome 2 was announced, and we all got rather excited. Today we've got an announcement trailer for you. It's live action (unless Rome's engine is even better than we expected) but it should get you in the mood for murder, betrayal and politics, all of which seem to be one and the same for the Romans. "What would you do for Rome?" It asks. Personally I would pay slightly above average air fare, how about you?
If you want to know more The Creative Assembly's latest effort, check out our Total War: Rome 2 preview or read our interview with the developers.
While seeing Rome 2 for the first time at Creative Assembly, I spoke to lead designer James Russell and lead battle designer Jamie Ferguson about the new direction that Total War is taking, their ambitions for the game, and why they're returning to Rome after all this time.
James Russell, lead designer
Jamie Ferguson, lead battle designer
Be sure to check out our Rome 2 preview for our first impressions of the game. More on Rome 2 is available in PC Gamer UK issue 242, out July 4th, and PC Gamer US issue 230, out July 17th.
Jul 2, 2012
The original Rome is one of the most enduringly popular games in the Total War series. It did away with sprites, rendering warfare in full 3D. It added depth and flexibility to the campaign game, coupled with one of the most varied and evocative eras in the history of human conflict. It even formed the basis of a historical TV show.
A sequel to Rome is, according to Total War lead designer James Russell, the most frequent request that Creative Assembly receive - and a few weeks ago, I visited the developer to see that sequel for myself. I was shown a ten minute battle demonstration, running live and in-engine but with pre-scripted troop movements and a planned outcome. What I saw was really exciting, but it’s worth being clear about the fact that this was a first look at a game that is early in development, with a lot that the developers aren’t willing to show. The impression I got was that there’s much still to be nailed down behind the scenes and as such a lot of the specific detail that Total War fans will be looking far was hard to come by. They were however willing to talk about the direction and themes of Rome 2’s design, and I was given exclusive interviews with the people behind the game. Here’s everything there is to know so far.
Bigger, more detailed battles
The setting for the demonstration was the Roman siege of Carthage at the end of the Thrid Punic War, circa 146 - the battle that famously ended with the total destruction of the north African city by Roman forces. The opening shot was a close-up on Roman consul Scipio Aemilianus, giving orders to his men on board a warship. Total War: Rome 2 runs on a new engine that supports the largest and most detailed battles in the series’ history, to the extent of supporting full, in-engine cutscenes. In place of a traditional general’s speech, then, the siege of Carthage began with an actual conversation between Scipio and his men, before zooming out to take in the sight of the Roman fleet approaching the heavily-defended shoreline.
Ships and armies can now take part in the same battles when the situation demands it. As troop-carrying biremes crashed into the shore, Roman boats armed with catapults kept their distance and provided covering fire for the dismounting troops, who formed into ranks before charging up the beach towards the walls. I later asked if this ‘rolling start’ meant that the deployment phase was a thing of the past, but that’s not the case - instead, CA are looking to be more flexible about how battles can begin, based on various circumstances. Beach landings are a confirmed feature, according to lead battle designer Jamie Ferguson, and there’s room for other non-traditional openings as well.
“There's something very special about Total War in terms of the scale,” James Russell told me. “If you look at a battle you have incredible detail close up, where you can see two men fighting it out - and you zoom out and you can see thousands and thousands of them on the battlefield, and we really want to push both ends of that spectrum in Rome 2.”
The developers used a free camera to show off different aspects of the battle - Roman archers taking cover behind wooden barricades to return fire on the Carthaginian defenders, siege towers moving into place, off-shore Roman artillery causing a breach in the city’s harbour walls. They were keen to stress, however, that in the final game it’ll no longer be necessary to swing the camera around to keep track of the battlefield. Rome 2 will feature a tactical view that allows players to zoom the camera out to a top-down, kilometer-square overview where units are represented by simplified icons. Commanding individual cohorts effectively from this perspective won’t be possible, but it should make getting your bearings easier and reduce the amount of time you spend squinting at the mini-map.
Making battles easier absorb on the macroscale belies Creative Assembly’s most frequently stated aim for Rome 2, which is to add character and humanity to the scores of tiny soldiers that live or die by your command. The new closest zoom setting is an absurdly detailed close-up that allows you to hover over a individual combatant’s shoulder in third-person. In the demonstration, this was shown off by leaping into Scipio Aemilianus’ unit as they prepared to storm the Carthaginian walls using a siege tower. The same Romans that had just been swarming from biremes by the hundred were now fidgeting and shifting as nervous individuals, listening to the orders of a general a few feet away.
Scripted? Yes, and Creative Assembly wouldn’t comment on how these mid-battle moments would play out as part of regular play. Impressive, though? Certainly, particularly when the Romans reached the walls. Shogun 2’s samurai occasionally broke off into brief animated duels, but Rome 2 takes the specifics of melee combat much further - men lunge and dodge and shield-bash each other, the game taking full advantage of both Creative Assembly’s meticulous research - which involves work with professional ancient warfare reenactors - and the new engine’s enhanced animation capabilities.
The importance of this extra detail, according to lead battle designer Jamie Ferguson, is that it involves the player in the lives of their men. “When they give those guys an order to take the walls they can experience that themselves” he explains, “and see what those guys are going and realise that they're not just a bunch of clones climbing a ladder, that there are individuals in there and they're all doing their best for you.”
The walls taken, the battle continued in the streets. Roman troops entering by another route - that breach in the harbour wall - trapped the Carthaginians at a crossroads with a flanking maneuver, forcing the defenders further back into their own city. This part of the demo closely resembled equivalent encounters in other recent Total War games, but the sheer size of cities necessitates that battles be more complex than simply capturing and holding a single central location. In Rome 2, a successful siege will be a multi-part affair, with several dynamic objectives.
For the sake of the demo, the sack of Carthage was limited to these opening minutes. To conclude, the team zoomed back into Scipio Aemilianus’ unit as the consul lead the charge into the city. A collapsing tower sent a cloud of dust and smoke into the street, causing the Romans to hesitate. There was a pause, and a yelled order to hold the line. The silhouettes of charging war elephants emerged from the smoke, and, well, that was it for the world's first glimpse at Rome 2. In an epilogue, a victorious Scipio surveyed defeated Carthage and gave the order to burn the city to the ground.
Obviously, these bookending cutscenes are too specific and too neat to apply to every campaign - as ever in an open-ended Total War game, Carthage is just as likely to be sacked by rampaging Gauls as it is by the Roman Republic - and Creative Assembly say that the siege of Carthage is more likely to end up as a standalone historical battle. It’s a striking statement of Rome 2’s cinematic intent, though, and my impression from the demo was that this new level of detail has the potential to enhance the drama of the whole game.
Reinventing the campaign game
"What we're trying to do is create a game where warfare more meaningful,” Jamie Ferguson told me. “We're placing much more importance on battles, that when an army turns up it is an army. You may find that the campaign game doesn't look like it might have in previous games."
Despite the tease, CA aren’t willing to show off anything of Rome 2’s campaign map at this stage. The impression I got however was that they’re taking a serious and critical look at the structure of the turn-based part of the game, again with an eye to making the player care more about the individual soldiers, cohorts and armies at their command.
"We're ... trying to focus attention on a much smaller number of armies and a smaller number of more significant battles” James Russell explains. “We're trying to reduce the management you've got to do assembling armies, and that kind of thing.”
One example of this kind of refinement will be the ability to govern whole provinces made up of a number of individual regions. Rather than delving into the micromanagement of each individual territory, it sounds like it’ll be possible to set policies for an entire region - but when it comes to warfare, each one of those areas will need to be conquered separately. “We still have that strategic depth where a province is made of up several regions which you can conquer”, Russell says. “And what that means is that you can have the benefit of scale but you don't have the management detail.”
Discussing the occurrence of actual historical events during the campaign, Jamie Ferguson stresses that player freedom is still paramount. “We're not putting the player on rails” he explains. “ will be triggered depending on what the player is doing how how the player is behaving... it's really our core goal to integrate the player's interaction with the rich tapestry of the ancient world.”
That integration is key to Total War, he argues. "The point of Total War games isn't just to recreate history. What we're trying to do is get a counterfactual history going. We start from a historical point of view - this is how things were at, lets pick a date at random, 325 BC - and from that point onwards, it's about player action and interaction, with the AI and their environment. That determines how the game develops."
This will apply to everything from political systems to army composition. Using the example of the crown offered to Julius Caesar, Ferguson says that there’s no reason that the Roman Republic necessarily needs to become an Empire - it could have historically gone back to a kingship, and if the player chooses to make that decision then that’s something Creative Assembly want to support. Likewise, there’s nothing - geography and resources aside - stopping a sufficiently well-managed coalition of Germanic tribes from becoming the dominant force of their time.
Giving the player the power to pick the loadout of individual units of troops is something else that Creative Assembly are exploring. “There's no reason that we can't allow the player, maybe, to change the way those units are equipped” Ferguson says. “For example there's the cavalry sword - the spatha. In reality that didn't really become part of standard Roman equipment until very late, in the period - but there's no reason that some general at some point might not have decided, 'well lets do that earlier on'." The idea of history as a sandbox is still at the forefront of Total War’s identity.
(Re)designing the ancient world
It’s also worth mentioning that Rome 2 looks stunning, and that’s as much thanks to its art direction as it is to the new engine. Shogun 2 was rightly praised for having a comprehensive visual identity of its own, and Rome 2 continues that trend - which is even more impressive given how familiar Roman warfare is to a western audience. There’s a strong attention to colour and lighting in particular, with Carthage rendered in orange, brown and olive green against the white of its defenders and deep red of the invading Romans. Smoke from fires throughout the city changes the nature of the lighting - in real time, I’m told - diffusing glaring sunlight into a gathering gloom. It’s effective, dramatic, believable stuff.
Soldiers’ weapons and armour is chipped and looks used, and the walls of cities are adorned with ancient graffiti. This “lived-in” sense is one of the key things that makes Rome 2’s design stand out. Despite the prevalence of Rome in film and TV, the team have gone back to original archaeological sources, rebuilt them, and then beaten them up. If Carthage looks this good, I cannot wait to see the Eternal City itself.
Multiplayer and mods
Multiplayer is confirmed, but aside from the fact that Creative Assembly are “planning to do something really big”, no details are available yet. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect something along the lines of Shogun 2’s matchmaking and online campaign systems.
Whether or not Rome 2 will include the content creation tools recently rolled out to Shogun 2 is less clear. “We do our best” James Russell told me. “It has become harder, in the old days we worked with very simple text files that were very easy to mod, now we have a proper authenticated database. We don't necessarily have all the editor tools that the players out there think we do.”
The road to Rome
Total War: Rome 2 is due in 2013. If Creative Assembly can successfully balance revitalising the campaign game with chasing a new, cinematic depth to individual battles then there’s every reason to be very excited. More on Rome 2 is available in PCG UK issue 242, out July 4th, and PCG US issue 230, out July 17th. You can also check out our video interviews with the game's lead designers.