Jan 28, 2013
Total War: Shogun 2's add-on release schedule has shown a remarkable dedication to historical accuracy. First there was the Rise of the Samurai, then, inevitably, the Fall of the Samurai. Now comes the Bundle of the Samurai, giving you the chance to get a 2-for-1 deal on Samurai with Total War: Shogun 2 Gold Edition.
Gold Edition contains Shogun 2, both Samurai-centric add-ons, along with almost all of the game's DLC packs. The exception is the Blood Pack, presumably for rating reasons. No pricing details as of yet, but the Gold Edition is due for release March 8th in Europe and Australia, and March 5th in the US.
Recent rumblings from the Creative Assembly mod summit suggested that a Shogun 2 Steam Workshop and mod tools were on the way, and now they're here! You can peruse the Shogun 2 section of the Steam Workshop to download new maps and mods right now.
On the TWCenter forums CA announce the arrival of the Total War Assembly Kit. This contains a collection of extremely useful programs for modders, including a unit editor and a campaign map reprocessor that allows for the creation of custom campaigns.
The Shogun 2 map editor has also been updated to allow users to create historical battles. The package is capped off with the launch of the Total War wiki, which will serve as a hub for information on the Assembly Kit, as well as more general Total War info.
That should tide us over nicely until Rome 2 arrives next year. You can watch the first in-game footage of the Creative Assembly's next big game while your Shogun 2 maps download. There's a massive Total War sale on Steam this weekend to celebrate. Rome is available for just one pound. ONE POUND.
Shakespeare knew what he was doing, which is why, when he penned the first lines of Mark Antony's most famous speech from Julius Ceaser, he didn't write "friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your eyeballs," which leaves it to me to make that demand. Come on now, your eyeballs, please. All of them.
I'll use them well, I promise. Let me just gather them all up in arms, like so, and saunter into the depths of this post, where four new screenshots for the tremendously exciting Total War: Rome 2 await, showing a bit of close combat and some epic snapshots of the Battle of Carthage.
For more on Rome 2, here are our video interviews with Creative Assembly with details on Rome 2's battles and campaign game, and here's lead designer James Russell on ancient warfare, modding, DLC and the importance of building community. You may also want to check out the live action announcement trailer, which sets the scene quite nicely, except hang on a minute, let me give you these eyeballs back.
Jul 26, 2012
If you reckon there simply aren't enough spiked war clubs in Total War: Shogun 2, the Saints and Heroes DLC pack might be for you. It adds nine new elite units including Tadakatsu's Tetsubo warriors, owners of said spiked clubs, the mounted Spears of Shizugatake, a bold new form of cavalry, and elite ninja warriors, Hanzo's Shadows. They're masterful murderers, and pretty good at climbing walls, too. Take a closer look in the DLC announcement trailer and screenshots below.
The DLC is available now for £1.99 / $3.25 through Steam. Here's the list of new units contained in the DLC.
Kiyomasa’s Katana Cavalry
Katana cavalry hero
These heavily-armoured cavalry wield their blades with a brutal expertise.
Excellent in melee
Slower than other cavalry
Vulnerable to Yari, Naginata and Matchlock
Yoritomo’s Yabusame Cavalry
Bow cavalry hero
Precise and quick, these men can snipe at enemies, and hold their own if cornered.
Can move and fire
Excellent accuracy and range
Weak against massed foot missile-units
Average in melee
The Spears of Shizugatake
Yari cavalry hero
Masters of the spear, these expert horsemen boast a devastating charge, and resolute morale in the face of counter-attack.
Fast and very powerful charge
Excellent against other cavalry
Vulnerable to Yari and Naginata
The long-bladed Naginata is effective against all-comers – doubly so in the hands of an expert.
Versatile: very good against cavalry and other infantry
Excellent armour high resistance to arrows
Weak against Matchlock
Gozen’s Hime Heroines
In the hands of a great heroine, the Naginata becomes a graceful whirl of steel and bloody death.
Versatile: very good against cavalry and other infantry
Excellent armour high resistance to arrows
Weak against Matchlock
Armed with a beautifully crafted rifle, these heroes put their marksmanship to deadly use.
Very good accuracy and reload
Vulnerable to cavalry
Good in melee against infantry
Carrying the fearsome two-handed Nodachi, these heroes strike terror into the hearts of those they charge.
Average in prolonged melee
Vulnerable to cavalry and missiles
Tadakatsu’s Tetsubo Warriors
As strong as Oni, these mighty warriors are masters of the brutal Tetsubo, or war club.
Excellent in melee
Vulnerable to missiles and massed enemy units
Masters of stealth, Ninja heroes are the ultimate dealers of swift and silent death.
Excellent at hiding
Can climb walls very fast
Devastating ranged attack
Very limited ammunition
Jul 13, 2012
While at The Creative Assembly to see Rome 2 for the first time, I sat down with Total War lead designer James Russell to talk about the studio’s reasons for returning to the ancient world, what new features players should expect from their second expedition to Rome, and whether the game will receive the same mod support that has just been rolled out for Total War: Shogun 2. Read our first preview of Rome 2 here, and also check out our video interviews with James Russell and lead battle designer Jamie Ferguson.
PC Gamer: So why return to Rome?
James Russell: Well, I think there are two reasons. Rome is the most popular era in terms of where the fans want us to return to. It's the most asked-for sequel on the forums, from our community, and I'm really excited to be announcing Rome 2.
I think there's something uniquely evocative about the Roman era, which is why is has such traction in the popular imagination. You see lots of Rome content on TV and so on. There's something absolutely magical about the period, I think, from the ideals of the Roman Republic up to the immense power of the Roman Empire, which created the excesses of notorious Emperors like Caligula, and so on.
I mean, it was a time in history where individuals could really shape history. You've got all these legendary figures like Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and there's something very unique about the Roman war machine and the look and feel of the legions. And of course the arena in which they were fighting - the whole ancient world with barbarians in the forests and exotic empires to the east. I think it's just a very very special period and we can make a magical Total War title out of it.
PC Gamer: What are the principal things you're looking to do with Rome 2, that you couldn't do do with Rome 1?
James Russell: First of all the scope of the game world in Rome 2 is going to be bigger, we're pushing the map further out. But really what we want to do... there's something very special about Total War in terms of the scale, and the spectrum of scales, that we have. So 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. We really want to push both ends of that spectrum in Rome 2.
So in terms of the detail, obviously we've got a new graphics engine, we've got new lighting system, new particle systems, we really want to increase the detail and the look and have a really gritty look and feel in terms of the man to man combat - really impactful animations. We're also bringing the cinematic skeletons fully in game, so we're going to have facial animations, we're going to have unit linked cameras. It really brings out that low level human scale drama that we want to have on the battlefield in a completely different way then we have before. Partly that's cameras, partly that's facial animation. We're having emotional interactions, we want to make the game more lifelike in terms of how behave at an individual human level.
And at the other end of the spectrum, we're wanting to make that scale - that sense of grandeur - just more epic than ever. We want it to be the most spectacular gaming experience that people have ever seen. So we're making much bigger cities, epic battlefields, varied terrain, huge armies. And of course just in terms of the period, the huge variety of fighting styles, the variety of terrain and the exotic settings that we've got in the game, it's just going to be something quite spectacular I think.
PC Gamer: Shogun was praised for tightening the Total War experience down to a few key strategic decisions and battles over a very focused landscape. How do you maintain that focus when you’re covering a huge period of history and a vast area of the world?
James Russell: I think the key there is to have a really tight design and there are certain features that we're planning that will give us the best of both worlds. So, for instance, we want to have on the campaign map a huge space but actually reduce the amount of management detail that you've got to go into. So we're going to have - instead of all regions being the same - we're going to have provinces which are made up of a number of different regions.
What that means is you don't have to manage loads and loads of regions, you manage a small number of regions relatively, but we still have that strategic depth where a province is made of up several regions which you can conquer. And what that means is that you can have the benefit of scale but you don't have the management detail. That's on the campaign map. On the battlefield really it's about making sure that the units are controllable and we're taking a whole bunch of measures to make sure that it's epically visual but also straightforward to control.
PC Gamer: So from what we saw, there's obviously a very strong narrative and character element. Is that the direction you see Total War going in? From historical simulation to telling stories from history?
James Russell: I think what's unique about Total War is that you make your own history. So we put you in this historical era, we immerse you in it, we put legendary characters from the era into the game, but the player makes their own history with those characters. But absolutely, that whole pillar, what we call the human face of Total War - we want to do that on the campaign map as well. We want to go down to that human scale and make more of characters, make more of stories and we've got various themes that we want to incorporate around betrayal ... are you saving the Republic or trying to be Emperor? That kind of thing. But absolutely the core pillar of Total War is that you're making your own history.
PC Gamer: So within that sandbox approach, how do you go about incorporating particular historical precedents, like 'this technology existed at this time' or 'this technology came from this place'?
James Russell: What we do is we create this world and the player chooses how to navigate through it. So for instance if the player chooses to focus on something that Rome didn't necessarily focus on until a lot later than the player can do that. If the player wants to go all out and become Emperor early that's what the player chooses to do.
PC Gamer: Are there any specific events or historical personalities that you're really keen to get into the game?
James Russell: Well there's all sorts of flavour of the period that we want to get in in various different ways. We really want to push more storylines into the game. You saw a little bit of that in Shogun 2 with the dilemma system and we wanted to make that a bit broader and really, really push those very unique ancient world stories into the game. But we're not putting the player on rails, they will be triggered depending on what the player is doing how how the player is behaving. So it's really our core goal to integrate the player's interaction with the rich tapestry of the ancient world.
PC Gamer: So when you're talking about themes, are you talking about things like - for example - cults of personality, and the relative power of generals in Rome and how that affected the Empire? That kind of detail?
James Russell: I mean, yeah. Effectively we've got a massive list of things we want to fold into the game in some way, and we do this with all Total War titles, and we look for all sorts of different ways to fold in those themes and flavours. But what we really want to do with Rome 2 is really emphasise the kind of human level drama that was a real part of the Roman world where, as I said, individuals could shape history.
PC Gamer: When you're got such a central and fascinating power as Rome in a game, how do you then make the other factions that surround Rome interesting to play?
James Russell: Well we're not ready to go into which factions are going to be in the game and which factions are going to be playable and that kind of thing. But you know, absolutely those kind of features will apply across the board in terms of the all the different factions that the player can enjoy. I mean it's part of what makes the Roman era so evocative is the sheer variety and exoticism of the different cultures that they encountered. And that's what's so exciting it's the setting, it's the huge scope of the world and all of the different cultures and civilisations that were part of it.
PC Gamer: And will that be reflected in political systems or unit fighting styles, things like that?
James Russell: Absolutely. There's a huge array of fighting styles and different methods of waging war, absolutely. We've got hundreds of units and that's part of what makes the combat in Rome so special and unique. There's a huge amount of variation in terms of fighting styles and just the look and feel of the different cultures.
PC Gamer: So what time period will be covered by the game?
James Russell: Well I don't want to get too specific but we are wanting to have the whole sweep of Roman history right from the early Republic all the way to the Imperial period. But we don't really want to talk about specific dates.
PC Gamer: Does it include the divided Empire? West and East?
James Russell: Well.... who knows?
PC Gamer: What are your plans for multiplayer this time around?
James Russell: Well I can't really talk about multiplayer, but I think I can say that we're planning to do something really big.
PC Gamer: Talking about Total War generally, there's a really varied amount of post launch content for Shogun, from small campaign packs to full expansions. Is that the policy going forward, to have a full range of DLC at different sizes?
James Russell: I think we're really lead by the content itself and by what fits. What we want to do is create a fantastic core release which has the huge array of variety that people expect from a Total War game, and in particular a Total War game set in ancient Rome where we include all of these other civilisations. So, yeah, we absolutely plan to delve deeper after release in terms of additional content. We're lead by the content, we don't develop and hold things back, that's not how we work. We make the best game we can and then we think "Okay what do the fans want? What do we want to do? How can we push this even further?"
PC Gamer: So with Shogun 2 did you find that a particular size of DLC or expansion worked better than anything else?
James Russell: I think they all have their place. I think there's a great place for smaller bits of DLC which add very specific content, there's a place for a new campaign and there's a place for a big expansion pack as well. I think they all have their strengths and weaknesses and we're happy with all the Shogun 2 post release content, yeah.
PC Gamer: So you've put out the map editor for Shogun 2 - should players expect similar modding support for Rome?
James Russell: Well, you know we do our best. 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. As designers we struggle as well.
PC Gamer: So do you look at the mod community, do you factor in what they're doing to your games after release and apply that to subsequent games?
James Russell: Well, you know, we keep ourselves aware of what's going on and what people want and we do our best to listen to the community.
PC Gamer: How does modding and community support work alongside DLC, where a game grows in the direction you're taking it in and the community independently does their own thing. What’s the appeal of supporting modders when you’ve got your own plan for the growth of the game?
James Russell: Well the appeal of supporting modders is that it creates engagement, it supports engagement with the game and modders can increase the lifetime of the product by creating content that they want to play with each other. But I don't think we feel threatened by that in terms of producing our own content, we're confident about what we do and I think we make great DLC content. And there are things that we can do, because, we can change the code and so on, that the modders couldn't do.
PC Gamer: You've got a very dedicated community, and Total War Centre is a good example of the kind of focused community that springs up around PC games. Is that one of the big appeals of sticking with the PC - gaining access to that committed group of players?
James Russell: In terms of the platform I think there is something unique about what PC gaming is. Total War at it's heart is an epic, deep gameplay experience and I think PC is the best platform for that. It's that kind of ‘lean in’ experience, it's not on the sofa in the living room with shorter play sessions and so on. So we do want to make Total War accessible, we do want to support the ability to play for shorter amounts of time absolutely but I think at its core PC is a perfect platform for what Rome 2 is, absolutely.
Total War: Rome 2 is due in late 2013.
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.
Jun 6, 2012
The Creative Assembly's TW Craig posted on the Total War forums earlier with news of an upcoming event that will give modders a chance to meet the designers and programmers behind their favourite strategy series.
"We'd like to hold a modding summit here at The Creative Assembly at the end of July. Maybe we'll hire a venue somewhere," writes TW Craig. "The main thing is we can have these conversations with you ourselves, explain why limitations are in place if they exist, and help if there's any way we can."
A few posts further on, a player posts some excerpts from emails from The Creative Assembly, which provide a few further details. Attending CA devs will "likely have direct experience of coding, designing or mapping on Empire, Napoleon and Shogun 2" and there are plans to "absolutely live stream it in some way." TW Craig also mentions that the devs are "building an official wiki" for Total War, with "a separate section just for modders."
The Creative Assembly recently released a free map editor for Shogun 2 and Fall of the Samurai, another sign that they're looking to give their great modding community some official support.
May 23, 2012
Great news for Total War fans. Out of the blue, The Creative Assembly have released the first official modding tool for a Total War game. The map editor is now available to download for free from the Tools section of your Steam library. It'll let you create multiplayer maps that can then be shared and played in custom battles against other players or the AI in Shogun 2 and this year's splendid standalone expansion, Fall of the Samurai.
The Total War series has always had a great modding community. It's nice to see them get some official support from the developers. The editor lets you mould terrain into a battlefield and then place objects to form towns, forests and castles. The Creative Assembly have released a bunch of new screenshots showing off some of the landscapes you can make using the tools. Take a look.
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.