Nov 28, 2011
The Creative Assembly have just announced that they'll be releasing a huge standalone expansion for Total War: Shogun 2 called Fall of the Samurai. It will be set in the period leading up to the Boshin War, in which European and American forces introduce a new wave of military technology that threatens to wipe out the Samurai.
Fall of the Samurai will add six new factions. Some, like the Nagaoka, sill support the might of the Shogun. Others, like the Satsuma clan, want to embrace Imperial power. Externally, British, French and American forces are vying for influence in the Land of the Rising Sun. Over the course of the campaign, you'll get to decide Japan's fate.
New tech trees will reflect the evolving technology of a country adapting to the influx of devastating new weaponry from the west. That technology includes new naval units like "steamers, torpedo boats and mighty Ironclad battleships." For the first time in Total War, these will be able to launch artillery attack on land units from the safety of the sea. Coastal defences will also be able to launch ranged attacks on incoming fleets, and the fight for influence will rage across a new campaign map that will incorporate the Northern Ezo territories and railways. Railways can be used to move troops incredibly fast, and can be sabotaged by the enemy.
On the battlefield, 39 new units will be available, including Gatling guns, US Marines and British Royal Marines. There will be three new agent types, Foreign Veteran, the Ishin Shishi and the Shinshengumi. These campaign map agents will have all new progression trees, and the Geisha and Ninja skills will be updated.
The six new factions are divided into pro-Shogunate and pro-Imperial groups. The Aizu, Nagaoka, and Jozai clans fight for traditional Japan, while the Choshu, Satsuma and Tosa factions fight for the Empire.
A number of improvements will be made to siege battles. New tower defences can be upgraded and specialised to become archery, matchlock or gatling gun towers. A new "port siege" battle will let armadas brave coastal defences to take control of coastal towns by occupying their harbours.
Shogun 2's multiplayer features will also be expanded. You'll be able to create a separate Fall of the Samurai avatar with access to 40 new retainers, 30 new armour pieces and a new tech tree. There will be a new 19th century conquest map and you'll be able to create multiple avatars to try out different tech tree builds.
Fall of the Samurai is shaping up to be a huge update. It's standalone, too, so you won't need Shogun 2 to play it. It's due out in March.
Nov 25, 2011
What's this, every Total War title except Shogun and Shogun 2, with all accompanying DLC for just £8.74 / $12.49? What are you doing to us, Steam sale? I was planning to eat, and perhaps sleep this weekend but NO, you have to throw hundreds of hours of world class strategy gaming at me for a price that my buying finger can't not click on.
Wait, there's more? Gravity mangling platformer VVVVVV, for just 99p / $1.24? That's less than I paid for my cup of coffee this morning. The slick shouting-at-people-until-they-crack simulator LA Noire, which has only been out for two minutes, is half price. And Fallout: New Vegas and all its DLC packs are available at prices that make the upcoming Ultimate Edition seem a little redundant.
Also on sale today:
Red Orchestra series
Operation Flashpoint franchise
Sniper: Ghost Warrior
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3: Platinum
Two Worlds franchise
The deals will change around again in six hours time, so keep an eye on the Steam front page. The Autumn sale will wrap up on Sunday, giving us some time to play everything we've bought before the big Christmas sale kicks off.
Jul 1, 2011
The Creative Assembly have released the raw table data for Empire and Napoleon on the Total War forums. The files should help modders looking to change in-game properties find the files they need to tweak within Total War's complex file structure.
As well as this gesture of support for what used to be one of PC gaming's most prolific and passionate modding communities, The Creative Assembly explain why they've been unable to provide the same level of mod support that fans have enjoyed in older games like Rome and Medieval 2.
Creative Assembly's Craig Laycock explains that the complexity of the engine used to create Empire and Napoleon has proved the main barrier to the creation of mod tools. "Back then, the game engine was a hell of a lot simpler than it is now," he writes. "There was a fraction of the database table files we use today, and these were basic, easily-editable text files. Compared to today’s binary files, which we’ve had to implement to fight naturally expanding load-times, they were a doddle to mod.
"Likewise, today’s campaign map is vastly more complex and data-dense than Rome’s, which was basically a simple TGA file that could be edited in photoshop. Today’s maps demand way more complexity in order to allow for better path-finding and AI. In addition, Rome’s campaign map was tile based; today’s campaign map is seamless for better movement, making it that considerably harder to mod."
Rome and Medieval are some of the best loved entries in the Total War series thanks to some of the incredible mods created by the community. Total War modders could move the game to a different part of the world, add astounding levels of historical accuracy, add new units or rebalance existing ones. The Creative Assembly say that they recognise the value of Total War modders, and insist that the lack of mod tools for recent titles isn't part of a ploy to boost DLC sales.
"Back in the Rome days, Vercingetorix created tools that were absolutely key to the explosion of Total War modding; tools such as the CAS exporter and the unpacker. You were happy, we were thrilled and some fantastic mods (such as the breathtaking Europa Barbarorum) were born, and enjoyed by thousands, us included. We’re still in awe of what people achieved with Rome and Medieval II’s engines."
"Please understand that we’re not trying to constrain modding in any way; we simply haven’t been able to support it as well as we really wanted to," explains Laycock. "This isn’t a conspiracy to make you buy DLC over creating your own content… if that were true, there never would have been the possibility of making unit-packs for Empire and Napoleon. The fact remains that modders have made many such excellent units, and enriched the game for thousands of Total War players.
"We still want to help though, and we think the best way to do this is to give you the raw database XML and XSD files."
"Going forward, we’ll be working on a better strategy to support modding, and we’re now planning what we’re going to do for Shogun 2. But we’re going to stop promising specifics that we’re unable to deliver, as we all know how well that’s worked out in the past."
For an overview of some of the greatest fan-made Total War creations, check out our pick of the ten best Total War mods.
Feb 16, 2011
Sega have just announced that Total War: Shogun 2 will be getting a demo through Steam on February 22. The demo will let players test out the campaign map and the game's gorgeous battles. We'e played and reviewed Shogun 2, and given it a score of 92 and an Editor's Choice award. You can read the full review in the latest issue of PC Gamer UK, which hits stores tomorrow, or in the May issue of PC Gamer US, which is out on March 29. Shogun 2 is set for release on March 15.
Feb 11, 2011
We've played and reviewed Shogun 2 and awarded the game a score of 92 and an Editor's Choice award. The review appears in the latest issue of PC Gamer UK, on-sale February 16, and the May issue of PC Gamer US, on-sale March 29.
Why did it get that score and the Editor's Choice award? Try improved AI that attacks from the sea and uses terrain to its advantage, an online clan system with excellent matchmaking that encourages teamworks between allies, and the artful realisation of the Sengoku period. We say that "Shogun 2 is the Total War series back on form," and that it "boasts the most outrageous hats in martial history.
If you can't wait to read the review until then, check out the latest Total War: Shogun 2 trailer, and our preview of the game's revamped multiplayer mode. The game's available to pre-order now. Check out the system requirements to see how well it'll run on your PC. Subscribe to PC Gamer UK here and PC Gamer US here.
Jan 20, 2011
SEGA have announced that pre-orders of the latest entry to the Total War series - Shogun 2 - will come with some shiny bonuses if players pre-order at either BestBuy or GameStop. Read on for the details.
Pre-ordering at GameStop (online or in-store) will bag you the ability to take your troops to The Historic Battle of Kawagoe. Set in 1545, the battle saw Hõjõ clan launch a night time attack on the besieging Uesugi, favouring speed and stealth tactics over a full-frontal assault.
Players who pre-order at BestBuy will start the game with 1,000 Koku, the currency used in Shogun 2. With this starting cash, players will be able to get a head start with the ability to purchase new buildings, train new units and upgrade their towns.
As for other pre-orders, it appears that at most UK online retailers (Play.com, Game and HMV among them) pre-ordering will grab you the Limited Edition version of the game for the same price as the standard edition, and will provide The Battle of Nagashino scenario, The Hattori clan as a playable faction, special armour for the player's avatar and instant access to one upgrade from the start. Play.com state that 'The Shogun 2: Total War - Limited Edition is available as a pre-order incentive only, it will not be available after launch'.
If any of these pre-order bonuses take your fancy, you'd best go drop in an order before the game's launch on March 15th.
At 9.40 this morning, one of my geisha entered the quarters of rebel general Homma Katsunaga. By 9.43 Katsunaga was hanging from a rafter by a lute string, and I was one mouse-click away from ruling all sixty provinces of Sengoku-era Japan. A fun festive season of Samurai slaughter was drawing to a close, leaving me one satisfied, surprised and slightly fearful gamer.
Fearful? After a couple of happy weeks with the TBS/RTS hybrid that catapulted Creative Assembly into the big time, the idea of a sequel seems both splendid and scary. There's no question that Total War: Shogun 2 will be prettier than its progenitor, and offer far more extensive multiplay options. What remains to be seen is whether ten years of Total War feature-creep will end-up enhancing Shogun's single-player side or suffocating it.
It's easy to forget just how sylph-like Shogun was in comparison to the games that it sired. There's no naval dimension, no research, no retinues, no missions, no artillery, and no history-twisting super-units (though Korean grenadiers arrived promptly via the add-on). What's remarkable is that you're unlikely to find yourself yearning for any of these omissions while playing. Their absence may actually make for a more focussed, fluid and enjoyable campaign experience.
Shogun's strategic AI certainly has characteristics I'm hoping to see in the sequel. Though reluctant to strike the first blow and slow to band together against mutual threats, computer-controlled factions are pleasingly plausible once riled. Often a rival daimyo will vacate a province rather than attempt to hold it with an understrength army. When they do finally come, invasion forces tend to be large and multifarious. There's none of that fending off mosquito-sized raiding parties for turn after tiresome turn.
My positive memories of Shogun's battlefield AI were, I now realise, a tad rose-tinted, but even in this area, I think the old soldier has something worth passing on to its handsome replacement. As in later instalments there are times when opposing armies seem utterly clueless. You'll witness foes dithering under missile fire, squandering their leaders, and spectacularly failing to exploit topography. What they are however are unpredictable in their ineptitude. At times they come like lambs to the slaughter and at others stubbornly refuse to leave the heights or woodland they've chosen (?) to occupy. Morale feels more fragile, complacency more dangerous on a Shogun killing field.
The rather clumsy reinforcement mechanism keeps you on your toes too. Several times during the last fortnight I've been waiting for a hard-won victory screen to display, when suddenly another batch of enemies has appeared from nowhere and the desperate struggle has begun anew. By the time the real final curtain falls battlefields are often amazingly corpsey. There's an epic feel to some of the engagements that you just don't find in the more recent TWs.
Of course the less said about the awful castle assaults the better. If you choose to storm a citadel rather than starve the defenders out over the course of several turns (one turn = one season) then usually you'll find yourself facing a garrison whose idea of defence is to stand patiently in an open gateway awaiting death-by-arrow-shower. Battles for fortifications may have been weak in Empire but they were infinitely superior to the pointless pantomimes in Shogun.
Retreat code is another shortcoming that nostalgia may have scrubbed from your memory. In their eagerness to leave the field routing troops will happily elbow their way through packs of katana-wielding opponents. It's beyond silly.
Aspects of Shogun's AI might not have stood the test of time, but its theme shines as brightly now as it ever did. Picking up the game ten years on, the world of samurai and shinobi, ashigaru and arquesbusiers, daimyo and dojos still feels fantastically fresh and alluring. Hardly surprising when, with the odd exception, so few games have explored it since. While in later TWs there's sometimes the feeling that the setting is chafing with the mechanics, in Shogun the marriage is almost Zen-like in its perfection. From the self-contained sea-hemmed map, to the obliging history with its warring clans and dash of gunpowder and Christianity, everything seems tailor-made to suit a game that blends turn-based empire building with real-time battles. It's hard to imagine CA ever finding a more natural fit for their approach.
Another advantage of the feudal Japanese setting is most of us know sod-all about it. I pray Creative Assembly never get round to that WW2 or WW1 game they've hinted at. If they do they're going to be crucified for every underarmoured Panzer and overstrength Balkan state. In the perverse world of historical strategy the more your fans know about your chosen theme the more grief you get over historical gaffs and design compromises.
Part-and-parcel of the pleasure of a recent Total War title is dropping the camera into the midst of a skirmish to savour every stunning uniform and savage sabre slash. Such close-quarters ogling is impossible in the crude spritey world of Shogun, but the game does a fine job of communicating theme and flavour through other devices. I'd forgotten just how ace the agent vids were for example. Watching ninjas skewer and slice there way through sleeping encampments and paper-walled palaces, is a delight. The menu screen with its silhouetted soldiery, flapping battle standards, and distant strongholds is similarly splendid. And then there's Jeff van Dyck's wonderful music. After a few days' play it's impossible to look at a Shogun screenshot without hearing thunderous drums, trilling flutes and clashing cymbals sounding in the distance. He might not have had a full Taiko ensemble at his disposal back in 1999, but it hardly seemed to matter.
So, Shogun: a tough act to follow, but not so flawless the idea of a remake is appalling. If the lads and lasses from Sussex can just hone that AI and resist the sort of showy embellishments that confuse combat and bog-down decision-making, they are surely onto a winner. Let's hope they've been reading their Basho:
Do not forget the plum,
in the thicket.
Oct 19, 2010
Ever since there have been Total War games, there have been Total War modders. As soon as the Creative Assembly release a new Total War game, an army of enthusiasts pounce, retexturing units, overhauling the AI and crafting new campaigns. We've sifted through the hundreds of Total War mods out there and found ten of the best. These mods give us whole new areas of history to explore, fantasy worlds to conquer and challenging new campaigns to play. From Rome through to Napoleon: Total War, we've got you covered.
1. Rome: Europa Barbarorum
Fans of historical accuracy will be delighted with Europa Barbarorum, easily the most well researched of the mods on this list. Five new factions have been added to diversify the barbarian forces, and all of the vanilla factions have been rigorously reworked to bring them closer to what modern scholars know of the era. This is an essential download for history buffs, or for anyone looking to get a more detailed and challenging experience from their copy of Rome: Total War.
2. Rome: SPQR
SPQR is another realism mod that offers a different experience to Europa Barborum's intensely researched overhaul. There are new units and hundreds of balance tweaks to the core game, but the most important changes have been made to the battles. Reduced upkeep costs mean that there are more armies on the campaign map and more troops on the battlefield. Warriors break far less often and some units, like the Spartans will fittingly never flee, preferring death to dishonour. The rewards are greater should you manage to outmanoeuvre the enemy as well, with added damage bonuses for flank attacks. Rome's battles are bigger, brainier and more brutal with SPQR installed.
3. Rome: Roma Surrectum
Roma Surrectum is a great mod for anyone who loves playing as the Romans. It adds four new factions and 35 new Roman legions, supported by a detailed new recruitment system that will only let you train certain warriors in certain regions, adding an extra layer of strategy to army management. The new models and textures give every legion a unique look and the campaign map has been tweaked to accommodate the new forces. Check out the video below for footage of the new Romans in action.
4. Medieval 2: Broken Crescent 2.0
This remarkable mod moves Medieval 2 to the Middle East. It's an extensive and incredibly polished package that introduces 30 new factions and over 250 new units, with expert reskins from the team's dedicated pair of artists. Religion has been overhauled to reflect the tensions in the region at the time, and leaders can now gain specific titles based on their experience and the lands they've captured. On top of all this, the area of recruitment system added by the most recent release adds even more strategic depth to an already excellent campaign.
5. Medieval 2: The Third Age
It was only a matter of time before someone realised that the Total War format would be perfect for a Lord of the Rings conversion. The Third Age is the result, a lovingly crafted mod that brings Middle Earth to Medieval 2. Every race is represented in the twelve new factions, including Orcs, High Elves, Dwarves and the forces of Mordor. The fantastic new skins and models provide a detailed take on Tolkien's fantasy universe, with designs heavily inspired by the films. Even now, the mod's creators are working hard on creating new campaign to bring the story of the Fellowship of the Ring to your copy of Medieval 2. Not convinced? Here's the trailer. It has Oliphants in it!
6. Medieval 2: Lands to Conquer
If you're tired of the Medieval 2 campaign, check out the alternatives provided by Lands to Conquer. The early, high and late era custom campaigns offer varying experiences from the short, action packed expansionist feel of the early campaign to the long, settled, diplomatic style of the late era. Lands to Conquer also makes a few general changes, incorporating a few aspects of other mods to improve battle AI and slow down the pace of empire expansion to a more realistic rate.
7. Empire: Darthmod Ultimate Commander
Many grizzled Total War veterans have fallen to Darthmod's cunning AI over the years. There's been an edition of Dathmod for almost every iteration of Total War, but Ultimate Commander for Empire: Total War is the best, bundling Dathmod's traditional swathe of AI updates and difficulty tweaks with a series of smaller mods that improve almost every aspect of the game. Most notable of these submods is the excellent Blood and Smoke update, which does a brilliant job of making Empire's gorgeous battles even more brutal and satisfying.
8. Empire: The American Revolution
The American Revolution doesn't exactly revolutionise Empire, but it certainly expands it, adding four new campaigns, new units and beautiful, carefully researched new skins and uniforms for many of the existing units in the game. It's an ideal mod for Empire players looking for a bigger and better version of the original game, who don't particularly relish the crushing difficulty of Darthmod. The 24-bit skins are another fantastic addition if you have the machine to support them.
9. Empire: Period Music Mod
Empire requires you to spend an ungodly number of hours on the campaign map, and it's only a matter of time before the eternally looping music begins to grate. Avoid a slow descent into psychosis with the Period Music Mod, which adds 50 period accurate pieces to the mix. It's a quick and easy install process so you'll plotting massacres to the jaunty sounds of Mozart in no time.
10. Napoleon: All In One
Napoleon: Total War has been out for less than a year, but the Total War modding community has already released hundreds of mods, tweaks and additions for the game. There are almost too many, which is why the super helpful Napoleon: All In One mod is so useful. It incorporates over 50 mods into one big package. Most of the updates focus on retexturing many units to help differentiate them on the battlefield and, where possible, bring them more closely in line with their historical counterparts. More sweeping changes include an increase in unit size to ensure even bigger battles and some alterations to unit AI that should see them stay in a fight for longer. Have a look at the trailer below for an overview of the changes.
That's just ten of the hundreds of mods out there for the Total War series. If these ten aren't enough then you'll find many, many more over at the excellent Total War Centre.