Total war

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Total war
Total War logo.png
developer United KingdomUnited Kingdom The Creative Assembly
Publisher United StatesUnited States Electronic Arts (2000-2001) Activision (2002-2004) Sega (since 2005)
United StatesUnited States
First title Shogun: Total War (2000)
Last title Total War Saga: Troy (2020)
Platform (s) Windows , Mac OS , Linux
Genre (s) Strategy game

Total War (English for ' Total War ') is a computer strategy game series developed by the British game development team Creative Assembly . The first title, Shogun: Total War , was released in 2000. The twelfth and so far last part, Total War: Three Kingdoms , was released on May 23, 2019. In addition to the main series, there has also been a saga series since 2018 , its second and so far last part Total War Saga: Troy was released on August 13, 2020.

The special thing about Total War titles is the combination of turn-based empire administration with real-time tactical battles. The main event takes place on a map called a world map with a more or less extensive scope depending on the title. There the player manages his territory, his armies and the diplomacy . If two warring armies meet in times of war, a battle begins, which the player can fight in real time.

The Total War series has received consistently good reviews so far. The sales figures also increased with each new part. Total War: Rome 2 has been the most successful so far with around 1.1 million copies sold.


Total war games essentially consist of two elements. The framework forms the turn-based and strategically oriented mode in which the player manages his empire and his troops. This mode takes place on a map, the so-called world map . This map is broken down into several regions called provinces . These provinces are under the control of different factions at the start of the game. One of these factions is controlled by the player. The goal of the game is usually to develop your own faction into a great power. For this purpose, the player has diplomatic and economic, but primarily military means at his disposal. The relationship between these elements varied over the course of the series. While the military aspect is clearly in the foreground in the early parts, areas such as domestic politics, diplomacy and economic development have become increasingly important in the newer parts.

The second game mode consists of battles that take place in real time. The change to this battle mode occurs when two warring armies meet on the campaign map. Then the player takes command of his own army and leads it against the enemy troops.

In the historical series parts, the factions, uniforms and weapons of the soldiers are mostly based on those of their real models. The starting position at the beginning of a campaign is also roughly based on the real situation. In the course of a campaign, however, a course that is completely independent of the real historical development develops, depending on the decisions and moves of the individual factions.

Strategy part

Provinces are administered on an overview map, orders are given to troops, and strategic units are used (including for the operation of diplomacy).

Since Rome: Total War , the overview map is also shown in three dimensions. In addition, the developers rejected the risk principle, in which the units move exactly one province in a round, regardless of how big the province is. For unit movement, a principle similar to civilization is used, in which each army has movement points available depending on its composition, which receive a movement penalty, for example, due to deteriorated ground conditions or bad weather.

The overview map is based on the scenario, which is different for each part of the series. On the map, the land and (in the first two games) sea areas of the scenario are divided into provinces or areas. In each of these provinces there is a city (in some parts several cities) whose values ​​represent this province. In these buildings and facilities can be built on the one hand to improve the values ​​of the city, and on the other hand troops and strategic units can be raised.

Depending on the series part, agents can be used for diplomacy (diplomats), spying (spies), opposing personalities or agents ( assassins ) or other actions.

The troops can be used for warfare by moving freely on the strategy map. They can be grouped into armies to make organization easier for the player. As soon as an army meets an enemy army, you can choose whether to fight the enemy or to withdraw your own troops. The fight can then either be calculated automatically or carried out by the player on a three-dimensional map (see tactics part). The situation in the tactics part corresponds to that of the strategy part (number and types of troops, terrain, climatic conditions).

Tactics part

In a three-dimensional environment, battles are fought between two or more factions. Each faction leads one or more armies into the field, each of which can consist of up to 20 units. The latter can range from a few to several hundred soldiers. A complete army can thus consist of several thousand soldiers, each of which is displayed and calculated individually.

Orders can be given to the individual units. This includes movement and attack commands as well as formation and behavioral instructions. The latter can affect both the direct combat power and the morale of the units, which is an important factor in these tactical battles.

The opponent is defeated when there are either no more enemy troops on the tactic card or when all troops still on it flee. You can also win a battle by expiring the time quota, which can be set in the settings beforehand. Furthermore, depending on the series part, there are also other ways to win a battle.


The Total War series so far consists of 13 games that are set in different historical epochs. Expansion packs were released for each game after it was released. One or two add-ons were released per game for early titles . Since Empire , expansions have mostly been offered as small, downloadable packages, also known as DLCs . Taken individually, these are usually much smaller than extensions, but appear at shorter intervals.

logo title publication Engine Windows Mac OS Linux Extensions
Shogun Total War Logo.png Shogun: Total War 2000 TW Engine 1 Yes No No The Mongol invasion
Medieval Total War-Logo.png Medieval: Total War 2002 Yes No No Viking invasion
Rome Total War-Logo.gif Rome: Total War 2004 TW Engine 2 Yes Yes No Barbarian invasion of
Medieval 2 Total War-Logo.png Medieval 2: Total War 2006 Yes Yes Yes Kingdoms
Logo Empire Total War.svg Empire: Total War 2009 Warscape 32-bit Yes Yes Yes The Warpath Campaign, four smaller DLCs
Napoleon: Total War 2010 Yes Yes No The Spanish campaign, four smaller DLCs
Shogun2-tw-logo.svg Total War: Shogun 2 2011 Yes Yes Yes Rise of the Samurai, four smaller DLCs
Fall of the Samurai
Total War Rome 2.png Total War: Rome II 2013 Yes Yes No Caesar in Gallien, Hannibal ante Portas, Emperor Edition, Wrath of Sparta, Empire Divided, various other DLCs
- Total War: Attila 2015 Yes Yes Yes The Last Roman, Age of Charlemagne, six more DLCs
- Total War: Warhammer 2016 Warscape 64-bit Yes Yes Yes The Grim and the Grave, The King and the Warlord, eleven other DLCs
- Total War: Warhammer II 2017 Yes Yes Yes Blood for the Blood God II, the kingdoms of mortals follow Mortal Empires, more
- Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia 2018 Warscape 32-bit Yes Yes Yes
- Total War: Three Kingdoms 2019 Warscape 64-bit Yes Yes Yes Yellow Turban Rebellion
- Total War Saga: Troy 2020 Warscape 64-bit Yes No No

There are also three offshoots that are thematically related to the series, but deviate from the overall game principle. Spartan: Total Warrior was released in 2005 and is an action game with a mythological background. Total War Battles: Shogun was released in 2012 and is designed as a turn-based strategy game for mobile devices. With Total War Battles: Kingdom , a free-to-play game was also released in 2016 .

With Total War: Arena , an online game developed together with was planned, which was to concentrate on real-time battles. However, development was discontinued in 2019 during the beta phase .

The games in detail

Shogun: Total War

Shogun logo

Shogun: Total War is the first Total War title. It was released for Windows in the summer of 2000. The game deals with the era of feudal Japan.

It laid the foundations for the Total War series on which all titles have been based so far. Shogun has a strategic part in which the player manages his empire and a tactical part in which the player leads his troops in battles. Both parts are rudimentary compared to later parts. For example, diplomatic opportunities are limited to a minimum.

Medieval: Total War

Medieval logo

Shogun's successor appeared in 2002 under the title Medieval: Total War . This game is set in the Middle Ages and is set in Europe and North Africa.

The basic principle and the technology were only slightly changed. The exploration and use of sea routes has been introduced. As the gameplay takes place around the Mediterranean Sea, the newly added military fleets and sea invasions play a central role.

Rome: Total War

Logo of Rome

Rome: Total War is the third Total War title. It was released for Windows in September 2004 and is based on a new engine . The game is set in antiquity and deals with the epoch from the collapse of the Alexander empire to the principate under Augustus . The focus is on three Roman families, the Julier , the Scipionen (meaning: Cornelier ) and the Bruti (meaning: Junier ), who are struggling to rule the growing Roman Empire.

A major innovation compared to its predecessors is the ability to move your troops freely on the campaign map instead of being tied to provinces. Furthermore, a new graphics engine was developed with which three-dimensional models are used for the troops in real-time battles.

Medieval 2: Total War

Logo of Medieval II

Medieval 2: Total War is the fourth title in the series, released for Windows in November 2006. The game is thematically a new edition of the earlier Medieval: Total War , but is based on the engine of Rome: Total War. The game principle was revised, among other things, in diplomacy, the system of unit recruitment and siege battles. It deals with the period of the High and Late Middle Ages . The theaters of war are Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and parts of America.

Empire: Total War

Empire logo

Empire: Total War is the fifth Total War title. It was released for Windows in March 2009 and for Mac OS in September 2012. The game is set in the age of colonialism.

With Empire numerous innovations were introduced in the game series, which were retained in subsequent titles. Warscape was developed as a new engine , which has been optimized for simulating fights with firearms. In terms of play, the possibilities of the Reich administration were greatly expanded. Another innovation is that a campaign is used to tell a story, the American struggle for independence . The game story extends to Europe, North Africa, West and Southeast Asia and America.

Napoleon: Total War

Napoleon: Total War is the sixth part of the game series. It was released for Windows by Sega in late February 2010. It was later ported to Mac OS. Chronologically, it takes place against the background of the rise of France to European hegemonic power under Napoleon Bonaparte .

In terms of game mechanics and technology, it is based on the predecessor Empire , even if some components, such as domestic politics, have been simplified. Like Empire , the game includes a linear campaign that makes up the main part of the game. This takes place during the coalition wars in Europe and Napoleon's Egyptian campaign in North Africa.

Total War: Shogun 2

Logo of Shogun II

Total War: Shogun II is the seventh installment in the Total War series, which was released worldwide on March 15, 2011 for Windows and on July 31 for Mac OS. Shogun II is designed as the successor to Shogun: Total War and, like this, treats the time of feudal Japan.

The multiplayer mode has been revised for Shogun II . The player can design his own character and then join a faction on the campaign map. The character receives various bonuses through successes in the game. In terms of play, the special construction of Japanese fortresses has made battles for castles both more important and more extensive.

Total War: Rome II

Logo of Rome II

Total War: Rome II is the eighth installment in the series. It was released on September 3, 2013 for Windows and Mac OS. As the title suggests, the game is conceived as a new edition of Rome: Total War and therefore deals with the same era.

Technically, the game relies on a modified version of the Warscape engine, which has been improved especially for close combat. There are also some innovations in terms of play. The user interface , which has remained largely constant since the Shogun, has been restructured. The map structure, the administration of one's own empire and the military leadership have also been thoroughly revised in some cases.

Total War: Attila

Total War: Attila is the ninth installment in the series. It was published for Windows and Mac OS on February 17, 2015. Attila deals with the era of the Great Migration and the invasion of the Huns in Europe.

In addition to the new scenario, the game offers several new functions compared to Rome II , such as the family tree, which was already included in previous titles. Furthermore, the graphics and the artificial intelligence have been revised.

Total War: Warhammer

Total War: Warhammer is the tenth game in the series and the first part that is set in a fantasy scenario. It is the first part of a trilogy set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy . The game was released on May 24, 2016 for Microsoft Windows and on November 22, 2016 by Feral Interactive for Linux and macOS.

Total War: Warhammer II

Total War: Warhammer II is the eleventh game in the series and the second part of the Warhammer Fantasy scenario. The game was released on September 28, 2017 for Microsoft Windows.

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

Main article: Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is the first installment in the Saga series and was released in May 2018 for Microsoft Windows and macOS. This takes place in the year 878 in the British Isles. He deals with the conflicts between the various British empires and the incursion of the Great Pagan Army after the death of Ragnar Lodbrok . Playable are u. a. the Anglo-Saxons , Welsh , Gael and Vikings . Technically, the game is based on Total War: Attila.

Similar to Napoleon: Total War, the new saga series will focus on relatively short historical periods.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Main article: Total War: Three Kingdoms

On May 23, 2019 Total War: Three Kingdoms , the twelfth part of the main series, was published. It is set in ancient China during the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms .

Total War Saga: Troy

Main article: Total War Saga: Troy

On August 13, 2020, Total War Saga: Troy was the next saga offshoot. The game is slated to be sold exclusively in the Epic Games Store for a year and was available for free on the first day. It is set against the backdrop of the mythological Trojan War .

Development history

Basic concept

Development of the first Total War game began in the late 1990s when Creative Assembly formed a group to develop a new product with low financial risk. Until then, the studio had specialized in developing sports games for Electronic Arts . Inspired by the success of the strategy title Command & Conquer at the time , the group, led by former microchip developer Michael Simpson , began work on such a title.

After several concepts that, according to Simpson, lacked something special, the appearance of the first 3D-capable graphics cards gave rise to the plan to display real-time battles in three-dimensional environments and thus make strategy games more accessible to the masses. As the development of the skirmish mode progressed, the team noticed that the individual battles were relatively short and unrelated. Then the idea arose to integrate the tactical battles into a larger strategy part.

Historical component

All Total War games, with the exception of Total War: Warhammer, are set in historical scenarios. So far, these have been epochs that were particularly fought over, such as civil wars, the collapse of old empires or major campaigns of conquest. These conflicts are viewed from different perspectives, giving the player a choice of which faction to take over. When it comes to running one's own empire, it has comparatively great freedom. The connection to historical events in the course of the game itself is quite low in all titles. In addition to the selection of troops, the starting conditions are primarily based on historical events. At the beginning this primarily comprised the territorial expansion of the factions, later initial hostilities, wars and rivalries were also implemented.

To ensure historical accuracy, Creative Assembly often worked with historians, in the case of Shogun, for example, with the Japanese scientist Stephen Turnbull . However, some titles contain obvious errors and inaccuracies. According to the developer Al Bickham, authenticity has priority over historical correctness.

Artificial intelligence

The artificial intelligence , also abbreviated as KI, consists of two components. One is responsible for what happens on the campaign map and is designed for strategic action, while the second specializes in tactical combat.

Several profiles have been developed for Shogun's strategic AI that define its main settings, such as whether it should be expansion-oriented or trade-oriented. Each parliamentary group is assigned a profile. This means that the behavior of the individual factions differs. This principle persisted in later games such as Rome and Medieval . In the first titles, a separate AI was responsible for maintaining diplomatic relations. With Rome II this subdivision was abolished, as this system tended to make barely comprehensible decisions in negotiations.

The tactical AI is based on attack and defense patterns, some of which were derived from the book The Art of War by Sunzi . This principle was also developed for Shogun: Total War and, according to a press release, was still used eleven years later in Shogun 2 .

Artificial intelligence soon became one of the central points of criticism from testers and gamers. Computer gamers suffered from profound weaknesses, especially in siege battles. According to the designer James Russell, the team responsible for developing the AI ​​has grown significantly over time and has continuously improved it. The developer Michael Simpson commented on the reasons for the difficulties after the release of Empire , which suffered from particularly large problems with the AI. The goal of largely avoiding movements that have already been determined in advance is a development hurdle. The AI ​​should behave as dynamically as possible and use tactics that would also work in reality. Realizing this would involve a great deal of effort.

Graphics and sound

In the real-time battles of the Total War games, it is not uncommon for several thousand soldiers to be on the battlefield. To avoid stuttering or to make the game playable at all, sprites are used extensively . In the first two parts, soldiers were represented exclusively by such two-dimensional graphics. From Rome onwards , troops that are in sight are calculated using three-dimensional models. Sprites are used for units further away.

Basically, the graphics were further developed with each title. The first major overhaul of the graphics engine came with Rome: Total War . In addition to the extensive use of three-dimensional models, the maps for the battles were calculated dynamically from the environment for the first time. This means that the geographical conditions of the battlefields were no longer created in advance by the developers, but are calculated using the geography of the world map.

The next major revisions came with Empire: Total War. For this game, the particle effects that were required for the realistic representation of musket and cannon fire have been significantly refined. Furthermore, the water physics has been greatly improved, as this part is the first time that real-time battles can be carried out at sea.


title GameRankings Metacritic
Shogun: Total War 87.14% 84/100
Medieval: Total War 88.49% 88/100
Rome: Total War 91.75% 92/100
Medieval 2: Total War 87.18% 88/100
Empire: Total War 88.87% 90/100
Napoleon: Total War 81.71% 81/100
Total War: Shogun 2 89.42% 90/100
Total War: Rome II 76.67% 76/100
Total War: Attila 79.17% 80/100
Total War: Warhammer k. A. 86/100
Total War: Warhammer II k. A. 87/100
Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia k. A. 75/100
Total War: Three Kingdoms k. A. 85/100

The reception of the Total War games has always been positive so far. Rome: Total War received the best reviews . This was the only title that was able to achieve meta ratings, average ratings calculated from the ratings of selected magazines, above 90%.

When released, Shogun received good reviews from various magazines. However, they criticized the limited diplomacy options in the strategy part, problems with the camera work and the raster graphics used by the soldiers. The website Metacritic calculated a meta rating of 84 out of 100 points.

Medieval was praised by the trade press like its predecessor. Testers praised the strategic diversity and the realism of the 3D battles. Metacritic calculated a slightly higher meta-rating than its predecessor with 88 points.

Rome received exceptionally high ratings. Metacritic calculated 92 out of 100 points, so far the highest meta-rating of a total war title. Testers praised almost every aspect of the game, such as the large number of troops and factions or the high technical quality.

Also Medieval II received positive reviews. Magazines essentially praised the points that had already been praised in the previous version. The game has a very large scope and is complex and demanding. The sound and graphics remained at a similarly high level.

The reception of Empire was initially positive. Testers particularly praised the number of factions and units as well as the size of the campaign map. According to the testers, the title set new standards in both, both in the area of ​​the Total War series and in the area of ​​strategy games in general. However, shortly after the release, voices increased that the game was released in an unfinished state and therefore contained numerous programming errors .

Napoleon was positively received by the specialist press, but received slightly weaker ratings than Empire . Two frequently mentioned criticisms were minor innovations compared to the predecessor and stability problems that it inherited from Empire .

Shogun II has received much praise from the trade press since it was announced. However, the game has weaknesses in stability, artificial intelligence, especially in tactical battles and in the sometimes very difficult Reich administration.

Rome II received very good reviews from the trade press in preview reports. However, testers and later customers complained that the game had serious technical defects. The game runs even on a high-performance system with interruptions or not at all. In addition, artificial intelligence is not a challenge, as it often acts irrationally and incorrectly.

Attila also achieved high ratings in many test reports. The authors praised the revisions that make the game better all round. In addition, it is comparatively free of errors compared to Rome II .

Web links

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