The Total War Series

The Total War series is, in my opinion, a truly epic series of games, one of those that is hugely worthy of note. 2010 marks the series' existence as a decade, and with its seventh game having been confirmed to be in development earlier this year, I thought i would give you an insight into this incredible series.

Total War is unique amongst the Real-time strategy genre, in that you don't advance through a pre-set campaign with a few pre-set objectives, you don't simply control a small army of individual soldiers, or maybe groups, rather, you control vast hordes of customisable soldiers, thousands of men, all ready for warfare under your supreme command. And, rather than a pre-set campaign, you are given the chance to create a huge empire the way you see fit, with no vision of winning or losing, only conquest, and the freedom to do as you wish throughout the entire game. The idea in Total War is that you are in control of one faction, and you must lead that faction to glory (or annihilation if you feel like it).

Our story begins in 2000, when the first of the Total War series was released. Shogun Total War was introduced to the world as a game which added a new dimension to RTS games - freedom.
Shogun TW is set in Feudal Japan from the mid 15th century to the late 16th. This was the first time such a game had been released, so naturally, there was immediate interest and it became a success.

In the Grand Campaign, the Player is given the choice between controlling one of the seven Japanese Daimyos (leaders) which were warring for control of the Islands at the time. These were: Hōjō, Imagawa, Uesugi, Mori, Shimazu, Oda and Takeda. The factions all had an identical unit roster, but each was the more skilled in particular areas, for example, Uesugi recruits archers far cheaper than the others. The Campaign map is split into a large number of provinces. Each faction holds a certain number of provinces to start, and several are held by the rebel faction - allied to nobody and at war with all.
This is an image of a small section of the map, with armies and territory borders:
500full shogun total war screenshot

Each territory allows construction of different buildings, for example, land cultivation for farming and income increase, dojos for warrior training and a few can build mines for extra income. Only one building could be constructed at any one time in each province, and each took a certain number of seasons to complete.

The Field of Battle, again, is handled uniquely. Before it begins, you have the option of deploying your force into a better formation or more appropriate for the terrain. The player may then start the battle. Soldiers are split into large units, up to 120 strong. To attack, the player simply selects his units, more than one if he so wishes and orders them to pile into the enemy. Archers attack in the same way, only they hang behind rather than moving forward. There is a rock-paper-scissors system of strength in combat - cavalry easily defeats archers, archers defeat spearmen and spearmen defeat cavalry. Later on, it becomes more complicated as stronger units, such as when Swordsmen and Naginata are introduced.
This shows a small section of a Hōjō army, formed into wedge formations.
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The Battlefield does require a certain amount of skill, i.e., simply charging your men headlong into combat won't get you anywhere, if you try it, you will probably be outmanoeuvred, surrounded and slaughtered. Sometimes, when a unit is exhausted or outfought, they will break and flee. they will make for the closest field edge as fast as they can. occasionally they will regroup, but not often. The general is an integral part of your force - if he is killed, your units are more likely to break.

The campaign isn't the only way to slaughter people wholesale, there are two other modes, all present in every game in the series. These are: historical battles - refighting some of history's greatest scraps - (such as the 4th Kawanakajima in shogun), and there is custom battles. This involves creating your own force from scratch with effectively no limits in terms of cost and power. You can then face it off against a foe you have also created and face them off against each other.

Shogun was an immediate success, so much so that an expansion to the game came out in 2001 - Mongol invasion. This featured a new playable faction - the Mongols - and covered their two invasions of Japan. It introduced new sides to the game - such as horse archers and explosives.

This introduction to the TW games didn't stop at Shogun - in 2002, Medieval TW was released. This covered Medieval warfare in Europe from the late 11th century to the late 15th.
This game was built upon the same engine as Shogun, however it had several improvements. First of all, it had a more detailed campaign map, and a total of 12 playable factions, including England, France, Spain and the Italians. Also, fleets had been introduced, so units could move between different landmasses for the first time.

This is a section of the new Medieval map, showing one of the later stages.
MTW map

Another new feature was put into the game - sieges. Here the objective was to smash through the outer walls and slaughter everyone inside - nice and simple, and it added an ability to destroy buildings to the game.

This is an image from a siege in MTW, showing little difference between it and Shogun.
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Apart from this and the unit rosters, Medieval TW was little different from Shogun, however it still topped the British Gaming Charts upon release.
In 2003, an Expansion was released - Viking Invasion. This allowed the player to play as 3 new factions in the standard campaign, or to play in the new Viking campaign, featuring eight new factions on a scaled-up map of Britain.

In 2004, however, the true advancement to the series succeeded MTW. Rome Total War was released and took a 95% positive reception upon release. Rome discarded the old Shogun game engine and used brand new one, which featured detailed, 3-d soldiers for the first time, and unique unit rosters for each faction. Ancient warfare in a new dimension had been introduced. The Campaign map had been fully animated with detailed animated army counters. Generals could now recruit mercenaries from the surrounding territory so the player could strengthen his armies on the move.

This is a small section of the new Rome map:
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The battle mode had also been heavily improved on. These are a few screenshots from the new battlefield mode:
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As you can see, the number of soldiers available in an army had been dramatically increased, from a max. of 120 in a unit to 240. Also, there was now a larger limit to the number of soldiers on the field. This number reached well over 30,000 (a damn sight more than age of empires). There was now also, for the first time army rosters unique to the factions, for example, the 4 Roman factions had units such as Hastati, Triarii and of course the legendary Legionnaires. The Gauls, Germans and Britons had varied and unique barbarian units such as fanatics, chariots and chosen warriors. And the eastern factions, like the seleucids and armenians had even stranger armies - elephants, scythed chariots and horse archers.
Artillery was introduced as well, from ballistae and catapults to massive onagers. One of the strangest units to be introduced were incendiary war pigs - set on fire once they reached the enemy line.

The trend with the TW games was to create an expansion, so with Rome it was Barbarian Invasion, released in 2005. This covers the period of war after the height of the Roman Empire, when barbarians attacked from all sides and the dark ages set in. The Map from Rome TW was unchanged but the the new Roman world was. The Roman empire is split in two - east and west, new barbarians - the Huns, the Goths, the Sassanids, the Saxons and the Franks beset the Empire from all sides.
These are a few screenshots from the drastically changed late Roman World:
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As expected, the expansion was a hit amongst consumers.
Rome, however was to take one last turn before moving on.

In 2006, the Second and final expansion in the Rome trilogy was released. this took the game to the time before the Roman Empire existed. The new expansion was Alexander - the Macedonian Empire. This featured a new map heading further east than in the previous two games - bordering India. Unfortunately, only one faction was playable in the campaign - Macedon. (the others could be played by changing the files). This campaign covers the expansion of Alexander the Great further East than any other European had gone. Only three other factions were present: the Persians, the Indians and the Barbarian Dahae.
It was a small expansion, but still popular with the gaming community.
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Rome Total War had finished its legacy, but a new Game, bigger than RTW was to be released.

In Late 2006, the direct sequel to 2002's Medieval TW was released. This was the biggest full game yet - Medieval II Total War. This fully updated the MTW game system. A huge number of factions were available - 21 in total, 17 of which are playable. These include England, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Egypt, Turks, Milan, Venice, Sicily and Russia.
Battles were similar in look and control to RTW, but far more options were available. A new feature was added to the Campaign - Crusades. The Pope could commission a Crusade against any given settlement and the player was given the option of taking that place for the honour of Christendom. This would lead to several advantages in the eyes of the pope and the people. A similar feature was added to the Muslim factions - that of a Jihad, but instead the player could commission them at will. Armies engaged on a Crusade or Jihad were free of costs and took strong mercenaries at a cheap price.
M2TW was similar to MTW in that similar factions, i.e. England and France, had similar unit rosters, however it was very different in that all factions had their own unique units. Sicily had Norman Knights, Milan had noble Famiglia Ducale and England had retinue longbowmen - all highly unique to their faction.
Here is a few images from the new M2TW battlemap:
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The expansion to Medieval 2 TW was far bigger than the previous 4 expansions put together. The expansion to M2 was Kingdoms released in 2007. This features no less than 4 new campaigns, on new maps, and on a brand new continent.
The first campaign was Americas. This is the story of the discovery of Central America by Hernàn Cortes, and the resistance to it by the natives. The playable factions to this campaign are New Spain, The Aztec Empire, the Mayans, the Tlaxcalans, the Tarascans, the Chichimec tribes and the Apache. two other factions, New France and the English Colonies, show up at a later date but are minor compared to new spain.
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King Americas2

The second campaign is Britannia. This covers the internal war for supremacy within the British Isles. Five factions are playable: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Norway. A sixth faction, the Baron's Alliance is also present but grows as a serious threat to the English kingdom. Heroes are introduced to this campaign, which are King Brian O'Neill of Ireland, King Haakon of Norway, King Llewellyn of Wales, William Wallace of Scotland and Edward the 1st of England. These are accompanied by large armies, and are highly powerful.
Medieval II Kingdoms expansion pack PCScreenshots8131King Britannia4

The third Campaign in Kingdoms is that of the Crusades. This covers the war for the Holy Land starting from the late 12th century. 5 factions are playable: Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, Turks, Egypt and the Byzantine Empire. Heroes are also present, but this time with special abilities. Richard the Lionheart and Saladin are available as two of the 5 legendary figures, ready to lead your forces against the vile infidel.
King Crusades3

The fourth campaign is the Teutonic Campaign, aka the Northern Crusades. This follows the war fought in the area around the Baltic Sea. The Teutonic Order is available to play against the Pagan Lithuanians. Poland, Denmark and Novgorod are also present to play as. The Teutonic order is special in that it has no family tree, rather a chain of command comprising the different generals.
medieval ii total war kingdoms241838

In early March 2009, the 5th game in the series was released. The new game added yet more dimensions to the already highly extensive series.
This new game was Empire Total War. Empire took the time period from the medieval period to the start of the 18th century. The focus in this game is far different to that in all the others in that the main weapon of your armies is no longer the sword but the gun. Guns have taken over from the archaic sword and shield, and the tactics you applied to your forces as a Roman and medieval general no longer applies to your early modern armies. Artillery is now much more deadly than it was in Medieval and Medieval 2. And, of course, the campaign map is larger than ever before, stretching across 5 continents. The number of factions is too large to list, it includes over 50 factions both minor and major.
But the other major feature from Empire is that warfare had now been brought to the sea. Real-time naval battles could now be fought just like on land. Fleets of up to 20 ships could now battle against each other in a bid to control the now far more important theatre of war that is the sea.
scrn4 - the total war series

UP Holland Guard med

EmpireTotalWar E3 screenshot 6 med

True to the TW legacy, Empire had an expansion in late 2009. The Warpath campaign introduced 5 Native American factions to be played in the grand campaign. Iroquois, Huron, Plains, Pueblo and Cherokee became available to the player to try and eradicate the settlers from their land.
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The Sixth game was released in February 2010. Napoleon Total War was similar to Empire in many respects. Three theatres of the Napoleonic wars are available to play in - Italy, Egypt and Europe.
It is little different to Empire, save the new unit rosters and the time period, and the fact the factions list has been largely reduced from Empire.
NapoleonTW Online announcement 19082009 01 med

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napoleon total war french vs british

True to form, Napoleon had an expansion, despite a small one, the Peninsular campaign featured the war fought on the Spanish Peninsular. This area of the war allows the player to take command of Britain, France or Spain.

The Seventh game was announced to be in production at E3 2010. on June 2, a full preview of the new game was released. Fully a decade after the father of the series was released, Shogun 2 Total War promises to be as grand a game as its predecessors.
This video and these screenshots show a pre-release view of the game.
Note: the video and last bit of this article won't show up in slideshow form, so you'll have to expand the article if you want to see it.
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More info concerning the game will be posted here when appropriate.

Not bad for an afternoon's work.

For further reference please go to

All questions are welcome and will be answered.
I hope you enjoyed this insight. Cheers.

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  • 3

    I Agree.
    The Total War Series is excellent.
    I have owned every Total War game.
    Im also going to tell you try downloading mods for the game.
    They add alot of fun.
    Like mods to make the map bigger, or adding new units.
    An in the Third Age mod, it changes the game to Lord of The Rings.
    With trolls, gondorians, orcs, etc.
    I will buy any game that Total War releases, no questions asked, thats how much i love these games.

  • 2

    Got all of them except the shogun ones, which don't really coincide with my areas of interest in history. Rome and Med.2 are the best so far IMO, I have Empire, but it pissed me off with its glitches.

    Most annoying glitch was the time halfway through a game when a French fleet enters my main home port of Bristol, I kick it out from the port and it goes into a tiny space of the sea up the Bristol channel from the port, where it re-blockades Bristol, and cant be reached by my ships cos the port is blocking. So my income goes down to next to nothing and theres nothing I can do about it :(.

    • Ruleb
    • June 22, 2010, 3:03 am
  • 2

    ya, mods make the game great

  • 2

    In Shogun 2, they're bringing back those pre-battle insulting speeches they did in Rome. =)
    They're also making it less politics-based, like empire was, and more about the workings of the Daimyo's family. And, naval battles are going to be in real time, the first time they've done so before the 18th century.

  • 2

    i got teh Empire, but my computer was quite poor, but i still really enjoy playing rome and im keeping my eye out for Medievel 2 :p

  • 2

    The only reason I upgraded my comp was for Total War.

  • 2

    in england there was a history game show that used rome total war as its main program like 5 years ago it was pretty badass i still play it now

  • 2

    Time Commanders. I've still got an episode of that videoed somewhere. It was very good.

  • 2

    hahahaha yeahh they took it very serious lol

  • 2

    Game looks awesome, i'm downloading it as I post this comment haha :P

  • 2

    We remember playing the first couple Total War games, they were very fun but too complicated and we always lost... But still fun!

    • Dawn
    • July 12, 2010, 10:15 am
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