Total War game series is considered to be one of the greatest game franchises of all time. After almost two decades of ruling the strategy game genre, the Total War franchise goes back to its roots when it comes to setting by publishing Three Kingdoms, which brings the action back to Asia and triggers the nostalgia connected with the first game of the series – Shogun. In this article, we have decided to summarize the series and highlight some of its best titles.
The Total War franchise combines the elements of a real-time strategy game with turn-based nation management. It is one of the most popular and successful grand strategy game series in the world. The game franchise started with Shogun back in 2000, and was followed by multiple other titles, with the most recent being Three Kingdoms as of 2019. The Total War game series is developed for Windows by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega (previous publishers include Electronic Arts and Activision). Feral Interactive helps in the development and distribution of Linux and MacOS versions of the titles.
In the Total War games, the player takes control over one of the multiple nations and tries to conquer all of its rivals by using diplomacy skills and by defeating their forces in the open field battles. There is usually a campaign mode as well as challenging scenarios, but the player can also prepare his own skirmishes, where he can choose the map, weather, as well as any participating units.
The campaign is unique in how it’s played – the gameplay consists of two main parts, first of which takes place on a grand-scale map, usually depicting whole continents, where the player can manage his armies, develop cities, send spies, settle trade routes or declare battles on enemy armies.
The second part is about resolving previously declared battles, where the player can directly control all of his units participating in each specific encounter and command them in real-time battle. During such confrontation, he can manage the formation and unique abilities of his units to outmaneuver the opponent forces. The aspect of the morale of the units is a huge factor in these battles – to defeat the enemy forces it’s not necessary to completely annihilate all of its soldiers, just to discourage them from further resistance. If the unit is flanked or outnumbered, its morale will start to fall and the unit will eventually break – its soldiers will run in fear and won’t pose a threat anymore.
It is worth noting, that it’s possible to quickly resolve battles automatically, but it usually leads to more units lost, as AI is not as efficient in battling as a human player can be. It is useful for skipping easy and boring battles and to increase the pace of the game, however. To win the game, players thus have to smartly move his armies around the map and engage in favorable battles, conquer strategic cities, enter into alliances and make use of his spies in the turn-based part of the game, but he also has to prove himself in the field, commanding units in real time, taking advantage of different terrain types, utilizing own units’ strengths and exploiting gaps in enemies’ defenses.
|SHOGUN: Total War - Collection
|Medieval: Total War - Collection
|Rome: Total War Gold Edition
|Total War: ROME REMASTERED
|Medieval II: Total War Collection
|Total War: EMPIRE – Definitive Edition
|Empire and Napoleon: Total War GOTY
|Total War: NAPOLEON - Definitive Edition
|Total War: Shogun 2 Collection
|Total War: ROME II - Emperor Edition
|Total War: Attila
|Total War: WARHAMMER
|Total War: WARHAMMER II
|Total War: THREE KINGDOMS
|Total War: Saga - Fall of the Samurai
|Total War Master Collection
|Total War: WARHAMMER III
|Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia
|A Total War Saga: TROY
Most of the Total War games are taking place in realistic settings, where the player is given historically accurate units at his disposal, except for the titles that were explicitly meant to be fantasy games – Warhammer and its sequel Warhammer II.
Empire: Total War Collection
Empire: Total War takes the player back to the 18th century, right before the start of the Napoleonic era. The title was unique at the time of its release in several aspects.
The game focused more on gunpowder weaponry than previous titles – until then, most units mainly fought face-to-face using all kinds of blades, spears and other melee weapons. Also for the first time in the franchise, players were able to fight naval battles manually instead of having to resolve them automatically. This added a whole new layer of strategy which needed to be mastered in order to become a successful general. The goal of the campaign, similarly to other titles, is to lead one of the nations to become the world’s most powerful empire.
Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: SHOGUN 2 is a sequel to the first title in the franchise, but it is hard to compare these titles, as the sequel came out 10 years later, and The Creative Assembly took care of delivering an expanded and very polished product which is superior to the original title in almost every aspect.
The player is once again taken to the Japan of the samurai era, specifically to the Sengoku Jidai period. As a leader of one of the playable clans, he has to unite the warring nations and become the new Shogun. This is not an easy task, as with player growing stronger, the current Shogun – along with all other nations – may declare war on him to suppress his aspirations.
The campaign can be played solo as well as online in a co-op mode. The game features a separate multiplayer mode, where the player can customize his army and units’ look, and battle other players to increase the experience of his avatar which allows recruiting more powerful units. During the player’s adventure, he is accompanied by peaceful, traditional Japanese music which only makes the gaming experience even more perfect.
Total War: Attila
|The Last Roman Campaign Pack, Age of Charlemagne Campaign Pack
In Total War: Attila which was released in 2015, the player takes control of one of the playable nations during the Dark Ages in year 395, when the emperor of a Roman Empire, Theodosius I, dies, and the empire is split in half, left to emperor’s two sons.
The campaign focuses on migrating nations such as the Huns led by the legendary Attila himself. Depending on the side the player chooses, his goal is either to conquer or rebuild Rome, but most importantly – to survive. Among the new mechanics in Total War: Atilla, one clearly stands out: the horde. Horde nations start without any settlement but are able to create their own anywhere, except for the Huns. It is also possible to leave the settlement or completely raze it, providing a one-time money injection.
Total War: WARHAMMER II
Total War: Warhammer II is a sequel to Total War: Warhammer which was a kind of an experiment from The Creative Assembly – for the first time in the series, developers took the player to a fantasy world, instead of a historically-inspired one.
Despite the risky move, the game turned out to be a huge success and it was considered a breath of fresh air the series needed. The CA decided to expand the idea, thus creating the sequel in 2017. The game, similarly to the prequel, takes place in a fictional world known from the Warhammer franchise, where might meets magic and steam inventions. The player will command numerous fantasy creatures, like dwarfs, elves, vampires or harpies, also including huge units like carnosaurs.
The game features multiple expansions, both free and paid, which add new units, factions, leaders, a new campaign and even additional blood and gore effects. Total War: Warhammer II was praised for its multiplayer, which by many fans of the Total War games is considered the best in the entire franchise.
Rome: Total War & Total War: Rome II
|2004-09-22 (Rome 1) / 2013-09-03 (Rome 2)
|Barbarian Invasion, Alexander
The list wouldn’t be complete without Rome: Total War, which is considered by many fans of the Total War series to be the best title of the entire franchise, as well as probably the best strategy game of all time, even despite its outdated graphics.
The title itself takes the player to the times of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire and sets the goal of conquering the whole Rome as the leader of one of the great Roman houses. Besides the main campaign, the game also offers few challenging, historical scenarios, like Battle of Gergovia and Battle of Raphia.
Rome: Total War has a huge database of available mods, including the ones that turn the game into modern warfare and change the setting to World War I or implement fantasy units, just like TW: Warhammer did. The title was later revived as Total War: Rome II – generally improved version of the original Rome. Thanks to increasingly powerful smartphones, the game is also available as a mobile version. Rome: Total War got a remastered version in 2021
Medieval II: Total War
|Barbarian Invasion, Alexander
Medieval II: Total War is The Creative Assembly’s second attempt at medieval Europe setting RTS, along with knights, crusades, siege weaponry, castles, and heretics. As one could expect, religion plays a major role in the title.
The Pope can excommunicate those, who don’t answer to a Crusade call, while imams may declare jihad on the infidels. Additionally, players may recruit missionaries to spread their religion to other factions. The title introduced a distinction between castles and cities, with castles focusing on providing a solid defense points allowing to recruit more powerful units, while cities are meant to be foundations of the player’s economy and the main source of income. Players are also able to make vassals – their role is to provide the player with an additional income for an exchange for protection against the invaders.
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS
|Barbarian Invasion, Alexander
Total War: THREE KINGDOMS is the newest Total War strategy game. This newest title focuses on Chinese division era around 200 AD – player’s role is to unify the Chinese people under his banner by defeating two other rivaling warlords and creating an empire.
The game is divided into two playing modes, Romance and Records. In both of them, the player can utilize powerful general units to lead his armies. The main difference is in generals’ strength, which is increased significantly in the Romance mode, making them powerful enough to turn the tide of the battle on their own. Additionally, in Romance mode, generals appear as individual units.
The Total War games offer a wide variety of different world settings, both realistic and fictional, making it easy for everyone to find the one, that’s most interesting to him. Napoleonic naval battles, Japanese samurais, Roman legionaries, dragons – the Total War franchise has it all. Furthermore, the series has a cult following and therefore most games have various mods prepared by their fans. You can, for example, play a Total War game with units and characters known from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings franchises.
Overall, as it was mentioned before, Total War series is considered to be one of the best, if not the best strategy game franchise in the history of video games, with many titles such as Rome: Total War or Total War: Warhammer II being among the best-selling RTS games of all time. A series definitely worth recommending to any type of gamer, not only strategy genre fans.