I have always been a long time fan of the Total War series and I have most of the games in the series. With time becoming harder and harder to find as I have gotten older this is the one series that really has dropped by the wayside, which I do fully regret. For this reason, I was a bit excited to sit down for a chat with Joshua Williams, whose title is Developer Communications with Creative Assembly and he was there to demo Total War Arena for me. Once I finally found my way into the interview room, and believe me that was not an easy process, I was sat down and became very familiar very quickly with why the Total War series has been such an inspiring game and the leader in historical settings for a very long time.
What I realised in that first few minutes of Josh talking to me about Total War Arena was that he was as mad about history as any person I had ever met before. The passion that Josh talked about historical events inspired me and the pride that he showed in stating facts, that were clearly in his head and not just jumping off fact sheets, made me want to play Total War Arena even more. See if Josh has this passion I bet that many others at Creative Assembly have this passion and if they didn’t I can guarantee that after working with Josh for five minutes they would. This is obviously the culture that has been developed at Creative Assembly and it clearly shows in the games they create.
Total War Arena, if you didn’t already know, is the battle sequences in any Total War game without the conquest part of the game. Total War Arena is also multiplayer and team-based so you will be working with real people on the battlefield and fighting against real people. This style of a Total War game is just what I need to pull me back into the series, with fast past battles I can get in and out when I have time and not worry about having to dedicate tens of hours to get through a campaign. Total War Arena sees massive 10 vs 10 battles where each player controls three units with up to one hundred warriors in each unit. Players will choose between three factions, currently 10 commanders and nine maps when they drop into a game.
If you are worried that the depth has been stripped out of the game with it only being about the battles then think again. Each commander and faction have their own very unique play style so you really can play the game how you most enjoy. Josh walked us through a battle, selected I think because he was awarded MVP, but in this battle he showed how being aggressive with certain units is great fun and the way they should be used but the game can be really rewarding for those players that just want to scout the map to help their team better choose encounters. The progression system itself for each commander is massive, as you would expect in a Total War game and it is all linked to player rank. Players rank different unit types by the experience they receive in battles which are tied to how well you perform. Josh explained to me how you can kill zero units at the end of a match and still receive MVP or a pile of experience just by scouting and protecting areas from attack. They really do want to encourage teamwork and playing to your style.
As I mentioned at the top of the article Josh knows his history and he further proved this by showing us the detail you can read in units and commanders profiles. Josh wrote a lot of these bios but where most games would put a few sentences in to give some back story to a unit Josh showed us paragraphs of written lore about the units and characters in the game. I have never more believed that if you wanted to learn something about history then this is a great place to start. Even to the point where most people would be happy with what the masses believed the history was for a unit, Josh explained how they did extra research and found that these thoughts were incorrect and they would hunt down the real story and put it in the game. There seriously was no half measures when getting the historical facts right for this game.
The game is free to play, this becomes obvious when you realise that Sega and Creative Assembly have teamed up with Wargaming to bring this game to life. With the game in closed beta at the moment things can and will change but at this stage, the main way that you can spend money in Total War Arena is through bundles of premium units and cosmetics and premium time. Premium time as usually will give you better experience from battles and more currency in battles. The premium units, Josh explained how they didn’t want these to be more powerful units just different and unique units. The example he showed was that the Romans weren’t really known for there archers so they aren’t part of the faction units but there is a premium unit that is based around the Germanic Scouts who used bows giving the Roman faction a little bit more flexibility in battle. I really do believe that with all the trouble around microtransaction that Wargaming has been doing it for almost the longest and are one of the best at it so you shouldn’t ever feel like you wasted your money or were forced to do it with them involved.
Josh was an absolute delight to talk to at PAX Australia, he truly was a guy you could have listened to for hours on how things really were back when the Romans were in power. This I believe wholeheartedly is the reason Total War games and Creative Assembly games have been so successful for so long. I honestly just want them to make Total War games based on every era and every fantasy world. As I said too if time is as hard to find as it is for me and you miss playing around with RTS games or Total War games then this free to play title might just be the one that you jump on into. If you are worried about the depth, as it might be too much, the game feeds you different abilities as you go and by the time you have unlocked everything you will know exactly how to use all those toys. Also, the matchmaking will not throw you against seasoned professionals so you will be fine to jump into the game. I am really keen to find the time to jump in and give the game a go at release or beforehand if I can and can’t wait to give you more details on it once I do.