Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Total War Woes

Total War has been around for quite a while starting with Shogun in the year 2000 followed by Medieval, Rome, Medieval II, Empire, Shogun II and pretty soon Rome II.  On top of that there are a number of expansions which make up the franchise.  What makes these games special is their unique combination of turn based strategy and real time tactics.  Recently, I've been watching some "let's plays" of Total War games and I noticed a generally low number of views with a lot of lamenting in the comments section about the lack of interest in this long running series.  Well...I hate to say this, but Creative Assembly (the developers) keep doing the baseball of equivalent of swinging three strikes every time they step up to the plate.

Didn't see all of you standing there...twice
Strike one is the artificial intelligence.  Poor path finding during sieges, units which only respond to spam clicking, and boneheaded friendly fire are regrettable hallmarks of Total War.  Worst of all the A.I. always cheats on anything higher than the normal difficulty setting.  You'd think that with all the resources that are dedicated to pretty graphics Creative Assembly could hire a few more code monkeys to improve computer controlled factions.  That's not to say I don't like beautiful battles, but how much time do you really spend zoomed in?  Not all that much I'd wager.  Now, how much time do you spend interacting with the A.I.?  Pretty much all the time.

In Total War games S.P.R.Q. actually stands for
Spacial Perception of Questionable Reliance 
Strike two is the collective long running weaknesses of the strategic layer of Total War.  Schizophrenic diplomacy, a general shortage of common sense, and roving bands of easily defeated single army/naval units don't make for a particularly compelling gaming experiences.  Exacerbating this is the over reliance on classic RTS mechanics for base building and unit recruitment.  Let me put it this way; dark ages France did not muster armies at all like Napoleonic France did.  Yet, in Total War it's more or less the same regardless of time period.  It doesn't help that in-game economics tend to breakdown the longer you play either.

You made me spill my tomato soup
Strike three is all the recycling that goes on.  There are plenty of interesting and largely untapped eras in history that Creative Assembly could be exploring.  For example, instead of rehashing the Sengoku Period again in Shogun II why not let players take a crack at the first Japanese invasion of Korea, the First Sino-Japanese War or maybe even the Russo-Japanese War?  How about the American Civil War or Three Kingdoms China?  Alternatively, ditch historical pretenses all together and make a Lord of the Rings or, better yet, Game of Thrones title.

Creative Assembly gets a lot of flack, but it's because the fans care.  They can see the potential of this series and how it has been squandered.  Granted, the games do slowly improve.  Fall of the Samurai is by far the best game to date, but the benefits of recent refinements have been cancelled out to a degree by crudely handled DLC.  The Blood Pack is fine, but having to pay extra to unlock certain factions and units already in the game undercuts replayability and customization, two of the IP's greatest strengths.  So in conclusion "Step up your game Creative Assembly!"  I know that Total War can be something truly magnificent and you should to.

No comments:

Post a Comment