Total War Battles: Kingdom will soon be able to find you wherever you play games. The free-to-play epic battle-strategy game from Sega’s The Creative Assembly studio will debut across a whole series of platforms, and it is already available on the PC.
The Total War series has been around for 15 years as a strategy game on the PC. It has the distinct design of letting you maneuver your armies on a strategic map and then zooming in on a 3D battlefield when two armies meet in combat. Total War Battles: Kingdom is the 14th title in a series that has spawned rabid fans, who typically play each game for more than 100 hours. The Kingdom title is an attempt to take a hardcore PC game series and make it available in a new, lightweight form that can be played on any digital platform, from the PC to tablets. That may be a way to make it even more of a blockbuster. To date, more than 20 million Total War games and 10 million add-on packs have sold; in 2015, there were 1 million monthly active Total War players.
I think it will be interesting to see how good this game looks and plays on tablets and smartphones. Moore’s law (the doubling of the number of transistors every two years) is making mobile devices as powerful as the computers of a few years ago. This means that PC-only games are migrating to servers and mobile devices without too many trade-offs in the look of the graphics or the speed of the gameplay. You can tell from the screenshots and video that Total War Battles: Kingdom is still a smaller subset of the larger PC games. But it gives players a lot more to enjoy than many mobile games that are popular now — something that should help it stand out in the ultracompetitive mobile-gaming market, which according to market researcher App Annie could hit $34 billion by the end of 2016.
By making Total War Battles: Kingdom, The Creative Assembly is showing it is willing to experiment with different types of games. It is also working on Total War: Arena, a multiplayer game where 10 players square off in multiplayer against another 10. Each player controls just a few units in a larger army in that game. And the developer is also working on Total War: Warhammer, which blends the epic Total War combat to the Warhammer fantasy franchise. Each game has a separate team, and that’s why The Creative Assembly’s staff in England has grown to hundreds of developers.
I got a briefing on Total War Battles: Kingdom with the creators of the game at The Creative Assembly, the real-time strategy game division of Sega. The beta version is already available on the PC, and it is coming soon to tablets, Macs, and smartphones. It’s set in 10th-century medieval England, with changing seasons. In the finished game, you’ll be able to battle with thousands of other players, each with their own kingdoms in a persistent online world.
“Total War Battles: Kingdom is a game for everywhere and everyone,” said Renaud Charpentier, the game’s creative director, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It is completely cross-platform. You will be able to play on PC, Mac, tablet and smartphone, iOS, and Android. We want to make it more accessible and less intimidating.”
Kingdom is a bite-sized version of the larger PC games, such as last year’s Total War: Attila, which I played on my desktop PC for hundreds of hours. The Creative Assembly tested this game concept in 2012 through Total War Battles: Shogun, an iOS, Android, and Windows game. Kingdom is the follow-up to Total War Battles: Shogun, further extending the format of playing quick gaming sessions.
In Total War Battles: Kingdom, you build your realm, creating a kingdom that can produce your armies. You have to build an archery range in order to train archer troops, and so on. Then you explore and conquer other territories around your realm. You can transform a wilderness into a city, cut down forests, create worlds, build bridges, and even change the course of rivers.
You can also fight in battles, though they’re more limited than the larger PC games. In a Kingdom battle, you can have nine units (for a total of 400 soldiers on screen at once) at your command in a battle. When you fight, the units charge into each other, and the better-equipped side will win. While it is possible to simulate more units on the screen at once, Charpentier said it is not so easy to control that many units on a mobile device since battles unfold in real time.
“We tried to remain very faithful to Total War even though it is meant to be played on touchscreens and in short sessions,” Charpentier said. “It’s literally hundreds of 3D-animated soldiers on the screen, and it’s pretty close to what we do on a PC.”
Those can be cavalry, infantry, or archer units. In combat, you have to make the right decision. If you send your cavalry at the enemy’s archers, chances are good you’ll scatter them with a good charge.
The attention to detail is good. Trees in the game are fully simulated. They’re not planted by the artists. Rather, they are simulated on servers. If the conditions are right, the trees will grow in certain areas, close to rivers or on flat lands. The trees then try to propagate themselves and turn into forests. The seasons change, as “England is different from San Francisco,” Charpentier said.
“You more or less play as you want, creating your own kingdom,” he said. “And you figure out how many resources you can extract from your realm.”