Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Get ready for an epic adventure with Total War: Pharaoh! Creative director Todor Nikolov and battle designer Hristo Enev share insights on campaign customization, thrilling gameplay features, and more in this exclusive interview with Game Rant

Creative Assembly recently announced the newest addition to the Total War franchise, Total War: Pharaoh. This eagerly awaited game will transport players back to the Bronze Age of Egypt and present them with the challenge of keeping the country together. With the introduction of new features, such as dynamic weather, slower combat, and unit weight, even experienced players will need to stay alert to succeed. Game Rant had the opportunity to play through three battle scenarios and then interview creative director Todor Nikolov and battle designer Hristo Enev to gain insight into the new features and the inspiration behind this unique setting. The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The game is centered around Ancient Egypt, making it the first Total War game to do so. What sets it apart is its focus on the late Bronze Age, specifically the collapse of Ancient Egypt during that time. This also means that players will have the opportunity to explore the different civilizations and cultures that interacted with Egypt, including the Canaanites and the Hittite Empire. Players can choose to play as an Egyptian faction or as a faction belonging to another culture.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Our aim is to transport players into the stable world of the late Bronze Age, a time when international relations had reached an unprecedented level of stability. Empires of that time formed a club of great powers, with membership reserved for significant countries. They traded with each other, exchanged gifts and diplomatic messages, and waged proxy wars through smaller client states. However, this all came undone during the Bronze Age collapse, a process shrouded in mystery. While we know that various factors such as the dissipation of trading networks and internal strife contributed to the collapse, much about the process remains unknown.

During this time, Egypt experienced several civil wars in a short span of time, making it an intriguing subject to explore. However, due to the lack of detailed information about the events and characters involved, it was a challenge to recreate the historical context accurately. Despite this, we know that the civilization eventually dissipated, leading to a two-century-long period of darkness before the emergence of classical civilizations, such as the ancient Greeks. The Bronze Age, which encompasses this period, is a fascinating era that boasts of sophisticated cultures, and we are glad to represent it in our video game.

In order to focus on a different aspect of Egyptian history, we chose to explore the New Kingdom period, which was characterized by the dominance of the Egyptians who were not of Greek descent. During this time, Egypt had become a powerful empire with a highly organized military that aggressively expanded its territory through expeditions in Asia and the lands of Nubian Kush. Our aim was to showcase this majestic civilization at its peak during the long reign of Rameses the Second, who ruled for an impressive 67 to 70 years.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Egypt's decline began after the rule of Rameses II, and the collapse of the kingdom only accelerated from there. It's possible that Egypt may not have survived at all if it weren't for Rameses III, the last warrior Pharaoh, who managed to keep the kingdom together and repel invading sea peoples. However, despite his efforts, Egypt never fully recovered and never again reached the same level of power and influence it once held during the New Kingdom. While this time was the greatest moment in Egyptian history, it was also one of the most dangerous as the kingdom was at risk of being wiped out.

Nikolov expressed frustration at not being able to include all of the Egyptian gods in the game, particularly in the campaign portion. He explained that creating a game set in the Bronze Age comes with limitations in terms of accurately representing the time period. For example, there are no cavalry or artillery units, so chariots were used as mobile units for players to chase and charge enemies. To compensate for these restrictions, the team focused on other features such as dynamic weather in battles.

Our army boasts a wide range of units to suit various battle scenarios. As Todor mentioned, we have chariots that serve as fast flanking or skirmish units. We diversified them since, historically, wars were mainly fought with infantry units. Speaking of which, we have different types of infantry units based on their weapons. The spear and shield unit is our primary defensive infantry, while the two-handed axe unit is the swift and offensive counterpart. For a balanced approach, we have the sword unit, which can adapt to various situations.

Our range weapons are also diverse. We have the short-range, yet powerful javelins, and the Nubian longbow, which is a long-range unit. Though not as powerful as the javelin, it can still hold its own in battle. Lastly, we have the average-damage bow, which serves as a middle ground option.

Unit stances are an interesting addition to the game, providing more depth to battles and allowing for different play styles with infantry units. There are three base unit stances, each with its own set of upgrades that can be acquired during a campaign or already available for some units. The first stance is the advance stance, which instructs your units to move forward in a specific direction and push back any enemies they engage with. The success of this depends on the weight of the units involved, with heavier units having an advantage over lighter ones. The second stance is the give ground stance, which allows your units to move backwards while still facing forward and fighting. This is useful for protecting units with shields from ranged attacks or setting up traps for enemy units.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

The addition of a dynamic weather system in the game is intriguing. The demo showcased thunderstorms and sandstorms, leaving me curious about how often they occur and the extent to which they affect gameplay. However, I am wary of features like this that may detract from gameplay and become frustrating. It can be disheartening to have a clear vision of your strategy only to have it ruined by a sudden change in weather. Can you shed some light on how often this happens and the impact it has on the game?

Enev clarifies that he cannot give a specific percentage on the occurrence of dynamic weather in battles. In previous Total War campaigns, players had the option to wait for more favorable weather conditions before launching an attack. He also points out that while dynamic weather can disrupt a strategy, it can also create new opportunities. For instance, certain units excel in fighting during a sandstorm, making it advantageous to wait for one before commencing battle.

With the implementation of dynamic weather, players are required to adapt to changing situations in the game. The dynamic weather system not only creates new opportunities but also poses new challenges. For instance, if your army consists mainly of archers and a sandstorm or heavy rain occurs, your strategy of shooting arrows from a distance may not be as effective. However, since weather changes can be anticipated, you can take advantage of the situation by advancing towards the enemy before the weather changes and unleashing your firepower. On the other hand, if the enemy has a lot of archers, it may be wise to wait for more favorable weather conditions that will penalize their archers. By doing so, your chances of winning the battle will significantly increase.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Our goal was to recreate the classic Total War feeling where battles require less micromanagement and fewer decisions carry more weight. We wanted to slow down the combat and make exhaustion matter, so players can focus on the bigger picture of the battle instead of worrying about timing precise abilities. Whether other Total War games will replicate this approach remains to be seen, but we hope players will enjoy the new strategical aspect.

When engaging in battles in Pharaoh, it's crucial to assess the battlefield and take into account various factors such as the terrain, weather conditions, and army composition. For instance, if there's a sandstorm, it could persist throughout the battle, making it difficult to execute certain tactics. By considering all of these elements, you can develop a strategy that's tailored to the specific battle you're facing. As a longtime Total War player, I find that battles can often be won with a single decisive maneuver, such as a well-timed chariot charge on an unprotected flank, which can trigger a chain reaction throughout the enemy's units.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

We have also implemented mass combat animations for all units involved in a battle, enhancing the overall experience of large scale battles. However, this has resulted in a slower pace due to the added complexity of these animations. As for specifics, we are constantly striving to improve the battle mechanics and provide players with a more immersive and customizable experience.

Nikolov: Yes, so one of the one of the things that the player can do with our campaign is to become Pharaoh of Egypt, because the game is called Pharaoh.

Q: Makes sense

As a claimant, you'll need to establish enough legitimacy to be recognized as a contender for the crown of the Pharaoh. Overcoming other claimants is the next challenge, offering additional gameplay options that will be discussed in detail later during the campaign. This quest for power is essential to surviving the Bronze Age collapse, which slowly unfolds around you. The Hittite Empire, represented in the game, has their own equivalent of the Pharaoh called the Great King. This presents the exciting possibility of ruling over both of these great empires as a single faction.

Unleashing the Power of Customization in Total War: Pharaoh

Nikolov was asked if there was something he was eager to share that nobody has ever asked him before, considering the number of recurring questions he receives. He mentioned that while there are some frequently asked questions, there are also some unique ones that he hasn't been asked yet. He paused to think and mentioned that he couldn't recall anything in particular that he hasn't shared before.

Noted. Here is the rewritten fragment:

One aspect that was overlooked in questioning was the campaign customization options that allow players to tailor their gameplay experience. We wanted to create a sandbox environment, both in and outside of the campaign, so we've included various options for players to adjust their game to their liking. This includes tweaking income, AI behavior, and balance, among other features. We will provide more details on these options in the future, but I am excited about the level of customization they offer.

In terms of my favorite feature, I have to say it's the customizable bodyguards that can significantly impact battles. Similar to previous Total War games, we have accessories that can be equipped to your character, bodyguard or general. However, what sets us apart is that it actually changes the unit itself. For instance, if you equip your bodyguard with a spear, he will wield it both in the campaign map and during battles. We provide a range of weapons, from swords to khopesh, as well as three types of shields and even the option of equipping a bowl or chariot. All these options create a unique combination that results in varied units.

Nikolov: There's a lot of flexibility in that.


Total War: Pharaoh will be available for PC in October 2023.