In the gaming world, few titles stir as much anticipation as a new entry in the "Total War" series. "Total War: Pharaoh," Creative Assembly's latest offering, transports players back to the Bronze Age, an era marked by the zenith of Egypt's power and the looming Great Collapse. This game represents a significant shift in the series, combining the classic real-time battles of Total War with a more 4X-like campaign, brimming with fresh mechanics and challenging gameplay.
The Setting and Gameplay
"Total War: Pharaoh" is set in a vividly detailed world map that evokes ancient hieroglyphs and long-forgotten tablets. The game starts brightly, with colors representing the Nile Delta in Egypt and the mountainous regions of Asia Minor, which gradually darken as the Bronze Age Collapse progresses. This visual storytelling adds a layer of depth and immersion, making players feel like beacons of hope in an era of turmoil.
Players can choose from eight leaders across three cultures: Egyptians, Canaanites, and Hittites, each with unique abilities and campaign strategies. The game provides a wealth of freedom, allowing for numerous customizable options and new mechanics, which make the campaign more dynamic than previous Total War titles. However, these innovations come with a learning curve and could feel overwhelming, even for veterans of the series.
Unique Features and Mechanics
One standout feature is the Ancient Legacy system, where players can follow the paths of historical leaders like Thutmose, Khufu, and Hatshepsut, each offering different strategic benefits. The game also introduces a new court system, somewhat akin to "Crusader Kings 3," where players engage in political intrigue and increase their plot power through various schemes.
Religion plays a significant role, with 19 deities across the Egyptian, Canaanite, and Hittite pantheons, each providing unique buffs. This adds an interesting strategic layer, as players must decide which gods to worship based on their campaign style and objectives.
Combat and Challenges
Combat in "Total War: Pharaoh" remains familiar yet distinct. The game is grounded in historical realism, focusing on melee infantry like clubmen, axemen, swordsmen, and spearmen, along with slingers, archers, and charioteers. However, battles lack the fantastical elements of previous Total War games, requiring a strategic shift for players used to more heroic, larger-than-life generals.
A major challenge in the game is the constant threat of the Sea Peoples, who invade and raze settlements. This mechanic, while historically accurate, can feel repetitive and frustrating, as their attacks are unpredictable and can't be negotiated with. This aspect, combined with the need to manage internal rebellions and other hostile factions, adds a layer of complexity to the game.
Technical Performance and Criticisms
On the technical front, "Total War: Pharaoh" performs well, with smooth frame rates on high-end systems. However, the game is not without flaws. The court intrigue system, while initially impressive, lacks depth and can become tedious. Additionally, there are minor UI bugs and issues with certain in-game powers, which may affect the gameplay experience.
"Total War: Pharaoh" is a bold step forward for the series, offering a rich tapestry of new mechanics and a deep, engaging campaign set in a fascinating historical period. While it excels in many areas, it is also rough around the edges, with some mechanics needing further refinement. Despite its challenges, the game is a worthy addition to the Total War franchise, offering a unique and immersive experience for both series veterans and newcomers alike.