Todor Nikolov, the director of upcoming strategy game Total War: Pharaoh, has explained how Creative Assembly tackled the “challenge” of making units in a historical Total War game feel as diverse as the studio’s fantasy games.
While many fans were introduced to Total War through its historical strategy titles, others have started playing through Creative Assembly’s Total War: Warhammer trilogy, which launched in 2016 and received its final game in 2022.
Due to its fantasy setting, Total War: Warhammer‘s unit diversity has been one of its greatest strengths – players can recruit everything from zombies to dragons to lizardmen. Meanwhile, Total War‘s historical entries stick to realistic units rooted in their respective game’s time period, meaning there’s less choice on paper as players select different variations of human soldiers.
When asked if this meant Creative Assembly had to work harder to make units in its historical games stand out, Todor Nikolov told NME that making a Bronze Age Total War game was “definitely a challenge”.
“A lot of the ordinary military technology that we know of has not yet been invented. People were not riding horses so there was no cavalry. No artillery, no catapults,” he shared. “No dragons, unfortunately, [and] no zombies.”
Total War: Pharaoh. Credit: Creative Assembly.
Instead, the studio settled for an approach that kept Pharaoh feeling grounded in reality, while still leaving room for more interesting units.
“What we’re going for is historical authenticity first of all, which means we’re not trying to accurately represent the events of the time period as they happen,” Nikolov explained. “It makes a lot of sense to go authentic with the late Bronze Age because we don’t know a lot of stuff about that time, as a lot of information has been lost.”
Nikolov added that this approach gives Creative Assembly “a bit more freedom” with unit choice, and points to Pharaoh‘s inclusion of archers with fire arrows. “We don’t have any proof that people in the late Bronze Age were using fire arrows, but we don’t have any proof that they didn’t. It makes sense to have them in the game because it gives way more choice for the player.”
Additionally, Creative Assembly has tried to extend the variety of choices beyond recruitable units. “We’ve added different weather types, changing weather, and terrain that changes according to the weather,” shared Nikolov. “We’re trying to battle what can be perceived as poor unit variety by using different features, so that the overall variety of choice is there.”
Elsewhere in our interview, Nikolov discussed how Pharaoh‘s Egyptian Court feature is a “game within a game”.