Total War: Arena Makes The Series More Accessible Without Sacrificing Its Depth

Creative Assembly’s free-to-play Total War: Arena is a marked departure for the real-time strategy series. Unlike other entries, Arena is the first Total War game dedicated exclusively to multiplayer, shifting the focus away from methodical solo campaigns to faster-paced, 10-versus-10 battles against other players.

Despite its multiplayer focus, however, Arena doesn’t abandon the core tenants of the series. The game is still steeped in history, drawing its commanders and battlegrounds from different war-torn time periods. There are three factions in Arena so far–Roman, Greek, and Barbarian–but those won’t be the only ones available in the game; Creative Assembly has plans to introduce new factions and time periods to Arena as it grows. “At the moment we’re focusing on the Roman period,” explained Elliot Lock, the project’s lead battle designer, “but we want to expand that later on.”

Already fans have gotten a peek at some of the new content in store for Arena. Earlier this week, Creative Assembly unveiled a new commander coming soon to the game: Boudica, queen of the Iceni tribe. Boudica is seeking vengeance against the Romans, and her entire play style revolves around her brutality. “Vengeance is her kind of thing, so we’re injecting that and crafting that into her [character] and her abilities on the battlefield so that she’ll ooze that when you play her,” explains Lock. You can watch Boudica’s reveal trailer below.

The shift to multiplayer also hasn’t sacrificed any of the game’s depth. While Arena is more approachable than previous Total War titles, with battles unfolding at a brisker pace than in more traditional installments, players still have plenty of options to delve into when customizing their commanders and factions. Every commander has a talent tree, with each ability branching further out into its own tree. This allows players to tweak every commander to suit their particular play style, and the same commander can play much differently depending upon how players choose to upgrade them.

“We’ve taken control back of a lot of things,” says Lock. “We put a lot of automation in previously because you used to control 40 units, which is a lot. In Arena you control three, but the amount of micro[management] required for each unit is a lot higher.”

“Total War: Arena is the deepest game of all of them in terms of the battle section. The mechanics and all of the crossover between them is far deeper and greater in terms of the knowledge and skill that you have to put down than ever before,” says Lock.

Total War: Arena still doesn’t have a release date, but Creative Assembly is moving toward closed beta and hopes to have more information to announce at Gamescom in August. “We’re not going to release unless we’re ready,” explains Lock. We got a chance to go hands-on with the game earlier this year at a preview event in Taipei. We also talked with Wargaming producer Jose Edgardo Garcia about potentially bringing the game to consoles and how the team is avoiding “pay-to-win” scenarios with the title.

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