Total War: Eras
Total War Is like a time vacuum. You fire it up at 8pm, you shut it down at 4am, bleary-eyed, brain throbbing from a myriad of tactical manoeuvres, political machinations and epic battles. Hours slip away like quicksand as you march across deserts, forests and flatlands, conquering villages, towns, cities and nations. The world becomes reshaped by your every decision and history is rewritten with the blood of your soldiers. Now, six years, three games and four expansion packs after it first tore up the RTS rulebook, Total War is back in one all-encompassing, definitive package for you to own. Question is, is it worth $45? Well, that's what we're about to find out..
In The Beginning
Let's start off with Shogun, the game that began the whole Total War phenomenon. Bound to be rubbish, right? Well, actually no. It's surprising just how well even the original game has stood the test of time. Granted, visually it's a pale reflection of the graphical splendour of Rome, but Shogun's core gameplay still holds its own alongside its illustrious heirs and it's fascinating to see how the core mechanic has developed since those early Total War forays.
If you can get past the creaking visuals and atrocious attempts at siege warfare - march your army through an open door and hope for the best - then you'll still find there's plenty here to enjoy. The same goes for the excellent Mongol Invasion expansion, which places a heavy emphasis on cavalry warfare and provides a fascinating glimpse of what a Mongol/Samurai war could have been like had it ever occurred.
So onto Medieval, which was a huge leap forward for the franchise and massively expanded both the size of the strategic map and the battles. After playing Medieval, you quickly realise that Shogun was little more than a microcosm of this new RTS beast in which you must conquer Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor through a combination of brute force and political guile.
Siege battles also received a makeover on a par with those fat wrinkly women who get pumped with botox and milked through their colon on Channel Five every other day - introducing siege weapons and castle walls without a ready-made opening with a sign reading 'Enemy Armies Enter Here' above it.
In contrast, revisiting Viking Invasion is like taking a step back to Shogun's more concentrated campaign template. Failing to expand on Medieval's scope, it's unlikely that anyone but the most ardent Total War fan will want to linger too long.
All Roads Lead To It
Finally, there's Rome. New era, new engine, revamped strategic map, Rome was and remains the single most impressive RTS spectacle to date. It's also the first Total War game to seriously cater for the mainstream (without compromising itself), thanks to a far more intuitive battle control interface.
Rome's new graphics engine is still the most impressive in its genre, adding a visceral brutality to the series' 3D skirmishes. Rows of realistic-looking troops cut and thrust at their opponents, while cavalry and herds of elephants bulldoze through enemy ranks.
Coupled with the night-time siege battles of Barbarian Invasion - in which Rome's already highly accomplished siege skirmishes are turned into astounding fireworks displays - Rome is a must-have for any self-respecting gamer.
To complete the package, there's the first Total War expansion pack not to carry the word 'invasion', Alexander, which provides one of the most taxing Total War challenges to date. As the great Macedonian leader Alexander The Great, you must conquer the known world in a mere 100 turns, while keeping the legendary commander alive throughout the entire campaign.
So there you have it: six years of Total War history neatly wrapped up in one shiny ebony box. However, if you're a fan of the series, you'll probably already own the majority of these games, in which case it's hard to see this special edition as anything more than a collector's item, a box rammed with gaming history and extras to be set on your mantelpiece and admired like a Da Vinci masterpiece.
The Price Of War
If, however, you've always wondered what all the fuss is about and you're considering buying Rome and its two expansion packs, stop! For just ten quid more you can get your hands on this superb piece of gaming memorabilia, a package saturated with quality and, if you're really up for a challenge, somewhere in the region of 200 hours of gameplay - just 22p an hour. And that, in my book, is about as much of a bargain as you're ever likely to find,
Download Total War: Eras
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP