Total War sets sail

Secretly in development for over a year, the next installment of the Total War franchise is set to release sometime in 2008. It’s our great pleasure here at GamesRadar to reveal to you now, Empire: Total War in all its full naval combat glory.

As these first screenshots suggest, Empire: Total War is set in the maritime heyday of the 18th century and the height of the British Empire. There has been no confirmation of specific factions, but the campaign map is set to spread across the seas from the naval powerhouses of Europe to the hitherto untapped riches in India and the Americas, in what Creative Assembly are calling the biggest and best Total War ever. Series veterans will realise that's no small boast to make.

True naval combat hasn't been seen in Total War before. Previous attempts have essentially been tacked-on affairs of exclusively computer calculated combat - possibly entirely random (not that we're bitter). It was a necessary faucet of trading and defence, profitable at first but little more than an unfulfilling sap on your finances once you actually started warring.

Now that's all a distant memory, and the flat blue seascape has been transformed to be every bit as detailed as the rest of the terrain, with extreme weather events to match. Naval encounters are expected to play out in glorious fashion, using cannon fire to sink enemy fleets outright or tactically crippling them before switching to control your crew and boarding to score a cargo. We've been pining for a chance to obliterate the Spanish Armada for ages.

Purists need not fear - landlocked conflict will also return in all its glory, with all a range of as yet undisclosed tweaks. But whether by land or sea, it's going to be a tactically different animal - Empire will be the most advanced era of Total War to date - trebuchets are out, muskets and explosives are in. And we’re pretty sure they didn't have Kevlar back then.

GR's bet is that pirates will make an appearance as naval rebels. Keep an eye out for which way the wind blows.


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