"The Bronze-Age Collapse is the cataclysmic moment" - Total War: Pharaoh's Todor Nikolov on setting, religion, Victory Points, and more (Exclusive)
Recently, I had an opportunity to preview Total War: Pharaoh’s combat system alongside a colleague. Though the recently announced Total War title is still very much in its earliest phases of development, we tried a few battles. After that, I spoke to the developers of the latest installment in this tactical-strategy franchise.
I spoke to Todor Nikolov, Game Director of Total War: Pharaoh, about the new weather system, the setting, adjustments made to Victory Points, and more. There’s a great deal to be excited about in this upcoming strategy title, and here’s what we learned about it.
Todor Nikolov on the development of Total War: Pharaoh
Q. First, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Seeing the final days of the Bronze Age is a really fascinating pick. What led to that, instead of any of the other war-torn eras of human history?
Todor Nikolov: There are few periods more iconic than Ancient Egypt and the New Kingdom. Its fraught with political intrigue, cataclysmic events, and grand war campaigns, making it the perfect setting for a Total War title.
The idea of immersing players in the turbulent events of the Bronze Age, where they’ll determine the fate of three great cultures as they fight for survival just seemed like the ideal theater to host the game
Q. In Total War: Pharaoh, weather can have a serious, debilitating effect on the battlefield. How frequently can players expect the weather to change in one battle?
Todor Nikolov: We want the dynamic weather system to occur on a realistic basis, so the weather will only change once during the course of a battle. The climate and terrain of each region will govern which weather types will be more likely to occur. For instance, you’re unlikely to fight a battle in the Egyptian dessert whilst it rains or face sandstorms in Anatolia.
Q. Some of these weather effects are pretty intense when it comes to particle effects and visuals. Is this going to ramp up the minimum requirements for PC users when the game drops?
Todor Nikolov: We’re not quite in a position to reveal the system specifications, but you can expect them to fall close to those of previous titles.
Q. The Bronze Age was certainly a time of deep turmoil and societal collapse. Were there any tragic moments or controversial moments in history that are addressed/depicted in the game?
Todor Nikolov: The Bronze-Age Collapse is the overarching cataclysmic moment depicted in our game. Historically, this was a civilization-defining event that ended with the destruction of many of the empires seen within our game.
We can’t dive into it too much but there will be unique moments, such as fighting to fill the power-vacuum left behind in the wake of Pharaoh Merneptah’s death. Will you take the crown or carve your own history?
Q. Another new feature is the fact that armor will deteriorate throughout a battle, making units more and more susceptible to damage. What factors other than being in the thick of battle influences this, and how will players be able to undo this damage post-battle?
Todor Nikolov: The degradation of armor is primarily affected through the course of a battle. Once it is over, the armor will mend itself. However, like previous Total War titles, your units will need to replenish to make their numbers back up.
Armor will be more susceptible to different types of weaponry. For instance, weapons with greater armor-piercing capabilities will be able to destroy it quicker than those without.
Q. One of the best parts of the Total War franchise is political influence and manipulation. With this taking place in North Africa and the surrounding area, there are some excellent possibilities for political meddling. Are there any new features in this department you'd care to reveal?
Todor Nikolov: We’re mainly focusing on battle gameplay at this point in the marketing campaign, but more will be revealed as we move towards launch.
Q. What role will religion play in Total War: Pharaoh? Will it add new effects or rules to a faction?
Todor Nikolov: Our depiction of religion in Total War: Pharoah will be similar to A Total War Saga: Troy, in that dedication to certain gods will provide unique bonuses in battle and campaign gameplay.
We can’t go into too much detail at this point, but we will have a pantheon dedicated to each of the playable cultures. That means that the Egyptians, the Canaanites, and the Hittites will have a unique set of deities for you to worship, each providing unique effects.
Q. One feature that I really thought was interesting were the various Crowns. Each has its own special feature or ability. Are these going to affect battles in any way?
Todor Nikolov: The Pharaoh’s Crown won’t affect battle gameplay, but will instead affect your ability to govern within the campaign layer. A Pharaoh would have a collection of crowns, each representing different aspects of their legitimacy and power, and we wanted to represent that in game. Should you fulfil certain goals, these can be unlocked, granting powers that will allow you to shape Egypt and change the very rules of governorship.
The feature that has the biggest impact on your faction leader in battle is our new Bodyguard system. Through the unlocking of ancillaries, you can customize their playstyle for any given confrontation, allowing you access to a myriad of armor, shields, weapons, and mounts to choose from.
Q. How will siege warfare work in Total War: Pharaoh? Are there any new features or mechanics that players will want to keep an eye on?
Todor Nikolov: Following in the footsteps of previous historical titles, most of our sieges will take place within 360-degree battlegrounds, with some unique layouts reserved for iconic maps such as Mennefer, the capital of Egypt.
In keeping with their historical nature, siege equipment such as ladders, battering rams, and towers will need to be constructed in advance if you’re to threaten settlement walls. Although, the saboteurs amongst you will have the option to sap these in advance of a battle within the campaign layer.
Additionally, we have also reworked the Victory Point system used in previous games. Its purpose is to make siege and minor settlements battles more engaging, strategic, and fun to play by making use of the entirety of the battle space.
These control points also provide some unique bonuses depending on who captures them and is within their zone of influence. For instance, if you’re near the water fountain it will replenish unit stamina, or if you’re near the blacksmith, armor can be repaired.
Total War: Pharaoh will be released on PC in October 2023, though a firm date in that month has not been confirmed yet.