Why Total War: PHARAOH Is a Fresh Trip to Ancient Egypt

For over 20 years, the Total War franchise has been a leader in the world of turn-based strategy, real-time tactics, and resource management video games. Total War has taken fans around the world and throughout time with games like Shogun: Total War, Rome: Total War, and A Total War SAGA: TROY, and to other universes in games like Total War: WARHAMMER and its two sequels. Now, Creative Assembly Sofia is taking fans to ancient Egypt with Total War:PHARAOH and we’re here to break down the biggest reasons why it’s a trip RTS fans won’t want to miss.

Total War: PHARAOH releases on October 11, 2023, on PC, and the game takes place during the 12th century BC as Egypt and other great civilisations face the looming threat of the Bronze Age Collapse. The reign of Pharaoh Merneptah is near its end, and the people of Egypt are crying out for a new leader that will guide them to prosperity. That is where you come in, you’ll need to step up and become Egypt’s last great Pharaoh.

A Tale of Three Regions and Eight Powerful Leaders

Total War: PHARAOH is so much more than just Egypt, as it contains three playable geographic areas in its kingdom – Egypt in the south, Canaan in the mid-east, and Central Anatolia in the north. These regions are home to the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Hittites, respectively, and one of your choices is to choose where to begin your conquest to claim the throne. There are eight playable faction leaders between each region, and each of them has their own distinct playstyle that make them feel as unique as they are powerful. Egypt has Ramesses, Seti, Amenmesse, and Tausret; Hatti has Suppiluliuma and Kurunta; and Canaan has Bay and Irsu.

Ramesses, aka The Paragon, is a great choice for new players as he progresses quickly, has flexibility for many different playstyles, and has a ton of resources at his disposal. Seti, The Brute, is a great choice for those who love to overwhelm their opponents in battle. He excels with players who want to attack quick and expand fast. Oh, and he has very little interest in diplomatic resolutions.

Amenmesse, The Gilded, is the richest of the leaders. His starting area is one of relative safety, but he is susceptible to frequent Libu invasions and rebellions as having that much wealth can cause you to relax a bit more than you should. However, this could be a very powerful leader for those with the right mindset. Tausret, The Strategist, is ideal for those with a defensive mindset. She has powerful economic and regional synergies, early access to the great Nile river, and more. Be careful, however, as failures under her watch tend to cascade into bigger ones.

Suppiluliuma is The Defender and takes a measured approach to war. He may be in battle on multiple fronts a lot of the time, but he knows how to keep his enemies at bay and win the day in the end. He isn’t the best economist, however, so that’s an area you’ll need to watch out for. Kurunta is The Usurper and, as his name suggests, will take victory in any way he can, be it sabotage, assassination, or more. While he isn’t one to charge into battle or face an enemy head on, he is hard to match when working in the shadows and winning a war outside the battlefield.

Bay, The Schemer, excels in the court of law and winning battles without shedding any blood. He is the master of intrigues and court politics. His words are mightier than the many swords of another’s army. As you may imagine, he doesn’t do as well when that sword has to go in his hand.

Irsu, The Ravager, thrives off the spoils of his defeated foes. His life is one of sacking and plundering and he and his people have little need for lavish kingdoms. His weakness is when the battles stop, so be sure to keep his war going until there is no one left.

No matter which leader you choose, your battles will take you to “barren deserts, mountainous crags, the bountiful banks of the Nile, and lush oases,” and the prosperity and well-being of your people lies solely in your hands.

Becoming Pharaoh Is Only the Beginning

While becoming a great Pharaoh or great King is the main goal of Total War: PHARAOH, it is hardly the end. Once you outmaneuver, outwit, or overpower your enemies and take the throne, you will be able to rule over the land and even adorn your character with regalia worthy of your title. This is just one part of Power of the Crown, as each set offers its own unique set of bonuses.

However, don’t think just because you reached the top of the mountain and are wearing fancy clothes, that you’ll live happily ever after. Your claim to the throne may be challenged during your campaign and these claims may even lead to civil war. It will be up to you to deal with these usurpers through diplomacy or destruction, otherwise you may find yourself out of a job.

The Pillars of Civilisation is the gameplay mechanic that represents the threat of the Bronze Age Collapse. While the world may start as one that is thriving and beautiful, things will change no matter how great of a ruler you are. However, you can hold off the tides of fate by making great choices, including protecting and developing cult centres, powerful cities that are dedicated to different deities that must be conquered to be acquired. Choosing to focus on, protect, and develop those cities may have a hand in holding off the inevitable.

Speaking of deities, there will be 19 different gods that players can choose to worship, and up to three can be worshiped at a time. Each god has their own benefit and bonuses, so be sure to find the ones that match your playstyle. Gods have three tiers of worship, and you can build shrines and temples to them to increase your favour with them. If you choose to ignore the gods and their cities, you may see civilisation fall into disarray and bad things will continue to happen. However, the fall of your great civilization is not solely dependent on whether you choose to worship these gods or not, as there are many more factors that factor into the trajectory of your rule, including how you handle politics, war, your people, and more.

If you fail to give your people the kingdom they deserve and the collapse begins to take form, natural disasters will happen more frequently, nomads and Sea People factions will invade with greater force than before, and more. Following that period of darkness, the world will finally fall into collapse and “instability throughout the region will reach its peak.”

Make the right choices, though, and you will keep your kingdom happy and healthy. This will allow you to partake in the Ancient Legacy mechanic, which lets you incorporate the great deeds of past rulers into your campaign. For example, you can follow in the footsteps of Pharaoh Khufu from the fourth dynasty and build the breathtaking pyramids as a shining reminder of your power.

Players can also rule the courts and gain powerful and useful buffs and abilities by spending their time outside the battlefield. However, don’t let your guard down, as any number of politicians could be plotting your demise at any moment. Each faction has a unique way to interact with the courts, and you can appoint your own people to fill its ranks.

Glorious Victories on the Battlefield Have Never Felt or Looked Better

The Total War franchise has been perfecting the art of war for decades, and all those lessons have been fed into Total War: PHARAOH alongside some new ideas that even franchise veterans can look forward to exploring.

The Dynamic Weather system provides a series of effects that not only look and sound realistic, but also influence the outcomes of the battles. Weather can change during a battle, so you’ll have to monitor one more thing as the warfare continues.

For example, storms will lower missile units’ effectiveness and stop fires from starting. Sandstorms will lower visibility, movement speed, fatigue replenishment, and, sadly for these warriors once again, missile units’ effectiveness.

Total War: PHARAOH will also have the Dynamic Terrain seen in past games, which provides bonuses or penalties to units depending on where they are. Weather adds another layer to this, however, as parts of the map may become muddy after a storm or mud may dry up when the weather is sweltering.

Players will also need to think about their unit’s stances, as this could change the course of battle if properly attended to. The Advance stance is meant for when you are on the offensive and want to push the enemy to the brink of defeat without the option of retreat. The Hold stance will tell your soldiers to hold their position and formation, no matter the cost. Lastly, the Give Ground stance will tell your soldiers to slowly move back for a strategic retreat while still facing the enemy to avoid any deadly surprises.

The team at Creative Assembly Sofia has worked hard to elevate Total War: PHARAOH’s animation system to make all units feel more true-to-life than ever before, in and out of combat. There will also be armor degradation to add to the feeling of immersion.

Your Great Egyptian Journey Awaits in Total War: PHARAOH

Total War: PHARAOH aims to be the defining game in the genre and one that can be replayed for years and years to come. Check out our Total War: PHARAOH hands-on preview, in which we were surprised by how much we were enjoying ourselves.

Total War: Pharaoh is taking shape as an almost overwhelmingly rich campaign experience with a couple little twists that even keep the familiar-looking battles interesting. I look forward to seeing how far I can push my legacy, and if I can hold back the oncoming tides of doom, this October.

As a reminder, Total War: PHARAOH releases October 11, 2023, on PC, and there are three editions to consider when purchasing. The standard edition gets you Total War: PHARAOH, while the Deluxe Edition gets you Faction Pack DLC 1 and the game’s digital soundtrack. If you want to go all in on your Egyptian journey, the Dynasty Edition will net you everything from the Deluxe Edition plus Faction Pack DLC 2, Faction Pack DLC 3, and Campaign Pack DLC.

For more, check out our in-depth Total War: PHARAOH gameplay preview that features our thoughts after a 50-turn demo, deep dives into the Eqyptian and Canaanite factions, and a flyover of the official campaign map of the game.

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Author: jon Burgess