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Total War: Pharaoh - Video Review

We've put on our sandals and readied ourselves to be the greatest Pharaoh Egypt has ever seen.

Audio transcription

"Being both an interesting and complex historical period, Ancient Egypt seems like an obvious choice for a Total War game. It's a bit odd that the franchise hasn't yet made the trip to the Nile, but here we are, 23 years in, and Creative Assembly showcases its expertise in creating a historical strategy fitting of the period with Total War Pharaoh."

"As usual, there are two sides of Total War Pharaoh, the first being the overall campaign where you rule your cities, ensure the gods are happy, research new technologies, ensure your population is fed and happy, and do the treaties and trade agreements here and there.
Here the developers have taken the dependency of the seasons into account as well, which is a really nice touch, and even allowed for the building of outposts in the middle of nowhere, a mechanic lifted from the Warhammer version of the Total War series. And honestly, it's a mechanic that is elevated a lot in Total War Pharaoh, to actually have some strategic value as it grants your troops some respite, and allows for the construction of some buildings you might be in dire need of. As the economy isn't just based on money but also raw resources, the management of your finances and general administration isn't to be neglected, and having a love for old city builder games like SimCity doesn't go amiss here."

"Just like most story campaigns in Total War games, Total War Pharaoh has a unique currency that you worry about, in this case it's legitimacy. The overall goal is as always to become the ultimate and sovereign ruler, but there are powers to be unlocked along the way, so it's not only about completing the game, but also about unlocking powerful buffs. The worship of gods follow a similar rule, you can earn some great boons from the deities of Egypt, but you can also have an angry god breathing down your neck all the same."

"For some strange reason, the overlay and entire graphical interface of the campaign map feels a bit chunky and clumsy, but aside from that, Creative Assembly has been proud of the dynamic weather system which can be seen in the battles and the campaign map. In short, happy societies can see boons of nature boosting your economy and food production. On the other hand, when the campaign map becomes darker, natural disasters occur and angry neighbours will invade. It makes it worthwhile to manage your empire a bit more and pay attention to it."

"Then there are the battles. In Total War Pharaoh, the entire battle system has been elevated, and while some changes are more of a quirk, others make much more of an impact. The weather effects are mostly debuffs, but a really skilled general can use the wind in combination with fire arrows to trap and further damage the enemy. This sort of tactical usage of terrain is something that is very hardcore, and honestly, a realism level that requires a lot of attention from the player, but it's also fantastic when it works."

"One of my main gripes with the historical titles has always been the lack of diversity amongst the infantry, but here you get a bigger difference between the different types of weapons you bring to battle. You get more tactical depth than just having heavy troops at the front, archers on an elevated hill and light troops trying to flank your opponent."

"And while there are only a few choices for dealing with shielded and heavily armoured troops, the new armour sundering concept, where armour is broken over time if you just throw enough men at it, works well. In general, you also get to specialise more in a specific playstyle and generally have more options, but beware, some factions offer different kinds of weaponry, so you're not always getting the same tools no matter who you pick."

"Sieges have also been upgraded to a much more contemporary level, and while I was able to cheese my way out as the defender, the new siege mechanics make for much more dynamic and entertaining battles, where some previous titles honestly felt like any other land battle with just a few wars added."

"Overall, Total War Pharaoh is a really nice upgrade almost on all fronts, and the ability to customise your campaign has also been preserved. If they could just update the interface, we'd be swimming. It's worth noting that while we were playing on a review build, there weren't any technical problems other than the game being pretty taxing on our computer, so forget running this on an entry level machine. But otherwise, Total War Pharaoh is one of the best historical titles in the franchise in a long time."

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