We've known that Creative Assembly has been working on a new historical Total War game for a while now, but many had assumed the studio would be returning to a familiar setting. It's been 10 years since Medieval II: Total War. Just saying.
However, during a roundtable discussion on the future of the Total War franchise, brand director Rob Bartholomew told Eurogamer that the team were in fact working on "an era we haven't tackled yet."
This means the next historical game won't be set in feudal Japan, the Roman republic or medieval Europe. Nor will we see a return to the Napoleonic Wars or the fight for American independence.
"Did he? That's interesting of him," added creative director Mike Simpson when pressed for further details on Bartholomew's comment. "Yes, it's a brand new era. It's not something we've done before."
The game's currently in pre-production and we're yet to hear anything regarding a release date.
But, obviously, it's the perfect time to start speculating as to which time period they're looking at. My money's on China during the Three Kingdoms period - think Dynasty Warriors without the romance.
There's plenty more going on at Creative Assembly these days too, with the studio housing at least five separate development teams at present.
Total War: Warhammer has proven incredibly popular with fans and seen plenty of support from CA as a result. Today's announcement that the Wood Elves will be arriving as DLC is the latest in a fairly regular update schedule, including a bunch of paid-for and free content.
"It's certainly the biggest DLC we'll do before the next release," confirmed Bartholomew. "But there's still more things to come. Wood Elves won't quite be the last, but it'll be the biggest."
I played a couple of battles with the Wood Elves earlier this week and continue to be impressed by how distinct each of Total War: Warhammer's races ends up being, both in battle and on the campaign map. This isn't just about introducing a new roster of units, but rather, an entirely new playstyle.
"I think there's a good chance this will become a feature of Total War," said Simpson. "It's perhaps harder to do that in the historical games, but it's not impossible. We've always had faction differences, they've just not been as pronounced as Warhammer allows."
"Almost everyone said this is what they really, really enjoyed about Warhammer," agreed game director, Ian Roxburgh. "This feeling, this difference in the races. It will certainly feed into everything we do."
The biggest team at Creative Assembly, however, is working on the next Total War: Warhammer game. This is where things begin to get a little more complicated. For a start, what will they even call it? I'm not sure that title can afford another syllable.
Regardless, the goalposts have shifted slightly given the accomplishments of the first game.
"We always planned to do a trilogy of titles," said Bartholomew. "But with the success of that first title backing us up and the way that the DLC has been so well received, it gives us the confidence on the commercial side to go: well, great, we can afford to go bigger and better."
The second game will be equivalent in size to its predecessor, if not bigger, offering four playable races from day one. Additionally, we can expect a similar amount of paid/free DLC, introducing new legendary lords and race packs as we've seen with this first title.
But if you already own the first game, this trilogy is about more than just new races and locations. Although each Warhammer game will be playable as a standalone title, Creative Assembly has also promised that these three games will somehow slot together, forming a single, all-encompassing grand campaign.
"Now the technical way of doing that is a bit fiddly," said Roxburgh. "But ultimately it's been something we've been determined to do right from the start. We don't want to break it up. We want that massive map, right at the end, and we want everything in it."
We asked about some of those obvious technical challenges, like, for example, how the team intends to cope with the extra memory demands this will require, or how they'll counter the longer waiting times between turns on the campaign map. For now, at least, they remain tight-lipped.
"It's probably the hardest thing we've ever tried to do," said Simpson.
"It's going to be something that people lose their s*** over," said Bartholomew.
It's difficult to imagine exactly how this will work, as it's such new ground for the Total War franchise. We've seen standalone campaigns added to games at a later date, but this will be the first time that entire campaign maps have been bolted together. It sounds ambitious.
But Creative Assembly is an increasingly ambitious studio. There's almost 500 people working there right now, making them one of the largest teams in UK games development. Alongside the Warhammer and historical titles, they're working on the multiplayer-focused Total War: Arena, now being published by free-to-play specialist Wargaming, and of course, Halo Wars 2 is expected at the start of next year.
It's hard not to get carried away at this stage, thinking about the size of these teams and the immediate success of this partnership between Total War and Warhammer. Where could this franchise go next? Which worlds are left to conquer?
"We have a list of things we'd like to do and we keep adding to that," said Simpson. "Everything you can possibly imagine is on it and we only ever argue about the order in which we're going to get to them."
Well I've been imagining Total War: Westeros for about a decade now, Creative Assembly. It better be on the damned list.
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