Creative Assembly’s Total War series is undoubtedly one of the pillars of modern strategy gaming, with its unique blend of large-scale turn-based campaigns and exhilarating real-time tactical battles. While on the surface it may seem that Total War stands alone in its niche, a closer look reveals that the series has indeed influenced major strategy game subsets or even inspired developers to take a stab at this type of game. If you’re still looking for some of that hybrid strategic and tactical gameplay, we got you covered as we take a look at ten games like Total War that you should definitely check out.
Games Like Total War
10. King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame
Publisher: NeocoreGames, Ubisoft, Paradox Interactive, E Frontier
The first game to grace this list is also one of the more underrated strategy games of all time, as it comes from a relatively small development studio. Don’t let the humble reputation of the team dissuade you from trying out this particular gem.
Not only is the setting of King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame fantastical, reminiscent of the more recent Total War offerings, but it’s one of these hybrid strategy and tactics games that focuses the attention on characters and their adventures, as well as critical moral decisions. The inclusion of an immersive, almost storybook mini text adventure system for various characters you meet and recruit throughout your playthrough, adds narrative heft and immersive worldbuilding.
This impressive game also sports a real-time tactical combat system with spells, monsters, heroes, and powerful abilities in a similar fashion to Total War’s own Warhammer series, though this is where the game’s age and lower budget come into play in the controls and graphical department. In the grand scheme of things, King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame was ahead of its time with its emphasis on a legendary world and character-centric gameplay.
9. Field of Glory: Empires
Publisher: Slitherine Software
If you’re clamoring for a game with greater historical authenticity, then look no further than Field of Glory: Empires – a grand strategy spin-off of the tactical combat Field of Glory series. In essence, this game is what Rome: Total War or Total War: Rome 2 would strive to be if it were to more closely follow history.
Players can expect to take command of a major culture or kingdom of the ancient era with the goal of creating an empire that will stand the test of time, inevitably experiencing periods of decline and then growth. Empires stands apart from Total War with its more methodical pace due to a more impactful economic and unique construction system that play a greater role in strategic decision-making than solely commanding armies to stomp across the Mediterranean world.
A curious point of similarity is that just like CA’s Warhamemr trilogy has cross-game functionality with their mega campaigns, Empires has cross-functionality with the base Field of Glory 2 game where players can export their campaign battles to play manually if they so desire. Graphically, Slitherine’s take on ancient history can’t hold a candle to Total War, but it more than makes up for it with its excellent gameplay and flexible multiplayer modes.
8. Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Now that Total War has history and fantasy under its belt, perhaps science fiction or science-fantasy are the next frontier to greet the Total War formula. While we patiently wait on and observe CA’s next projects, Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a perfect holdover for players waiting for that sci-fi Total War.
While Total War isn’t a 4X strategy game in the truest sense, it still maintains many systems and a gameplay flow found in such games. Planetfall shares the hybrid nature of Total War with a turn-based grand strategy mode and tactical battle mode, this time turn-based. However, Planetfall’s combat can give Total War a run for its money, less due to scale, and more due to the depth of the combat itself including interactable terrain, complex status effects, and varied damage types.
Planetfall also has a greater focus on character similar to that of the previously discussed King Arthur or the recent Total War games, where they can play significant roles in tactical combat due to their impressive customization system. Planetfall also shares Total War’s somewhat simplified economic system, acting more as a support system to let combat and strategic maneuvers happen, so if you’re yearning for combat-focused 4X strategy games like Total War, then Planetfall should be right up your alley.
7. Knights of Honor
Developer: Black Sea Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive, Sunflowers Interactive, Atari Inc.
Probably the closest game to capture Total War’s spirit is Knights of Honor, a game developed at the same time as the original Rome: Total War, releasing just about a week later than CA’s seminal game. Knights of Honor is no clone of Total War and, in fact, has many features found in Paradox’s grand strategy offerings, most prominently the real-time approach to the strategic map.
Nevertheless, Knights of Honor is a solid Medieval strategy game that successfully balances out strategic decision-making with quick and decisive tactical battles. This game’s combat definitely can’t measure up to Total War’s awe-inspiring battlefields, yet the battles still capture the notion of combined arms warfare quite well and don’t overstay their welcome, letting players get back to the more meaty campaign mode.
Knights of Honor also sports an interesting council system, setting itself apart from Total War’s military focus, where these characters not only affect the various elements of the player’s kingdom, but also perform vital actions, such as espionage. From a visual standpoint, it may also look dated, but the simpler yet perfectly informative 2D graphics give Knights of Honor an undeniably vibrant charm.
6. Hegemony 3: Clash of the Ancients
Developer: Longbow Games
Publisher: Longbow Games
Hegemony, of all the games on the list, is likely the most unique strategy game to check out alongside the other Total War-like games. Hegemony 3 is set during the ancient era, but instead of going for the cliche pick of starting just before the formative Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, the game is set during the nascent years of the Roman Republic as it looks to expand across the Italian Peninsula.
Another distinct feature is that Hegemony is not only real-time on both the strategic map, but players can also seamlessly transition from the strategic map view of the land and zoom in to a point on the map where there may be a critical tactical engagement. Ultimately, this is the most realistic portrayal of the progress of time, as historically time didn’t freeze for critical battles and life still went on in parallel.
This seamless strategic and tactical view feature does leave combat feeling more sluggish with fewer options for micromanagement, but from an authenticity standpoint it works in the game’s favor. In many ways, Hegemony shares Field of Glory’s emphasis on historical authenticity, so anyone looking for not only a truer-to-history take on the formula, but a unique setting should definitely give this one a look.
5. Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865)
Developer: Oliver Keppelmüller
Publisher: Oliver Keppelmüller
Speaking of historical authenticity, Total War has ventured into the gunpowder age several times with mixed success and for players hankering for more gunpowder gameplay, then Grand Tactician has you covered. In Grand Tactician, players can experience the US Civil War from either perspective, taking control of the economic and military facets of the USA and CSA on a real-time strategic map.
Just like Total War when two armies meet, you will get to command the forces you have raised on realistic battlefields based on real Civil War maps and geography. Of all the games on the list, this is a true simulation wargame where players will have to contend with a great many features that Total War games typically gloss over, such as supply lines, communication, and depots, limited political capital, a credit-based economy, and a general sluggishness to command on both the strategic and tactical layers of the game.
All this does give Grand Tactician quite a steep learning curve and it can easily overwhelm players with the sheer mass of interconnected and detailed systems all at play. However, if you’re a fan of the period and work through the game’s intricacies, you will find one of the most in-depth games like Total War on the US Civil War.
4. Star Wars: Empire at War
Developer: Petroglyph Games
Platform(s): PC, macOS
The Star Wars franchise hasn’t seen much in the way of strategy games, but luckily one of the standout games for the franchise is Star Wars: Empire at War a real-time strategy game, which inadvertently feels like a Total War game set in that universe. Who knew that a developer with a background in classic RTS design could make a game that’s similar to a series that doesn’t share much with classic RTSs in the first place?
On the strategic layer, Empire at War is even more basic compared to Total War, as the whole point of the game is to engage in lots of explosively fun and tactically intricate battles and not get stuffed up too much with interstellar politics. The tactical space battles in particular are the undisputed highlight of Empire at War’s gameplay, due to not only the excellent visual and auditory facets, but also tactically riveting combined arms gameplay with all the different ship types, hero units, and starfighter dogfights. Too bad the ground combat is the polar opposite.
Contextualizing all the awesome Star Wars action is a simple and enjoyable campaign where the goal is to defeat either the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire and secure peace in the galaxy. For Star Wars and non-Star Wars alike, Empire at War does combat justice and you’ll easily lose hours playing the space battles alone.
3. Heroes of Might and Magic 5
Developer: Nival Interactive, Freeverse Inc
Platform(s): PC, macOS
Total War isn’t typically associated with adventure games, but with the recent Warhammer trilogy, the series has incorporated features and dynamics that give the game an added adventuring vibe. This comes from the addition of quests and items, narrative, and a greater emphasis on characters and their skills.
As such, the premier adventure strategy game series is Heroes of Might and Magic, with the fifth installment acting as the best representative. Here players will concentrate on exploring the map with their hero, acquiring powerful artifacts, and leveling up, all the while developing their towns to build up a powerful army to bring to bear against the enemy heroes. There’s definitely more exploration in Heroes of Might and Magic, but that focus on characters and their effect on the strategic and tactical landscape is what brings Total War closer to this series.
Speaking of tactics, Heroes of Might and Magic has a more chesslike approach to combat with a simple grid and unit stacks rather than complex rolling battlefield, but the use of magic, various unit abilities, and thoughtful positioning are hallmarks of Total War’s combat as well. In addition, despite its age, its presentation rivals that of even the recent Total Wars on modern hardware, so you’re definitely in for an immersive treat with Heroes of Might and Magic 5.
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platform(s): PC, macOS, Stadia
While Civilization could have easily made it on this list as another 4X strategy game with points of similarity to Total War, Humankind takes the extra step and wins out over Firaxis’ flagpole series. Humankind primarily does this with its simple yet innovative combat system.
From a strategic point of view, Humankind offers much more flexibility in decision-making than any Total War game, as players can lead their tribe of people from the Neolithic all the way to the Modern era, all the while evolving their culture taking parts from different cultures to create their own narrative. Unlike many other planetary 4X games, Humankind includes a tactical combat system, which takes place on the strategic map itself as hostile armies meet, leading to incredible multi-turn affairs involving all sorts of troops and maneuvers. The scale of these in the later stages of the game can be really quite impressive.
Humankind also has a clearer and more robust terrain system that can have a significant effect on unit positioning and combat effectiveness, something even Total War doesn’t always get quite right. So if you’re looking to jump into a grand strategy game that still has exciting combat, Humankind fits that mold perfectly.
1. Sword of the Stars
Developer: Kerberos Productions
Publisher: Lighthouse Interactive, Paradox Interactive, Destineer
If you feel that Planetfall and Humankind’s scale is too limiting due to the planetary action, then Sword of the Stars has you covered with interstellar and galactic strategy gameplay. It is indeed another 4X strategy game, but its military bent does make it a valid and interesting time if you’re looking for games like Total War.
Just like with Star Wars: Empire at War, one of Sword of the Stars’ highlights is its real-time tactical combat that’s as visually impressive as it is complex due to the interaction with all the different ship types and weapon systems. This is in large part thanks to Sword of the Stars in-depth ship designer, which will easily let space admiral’s mind run wild with theorycrafting and trying different builds and strategies.
Sword of the Stars also has a relatively simple, albeit intimidating, economic system that helps players focus more on the important strategic moves, planetary development, and military operations, though the subpar tutorial and steep learning curve won’t make it easy, especially for newer players. Nevertheless, despite the apparent structural differences, Sword of the Stars and Total War have much in common and will easily sate your interest in large-scale meaningful space battles.
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