Creative Assembly, the developers of the long-running Total War franchise of grand strategy games and the imminent A Total War Saga: Troy, has cultivated a dedicated and hardcore audience with their excellent catalog of games over the last couple of decades. But with the series exploring diverse historical epochs, and even dabbling in the fantastic, it would be a Herculean task to please all those fans, all of the time, even at the best of times.
Which is where the Saga series of games comes onto the scene. Envisioned as a way for CA to spotlight smaller conflicts, these more modestly priced and smaller-scale offerings could be developed more quickly and would also allow the developer a testing ground to try out new mechanics ahead of the larger, mainline releases.
The first, Thrones of Brittania, released in 2018, and was received positively by both fans and critics, at least initially. It lacked the lasting appeal of mainline historical titles or the variety offered by the Warhammer games, but it introduced some neat mechanics that would appear in Three Kingdoms (the latest mainline historical release) and seemed to be a successful experiment.
Troy, the next Saga title, was announced in late 2019, and looked to continue that trend when it launched in 2020. The Trojan War would be a perfect small-scale conflict to explore, and the mix of myth and history could appeal to both the old-school fans of the historical titles and the new-kids-on-the-block Warhammer diehards. Three Kingdoms walked this tightrope expertly, and Troy seemed like it might be able to as well.
Until CA announced that the game would be an Epic Games Store exclusive.
The Epic Games Store has a curious effect on PC gamers, a certain segment of whom loathe and disparage it at equal turns. There are myriad reasons for this, some of which bear delving into further, but at the heart of most is the simple fact that it isn’t Steam.
To soften what they had to have known would have been bad optics, CA also announced that Troy: A Total War Saga would be yours to keep for free, if you download the game within the first 24 hours of its release, Aug 13. On the Epic Games Store. That’s the only catch. You just have to download it on the Epic Games Store, and its all yours, forever. For free.
CA, to their credit, released a lengthy blog post alongside the news, rationally and reasonably (and quite candidly) explaining both the philosophical and business reasons as to why this decision was made. In short, Epic wanted to entice players to their platform and was willing to foot a rather hefty bill in order to do so. CA would be able to subsidize the cost of developing Troy and give back to their most dedicated fans at the same time.
Fans were wildly mixed in their response to this announcement. The fanbase has long been divided, with each new release causing yet further division, and Troy looks to be no different.
Some simply took it in stride, while others spouted radical conspiracy theories, seeing this move as a Trojan Horse (pun intended) by which the Chinese mega-corporation Tencent (who enjoy a 40% stake in Epic Games) was looking to gain influence over Creative Assembly in some kind of communist coup.
And while Tencent has worked closely with the Chinese Communist Party before, I doubt the contract between CA and Epic included a propaganda clause, and was more about convenience and reach.
Epic Games Store acquisitions and exclusivity deals are becoming commonplace, and the platform itself isn’t going away anytime soon. We now live in multipolar world, at least when it comes to digital gaming storefronts, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. After all, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from deleting the Epic launcher after playing your fill of Troy.
Now, cards on the table, I’m fairly new to the glorious world of PC gaming. I’ve always had an outdated rig that could run older Total War games, albeit with lower unit sizes and detail, and have only recently upgraded to a machine that can show these games in their true glory, and made it my primary platform. Maybe because of that, I don’t have the requisite veneration for Valve, or for Steam in general, that other and more dedicated players do.
Steam, for me, is the vehicle by which I launch games, and yeah, I have a substantial library of games contained therein. Ideally, all of my digital titles would be found in the same place, neatly organized and readily available. But publishers have been fragmenting the market for a while now, and while it might not be immediately convenient for me, it’s hardly the end of the world, and is really a rather minor inconvenience at the end of the day.
We live in a world in which Microsoft offers its exclusives via the Xbox Game Pass (for a pittance, and on day one). Ubisoft games all share a portal, and so do Rockstar’s, for that matter. What’s one more, especially if they are giving great games away for free?
Some users have raised concerns over issues with the security of the platform, and while that would be a legitimate cause for concern if true, the Epic Games Store isn’t spyware. EA’s Origin store had similar charges laid against it when it launched, too.
I will admit that I was worried that mod support for Troy might have been affected, and that seems to be a fair and reasonable concern that I saw echoed both on the community subreddit and Facebook page. CA has since put those fears to rest, announcing that mod support will be coming around a month after launch, which is around how long it takes for Total War games on Steam to receive the same.
This is essential, as the community is oftentimes quicker to fix bugs than the devs themselves, not to mention offering innumerable improvements and additional content.
Judging by CA’s track record, A Total War Saga: Troy will be a solid game, maybe a little buggy at launch, but overall a quality release. I can’t imagine any true fan of the series not picking it up, free of charge, on day one, regardless of what launcher they profess allegiance too.
Creative Assembly has engendered a lot of goodwill in recent years (just look at all the free content Warhammer II has received), and I for one think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
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