The Total War series - a legend amongst strategy fans and a series which ran from Shogun through Medieval to Rome to deliver some of the finest mass battlefield carnage ever seen on the PC. In the process, the award winning series earned its makers Creative Assembly a reputation as of the brightest stars of the PC strategy firmament and one of the leading lights of Britsoft.
But a new year brings a new direction, new platforms and also a new publisher for Creative with the advent of Spartan: Total Warrior, an offshoot rather than an extension of the Total War series. Instead of commanding the massed ranks of an army, Spartan places you on the ground in the role of a single heroic Spartan warrior blessed by the gaze of the gods, charged with giving some hammer to all and sundry and reclaiming your birth right as one of the fiercest warriors of the ancient world.
High time then to find out more about this PS2, Xbox and Cube Total upstart, so we strapped on our armour, girded our loins (which is actually less pleasant than it sounds) and prepared to cross swords with Spartan's games designer, Sophie Blakemore, to get the very latest word on the title.
Here's what we discovered:
Spartan: Total Warrior - what can you tell us about the story behind the game?
Sophie Blakemore: We place the player as a young Spartan warrior, on a mission to protect Sparta from the invading Roman forces and then embark on an epic quest to destroy the Roman Empire, culminating in the heart of Rome itself. At the same time, he's also on a personal quest to discover his own history. The Greek gods guide him, so he receives special powers to ensure that he's the most hardcore Spartan around. There's a twist in the tail, in the classic Greek tragedy style. We had a great time doing the research and development for the storyline - there are so many ancient legends and myths that we were able to use to enhance the gameplay and the characterisation, even if it meant messing with the timelines a little.
In what ways, if any, is your experience with the Total War series influencing the development of Spartan?
Sophie Blakemore: First of all, it's important to realise that this is an entirely different kind of game to our PC Total War games. It was conceived, designed and developed purely as a console game. We did, however, want to keep the core Unique Selling Point (USP) of epic, cinematic battles and vast armies onscreen. We're really proud to be the only developer able to have these massive many vs many conflicts. Spartan has been in development for three years - so it's not been an easy job - and we're continuously striving to make sure the game is pushing new boundaries and as technically advanced as it can possibly be on the current gen platforms.
What appealed about the setting? Why not set it in medieval times, for example?
Sophie Blakemore: Ancient battles, mythical stories of divine men, legendary beasts - this truly is a time frame to be explored! It also takes the greatest warrior race of the ancient world and pits them against the greatest empire of the ancient world. This provides an awesome backdrop to tell a compelling story. In terms of gameplay, this era also offered us so much scope for the many versus many battles, as well as really exciting end of level bosses. It's also a period of time that many of us here were already familiar with, having grown up with the Greek and Roman epics (I acted as Electra in a play at University, so I ensured I used my research for that to make our Electra character as real and strong as she is in Euripides' play).