I haven’t been keeping up with player reaction to the latest Twar and Twarhammer games, but it seems players are none too pleased with Creative Assembly right now. In a rather dramatic open letter, the company’s vice president Roger Collum has acknowledged that Total War: Warhammer 3’s Shadows of Change add-on and the recent historical strategy outing Total War: Pharaoh did not ship in a desirable state, with complaints ranging from wobbly execution to overpricing. The studio will try to make things right by offering partial refunds to Pharaoh owners and giving away DLC on top of the usual updates.
“It has been a difficult few months, and we recognize that we have made mistakes when it comes to our relationship with you all,” Collum wrote in the letter. “It’s been a constant conversation internally on how we can get back to solid ground. What’s clear is that it won’t be easy and that it will take time and effort.
“We see the confusion, the frustration, and the distrust of us across the community and honestly, it breaks our hearts. We make games to bring you joy, to inspire a love of history, of fantasy, and strategy games. Total War is our everything, we care about it as deeply as you. Recently, it’s clear that we have failed to demonstrate that in our actions.”
Collum unveiled a range of corrective measures, which will spill over into the next year. First of all, the developers are working on “a major update” for the Shadows of Change DLC that will hopefully release in February 2024. “That launch date is our ambition, but this isn’t concrete,” Collum hedged. “It may move, and as soon as those plans are finalised, we’ll let you know and we’ll keep you in the know as we get closer to its release.” We’ll hear more from game director Richard Aldridge next year.
The Total War: Warhammer 3 team will also delay the release of the next expansion Thrones of Decay to April 2024, “to make sure that we don’t repeat our past mistakes, and to give you the amount of content that you rightly expect from us at these price points.” Creative Assembly are promising to let “you know exactly what’s coming in Thrones of Decay before pre-orders are available, and make sure that you have full transparency around the content before you see ‘Buy Now’ buttons.”
All that’s in addition to smaller hotfixes and additions, of which there have been ten since the game’s 4.0 update. “It’s an increase in the number of game updates that we’d usually release, and we want to keep this cadence of releases going forward,” Collum noted, though he cautioned that the developers can’t commit to a certain number per month.
Thus the situation with Twarhammer 3. As for Pharaoh – which Nic Reuben summarised as “a towering monument to a broken release schedule” in our review, singling out its pre-order cosmetics and enduring AI issues for criticism – Creative Assembly are offering partial refunds over Steam, reflecting the new RRP of $39.99/€39.99/£29.99. If you’re a buyer, you’ll find the funds in your wallet over the next few days. The developers are also binning off the higher-priced Deluxe and Dynasty Editions.
Creative Assembly will also give away the first wodge of Pharoah DLC as a free update – again, we’ll learn more about it next year, and the DLC giveaway will be in addition to the usual incremental free updates and fixes.
“We have now begun the process of reassessing what comes next for PHARAOH, and while we don’t have all the answers today, we want to make it clear to you that we’re not closing the door on other, more ambitious updates to the game in the future,” Collum noted. “We’ve still got big plans, but we want to be honest with you in saying that we need to spend more time with them before putting them out on show.”
Last but not least, Creative Assembly plan to do more to incorporate feedback and communicate with players about goings-on behind the scenes. “Our goal is to invest more in our player channels moving forward, introducing more voices from the studio who can speak to you directly about their work and how that relates to what you want from our titles, and most importantly to keep listening to your feedback,” Collum wrote. “This will all be a work in progress, so do bear with us, but this is our direction moving forward.”
He concluded with the following: “Where we make mistakes in this next part of our journey, we’ll work hard to act faster to address them, to iterate whilst we learn from those moments, and to always be taking steps in the right directions. We hope that you can find patience for us as we find our footing again, and we hope in the coming months we can prove to you with actions along with words.”
Creative Assembly have not had a great year. Parent company Sega cancelled their multiplayer FPS Hyenas in September, prompting a consultancy process and potential layoffs. In late November, Sega announced that Creative Assembly would stick to the offline strategy games they’re known for in future.