The biggest advantage that a Total War fantasy game would have would be diversity. In all previous iterations of the series, especially those published after Rome: Total War, each faction was very much like the others. They all (with a few exceptions) had the same mix of units that performed the same â€“ light infantry, skirmishers, missile units, line infantry, artillery, cavalry, etc, with a few oddballs like elephants thrown in.
Imagine if your army mix could include some truly weird fantasy units. Say, orcs, instead of having heavy infantry, could employ ogres who could toss enemy swordsman around with the flick of a wrist. Imagine a whole battle, played out like the cave troll scene from Fellowship of the Ring. Imagine being able to recruit hill giants, then have them shoot cannons from the hip. The Total War engine probably couldnâ€™t handle flying units, but imagine land bound dragons or giant lizards. I would play the shit out of that. Instead of having a general leading your army, you could have a mage, casting spells.
In addition to units, the different races/factions could have radically different economies, building trees, and societies. Elven populations would increase slowly, but their units would be high quality and their magic users would be the best in the game.
To kind of give you an idea of what Iâ€™m thinking, here are some brief sketches of each of the factions bumping around in my head, loosely based off of standard fantasy races.
Humans â€“ good old vanilla humans. Similar to the armies in the latter stages of Medieval Total War. Iâ€™m imagining them at a high medieval/early modern level of technology. Their armies would be a mix of swordsman, knights, pike squares, and primitive gunpowder weapons. Humans could be split up into multiple factions, based on broad cultural archetypes (the Vikings, the Romans, the Chinese, the Arab world, etc).
Dwarves â€“ Dwarves are infantry and artillery specialists. Their infantry are well armored and wield deadly axes, but their small stature and short reach give them a disadvantage in melee. Their cavalry would be rare and mounted only on ponies, so they wouldnâ€™t be as fast or hit as hard as human cavalry. The dwarvesâ€™ saving graces are a strong economy and the best artillery in the game â€“ a mix of cannons and gatling guns.
Centaurs â€“ Basically the Mongols, only randier. Centaurs are exclusively a cavalry race, specializing in horse archers. They reproduce fast, but can only raze captured settlements, meaning that they can quickly lose steam after some initial victories. The lack of infantry hobbles them in wooded areas and rough terrain. A solid Dwarven army with gatling guns or humans equipped with pikes would mow them down.
High Elves â€“ High elves would be difficult, but would reward a highly skilled player who can spend his resources wisely. Their populations increase at a glacial pace and their units are expensive, but of very high quality. Infantry are fast moving and cunningly armored, but wear out in a long fight and always outnumbered. Their archers would be quite good. But where the tall and pasty ones really excel is magic â€“ the most devastating mages in the game.
These are just some of the factions Iâ€™ve sketched out in my head, and thatâ€™s only staying within the normal fantasy pantheon, without bringing in stuff from non-western sources or new races. Imagine how much it would reinvigorate the Total War series to have faction selection mean a different gaming experience and mindset. One of the reasons Starcraft remained popular for a decade on the multiplayer circuit was the diversity of its factions â€“ Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg worked in radically different ways and required entirely separate modes of thinking.
Iâ€™m just idly speculating here, but wouldnâ€™t this be fun as hell?