Reviews// Total War: Attila

Posted 27 Feb 2015 15:10 by
If the last few days have taught me anything, it's that I would make a terrible nomadic chieftain, an even worse Roman Emperor and a disappointingly adequate Frankish king. Attila: Total War is the next game in the venerable Total War series, set during the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Huns it is a marked improvement on the previous Rome II and is packed with new features.

Mixing turn-based “grand strategy” games with a world overview, allowing you to guide your empire through politics, construction and guile and devolving to real time battle-maps for detailed combat, the Total War games are almost an institution.

In previous games, each campaign starts with you owning one or two territories already, as well as as some forces and special characters. In Attila however, there are new challenges to overcome.

Set during an age where the Huns and worsening climate drove nations from their homes and turned them nomadic, the game has factions who start without a home (Alans, Goths and Huns). In lieu of a city, these forces must encamp to raise money, gather food and create units. Playing as a nomadic tribe is a balancing act between moving, raiding and camping. Fortified cities, or large armies approaching, genuinely makes you afraid - your people are vulnerable, landless and alone and boy, do you feel it.

Nomads can occupy a city and claim it as their new homeland, turning them into a more traditional faction but creating a whole new problem; those mobile farms you've spent ages building? They're gone. Your people are now starving, but at least you have some walls to hide behind.

The opposite of the Nomadic tribes, but no less challenging, are the decaying Western and Eastern Roman empires. Overstretched, undermanned and threatened on all sides by migrating tribes and upstart kingdoms, playing as Rome is a panic from turn one. You truly feel like the last emperor of a dying civilisation. Play here mostly revolves around frantically deciding which cities to defend and which are best used to try and slow the enemy down. Civil war is almost upon you, too, and this definitely adds a new degree of challenge.

Then there are the Huns. A horde in every sense, the Huns are unable to settle, this perpetually nomadic culture must take what it needs from cities and towns, and even benefits from being at war with as many peoples as possible. You will learn to fear them.

There are also two more traditional factions, Saxons and Franks, both facing the last death throes of Rome, which brings its own challenges.

Along with the new varied start positions, Attila also marks the return of the family tree, last seen in Medieval 2, allowing you to manipulate the politics of being a royal family to your advantage or ruin. There is also the drama and politics of juggling various members of court, awarding characters certain ranks gives them bonuses both on and off the battlefields. It adds much more detail to being king. Along with this, regional governors now have direct control, giving characters a region allows you to issue edicts (temporary bonuses for those regions) as well as giving the region any benefits that character brings. This adds a lot more detail and a lot more strategic depth to the world map - choosing the right governor can be the difference between peace and strife. However, the minutiae of these manipulations and plots can be somewhat difficult to get to grips with, and for the vast majority of time you'll find yourself assigning whoever to whatever post, just for the sake of filling it.

The battles are as gloriously rendered as ever, with thousands of individual soldiers on screen at any one time, allowing for some truly epic battles, there are remnants of issues from the previous Total War games, such as the poor clipping and AI, but there are also vast improvements. Combat is more mobile and visceral. Troop morale is taken into account much more, besieging a city for several turns before an attack is now a viable tactic: it not only reduces the cities defences on the battle map, but can add negative morale issues to enemy soldiers, meaning they are more likely to run. Fire spreads throughout the towns and can be used as a weapon, setting fire to the buildings on either side of an entrenched force can cause losses, as well as adding some great visuals.

There are many other things worth mentioning, but this short review only has the space to mention one more; the tactical option to lay waste to a region. Upon conquering a city the option to raze is presented, and if you choose it the town and region will be rendered desolate. The Huns directly benefit from this, but it is also a useful tool to prevent enemies from re-taking a city, or to act as a buffer.

Attila is a worthy addition to the venerable Total War series. It has improved upon many of the criticisms of the previous titles and added enough innovations to remain fresh. The desolate setting of failing empires and ravaging hordes lends a fresh feel, whilst maintaining the familiar gameplay that has been successful.
It does, however, house the series' usual problems - predictable enemy AI and a mid-game lull, as well as a lack of unit variety. That said, it is worth mentioning that these are long standing issues with Total War games and they're usually fixed in future patches and community mods. Fans will find this more than worth the money and it's a great starting title. Now, if you'll excuse me, Europe isn't going to ravage itself.

Pros:
+ A fresh take on a tried and tested formula.
+ Interesting new challenges gleaned from new start positions
+ Tactically deep
+ Visually epic; 1000's of soldiers on screen at once truly bring the battles to life
+ Tons of replayability
+ Time-thief – you will spend hundreds of hours on this, without even realising.

Cons:
- Some new additions are too finicky to really be of use
- The Total War games' penchant for poor AI seems to still be in force (although, usually the community fixes this.)
- A severe lack of unit variety
- Idiot path-finding can be frustrating
- Arrow trails. (they look stupid.)
- Time-thief – you will accidentally not do things because of this game.

SPOnG score: 8/10
Companies:
Games: Total War: Attila

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