Total War: Attila Review

By Nelson Power on February 26, 2015

It might sound strange, but initially Total War: Attila could be perceived as being an elaborate expansion to Total War: Rome II. After all, the original Rome game had an expansion focussed around the "Barbarian Invasion" way back when. However, you will quickly realise Attila is way more than a simple expansion could hope to achieve; much has been adapted, changed and fixed since we saw Total War: Rome II release two years ago.

Taking place a few decades after Rome II, the Roman Empire has now split into Western and Eastern Empires. Times are bad, as they being harassed from all sides and a new threat has formed in the shape of the Nomadic factions. The map is largely unchanged, which stands to reason, but the factions available to players have been expanded. These range from the Franks and the Saxons through to the Ostrogoths, Visigoths and of course, the two Roman Empires.

Campaigns start at 395AD, with everyone vying for everyone else's territory. In their desperation, Rome clutches at any allies it can find, while tribes battle over land wherever they can. But as the years pass a new threat emerges with the birth of Attila (which is a tad dramatic in-game!) and his then rule over the Huns. His quest then becomes the destruction of just about everyone.

As a result of this devilish twist, gameplay ends up being far more vicious than we have seen in previous Total War games. It was one of the main criticisms before that you could simply take your armies from province to province and march towards global conquest; Attila makes that approach rather more difficult. There are numerous reasons for this, but the two most crucial come about due to the introduction of nomadic tribes and the options you are presented when you defeat a town/city state.

Nomadic tribes effectively allow "armies" to become a pseudo walking town. Unlike in previous games where you would be an army that needed supplies to be maintained, nomadic tribes act on their own. It means that whereas in previous games you could take a town/city and their remnants would not be much of a threat, that's no longer the case. They can now pose a significant threat and more to the point, the probably won't be very happy about what you just did.

When it comes to conquest, you have the same options as before; you can take everything and destroy everything or leave it intact and try to make it a suitable dominion. However, there is now other options thanks to the Huns, loot and sack and raze. Loot and sack is very self-explanatory and raze, well this is the most interesting and problematic change in the Total War franchise for some time, in a good way. Choosing this option burns the entire place to the ground and it's something that the AI loves to do as they go about their quest of destruction and chaos. Simply relying on a garrison is no longer enough to keep your territories safe, but it is rather satisfying to see the animation when you choose to wreak havoc on other civilisations.

There have been a few changes to the UI, but it's other new areas of expansion where the game shines through, primarily with its use of politics and the family tree. Each faction now has a leader of some description who in turn has an heir, and the structure between all of them can change quite drastically as many options such as marriage proposals, assassinations and even just other members of your faction vying for power can utterly change the overall balance.

There are several buffs associated with these elements that are quite worth maintaining, so while it's possible this area could be overlooked it's probably not worth ignoring. The power, control and just who is on your council all give individual bonuses or negatives if things aren't going accordingly and in Attila it's also a lot easier to work out which of your provinces are being governed and whether edicts are in place to bolster those areas. In general the whole game feels a lot more user friendly, from the prologue to the game itself. Considering there are more elements akin to that of a more complex grand strategy game, it does these well without feeling too overwhelming. Some areas have even been simplified, such as the taxation of provinces being all handled through a single slider, and there are also ways to turn off the taxation of a single province separately.

Other additions to the game include a return of seasons and as the flow of the year progresses winter can be quite a problem for many factions. Different weathers affect individual cultures more than others depending on the starting nations and it adds a new spin on things. Nomadic armies can also set up shop in the ruins of previous cities at the expense of gold and manpower and fire as a mechanic is now very important. In general, gates and city defenses made of wood last a short time to catapults hurling flaming rocks, and even arrows can set nearby buildings alight, causing all kinds of issues during sieges.

Graphically the game has seen some improvements and more life has been breathed into everything from the noises in combat through to the visuals of the animations. The cutscenes that occur during the campaigns are equally eye pleasing and harrowing as the game progresses. You'll end up feeling the Huns are more and more problematic and it certainly creates a sense of unease as you march your armies forth to expand your land only to spot a band of Huns moving toward your position.

Final Thoughts

Total War: Attila offers a lot more depth than previous games, with previous features being refined and a few new features to give this iteration a lot more context. That's not to say it has been toned down though, with the addition of the political side/family tree adding to the complexity. The AI has also seen some improvements, so you are less likely to find them dancing outside city gates or changing formations constantly in panic as they can't figure out how to deal with a city they've just attacked. The new changes certainly also make this one of the hardest games in the Total War series as well, so be prepared to not simply stomp across the map conquering the "˜known world'.

New political and family systems add more depth.
You will respect defending your territory much more.
The Huns make the entire experience unnerving.
Losing a city to a small army that you missed can become tedious.
We encountered some weird glitches with the prologue breaking.
New systems can take some time to fully understand.
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