Few games recreate the kind of historic epic battles that the Total War franchise has been delivering for years. Whether it be Rome, Japan, or Africa, the folks at Creative Assembly do a great job of capturing each setting and giving players complete control over the era. Total War: Attila looks to continue this trend and now we find ourselves in the Dark Ages.
Total War: Attila takes place in year 395 on the Julian Calendar. The Roman Empire is in shambles after the death Emperor Theodosius. With both the Eastern and Western empires broken up both sides become weaker, you are tasked to save one side or venture out and fulfill your own destiny.
Anyone who is familiar with the Total War franchise, knows the series title is indicative of the massively scaled battles you partake in. Thousands of enemies gather on immense stages and engage in war that is controlled by you. Depending on which faction of the playable ten you choose from, you will be placed on different sections of the map. Each faction has their own respective strengths, weakness, alliances, and enemies. Strategy is essential to success during battles.
Everything including terrain can either work in your advantage or disadvantage. Hiding archers in the tree lines will camouflage them from the enemies allowing you to pull off a sneak attack. Rushing Calvary units against an army of foot soldiers will allow you to knock them over and cause some of them to flee. Weather effects also play a role. More inclement weather can drastically effect your army effectiveness in battle. Securing higher ground, using formations properly, and properly managing troop morale in battle can easily be the difference between victory and defeat.
These real-time battles come to life even more because of the attention to detail that Creative Assembly notoriously gives their games. Battles become more personal when you zoom the camera into the action. Obviously with the thousands of different soldiers on the battlefield faces and character models will duplicate but that takes nothing away from the realism that this game brings. Character animation are extremely well done and every soldier genuinely seems to effect the tide of war.
You must also be aware of every unit you command. Each army has a general. That general can be upgrade in various of different ways. If a general meets his death in battle, there can be detrimental effects to your army. Troop morale will lower and sometimes causing them to flee battle. I enjoyed how each battle feels different. Each faction I fought utilized different strategies which in turn forced me to change mines. Some generals were more ruthless and unwilling to surrender no matter the cost. On the other hand, I encountered other factions who couldn't afford and all out deathmatch and would play conservative by retreating as soon as things started to go south.
A few times I was even completely outsmarted by my opponents as they would hide an army in the trees or flank my troops. The combat was extremely intense and nerve-wracking especially when a defeat could possibly cause me to lose a whole region. The battles that take place in Attila are satisfying by themselves but just like any war, combat is only half of it.
Outside of battle, you build armies, expand your empire, and play politics with surrounding factions. My biggest issue with the Total War series has always been the amount of micromanaging that must be done in the later stages of the campaign. Once you control a larger empire each turn can sometimes take upwards of fifteen minutes. This problem has always amplified when playing co-op. In Total War: Rome II this issue was greatly rectified and Attila utilizes the same mechanic.
The overworld map shows you all of your provinces and regions that are within them. Instead of the tedious task of manually checking each regions resources such as food, public order or building progress, you can now inspect them all and control them under a province. This is still one of my favorite additions to the series. As you progress through the campaign and expand your reign, you will have and overwhelming amount of land to cover so implementing regions into provinces is a godsent.
Your relationships with other factions plays a vital if not the most important role in how successfully you progress through the campaign. You must learn the cultures and ways of life of other regions in order to build a healthy relationship. This is also one my favorite aspects of the game and series. I love playing politics with other factions. There are tons of different ways to interact with others depending on their attitudes towards you. Factions that are diplomatic with each other will sometimes allows benefits such as military access which allows each other to pass through their land, trade agreements, war alliances, arranged marriages, etc. You can negotiate terms of agreements with each faction and these relationships go a long way.
On the other hand not every negotiation or relationship will be peaceful. Sometimes more powerful empires will threaten you with war if you don't give into their demands or you can unwillingly be dragged into a war if one of your allies are attacked. Nothing is totally out of your control however. You decide your path. Breaking alliances, betraying allies and enslaving entire empires is very common occurrences. Even though the Total War campaign unfolds turn by turn, in order to be truly successful in the game you must look dozens of turns ahead and predict and makes decisions for your empire's best interest.
If politics just isn't your cup of tea there are other ways to play the game as well. There are historic, quick, and custom battles. Historic battles allows you replay battles that took place during the era. After the cutscene that explains the history behind each battle, you are put in control of hundreds of units with a hour time limit to defeat your opponent. You can change the difficulty as well to suit your skill level. Custom battles allows you to create the perfect battle scenario. I also found this also a good area to test different strategies. The campaign isn't the area you necessarily want to test out new things. One major defeat can easily mean the downfall of your empire.
Attila is visually astounding. On extreme settings you'll be hard pressed to find a game that has so much chaos on screen but still manages to give the quality of graphics this game brings to the table. Of course graphics fidelity will be dependent on your hardware. If you could run Rome II smoothly with no issues, you shouldn't have any trouble with Attila as the requirements are only slightly higher. However, there are some of the same issues that has plague the series such as clipping however. The AI is also sometimes troublesome. Units for example don't always take the most sensible paths to areas on the map or enemies.
Total War has always been great at giving players the tools to create a huge empire. The incredible depth and equally great settings you play in proves Attila is no different. Even though it doesn't innovate much from its predecessors, it stays true the core mechanics that has made the Total War series some of the best strategy games to date.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09