I recently got some hands on time with a review copy of the upcoming Total War: ATTILA due for release next month (February 2015). After numerous hours playing around with it, I came away with lukewarm feelings.
I believe my lukewarm feelings towards it stems from the fact that I have spent countless hours on four of their previous entries. While each of them had their own unique and interesting flavour, Total War: ATTILA in contrast feels particularly bland. For those longing for that Total War experience though, probably won’t be disappointed.
If you are unfamiliar with the Total War series, it combines a unique blend of turn based movement with real time battles.
With each turn you may construct buildings, move troops around the map and sort out any other internal or external affairs. Battles then take place on an epic scale featuring hundreds of troops in real time. These battles rely on well thought out strategies that will either make or break you.
As the title implies, Total War: ATTILA is set in the Dark ages in the times of Attila the Hun. You are able to choose from a broad range of factions from a variety of cultures including the Roman Empire, Nomadic Tribes, Great Migrators, Eastern Empires & Barbarian Tribes. In the preview copy I received, only a portion of these factions were available to play.
Of the three factions I tried, all started off in vastly different circumstances which dramatically change the initial portion of the game.
The Great Migrators faction for instance start with no cities and instead possess two armies that can transform into makeshift encampments. The Roman Empire factions on the other hand dominate a large portion of the map with the numerous cities.
The user interface is a bit of a mess and very difficult to wrap your head around. It is missing that streamlined feeling that many other series seem to be going for these days.
This issue seems to stem from the fact that there is so many facets to the game. Managing a city isn’t just about choosing a new building to construct and upgrade, you also have to worry about your treasury, tax rate, food, population, public order, growth, max number of constructions for that city and sanitation.
When you have 15 or so cities, balancing each one of these at each city becomes tedious.
Cities are also linked to two nearby cities to form provinces. Some of the previously mentioned aspects are shared between these linked cities while others aren’t. While this theoretically should make some things easier to manage, it instead makes everything feel a bit more jumbled.
Managing your faction seems to be a critical aspect of Total War: ATTILA. You not only have to manage your family through political marriages, you also have to manage the various governors and offices in your faction.
Each character has their own loyalty, influence, skills, traits and household. Once again, this seems overly complicated and generally tedious to properly manage.
In stark contrast to many other portions of the game, the diplomacy aspect is simple and easy to use. During my time with the game though, I couldn’t help but feel it was slightly unbalanced. Other states often came begging to reach some sort of agreement with me whether it was an alliance, military agreement or even for them to become my puppet state.
Visually, Attila looks bland due to very plain art direction the game has taken.
While the setting may have played a part in this, it did feel that more effort could have been taken to give the game some personality visually. I fear though I may have been spoilt with the artistically stunning Total War: Shogun 2.
The AI was also a bit iffy at times, although that is nothing new to the series.
More than once did the enemy randomly send one lone group of horsemen at the mercy of my entire army while the rest of their troops sat back and enjoyed the show. Numerous times I fired my catapults at them while they idly stood there, despite easily being able to pull back, often leading to them being routed.
Despite these occasional strange and odd choices, I did actually feel like the AI was a marked improvement over some of the other entries in the series.
Throughout my time with the preview copy of Total War: ATTILA, I was pestered by a lingering question; Why would I buy this instead of playing one of the other Total War games in my collection?
There was nothing that wowed me, no real standout or innovative feature, nothing that I particularly liked.
I fear there may be no answer to this question.
It is in its entirety, a Total War game, nothing more, nothing less.
For people who haven’t ventured into the Total War universe before or those who are longing to do so again, that may be enough. For me though, I was hoping for a bit more spice.
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