After the 40-turn preview I shared with you all a while ago, it’s time to go in deeper and see if all the good things I had to say about Total War: Attila are still true for the full game. After playing the campaign a couple times I can say that overall, Attila does indeed hold itself together through and through. It is still somewhat plagued by what has become “iconic” Total War franchise bugs (more on that later) but I am happy to say that my greatest fear of Attila being just a glorified DLC for Rome 2 has proven false. It is a game all by itself with its own personality (doom) and its own agenda (again, doom) as well as an atmosphere unique to the era (you guessed it, more doom).
The first thing you’ll notice playing the game are the improvements made to the user interface. The family tree, for example, is now much easier to navigate and understand – everything is cleaner and more accessible, although the amount of information can still be somewhat overwhelming for players new to the series. A lot of the UI elements can also be hidden and moved around – again an improvement over Rome 2’s interface. Unfortunately, the UI still suffers from an overload of information at times and it may take you some time to come to terms with the slew of icons, symbols and indicators spread in a thick layer over everything.
As mentioned before, Attila also sees the return of the family tree. Although it is easier to navigate it is still just as taxing at times to understand. What you need to understand is that everything has an associated stat change. Wives, councils, scrolls and an endless supply of knick-knacks will provide variations to your family members’ abilities. When the fate of your entire faction is at stake, it is not reassuring to know that the tipping point between maintaining and losing control is a shiny bauble. To make matters worse, while you do want your family members to be powerful, you don’t want them to be too powerful. You’re the ruler, not some charismatic upstart – and if said charismatic upstart disagrees, well, accidents do happen. It would be a shame if he went for a walk and slipped, right on top of a drawn sword, several times.
Total War: Attila is incredibly fun to play if you like a challenge. It is definitely the hardest installment in the series – and the first one where the world itself is against you, and not just the people in it. You can bribe an enemy faction to leave you alone, sure enough, but the encroaching winter doesn’t care for your gold. It wants you dead and your crops withered; it wants nothing more than the complete obliteration of every scrap of arable land. When everything is frozen and still, the world has won and you have lost. This expands on the previously-introduced seasons mechanic in a major way and adds a great deal to your turn-by-turn planning, as now you can never be sure what the winter will leave behind. For both the migrating hordes and the “stationary” empires, the weather is an all new challenge.
Of course, the core of the Total War series is the real-time battles. Thousands of faceless, nameless soldiers, clashing in a fight to the death as you orchestrate the Danse Macabre from above. Veterans of the series will immediately recognize the basics: Sword beats spear, spear beats horse and horse beats sword. Of course that is a gross oversimplification – between unit abilities, stances, fatigue, morale and formation the simplified equations goes flying out the window and this is before the generals and their special abilities are factored in. Sure, sword beats spear, but what happens when the spears are in a wedge, the swordsmen are in a line and archers on both sides are firing flaming arrows all over the place? How much of an actual advantage does your swordsman have uphill, in the snow, inside a forest, while on fire (both forest and swordsman)?
While on the subject of battles, I’d like to write about what has historically been a sore spot in Total War franchise: siege warfare. Between wonky AI, unreliable siege units and a myriad of other issues, sieges in the Total War series have been an anti-fun, “I do this because I have to” exercise. I’m happy to report that siege warfare in Attila, while still not its strongest side, has still seen some upgrades. First of all, there are new siege units – apart from the typical machinery, you now have specialized units to breach gates and set fire to enemy buildings. AI has also been vastly improved, with very little “siege ladder dance” going on – in fact, Attila’s AI seems overall a step up from its predecessors. There’s also a new “Siege Escalation” syste – a way to make the final assault against besieged cities easier and more authentic with cities visibly wearing down the longer your angry horde sits outside the gates.
Total War: Attila brings some innovations to the series while staying true to what makes the franchise great. It is a great game for those familiar with the franchise, but might be a bit too overwhelming for those unfamiliar with Total War. It does provide a supreme strategy experience, a hectic turn-based planning experience, and the way sieges work are, for me, a great improvement that makes them much more fun than in previous games. If none of that makes you want to play it, just remember that you can also be the villain and set the entire world on fire. What else could you want, apart from a shiny bauble?Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.