GamingReview: Total War: Attila

Review: Total War: Attila

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Just when you thought you’d had enough Total War Creative Assembly are back with some not-quite-full-game but more than ‘just’ DLC add on content. This time you’ll have the choice of various barbarians and scoundrels keen on taking land along with a healthy dose of pillaging and general property damage. The Romans will be shacking in their togas.

At its core Attila is very much Rome II – albeit heavily altered. The unit bar at the bottom of the screen is largely the same and most of the elements on the world map are at least the same in style. There is a slight return of menus and boxes that open and almost fill the screen which can make managing some elements much easier. Some games just won’t fit into neat little UI elements around the borders of the screen. Total War is one of them. It’s grand strategy and it needs menus and windows. Grand strategy players like menus with numbers and stats, I know I do. Rome II forgot this a little but luckily Attila has at least partially reinstated the old ways. It’s at least promising that Creative Assembly are moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately organizing political influences and internal family politics is still a confusing chore. It’s very difficult to see the benefits and changing anything meaningful is difficult. Rather than feeling in control of a government you feel much more like an observer watching various power struggles within a powerful family you have little control over. I’d wager a lot of players never even see this menu. Granted it can provide some nifty bonuses but it’s just no fun to use. A deeper and more full representation of a government and transparent UI features would be welcome to Total War and I think eventually the franchise will get there, but Attila isn’t the one. However, for me at least it is an improvement over Rome II.

Managing settlements is largely the same as Rome II although with Attila’s flavour painted over everything. The new, more manageable, numbers and a heavier reliance on global elements allow your legacy settlements to carry and improve captured ones. Playing as one of the barbarian nations has a much more temporary feel that I found surprisingly welcome. You even have the ability to pack everything up and travel as a mobile band of thugs searching for a new place to call home. This ability to abandon your settlement and move on is a welcome new layer to the world map even though I rarely used it. To be honest I don’t have a problem with the progressively taking over the world style of Total War.

twa_battle_londinium

Building armies still follows Rome II’s idea that an army is an entity in its own right and units must be assigned to that army. While it does offer some benefits and it’s cool when army gets a well deserved reputation I’d still rather just build units and move them into an army by joining then with a general, that general could always carry an army’s upgrades. Unfortunately I do like it when an army becomes powerful because of its successes and losses. Or when they are destroyed and you actually feel the loss of connection. It also makes the game feel closer to other grand strategies that allow you to name specific forces. What I don’t like is when I just need a single unit for repression and have to go through army creation to get one. Or when a general gets negative attributes for being stood still for 10 seconds.

New units are as well made and in depth as one would expect from Creative Assembly. The precedent set out by Rome II for available factions is still upheld and there is enough choice in Attila that no one could be disappointed. There is clearly some space made for DLC factions but there are more than enough factions included in the main game. It is still a little annoying though that some very important factions are left out just for DLC purposes.

Also following Total War’s current trend each faction feels like more than just the same units with ‘Hun’ or ‘Saxon’ written in front of it and a different coloured hat. Attila more than comfortably carries the torch and the different factions are particularly impressive. The amount of content Attila offers really would make it difficult to see everything; which is very much a good thing. Attila feels like more than an expansion and certainly isn’t just DLC churned out for the sake of it, although ironically the DLC for Attila is a little bit unjustified in this respect.

twa_battle_siege_fire

In Battles the classic Total War idiocy still looms. I was reminded of it only a few weeks ago when I delved back into Rome II when I had the ludicrous show of my toughened Spartan warriors running around the map chasing a unit that just kept changing direction and running while I marched into their city. To my dismay when I returned my units had given up taking over the unguarded gates and decided instead to just stand on the walls.

Unsurprisingly Attila doesn’t break free of all the AI woes Total War offers but it does do a good job of trying. I would say this has definitely been the least ridiculous AI experience I’ve had from total war in a long time. But expect the usual inability of the AI to move away from your ranged units as they are relentlessly pelted with whatever your units have at hand. And on occasion I still had to chase a unit to every corner of the map for literally 10 minutes or more.

Another important change is longer route times and the tendency for units to regroup rather than flee. It means that more battles end in combat rather than thousands of enemies simply fleeing. And even then it’s possible to regroup and mount a counter attack if those units stop routing and regroup. It’s nice to see Total War take steps away from entire units running and battles ending without the satisfaction of an arduous and well fought victory or a valiant defeat.

Attila is an expansive and complete take on Rome II. It has almost enough new units to be considered a new game in its own right. Given the amount of changes and new features it’s very close to being considered as one. But at its heart Attila somehow just doesn’t push far enough away from Rome II, it is after all the same game underneath. The changes to the AI, although not a complete victory, are welcome. The UI seems to have found a better balance between function and style. And the new units are just as well designed as any other Total War title. Every change made in Attila is made in the right direction but none of them feel like enough to give Attila the authority of a full title. But Attila does provide a new way to play Rome II with enough new flavour to bring back players even if they have already spent massive amounts of time on Rome II.

 

SUMMARY

+ Moves Total War in all the right directions
+ Tons of new units
+ Ability to move settlement adds to world map strategy
+ Not afraid to use full menus
- Same old Total War AI
- Family tree still unappealing

Only available on PC.
phillvine
phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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+ Moves Total War in all the right directions <br /> + Tons of new units <br /> + Ability to move settlement adds to world map strategy <br /> + Not afraid to use full menus <br /> - Same old Total War AI <br /> - Family tree still unappealing <br /> <br /> Only available on PC.Review: Total War: Attila