Here come the Huns.
SEGA and Creative Assembly take a side step with the latest Total War game, a game which could have been released as an expansion to Total War: Rome II. Indeed, the setting is only minimally distanced from the time period of Rome II, and the mechanics don’t make any leaps or bounds from the now very competent mechanics of the previous game. But Total War: Attila has a rather hefty arrow in its quiver, and the clue is in the name…
As with all the previous Total War games, Attila is a turn-based strategy game on the campaign map, with glorious real-time strategy whenever armies go to war, which happens a lot. For those who have never dipped their toes into the historical strategy pond of Creative Assembly’s Total War series, prepare for a baptism of fire.
The idea of raising massive armies and laying waste to vast areas of 5th Century Europe may be a little daunting for the newcomer, and there is no denying that the learning curve is steep. The prologue, before jumping into a full campaign, introduces the player to the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, while also giving the new player an overview of the basics of Total War, including management and combat. There are plenty of holes left behind by this tutorial of sorts, and nothing will fill those holes other than spending time playing and learning in the full campaign.
For the returning player, the many improvements made to Rome II after its somewhat rocky launch ensure that the launch of Total War: Attila is much smoother, and the product that players get their hands on today is nicely polished and feels great to play. Of course, part of this enjoyment comes from the main new feature – Migration.
In the grand campaign, players are free to choose from any of the available factions, much as they have in previous Total War games. However, a few of these factions bring with them a new way to play the game. Horde factions, such as the Ostrogoths, or even the titular Huns, are not tied to a capital city. Whether for a change of scenery or to make use of better resources, these migratory factions are able to simply upstakes and move all of their buildings with them as they roam the map.
At any point, these roaming factions can stop and once again set up shop, raising their tents and once again taking advantage of their buildings to create new units or upgrade and such. These “pop up” cities can once again be packed away when the time comes to move on.
This gives the migratory tribes an incredible amount of freedom, not limiting them to a capital city in far away lands. Coming across other cities, the hordes can set up their own city and proceed to decimate the city, razing it to the ground with the glorious new fire effect.
Or they could claim the city as their own. Many of the horde factions are even able to cast aside their previous roaming ways and declare a newly captured city as their capital, making them much more like the traditional Total War factions. This can be undone by simply abandoning any controlled cities and returning to the previous way of life.
However, this is not an option for Attila and his Huns. They are a nomadic tribe to the core and differentiate themselves from the other tribes by simply not being able to settle. It makes them very interesting to play, and quite difficult. But there is something incredibly satisfying about leading the Hun horde across a map and laying waste to anything and everything in its path.
Politics are an important part of Total War, and in Attila the family system brings yet more options, being able to assign family members to different roles in your empire. The system adds yet more complexity to what is already a difficult game, but those who invest in learning how to succeed in Total War will welcome the additional options, and lament their choices when that family member turns against them.
The Total War games have always been impressive to watch and improved visually with each outing, and Attila is truly the most beautiful of all. Whether scrolling across the campaign map and enjoying the incredible detail, or watching as hundreds of units rush across a detailed battle map to engage the enemy, Total War: Attila is often breathtaking. Watching settlements burn to the ground is worryingly enjoyable, as is the sight of flaming arrows raining down from the sky. In Total War: Attila, war can be hypnotic.
Total War: Attila is not the largest leap forward from the previous game, but it successfully introduces an entirely new idea that works really well. It has also managed to launch without much by way of drama, which is always good. Total War: Attila is perhaps one of the more difficult entries in the Total War series, and so is not the best place for a beginner to start. However, the veteran player will find a much smoother, challenging experience.