Total War: ATTILA Review (PC)
Ahem. Now that I have your attention, let’s have a look at the latest title in the Total War succession, Sega and The Creative Assembly’s extensive strategy series; Atilla.
No cookies for guessing where and when the action will take place. Atilla: Total War thrusts you into the 5th Century A.D, when the Roman Empire is collapsing in upon itself, dozens of European kingdoms are clambering to fill the void in power left by Rome, and a new, wicked threat emerges from the East…
Like any Total War game, Atilla is difficult to start off, with an entry level that can put players new to the strategy genre off. But Sega’s long running series (it hasn’t been Sega’s all along, but it is now) is one of the best historical strategy series’ out there. The prologue, which features a war between the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, acts as your tutorial, introducing you to the basics of campaign management, map movement and combat.
And the basics don’t even come close to covering everything there is to know about Atilla.
When you’re done with the tutorial, it’s time to pick a faction and leap into the Grand Campaign! In true Total War style, there are several playable factions from all over the game’s focus area of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. Each faction has widely varying starting strengths and difficult, capabilities in the early game, and traditions and play styles, so starting a new campaign can feel like a totally fresh experience.
In Total War’s campaigns, your starting faction dictates your beginning locations, as well as enemies and allies. Some factions begin the game at war with others, and these should be your first targets. There are different ways to achieve ‘victory’ in Total War, including military dominance and cultural advancement, but reaching the end of a campaign can take a really long time. A really, really long time.
There’s a ‘story’ of sorts running through the Grand Campaign a series of chapters with their own objectives and bonus objectives to guide your progress. They follow the birth and rise of Atilla the Hun, and the impact he has on the world. The starting chapters are as simple as “survive until date x” but later nudge you towards capturing certain settlements or researching certain technologies. This was fairly new to me, as I don’t remember anything similar in Shogun 2, so it was nice to have a guiding light other than “Kill all the men! Capture all the places! Win all the wars!”
It’s immediately obvious that Atilla demands a lot of your PC, but gives just as much. The Total War series has become absolutely stunning in recent years, and Atilla is no exception. Even on it’s lower settings, the game looks good, and on it’s highest graphical pre-sets, it’s beautiful. It should be noted, I ran the game at Medium settings, because Extreme ran a bit too slowly for my liking.
One of the biggest things that needs to be touched upon in Atilla is the Horde mechanic. There are a few Horde factions, but none epitomize the ideal more than the Huns. Hordes are a new type of civilization, an army that can roam wherever it pleases, but take it’s buildings with them. Hordes can choose to Encamp anywhere on the map, and that turns them back into a city. While encamped, the army obviously can’t move, but it can create and improve buildings, as well as generate a much greater income than any army.
Most Horde factions, like the Ostrogoths, can choose to return to a standard city and country based civilization by occupying a city, claiming it as their new capital. They can also abandon this way of life and return to a wandering Horde state by abandoning all of their cities. The Huns can’t settle this way, though. Wandering and raiding is their very way of life. Suggesting they settle down in one place is as ridiculous an idea as suggesting the Romans grow wings and live in the clouds.
If Historical Accuracy is more your thing, you can take part in a variety of Historical Battles, which put you into the shoes of an army from a famous battle, and have you command it your way. These vary a lot in difficulty, but it’s always interesting to have a look into history via the strategy series. It can give a real sense of awe to see the size of the armies that used to march against each other. Just remember, they didn’t have the ability to replay in the case of a defeat back then!
I’ve been playing Total War games since Medieval came out back in 2002. They were really my introduction to strategy games, and I still look on Medieval as one of my favourite PC games. Since then, however, an awful lot has changed. I’ve stayed in contact with the series since then, but none of them had ever really rekindled the same spark that I had with that first love. With the exception of Medieval 2, I didn’t properly get back into Total War until Shogun 2.
Atilla is the title to draw me back into the series for good. With it’s mixture of turn-based campaign and real time battles, the difference between the Nomadic and ‘settled’ civilizations, and the amazing sounds and visuals, there’s an awful lot to like here. My only criticisms come from the difficulty of starting out, learning how to do all the things you want to be able to do, and the family tree and internal politics. While less beguiling than Rome 2, there’s a lot of politicking to be done in Atilla. You can marry and promote family members and statesmen, assign them to various roles within your growing Empire, and have them removed or discredited if they’re beginning to step outside of their station. There are also times when you’ll have to choose between two members of your court in a dispute, and the consequences aren’t always full explained.
Atilla is a breath of fresh air for the Total War series, moving forward in leaps and bounds from Rome 2, which at times seemed to be attempting too much, too fast. The games looks, sounds and plays great, and focuses on a new and underused period of history. It’s the first non-sequel in the Total War series since 2010’s Napoleon, actually.
If you don’t like the Total War series in general, there might not be enough revolution here to change your mind. But if you’ve appreciated the series in the past, even in passing, Atilla deserves to be given a whirl. Learn the ins and outs, and you’ve got days worth of content right here.
4.5 migrating hordes out of 5