By Jason Parker (Ragachak), First Prince
Fire From the East
Historically speaking, the Huns came to the European kingdoms and showed no mercy. You will find similar merciless gameplay in Total War: Attila. In Total War fashion, the developers create a true-to-life vision of 300-400 AD Europe, filled with fire, chaos, and plague. The game’s difficulty varies from faction to faction, but none of it is truly easy. I was fortunate enough to get a preview build of Total War, roughly 50 turns into the game with several of the factions available for me to peruse. Much to my chagrin, not all factions were available for me to try; I really wanted to give the Huns a whirl. However, all factions are in the game. Like the rest of the Total War series, there are several ways to win, from military to civic, and you can be sure the other kingdoms and factions are using every advantage in their arsenal to beat you to the same goals.
I haven’t had a chance to sit down with a Total War title in a while, but this was a staunch reminder of why the series has been around for as long as it has been. There are so many cool things to be aware of in the game: you can still promote family members, marry people off, create marriages for alliances, and murder your untrustworthy family. The game’s full of cool skills, glorious battles, and a lot of fire. No matter what faction you choose, there will be fun and frustration galore. The Huns are coming and no one is safe from their wrath.
Ever-changing Political Landscape
Many of the major European powers are represented here. The split of the Holy Roman Empire is visible, as are the Germanic tribes. Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Geats – you name it, it’s probably here! The Middle East is also represented by the Sassinids and the dying religion of Zoroastrianism. Though the Geats, Jutes, and Danes are day-one DLC available for purchase, pre-order of the title will net you these as well. I’m a little miffed about the idea of day-one DLC, especially since people who don’t preorder will have to pay for the content, but it seems to be becoming the standard in the empire strategy realm. Players can also play as the Huns, but they do not start out as a superpower. That great and fearsome reputation has to be earned. The available tribes and forces are greatly varied, so that everyone can find something that fits their experience and level of challenge.
This build of the game does not have the Total War Encyclopedia, Advisor, or a few other useful tools implemented yet, though they will be in the final release of the game. The game is set in the Dark Ages, and represents the fall of European civilization as Atilla the Hun amasses power. Many of the tried and true game functions return to the title such as the Technology Tree, which is split into Civic and Military goals. The game itself has a variety of landmark goals as the game progresses, depending on what faction you are playing. Generally, the first goal is “Survive until Spring 401.” The game is divided into Chapters, each with its own objectives to complete before progressing. These are outside of the Victory Objectives and only offer boons instead of full on victory, as there’s only two routes to achieving full victory here.
Religion, Fire, Patricide
Despite being a military strategy game, politics are hugely important! Your family tree is shown in a menu, and you have the ability to arrange marriages, give rank, suck up, poison, and assassinate others. I love the idea of having a family that you can’t altogether trust in titles like this. It’s supposed to feel realistic, and let’s face it: everyone wants to be King. And you can’t just wait for the leader to die . . . sometimes you have to take steps. I’ve also had several puppet states offer up daughters to my faction as an offering for an alliance. However, the big issue I’ve found is that if two of my allied factions go to war with each other, I am forced to break an alliance and choose one to assist. Either way, I feel doomed. I can also choose to stay out of the conflict, but that isn’t always an option in a chaotic political climate. Inaction can also be dangerous.
While the game itself is turn-based, the combat is still action-packed and real-time. You command troop units on a battlefield, and your goal is either to wipe out the opposing force or destroy its general. Some battles take place in cities, and you must learn how they are laid out in order to cut off units in alleys, bombard enemies from afar, and navigate the streets. There’s no magic or high-technology here, just Dark Age combat, and plenty of it! Battles can be automated, showing you your chance of success or defeat, but I would never rely on that mechanic. Admittedly, battles can be taxing during long play sessions as they are rarely short.
Overall Feel: Ready to Spread Fire and Violence!
I have to say, I’m hyped for Attila. Incredibly hyped. I didn’t get to see the whole game, but I am certain that the final version will not disappoint. Choosing a larger empire as your first faction may be a poor choice, unless you want a challenge. Every action you take affects the game, and it can be very easy to get yourself in too deep in the political waters. If you’re one of those kinds of players who doesn’t care what the others think of you as you push to victory, by all means, pack a nice big army and keep all threats in check! The game is so detailed, it can be easy to get lost in. Before I knew it, eight hours of my day had been consumed, and I had no idea where it went. I was constantly swapping factions, seeing how they played, and learning what events to expect in each corner of the world. But rest assured, the Huns are coming. Nobody is safe.