The great Roman Empire is collapsing. The merciless Huns are setting the world on fire, and it’s up to you to either help restore Rome’s greatness or face against her in resistance. Combining real-time battles with complex politics, Total War: ATTILA continues the franchise’s long tradition of delivering deep strategic gameplay with an immersive historical backdrop. Developer Creative Assembly took a few missteps with Rome II last year, making the game nearly unplayable on launch day. I’m happy to say that ATTILA, despite the absurd system requirements, is almost flawless.
However, technical improvements aren’t the only changes. Total War: ATTILA is more welcoming to newcomers, without losing any of its hardcore roots. The dynamic battles are spectacular, and experiencing empirical growth followed by sudden social collapse is incomparable. The back and forth between feeling powerful and powerless is what makes ATTILA one of the best strategy titles in a long time. Certainty is nonexistent, and only those with a watchful eye can stand ground against ruthless invaders.
"The back and forth between feeling powerful and powerless is what makes ATTILA one of the best strategy titles in a long time."
I don’t have extensive experience with the Total War franchise. I briefly ventured through Shogun 2 when it originally launched in 2011, but never enjoyed its many diverse expansions. Rome II was so broken, I gave up after a week of constant crashing. It left such a bad taste in my mouth, I never bothered reinstalling it, despite the many patches. ATTILA not only performs better, it’s gripping from the very first opening cutscene. Maybe it’s because of my fascination with the Huns, or maybe it’s due to the game’s improved pacing. Whatever the reason may be, as a whole, ATTILA is more accessible and enjoyable.
Strategy games are oftentimes guilty of lacking proper tutorials and guidance. Ehm, I’m looking at you Hearts of Iron. ATTILA gets it right. The game’s prologue serves as an introductory campaign that walks players through all the intricate details, while still refraining from handholding. In-game advisors monitor your actions and regularly provide helpful feedback and direction. The amount of aid can be adjusted via the options menu, but if you’re new to the series, you’ll want to listen to everything they have to say.
"Total War: ATTILA is first and foremost about dominance and power. Objectives and victory conditions vary based on the chosen faction, but it ultimately comes down to territory control and military might."
Menu navigation is still a chore. Even after memorizing every icon and every function, it’s still frustrating to peel through several layers of clustered information only to implement a small change. I found myself playing through the prologue “twice” to ensure I know absolutely everything there is to know. Sometimes it can feel like you’re studying for an exam, but the sense of accomplishment is undoubtedly worth it.
Total War: ATTILA is first and foremost about dominance and power. Objectives and victory conditions vary based on the chosen faction, but it ultimately comes down to territory control and military might. There are 10 playable factions, and each offers different difficulty levels. Choosing the Sassanid Empire, for example, provides a more peaceful environment for new players. With a financial, military and educational foundation right from the start, the Sassanid’s campaign is perfect for learning the ins and outs of what ATTILA has to offer. The Franks, on the other hand, are for Total War veterans. They relish on the battlefield, and their campaign is designed for players who enjoy taking risks in battle.
"The new Internal Politics system introduces new domestic challenges. Depending how influence is distributed amongst leaders can make or break the political landscape."
ATTILA’s politics are tough. Keeping your people happy is the game’s biggest challenge. Ensuring food, hygiene, law and education are all evenly balanced is nearly impossible. If erecting farms and markets to provide necessary food supplies, you’re sure to run out of money. If you’re too stingy with your savings, your people are likely to revolt. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win. Want to raise happiness by lowering taxes? Good luck with that. How about cutting out taxes completely? Still unhappy. As a result, you end up focusing almost entirely on military growth.
It doesn’t stop there. The new Internal Politics system introduces new domestic challenges. Depending how influence is distributed amongst leaders can make or break the political landscape. Letting another general gain too much influence can result in turmoil and eventual downfall. On the other hand, become too powerful and your citizens may consider you a tyrant. On the battlefield, ATTILA is more dynamic compared to its predecessors. Units fatigue faster, and overall morale has a greater impact on soldiers’ performance.
"Despite its graphical shortcomings, Total War: ATTILA is a phenomenal experience. It’s a brutal and engrossing game of chess."
Total War: ATTILA is an impressive looking game. Creative Assembly has done an exceptional job of capturing the tone and atmosphere of the time period. Panning the camera across the battlefield, then zooming all the way into the heart of battle is a dramatic sight. Sadly, only gamers with monster systems can appreciate the game as intended. Even with our high end hardware (GTX 780, Intel i7, 32GB of RAM), we barely managed to hit a constant 40 fps on mid settings. Admittedly, the game ran in 1440p. Nevertheless, the high requirements are nonsense. While ATTILA is technically miles above the train wreck that was Rome II, it’s still poorly optimized.
Despite its graphical shortcomings, Total War: ATTILA is a phenomenal experience. It’s a brutal and engrossing game of chess. While the political systems can be frustrating, and occasionally unfair, proper battle tactics ultimately reign supreme. It’s very representative of the time period, and in a way, an honest reflection of how little we’ve come as a species.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC