Total War: Attila is the latest game in the esteemed Total War series, and in the past decade the series has grown in an environment in which the strategy game has died. Against all the odds, the series has endured highs and lows, the latest which being Attila’s disastrous predecessor. Whilst it may be easy to dismiss Attila on the merit of Rome II’s flaws, one might just be surprised by its quality.
The first thing to note about Attila is it’s sobering portrayal of a world at war. Gone is the steamrolling of previous games, almost every battle is a tooth-and-nail fight to the death of your culture, or one much like yours. The brutal 180 turn the game takes is a sobering manifestation of the consequence of empire building. Whilst in every other Total War game the objective has been to conquer the known world, in Attila, the singular, ominous object is to survive as a world conquering empire crumbles.
The battles in the game are possibly the biggest step forward the game has taken from its predecessor as the AI viciously exploits its advantages on a level never really seen before in a Total War game. Gone are the days of the AI standing around, waiting to be attacked in haphazard formations, and a victory will often leave you just as crippled as the army you’ve defeated. Whilst unit diversity hasn’t really progressed, all of the units are well balanced and all have a role within the rock/paper/scissors mechanics of the battles.
The game is also incredibly polished, adding some of the deepest mechanics ever implemented into a Total War game in the form of the political system, whilst in Rome II this system was obviously shoved into the game half-finished. In Attila, the system brings depth and character to your faction in a manner unseen since Medieval II as your family fuck, steal and cheat their way into various controversies you are required to solve in order to prevent civil war. It lends a certain urgency to the campaign, especially whilst playing as a migratory faction, when a member of your household is found to be aiding the enemy in some way. Sentencing him to 100 simulated lashes is rewarding and immersive.
The other new mechanic in Attila’s campaign is that of Migration. Whilst this was a feature present in the game’s spiritual predecessor Barbarian Invasion, the mechanic really comes into its own in Attila, allowing any barbarian faction (most of the playable factions) to abandon all of their settlements in favour of becoming a homeless, nomadic horde. The other big change to the Total War format here is the option to raze a captured settlement, essentially denying the province to its owner and demolishing all buildings, forcing any future invaders to start (expensively) from scratch. Whilst you might be fooled into starting as a migratory faction with 3 armies at your command off the bat, one badly thought out battle can be disastrous for the entire campaign.
However Attila isn’t without its flaws. The game isn’t exactly well optimized and although these bugs are small in comparison to Rome II, the campaign also kind of feels like Rome II in some aspects. For instance when playing on normal difficulty, the game can feel incredibly boring. The game is about survival, but there aren’t really any major battles to be had and you’ll find yourself autoresolving your orgy of destruction through the Roman Empire for the nth time as you come across the same 420 man (yes really) garrison you beat up in the last 4 cities you burned to the ground. Even on hard, whilst challenging and detailed, the game just lacks a certain soul, possibly due to it being half finished, possibly due to lazy/inexperienced dev work.
Whilst Attila’s revamps and additions to the Total War formula will tickle veteran commanders disappointed by Rome II’s lacklustre…everything, the game’s mostly solid combat and campaign (let down only by general bugginess and a certain lack of atmosphere) is an endearing addition to the blooming franchise.