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Total War: Attila review: Some men just want to watch the world burn

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 13, 2015
Rome wasn't built in a turn, but it certainly was destroyed in one. After sweeping through northern Italy I've brought my combined Visigoth/Ostrogoth alliance to the seat of the Western Roman Empire.

The fall of Rome

So let's talk about Total War: Rome II, this game's immediate predecessor. If you're coming to Attila with a bit of trepidation, I don't blame you. "Yeah, this all sounds good," you're thinking, "but how does it run?" Rome II was an unmitigated disaster at launch and for multiple months afterward.

Attila isn't quite as bad, but there are still rough edges. I've had AI turns last upwards of thirty seconds at times, which is entirely too long in my opinion. If I'm reaching for my phone to kill time in between turns, there's a problem. I've also had the game outright freeze after the AI takes its turn, sitting on a weird white fog-screen for twenty seconds while the game struggles to return control to me. This is with an Intel Core i5-3570K and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 — a fairly beefy configuration well within the game's recommended specs.

The AI turns are also just as janky as they were in Rome II. The game is trying to show you what the AI is doing while also trying to calculate turns for three-dozen different factions at the same time, so it gives you this weird five frames per second, skipping, halting, creaking imitation of one or two parts of the AI's turn where you can sort of tell what's going on but not really. "Did the Western Roman Empire just attack...wait, what's going on here?" You can never really tell, which forces you to zoom out and take stock of the AI factions after control is returned to you each turn.

It's like the whole thing was spooled together with duct-tape — I've only had one outright crash, which isn't too bad, but the game always seems right on the verge of crashing. Like at any moment, if I do the wrong thing or touch the big red button, this could be the turn where it crashes again.

The UI also needs work still. The stylized approach to Rome II has been toned back a bit, but there are still plenty of icons that are completely unintuitive. I found myself mousing over tiny icons and waiting for tooltips to pop up even hours into my campaign, which is absurd. And Total War is still awful at surfacing information. How is food production calculated in each region? Why are you hemorrhaging troops suddenly? What happened to all your money? If I research this technology, what are the specific benefits I get from each building in that tier? Many of these questions require you delve into the extensive Total War Encyclopedia and read the answers, which is an awkward way to learn.


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