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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.

As far as the real-time battles go, I think defense is a bit overpowered. Trying to get early-game siege equipment up to the walls against an enemy loaded with decent missile troops is utterly futile.

Also, and this should come as no surprise to Total War veterans, pathfinding can be frustrating both in the real-time battles and on the campaign map. I've had whole masses of troops slaughtered because they couldn't figure out how to effectively navigate through a gate, or a battering ram and a set of ladders cross paths and both end up perpetually locked together ten feet from the walls as arrows cut down entire battalions.

Again, none of that will come as a surprise to Total War vets. These have been problems for years. At this point it's just a bit perplexing — why is it still a problem, fifteen years after the first Total War game?

Bottom line

I will say this — Total War: Attila feels like no other game in the series, nor does it really feel like any other 4X title I've ever played. Creative Assembly has really taken to the Fall of Rome era and delivered a game that's as much about grinding beacons of civilization into dust as it is about creating new empires. It's a bold move for the series, albeit one that wouldn't really make sense for any other period of history.

The developers have also managed to rectify some (though not all) of Rome II's sins, which is appreciated. The game feels like a polished expansion to Rome II, which in many ways is exactly what it is — Creative Assembly might not tout it as such, but this is basically the Fall of the Samurai to Shogun 2 or the Napoleon: Total War to Empire.

I like it. I really do. I've already put more time into it than I did RomeII, and I expect I'll be coming back to this one for a while.

On the other hand, it's increasingly hard to turn a blind eye to Total War's biggest flaws, some of which have dogged the series since its first iteration. I'd be way more excited with whatever comes next if Creative Assembly led off the features list with "We fixed pathfinding! AI turns take a reasonable amount of time!" instead of cramming new complexity into the game.

Fix the foundation. Then add on top. Every 4X player knows that's the basis of a good empire.

 

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