It is the eighth winter of my campaign as I watch helplessly whilst my troops and towns slowly freeze and starve to death. My resources are spread thin and I must focus on my quest for the southern lands as the Vandals, one of the ten playable factions (not including DLC). The winter is not my only nemesis, however, with the ever present threat of the Huns and the Western Roman Empire breathing down my neck. It is in this struggle and strife that Total War: Attila truly outclasses its predecessors.
You start essentially nomadic with no place to call home – which is a blessing and a curse. Being able to focus your armies on razing cities to the ground without having to defend your own provinces from danger is great to begin with, yet every nation needs a place to call home – after all, inside every player is a sense of patriotism that pushes them to make roots at some point. The environment is unforgiving on players with the winters being able to end a whole campaign in one fell swoop.
Attila teaches you to be ruthless with your tactics and this lack of a home truly helps your decision-making, enabling you to focus, for the most part, on not just ending other factions, but actually something much more primal; survival. I was hesitant to form alliances with factions as I did not want to be dragged back or get caught up in conflicts that did not benefit me. I was focused on my clan and my people, almost to the point that I felt I was one of Vandal clan. Another reason that I didn’t join alliances or deal with other factions was that the diplomacy in Total War: Attila is so underwhelming that it caused more harm than good. Trading with factions was often fruitless with there rarely being counter-offers, and if they were made available they were unreasonable. In my times of great need, it would have been useful to be able to rely on a well-built trading system but this was just not the case.
Total War: Attila is an ode to survival of the fittest, if you don’t have the means to react to opposing players, the constant change in weather and sudden loss inland to lay claim to you will fail. Luckily, navigating your way around the interface is quite simple and improves upon what Rome II disappointed with. The interface helps speed up the way you play and puts you more in control of how you move your armies around.
Unfortunately, this once again does not translate to the control of politics or civilians. Constant frustrations with either the lack of control or too much control over my faction lead to pointless civil wars that could have been avoided had the diplomacy settings been updated and actually made to work. The Total War series has always been plagued by this and unless a change is made to the next iteration of the game, players will continue to be angry and frustrated.
Combat remains much the same, highly exciting and tactical; setting up your army correctly before the battle is so important as, if your troops have to run themselves ragged to defend an isolated unit there is a high chance of defeat. In a game where your armies are so important to survival, losing battles is just not acceptable more so than ever before. I found myself planning battles for up to ten turns ahead until I knew that I would be decisively victorious and not lose many troops.
The important thing about Total War: Attila is that it makes players actually care about the lives they control. Each King, Prince and General is unique and important to victory and it is devastating to lose any of them. Braving the harsh winters and searching for land to inhabit is so important that it will consume you as you throw hours into your conquest of what will soon be a war-ravaged land.
Total War: Attila teaches you about survival and unity even in the face of grave danger and encourages you not to dominate your opponents straight away, just to survive against all odds. It is brought down only by flawed diplomacy and internal relations with your public, but this is outweighed by it’s vast strengths that make it a strong addition to Total War.