Total War: Attila Preview - Hands-on With Doom

Greg Tito | 13 Jan 2015 14:00
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Total War Attila screenshot

Characters within your faction operate around the family tree - which is a wonderful departure from the faction-based gameplay of Rome 2. While you manage the strategic position of your armies on the beautifully constructed map, you must also pay attention to the members of your household. Your sons and uncles can act as generals or governors of specific regions, lending their expertise to improve public order or recruiting units, depending on how you level them up. They can also gain too much influence, and former a rebel faction seeking to depose your rule. There's a touch of Crusader Kings II to the machinations of your family and advisers - players will assign a story line to the random events almost automatically. In one playthrough with Attila, my uncle in the Sassinid empire gained the Out of Favor trait, and rose up against my rule. I imagined that he didn't like what I said about his wife's infidelities - another randomly assigned event had fired a few turns earlier about a child being born out of wedlock.

This being a game about the fall of Rome, you'll probably want to play as one of the migratory peoples, and doing so will provide some new mechanics with which to experiment. These so-called hordes do not begin play with a settled city with which to stage your invasions. Instead, you can set your armies stance to camp semi-permanently to allow recruitment of new units, and building economic boosting structures. In practice, the horde is difficult to manage - I only played a few dozen turns with the Ostrogoth faction before I was wiped out. Your Ostrogoth peoples must keep moving, sacking Roman cities to replenish supplies, while also managing relations with the other migratory tribes in the area. Every faction must be aware of the approaching doom from the East. The cavalry of the Hunnish peoples can destroy Germanic tribesmen as easily as they can sack the more "civilized" settlements.

Sadly, the preview code did not include an option to play as Attila. It may be extremely fun to embody the destroyer of the classical era, but the factions available all must be aware of the Huns and their approach into Roman lands. The Sassanids of Persia offer perhaps the most traditionally strong empire at the start of the campaign in 394, but even they must face the threats of tribes like the Magyars and the Alans on their puppet states to the North and the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople.

In a press briefing last year, we were told the climate would have an impact on the campaign, with the harsh snows coming continuously farther south as the years pounded on. The Germanic tribes will be able to deal with this much better than, say, a Persian force would, and that will greatly impact your strategy. The effect of this mechanic, as well as the feeling of encroaching doom for the more established empires, will be something we'll be able to report more on when Total War: Attila comes out in February 17 on the PC.

I would have loved to have played more of Attila's campaign to see how more time affected the situation around the Mediterranean Sea. Would the Sassanids be able to grow their empire by taking advantage of the precarious position of the Romans? Could the Ostrogoths find a home in Western Europe amid the ruins of their foes? Would I defeat Attila if I met him on the field? These are some big questions that I am not able to answer with my short time in Attila, but I am left with the desire.

And that's pretty good considering the history. And the doom. There really is quite a lot of doom.

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