Total War: Attila
Developer: The Creative Assembly
I perused the world map and examined the damage that had been done by my rampaging Visigoths alongside their nomadic European brethren after 40 turns of… Well, you know. I had resurrected the former faction of Macedon during the early days of my quest west in order to create a buffer between me and the Eastern Roman Empire. By Turn 41, I had my own empire spread out and struggling for its existence from all sides of the map. I knew it wouldn’t remain in my hands for long but I was fully engaged in the sweep west that one thing became clear as I bore witness to the nebulous web of Western Roman towns I had captured or my allies had razed to the ground. The clarity of my objective instilled me with a sense of great power: Rome must burn.
The Total War franchise suffered a bit of a blow after Creative Assembly released 2013’s Total War: Rome II, though it was highly successful in a commercial sense, it was riddled with an abundance of technical issues. Several attempts to retool everything through patches as well as with the release of the Emperor Edition did little to remove the bad taste from the mouths of their dissatisfied customers. So there was a lot of incentive for Creative Assembly to release a product that was as nicely polished as possible and they certainly achieved that with Attila. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it certainly does more than meet the standard its fanbase demands after Rome II.
Attila is sophisticated, intricate, it contains everything the established fandom loves about the franchise and its battles are just as enthralling as ever. They’re wide-ranging in regards to scenarios, odds as well as strategies but most specifically: fighting the Huns is a wildly intimidating experience and can require no small amount of cunning. More often than not you’ll find yourself astoundingly outnumbered with your infantry forces squaring off against hordes of horse-mounted warriors.
The most memorable moment I had against the Huns occurred relatively early on in my campaign when two Hunnic hordes massing over 2,000 strong attacked one of my towns manned with an 1,100-strong garrison, whose only chance for survival relied on one blockade in-town and a 300-man army nearby to reinforce mid-battle.
The first day ended with my garrison severely reduced to the size of 350 troops, while the reinforcing army was obliterated outright in a successful suicide mission to eliminate the enemy general from the rear. This suicide mission caused the Huns to divert their attention, giving my spearmen some breathing room and giving more distance for my archers to fire their flaming arrows into the attacking horde without risk of injuring friendlies. After the enemy general was slain, their morale plummeted, causing the Huns to retreat with some 500 troops to spare. Meanwhile the town had been burned reduced to charcoal piles of debris and I was left to observe the thousands of dead from both sides amidst the rubble of my once bustling village.
During the second day, I was able to place an 800-strong reinforcing army near the town, however the town’s once mighty garrison now consisted of some archers and the General’s bodyguards were left to stare down a 1,100-strong force, with almost no remaining civilian buildings to help block or funnel the enemy approach. My general and his men lasted a while against the brutal horde… They held strong for several minutes under the covering fire of flaming arrows and the Huns had helped form a makeshift chokepoint by getting stuck in a corridor consisting of the only standing buildings left in town but it was only a matter of time before the 150 bodyguards were trampled to death by the sea of stampeding enemy cavalry. Having stood their ground long enough for one group of archers to run out of arrows completely, I opted to send these poor marksmen running at the hordes with their bare fists. They didn’t last long (especially after witnessing the death of their leader), but they did last long enough for reinforcements to arrive in town and attack the Hunnic forces from the rear, en masse. There were no survivors from the Huns at the end of the battle and a large chunk of my overall military had been decimated by these raids and I knew there was plenty more of the enemy where they came from. This was the moment I realized what Total War: Attila would be all about for any faction going up against the Huns. A forced march to survive the end of days against an unstoppable plague reaching to every corner of the game’s world map.
Total War: Attila is all about Creative Assembly instilling a creeping sense of dread and its encompassing tension as your faction fights, not for conquest, but for its very survival. Through fighting or evading the galloping hordes, breaking down the walls of the once great Roman cities, managing your own political power and issues inside your faction while also managing your own nomadic economy. It’s a slow build to resisting and surviving this near unfathomable beast of an army that does nothing other than raid or raze any town in its path. A massive, unknowable entity that only follows you no matter where you go and wants nothing other than to destroy you. In this respect, Total War: Attila is a much better survival-horror than Creative Assembly’s own “Alien: Isolation” and is guaranteed to have you sink many willing hours into it.