The first time I launched Total War: Attila, I could tell it was going to be a completely different kettle of fish. The soundtrack, composed by Richard Beddow, immediately immersed me in the world: the overtone singing made a chilling effect that I just didn’t get with Rome II. Despite some beliefs, Attila is marketed not as a brand new game, but a stand-alone expansion for the previous game. There are few major changes, with similar graphics to the previous game, and the same engine. The main difference is a new historical era and some minor changes to game mechanics.
Attila looks stunning. If you can spare the extra power, it definitely has the edge over Rome II, with sharper textures, and much more variation in weather and particle effects depending on your region. Britain is misty, damp, and greener than much of the world: it never stops raining. The deserts of the Sassanid Empire are complete with camels in its sandy dunes – it’s a clear step up. One place where Attila fell short for me though, was the unit models and their animations. Their textures and models are perfectly fine stand-alone, with quite a few variations within each unit. Once you look at the bigger picture however, you begin to notice disappointing elements. The main fall back in comparison to Rome is just how similar the units of each faction are. This is especially noticeable with the Germanic tribes: the models are almost the same as their neighbours but with different coloured shields, and individuals somehow manage to acquire the exact same trousers. The developers have a fix for this, and it isn’t a good one at all. Pay £12 for two pieces of DLC, one of which was released on day one and the other only weeks after.
Despite that, Attila still has more to offer than its predecessor. The ‘extreme’ setting is designed for graphics cards that haven’t even been released yet, but this means that as time goes on, the game will only look better.
Attila’s core is naturally the new historical era. The nomadic nature of the Huns means the reintroduction of the ‘horde’ mechanic and the ability to relocate cities and armies with ease. This is something that has been missing since the original Rome: Total War expansion Barbarian Invasion, and changes the way you both attack and defend. This is enhanced by much more intelligent siege mechanics, troops reacting the way they should in situations, while also maintaining fantastic visuals as the walls of the enemy crumble in front of you.
Creative Assembly have also listened to their fans by implementing a slightly more robust diplomacy system with other nations – a vastly improved political system that involves gaining influence, even if you have to assassinate someone within your own family tree to get it, and the ability to ‘draw’ exactly what path your units take. In general, minor tweaks have made Attila a step up from its predecessor.
However, there are some problems, and in some ways they are more significant than Rome II. First, the campaign map AI is still not particularly intelligent. Your opponents raze and resettle seemingly at random, with few repercussions. Combined with huge penalties to food output during the winter, I was soon struggling to survive and found that no matter how good the terms were, the enemy would not make peace with me. In contrast to this, battles themselves are a little easier because they can be predictable and in some cases, scripted. It leaves you with a slightly unbalanced game that can be both hindered and helped by the AI cheating.
If you play the Total War franchise for multiplayer, Attila just isn’t for you right now. It is buggy, hard to connect to, and in comparison to Rome II, the battles are much more drawn out. The player versus player is unbalanced, with certain units almost guaranteed to win, and shield-wall bugs are completely exploitable. Co-op campaign also has many bugs, which means playing with a friend is very difficult because of crashes and de-syncs. At the moment the multiplayer just isn’t good enough for a finished game.
Attila is a good addition to the Total War franchise, topping Rome II. However, it’s questionable if these additions are worth paying £30 for when there are bugs and imbalances that are yet to be addressed. If you just want it for the single player then you will find that Attila has a lot to offer over Rome II. But if multiplayer is your thing, it would be a good idea to steer clear and keep an eye on the change log to see if there are any fixes in the future.