Total War: Attila is marching on us, and before it’s hammering on our gates we need to take stock of what we know about this strange new enemy. It’s Creative Assembly’s new Total War game, so it’ll definitely be a blend of grand turn-based strategy, political decisions, and large-scale real-time-combat.
But Attila is set during a very different time to other Total War games; the largest factions are failing rather than on the rise, and the enemy moves, plans, and fights in a very different manner to what we’ve seen before. And the biggest enemy of them all isn’t even something that can be killed; you can’t stab the weather. To prepare for the fight against Attila and his barbarian forces, lets get up to speed with everything we know.
A world on the edge of change
Set in 395AD, Attila shows a world very different to what Total War typically likes to demonstrate. The Roman Empire is no longer the huge dominating force it once was; instead of a powerful, regimented armoured fist, it is a bloated and confused mess of an administration on its way to collapse. As a result of taking command of the empire much later in its lifetime, you’ll start Attila with far more territory, but with its cities and political system in chaos. You’ll have to try and quickly reign in the madness, choosing what territories you can afford to lose and which need to be defended, because there’s another kind of society out there in the world...
Unleash the horde
Key to Atilla’s design is hordes. Rather than the organised ranks and garrisons of the Roman empire, Attila and his armies were ever-mobile, constantly on the move as they raided and pillaged through multiple territories every year. As such, a horde faction operates very differently to a traditional Total War army. They’re not just soldiers; wherever they go they can construct camps to rest up in, making them more effective on the road than regular armies. Some horde factions can even take over settlements and attempt to live a more traditional way of life, although rapid expansion is required to prosper. Ten of Attila’s 56 factions will begin life as a horde, meaning they won’t have a capital city or home region, but will be ready to rampage across the continent.
If this system sounds familiar, it is because it has roots in Rome 2’s Barbarian Invasion expansion. Expect a more complex variant of that feature, woven tighter into the rest of the game’s systems to ensure the impact of rampaging barbarians is felt far and wide.
Winter is coming
Attila the Hun and his colossal army may be on the front of the box, but he’s not Total War’s biggest threat. The real villain you really need to look out for is negative number temperatures. As Attila's campaign rages on, the more northern territories start to suffer from colder and longer winters. As areas become chillier, their productivity will plummet. Armies stationed in the north will begin to starve and die. This will force whoever controls these territories to migrate south, leaving them no option but declaring war on the occupants of warmer lands.
It’s a system that should help prevent stagnation in the later stages of a campaign, ensuring constant movement and hardened defences. Regardless of your expansion plans, at some point you’ll either have to fend off immigrant armies or perform a hostile takeover of a sunny resort for yourself.
Whipping up a firestorm
Creative Assembly has been installing a great chunk of new tech into Attila, and it’s most notable in the new Dynamic Fire Simulation. Not only do we get some beautiful flame effects, but fire realistically spreads and burns. Considering a great deal of Attila’s fortresses and towns will be made of wood, this provides great opportunities for reducing your enemies to smouldering ash without sacrificing hundreds of troops. The simulation also replicates fire spread, which is affected by the weather, so only takes one flaming projectile fired into the right place and a good gust of wind to cause a whole town to become a roaring furnace.
Attila will feature distinct levels of siege, meaning the longer you surround a settlement, the worse the situation will become for your enemy. Previous Total War games would see garrison forces dwindle as the siege went on, but in Attila the physical town will deteriorate, opening up cracks in defences that can be exploited when you finally decide to march on the gates.
If you’re on the receiving end of a siege party, just because your walls are crumbling and half your men have died of starvation doesn’t mean you’re out of options. You’ll be able to put up special defence structures before the battle starts, and provided you lay them down with a strategic hand, you can funnel enemy troops into bottlenecks and traps.
Keep it clean
Disease and illness is a real cause for concern in Attila, as allowing a virus to spread through a town can bring it to its knees. As such, investing in sanitation is vital. As is the position of your armies; they can act as carriers for disease, so if they travel from an infected city to a new home, they could well bring all kinds of sickness with them. Likewise travelling merchants can also cause ill health to rapidly spread through your empire. You may have enough swords to slay the Huns seven times over, but they’ll be useless if your entire military is chucking up in the streets.