I've been a fan of the Total War
series for some time, going all the way back to Medieval: Total War
from 2002. I had no idea what I was doing at the time you see, I simply spammed militia units because I liked big battles and swords. Still do. Needless to say those were the elements that have kept me coming back no matter the Total War setting. Be it Rome, the 18th century and it’s fascination with having marching bands lead soldiers into battle, or the fantasy world of Warhammer.
A Total War Saga: TROY
, which is the next release in the Total War offshoot ‘Saga’ label, sets its sights on Homer’s epic tale The Iliad. Specifically, the Trojan War which covers the conflict between the kingdoms of Troy and Mycenaean Greece. Developer Creative Assembly
has taken an interesting path in its approach here, in that it’s one that isn’t quite fantasy nor is it steeped in historical accuracy.
Instead the studio finds middle ground with TROY offering a quasi “truth behind the legend” vibe with mythological units like the Centaurs portrayed as Nomadic horse tribes and the Cyclops as a large man wearing a skull with a single eyehole on it wielding a massive club and doing as much damage as a Warhammer Giant. These mythical units can be unlocked through a unique building chain in specific settlements.
"TROY offers a quasi “truth behind the legend” vibe with mythological units like the Centaurs portrayed as Nomadic horse tribes and the Cyclops as a large man wearing a skull with a single eyehole on it."
Although a Saga entry, this focus on a specific place and time and myth leads to some pretty engaging Total War action that feels like the Warhammer entries merged with the cool history-meets-myth of Three Kingdoms. But, scaled down to a not-so-ridiculous level so that a single hero can’t annihilate an entire army.
Swords, sandals, myth, and legend. Starting out you have a choice of eight factions split across the Greeks and Trojans. As is the Total War way each has its own playstyle, unique units, and heroes. In the two playthroughs for this review the choice was simple... Brad Pitt and then Eric Bana. I mean, Achilles and Hector.
The focus on heroes outside of simple abilities on a skill-tree is very cool. Take Achilles, he has a faction mechanic where his mood is affected by his actions -- things like sitting in a settlement chilling with his homie Patroclus or being at war and watching out for any heel-bound projectiles. His mood can result in the overall population becoming unhappy, and ol’ Achilles loves a good mood swing so managing his temperament becomes a thing.
Hector on the other hand is in competition with his brother Paris, who looks suspiciously like Orlando Bloom, so there’s a whole system around earning praise from dearest father to be named faction heir. Be the first to earn enough praise and either Bana or Bloom will unlock permanent buffs and goodies.
More than a simple change of scenery Creative Assembly has fully embraced A Total War Saga: TROY’s Ancient Greek setting -- which is excellent news. Plus, it brings enough campaign changes to make it feel different enough than what we’ve played before.
Currency in TROY has been replaced from a single shingy golden pile of gold or souls to several resources -- grain, wood, bronze, stone. And yeah, gold too. All except for stone are used in recruiting and upkeep for units, with higher tiers requiring gold and bronze as well as food. This adds a new dimension to the progression of armies, one where you need to keep a close eye on income levels to make sure you don’t fall short. Trade agreements for passive income are absent here, replaced by some old fashioned bartering for one of the five resources. You can also trade regions for extra favor in negotiations.
"Currency in TROY has been replaced from a single shingy golden pile of gold or souls to several resources -- grain, wood, bronze, stone. And yeah, gold too."
Resources, in the world-map view, are collected from villages in the provinces that you capture or build-up. There’s more depth to managing multiple buildings, especially those that can boost income. Negative happiness for a province wide resource boost can be chosen to help boost your economy, so finding the right balance is key. Cities in each province are also special in TROY and here they’re tied to, administration, resource, army buffing. Plus, religious buildings for specific Greek Gods -- in order to earn their favour. Translation, buffs for prayers and buffs for sacrificial offerings.
And speaking of the campaign map, it’s actually quite large with a tonne of factions, a lot more than was expected to be honest. More than numbers, even minor factions can become a serious pain to deal with. Or, in the case of my Hector run -- a valuable ally when invading Greece.
One of the Trojan mechanics is all about gaining bonuses for how much land you and your allies control. That distinction makes making friends early as a Trojan pretty key, to secure your side of the ocean whilst getting ready to invade.
In my Achilles playthrough, things weren’t as smooth. I made the mistake of declaring war on a small faction before realising all their Trojan allies were, well, loyal. That decision ended up with me frantically forging alliances with Sparta while fighting off the waves of armies coming from across the sea.
Combat in TROY sees armies led by heroes like Achilles and Hector, with several different classes defining hero weapons and skill sets. Some heroes are more suited to supporting and buffing units while the big players like Achilles and Hector are all about that frontline glory and taking out the opposing hero.
"Recruiting is similar to the Total War Warhammer series and in fact combat plays very much like what was seen in the Warhammer entries."
Recruiting is similar to the Total War Warhammer series and in fact combat plays very much like what was seen in the Warhammer entries. With the whole hero battle and duelling system looking similar (right down to the animations) to what was seen in Three Kingdoms. A nice little detail is that when two heroes are fighting the surrounding units give them their space so as not to get caught up in it.
Due to the source material heroes do play an important role in the large-scale battles, and during the course of a skirmish they generate Rage which is used to activate certain skills and special abilities. Things like HP regen when enough rage has been earnt, a certain “To angry to die” feature, for a certain time that can only be used once per battle.
Unit variation plays an important role too with some coming with abilities like no negatives for being flanked and high-tier units being unbreakable -- where they will stand and fight to the death. It’s all well-thought out and great for the setting.
That said the combat and siege-warfare AI, as seen in most Total War releases, still needs work. More than once I sat there and watched in frustration as my hero had trouble deciding which way to face and strike an enemy. Then there were the times I watched units stand in front of towers and archers on the walls -- waiting for the sweet release of an arrow to the knee. But, there are cool little AI touches to discover too -- like seeing units group up near armies before attacking.
The battle maps for the larger scale city and village battles are impressive though, with nice variation around the different choke points to figure out. A personal favourite was a castle-like map that had a river in front of the gate houses that wrapped around a large cliff behind it. Visually, it looked stunning. And in terms of an invading army -- well, that led to a lot of dead Greeks in one of the three ways to approach.
Overall, it was easy to be drawn into A Total War Saga: TROY. Through its blend of myth, legend, and history. And in striking that balance between the Warhammer entries and Three Kingdoms, Creative Assembly has presented its own Trojan Horse -- another visually impressive addition filled with Total War goodness.