Attila is the Dark Souls of Total War Games

I was home sick a couple weeks ago on a Monday and decided to give Attila Total War another go.  I played it for awhile when it first came out and it was just too hard to get into at the time.  After a fairly static and easy time (for the most part) with Rome 2, Attila and is insanity incarnate for a 4X game, a true successor to Rome: Barbarian Invasion from back in the day, and it’s  fucking awesome.

There are a few very hard Total War games, most are pretty easy to play, even on the hard or very hard difficulty.  Of the ones I’ve played, Attila and Shogun 2 rank up there, with maybe Napoleon in there somewhere.   The main thing about these three games is that your imperial designs are not pre-determined at all in the face of all the shit that will be going on in the game.   In Shogun 2, even if you made a move to attack your neighbor, the other neighbors will instantly pounce and attack your stronghold, so you needed to be patient to start to be able to build up a group of provinces.  And if you do, you will likely attract attention of the larger factions that will swat you like a fly early on.   Attila is similar.  Even if you play as one of the three big empires (eastern and western Rome, Huns) you still have a tough time of  it with both the Roman empires collapsing on all sides, and the Huns in one big horde to begin with.  If you play as one of the minor factions, you will be lucky to even survive a few years with some really pissed off neighbors.  In Rome 2 and other TW games, factions nearby typically have to get ‘triggered’ before they come after you.  You don’t start in a massive war with the Achaemenid  Persian empire and all their allies at the beginning of the game in Rome 2 for instance.  In Attila, you basically start at war with all the big factions and are surrounded by pyssed off little factions.  While some of them get weaker over time, some do not.  If you yourself are a little faction (like the Franks or Jutes) it is essentially a street fight to see who is going to survive long enough to even interact with the larger factions.  This is golden.

Getting hit with a giant stone is no fun.

Yes, Shogun 2 is a hard game, but what happens in Attila that makes Shogun 2 a bit of a cakewalk is the fact that factions pushed out of their homelands will become hordes and start ravaging wherever they are in order to raid for money, or try to find an unprotected city or village to take over and settle down: and that could just as well be yours as anyone else’s!  You can be sure that your conquests will create these hordes, but even worse, the conquests of others will fire these guys up as well, especially as the Huns move West.  Everything will be going OK and then bam!, two hordes show up on your doorstep and either need to be dealt with, or just waited out, accepting the path of destruction that they will cut through everything.  The Hunnic hordes are different as they do not peter out, but get stronger and stronger until Attila himself is killed at which time they become normal hordes.  Since horse archers are the absolute best unit in the game, the Hunnic hordes are very, very difficult to deal with.

The weather is another factor in the game, as in Climate Change.  During the early Dark Ages, the northern hemisphere got colder and places like Greenland, Iceland and Northern Germany became places that could support far fewer people than centuries before.  This happens during campaign game, making anything north of Italy subject to severe winters and reduced crop yields.  Think you have your food shortages handled after 15 or 20 turns?  Nope.   This has the effect of forcing everyone south and west to grab up the arable land.

Lastly, a rather new mechanic for TW games is razing settlements.  Basically if you, or your opponents, win a siege battle against one of your settlements, they can completely destroy it, so that it has to be recolonized entirely.  Much like bombing planets in MOO, this has horrifying potential if you are backstabbed by an ally or have an angry horde come over the horizon.  The Caledonians in my campaign were reduced to a single fleet that I ignored. It ended up in Southern Britain and destroyed two of my provinces before I caught and slaughtered them.  Thankfully, the viking reavers will rarely Raze, hoping only to pillage so that they can come back the next year and do it again.

I started play as the Saxons and I think I had to restart 4-5 times before I was able to even survive past the first few years.   You begin with the Franks and Langobards nearly at war with you from the outset, and all of the northern pre-viking factions aiming directly where you know you need to go:  Britain.

Spear fuchery

Over the campaign, I was able to make some friends with the proto-vikings in the north and solidify my hold on Britain and Fresia (Belgium).  The South of Europe and East were in total chaos with everyone just running away from the huns.  Nearly all of eastern Europe, including Italy, was a complete wasteland.  The Western Roman Empire was stuck in southern Spain and many of the major migratory factions (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals) were hiding in Northern Africa.  Eventually my expansion met with the Hunnic horde and they declared war and it was on!  Saxons vs Huns, just like it was supposed to be.

What’s unique about Attila is that this scenario may not have happened.  While the Huns always attack, they may have spent most of their time vs the Eastern Romans and never came into Europe, or the Visigoths or Vandals may have created an empire strong enough in central Europe that was able to hold them off.   This not knowing what the fuck will happen is a major draw.

You go girl

Overall, like Rome: Barbarian Invasion of old, after suffering through the early difficulty and realizing the TYPE of game that it is, I like Attila more than Rome 2 and it could be one of the best Total War games. While I really enjoy the classical battles vs the Macedonians, Persians and Gauls, the absolute chaos as well as the remorseless destruction of the Western Roman Empire over the course of the game, just puts Attila as one of those special Total War games that will get years of play.  It doesn’t hold your hand and it lays out it’s challenges early on and says: here they are, see if you can handle it.

This is the body of Attila himself!

Surviving the steam sale

I tried to spend as little as possible, knowing that I have so very little time to play games that many games I get can never be played.  There were some that I bit on and need to give the college try.  I probably should have picked up Far Cry 4 in retrospect, but that can wait a bit.  This is what I picked up.

Battle Brothers:

brothers

This is like a turn based Mount and Blade where you go from city to city getting quests and fighting in order to build up a group of mercenaries.  It does not have the visceral excitement of mount and blade where slaughtering enemies from horseback is one of the greatest things ever programmed.  However, for those mouse and keyboard challenged, Battle Brothers is an interesting take on it.  Jury is still  out as I’ve played so far only 3 hours.

Subterrain

This was an impulse buy.  Looks a bit like LOADED (from PS1) but with some RPG/ Tower Defense elements.  I haven’t installed this one yet.  Looks neat, could suck.

Prison Architect

Was cheap, will play this eventually.  Looks real silly.

Hand of Fate

I’ve been looking a this for months now but it was never low enough in cost to get.  This is an RPG deckbuilder along the lines of DreamQuest for the iOS.  Haven’t played it yet, but going to get in on this action.

Depth

Graham gifted me this and I need to install it. It’s a SHARKS vs Divers multiplayer game.  Looks fantastic!

Salt and Sanctuary

I’ve been suffering helping my childes play Terraria and while I recognize it as a good game, I fucking hate it.   Salt and Sanctuary will burn away all those shitty Terraria memories as the essential 2D dark souls clone.  Installed and ready to go, but have to finish dark souls 2 first.  Fuck…

Wolfenstein the new Order

I just need to play this and it was finally cheap enough to pick up.

 

May: DOOM and Total War Warhammer

May 2016 is shaping up to be a very important month for PC gaming. Two absolutely critical titles are hitting the streets in the next couple weeks and it looks like i’m going to have to take a few days off to cope with it physically and emotionally.

First up is DOOM. While watching some of the gameplay videos, one should not that this is not a speedy game like the original, it is dead slow in comparison. That said, it does not go the route of horror FPS that Doom 3 does, more like a slow moving Serious Sam with awesome looking kill shots and death animations. While the slowness, especially for the Doom franchise, is sad, I am very excited for the game. I even pre–ordered it due to getting Wolfenstein for free.

Second will be the biggest times suck for me of 2016 outside of Master of Orion– Warhammer Total War. Set in the new destroyed Old World that many of us hold dear from our youths playing WFRP and Mordheim, there’s not a Sigmarine to be seen anywhere, which is a great thing. CA took more time to develop the game after what looked like a Fall 2015 launch, and if Rome 2’s launch and fix cycle is any indication, this is a good thing. While I expect there to be bugs, it should be nothing like the catastrophic launch of Rome 2 (which, while it took them a year, they finally fixed to create an amazing game in the end). The main thing here is that CA is doing things they’ve never, ever done with the TW game (see below).

So yeah, if I don’t show up for stuff in the next couple months, you know what I’m doing!

Lee Sedol and Alphago

Alphago took all three games from Lee Sedol in GO, winning the 5 game series. They played on and Lee won game 4 yesterday.

GOBASE.ORG has all the games set up so you can play through them and try to guess the next move.  I worked through both game 3 and the last game and while I’m a complete novice, what I saw was complete blockage of anything that Lee tried to do in game 3 and frankly, couldn’t follow game 4 well.  In game 3, watch white in the game simply close off areas with brilliant shunting moves.  I can only describe it that way because I don’t have the Go knowledge to do more.

So what now?  People still play in chess tournaments even though no human will ever beat the top computer again. With go, I have a feeling people will start to study the way AlphaBlue won the games and played and we may get better over time because of it.  However, if a computer can beat a human at Go, which seemed impossible 10 years ago, why is it that a casual novice can beat the hardest difficulty of nearly any other computer game unless the computer full on cheats?

As for me, I have been frustrated the last few years because I got (for me) really good at 9X9 go vs the computer and now I suck ass!

Pit People!

Fresh on the heels of my son deleting all of his Castle Crasher characters I wanted to post the next BEHEMOTH game– which looks like their version of Disgaea!

Behold!  (note if you finished Battle Block Theatre you’ll notice that this takes place directly after the ending… whatever happened to Hattie at the end triggered this…)

Total War: Warhammer cinematic vid impression

Good, but unsurprising news, TW and WFB are slapping together! This had been rumored for a long while and then leaked in some magazine a few months back so not a shock .  GW tried back in the day with Blizzard (which later became Warcraft), then later with Shadow of the Horned Rat, to get Warhammer on the computer successfully.  Frankly one couldn’t ask for a better mash up of brands and companies. Unless, of course, you were waiting for Total War: Medieval 3 which following their M.O., should follow Attila closely.

There are no gameplay bits in the following video, but if you’ve played any recent Total War games, you know what to expect minus the MAGIC and big monsters.   I’m pretty pumped for it, but then again I get a fucking giant boner every time any Total War stuff is announced or released and then have to untuck my shirt for like a whole day or look like BUSDRIVER.

Animation wise, awesome.  Not so great with the voice acting.  The Greater Daemon of Tzeentch at the end is wicked looking.   We have to remember that GW is in the process of destroying the Old World we grew up with– so we have to see how this leaks into the computer game. It may be that the TW game will coincide with the story of the destruction of the Old World, which would be fun to see rather than buying all the crazy expensive END TIMES books.

This reminds me I have not put hours into Attila nor played a game of 8th Edition in a looong time…

Dungeon of the Endless is fun and constantly crashes

Dungeon of the Endless is yet another game on steam with the word ‘Dungeon’ in it.  The game is by the same team that did Endless Space (beautiful, but not great) and Endless Legend (an ok Civ clone).  Dungeon of the Endless is their best game yet.  DotE is a combination of base defense and an RPG, and it mixes those genres quite nicely.

The premise is that you are some prisoners that jettisoned/escaped onto another planet, but crashed into what appears to be some sort of bio-lab gone all sorts of wrong. You have to get to the top of the complex by bringing your power crystal to the exit elevator on various levels.

You have various prisoners that you command to open doors and fight (pretty much just that) and you can build resource bases and defenses with the stuff they find.  Each door you open adds resources to your pool that you can spend (including on the extremely important levelling up of prisoners) so each level is ‘timed’ in that there are only so many doors to open and that’s it.  If you waste your resources, you will become dead.

Each level builds up to the rush to the exit with the Power Crystal.  As soon as a character picks up the crystal, all doors will open on the level and waves of monsters will attack (forever, please note this) until your prisoners are dead or exit.  Simple premise, executed extremely well– except for the crashes.

The game crashes a lot.  I’m sure in a few months this will not be so, but right now I’d say about half the time after level 5 the game will crash.  It’s just one of those things.

Lastly, the game has multiplayer and I’ve tried it with Keneda.  Both players get a single prisoner to use (can get more on the levels) and share what’s on the screen, but not backpacks or resources.  We got fairly far and planned out our escapes quite well until, inevitably, the game crashed.

Plowing through all the indy/casual stream of shit on Steam for diamonds isn’t easy but this is one of them, burrs and all!

TWR 2 Victoly!

Took me (from the point of install) about a year to finish off a full campaign (really only a couple months of play once the emperor edition came out) but there it is, the first Military Victory.

victoly

Some Highlights of the game:

I took out Carthage very quickly, which was good but from that point on, your focus goes from local conflicts with the Cisalpine Gauls and the Etruscan League to you being a Mediterranean power that has to watch EVERYBODY. I was literally at war from turn 1 until the victory video displayed.

Syracuse is the key to the Mediterranean. While playing you can see why Rome and Carthage fought so hard for this island.

Lybia and Egypt were just too succulent of fruits to NOT instantly destroy after Carthage, but being both allied with the Persians (and the entire Achaemenid Empire by extension) I was pulled into an Empire vs Empire war very early on. It was brutal, with the entire Levant constantly swinging back and forth. It didn’t help that Alexandria isn’t exactly a military base…

I left Greece alone for too long and Athens got uppity. I had to divert a lot of forces to conquer Greece from the attacks on Persia, and then immediately got in a fight with some sort of Thracians north of Greece that was annoying. I think Athens was sacked back and forth a few times before I was able to settle them down. While Gauls are pretty easy to beat as the later Romans since they cannot stand up to the heavily armored legionaries, the northern Greeks are pretty fucking tough with crazy good cavalry and, of course, solid walls of pikes.

With armies completely focused on the East, I had to watch the Gauls in the north and what was happening in Spain very closely. I could relate to why Rome pre-emtively attacked everyone! Luckily when I did get into a fight with one of the smaller Gaulish tribes I wiped them before the others joined in and was able to maintain an area of intimidation.

I found the AI to be quite good with diplomacy, some cultures/states just fucking hate Rome and will never surrender or even stop a war. Many that aren’t so hateful that know you are coming to destroy them and feel they have no chance will offer up $$ and become a client state. Client states work fairly well in that they can be a distraction enemy factions and can help clean up your provinces of enemy raiding armies that get through your lines.

I didn’t use my navy all that much, which was a mistake. I should have flooded the Med with ships and locked down everything, but I was so focused on the Persians, which took FOREVER to resolve that by the time I started turning West, my fleets were still shite.

Rome was really fun because of the mercenaries and especially the Auxiliaries. You can get Auxiliary Meade cavalry, Auxiliary horse archers (critical) and all sorts of others, giving you the ability to build some EXTREMELY diverse armies. Let’s face it, the legionaries + vilites are a good combo, but they can be beat by the Parthian/Persian style of combat in the open field.

Tactical note: ALWAYS fight your own defensive siege battles. Many times when the computer’s autoresolve was telling me I had no chance, I was able to slap the shit out of an attacking army during a siege (even of a small town with no walls). Just remember, your llegionnaires are DEAD FUCKING HARD and can bottle up a unit attacking them from the front for a long time.

So I have been hitting Total War for awhile now and will mount it all again when Attila Total War hits, hence it’s time to get on another type of game.  I need to finish off Dark Souls and really need to work through the expansions of Skyrim as well.  And Witcher, and Witcher 2, and Inquisitor, on and on…