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!

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!

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…

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.


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…


Rome Total War 2 – 20 hours in and counting

Well, I’m about 20 hours into Rome Total War 2 and while it’s a good game, there are some really serious issues. I’ve been playing the Iceni (Britain) and they have some big horde armies, chariots, shitty cavalry, and slingers. In the campaign I took out everyone else in England/Ireland and then hit the continent, spearing down through northern France straight to the Mediterranean and into Spain. I was trying to get near Rome/Carthage before they were taken out, but both of them are gone from the game already, including the off shoot Nova Carthago.  I think that will get patched (having Rome taken out by a minor Celtic faction is sad).

One of the things about playing barbarians is that you expect fights to become big mob fights with little to no formation– so when you’re playing it seems normal–however once you start fighting some of the more civilized factions you realize that they ALSO do not maintain their formations during unit to unit fights– it’s EXTREMELY odd to see a Macedonian phalanx turn into a mob type fight as the phalanxes break apart after a charge, but that’s what happens every fucking time.  Remember that video of the phalanxes fighting?  Where is that in the game? Dunno.

There are a few other things I’m not a fan of: no family tree makes me completely ignore all the personalities other than my main generals for example and there have been a few odd movement and control issues with the campaign map.  Otherwise as big as the world is, the map seems SMALL and the fighting is nearly always around some city and not out in the countryside because cities in the game are WAY out of proportion huge compared to real life.  They may look right on the map, but with the movement speeds of the armies, it’s just ….off.

I’ve done a bit of reading on what people are experiencing that have played the game a shitload more than I have and there are oodles of bugs, some of which are quite comical (ships flying through the air, flying through the ground, dudes flying off towers), but really it amounts to a buggy game.  I’ve had a blue screen once and about 5 other crashes.  I’m looking forward to the patches– but how far forward?

Good stuff: Sieges, while there are some issues with the ladders and siege tower placement are the best they’ve been in a TW game to date. I no longer automatically press the “autoresolve” like I did in Rome 1 and Medieval 2 because it is much more tactical and much easier to get around the cities. One thing that’s odd is that only the main cities can be sieged with equipment, all other cities just have a normal battle set in a town area.

Graphics: battle graphics are just superb.  Everything looks great.  I do get some slowdown in the bigger battles which hopefully will work out.  Otherwise the battles seem to load FASTER than the old Total War games, which is crazy.

Ahh screenshots:

Rome Total War 2 initial feelings

I contemplated staying up until midnight to give it a start through but failed due to retinal burn on Saints Row 4 mostly.  I should have worked on my Netrunner decks or played a solo game of ASL or something instead of hitting the computer and burning at the eyes.   Rome is going to be quite a time suck so I best get started right away though right?

I’ve gotten a couple hours in entirely with the tutorial (which is actually a really cool mini-campaign against the Samnites) and the feel of the game already is better than Shogun, and by feel I mean the combat between units– it is amazing.  I don’t know if it’s just the way the Roman units fight (in this campaign it is very early Rome) but it is so much more visceral than the other versions of the game it’s shocking– units press together in a horrific mob and the slaughter commences.  It’s a gorgeous thing to behold.


I’ve just scratched the surface region–what am I looking forward to over all?  The last really good Total War game was Empire which was literally world spanning and had some fantastic combat.  Moving from a period of time when pikemen and cavalry charges were still viable forms of attack to the era of artillery domination was amazing to see.   While I liked Shogun 2– there was something about it that I just couldn’t get into.  Possibly it’s the whole Samurai thing that feels tired to me– all these dudes in their ornate lamellar armor fighting each other just seems so clean and controlled compared to the rest of the games (which is very Japanese in a way)–in Rome, there are a few bastions of civilization surrounded entire by teeming hordes of hunter gatherer tribes and barbarian nations, wherein Shogun, everyone is dressed…so nicely.  Also in Shogun, the battles seemed to go too fast– when two units hit one would rout extremely quickly compared to other games in the series.  This gave you little time to react: I found myself pausing a lot more than any other Total War game.   I was barely able to finish a campaign and only played multiplayer once.  Since Rome 2 is heir to the greatest strategy game ever made–what am I looking forward too?

  • Better graphics / animations  — this goes without saying and it’s already there
  • Bigger map /different stuff around — Shogun suffered because one clan was the next clan was the next clan– it all seemed the same.  After seeing some of the phalanx fighting in Rome 2, this seems absolutely impossible in the new game that things will be too small or samey.
  • Better AI in the campaign – this was my biggest gripe in Rome 1 and Barbarian Invasion.  The AI just wasn’t too smart and you could win the campaign really easily (especially as an island nation).  This has been getting vastly better in the newer games but always seems to need work
  • No skill trees for characters — these were lame in Shogun. We’ll see what happens in Rome 2.
  • Putting cities to the sword – due to the xenophobic nature of the period, the different societies weren’t too friendly to each other when conquering.  One thing I loved in Rome was the ability to put cities to the sword to gain max value and reduce population (since extra population is usually very unhappy with everything).  This allows control of revolutions as well as providing much needed cash.  While this may not be realistic (Caesar did this all the time in Gaul).
  • Better multiplayer — I’ve had issues connecting with my two friends that play the game for years now and it would be awesome if that were ameliorated forever anon.

Reviews so far have been positive, reviews of Total War players on reddit and the like have been extremely positive (knowing the burrs and all that naturally come with a Total War game) so here’s to 6 months of playing a single game on the computer!

Prepare yourselves

A man from creative assembly getting is teeth kicked in by the AI in a skirmish game of Rome Total War 2 below.  Soon this will be mine and yours if you chose to be a man about your computer gaming choices.



Note the buffing is more visible now (so you can track duration on screen rather than just seeing that it’s available again on your leaders), this may seem new, the buffing that is, but it’s been in the game for a long time, just not super visible.

I’m really looking forward to this game, probably more than any game since Torchlight 2 and certainly any strategy game. I really dug TW: Empire but just couldn’t get into Shogun all that much. Played through the campaign a bit, did the set piece battles but that was it. Usually I milk the Total War games for all they are worth and leave them a husk on the side of the road. I expect even with children and work and some various other responsibilities that this will happen with Rome Total War 2, and all will be right with the universe.

Some Total War stuff

Looking at the Rome Total War 2 videos (battle of Teutoburg Forest here):

Other than pissing myself with glee after, during and before watching the above video, I sparked up Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion this weekend and just had to record it and make inane commentary. If you haven’t played the series, RTW 2 is likely to be the best there is.

The awesome aspect of the Barbarian Invasion expansion is the concept of Hordes. When a faction is bereaved of it’s last city it turns into a horde– a mass of 5-6 army groups filled with the basic troops of that faction and a few other units sprinkled in. This represents the people themselves fleeing en masse from their fallen city. The faction then either has to take and settle an enemy city (and everyone is an enemy at this point) or dwindle away to nothing via attrition. These Hordes pop up constantly during the game and thus you never know when a massive beast of an army will wander over the horizon and into your carefully crafted territories. If you play as a western European faction, you will see fewer of these but they will have greater effect because the factions their are right on top of each other. Playing in the East, where cities are far more spread out, Hordes are everywhere mostly due to the Huns destroying city after city and sending waves of Vandals, Samartians and Roxolani into western Europe. What all this adds up to is an extremely dynamic campaign situation, one where you are not simply grinding down the nearest factions– you have to keep an eye on all of Europe to safeguard against the destruction one of these hordes can cause– whether it’s on your nearest enemy or on your faction.