August 13, 2020
The city of Troy is most well known for its historical significance in the Iliad, Homer’s epic story of gods and heroes in ancient Greek myth, or is it? Troy does exist and was once indeed a real life city. Although time has not been kind, nor were the various sieges the city had been subjugated to. It is said there are in fact nine layers of the city’s foundations, having been rebuilt multiple times over the centuries. For a franchise like Total War to visit this period of history, it creates the perfect goal of any campaigner’s dream. Either sack Troy just as the ancient Greeks had done, or rewrite history, and drive back the foreign invaders into the Aegean Sea.
Similar to Total War’s last entry in the series, Troy lavishes itself in the romance of the period and leans heavily into the myths and half-truths that have been perpetuated for millennia. This makes for a visually vibrant era, the Bronze Age being a time of glorious conquests and constant fighting amongst the Greek city states. It also elects to utilise the famous figures of legend, taking full use of there archetypal roles to serve as gameplay modifiers that make each campaign feel surprisingly unique.
Greek heroes are known for their great deeds and achievements. However, people often forget the intentional flaws these figures portrayed. Achilles is no doubt the most famous, fitting very much with his entire character of wanting to be remembered forever. So far so good. Achilles was a great warrior and leader of men; swift footed and skilled. But Achilles was also incredibly emotional, letting his anger get the better of him. Anger that could turn into bouts of rage or bouts of intense sadness. These excessive emotional traits provide the groundwork for integrated gameplay mechanics.
Should you choose Achilles campaign, you will need to constantly monitor Achilles temperament. You’ll be making sure he is maintaining his superiority on the battlefield, and isn’t standing idle for too long lest his battle prowess be questioned by a rival faction. This behavioural mechanic both forces and encourages you to play in a more aggressive manner, essentially aligning your motivations with Achilles’. Each Hero has their own emotional traits that change the way the faction plays in interesting enough ways that makes each campaign feel fresh and new, despite possibly sharing the same unit rosters and buildings.
Speaking of unit rosters, real time battles are always a major focus for any Total War game. I’m happy to report that battles in Troy have some of the most fun and strategic moments I’ve experienced in any recent Total War game. Battle speed in general feels faster and has more emphasis on infantry fighting when compared to past historical titles in the series. It’s very rare to see horses on the battlefield, with two-handed spear units being your primary choice for outflanking enemy armies to perform devastating rear charges that can easily break morale.
Hero units make a return as well, and as previously mentioned, the unique characteristics of each hero make for interesting abilities that are both self and allied effecting. A cool feature for heroes this time around is when two opposing heroes face off on the battlefield, they will square off one-on-one, even if surrounded by a hundred other soldiers. It perfectly illustrates scenes from movies like Troy (2004), where no name soldiers would simply stop fighting each other just to watch these legendary heroes cross spears. While it isn’t as involved as the stand off system from Three Kingdoms, it does better fit with the flow of combat and allows for more organic fights.
Total War isn’t exclusively about waging war, sometimes it requires a more diplomatic approach. For players who opt to go for more pacifistic strategies, choosing to befriend your rivals rather then conquer, diplomacy still remains a viable option. While diplomacy can often be hit or miss in terms of its user friendliness, Troy’s options make for a seamless experience that provides efficient ways to quickly negotiate deals with other factions, while also offering the granularity of picking and choosing what agreements you wish to pursue as well as offering useful data to help you in making those decisions.
Resources especially play a much more vital role in Troy, with gold no longer being the main currency for recruiting units and building your settlements. Each resource can be found across the map, and are generated at varying degrees of efficiency as well as plentifulness. However, your AI allies will sometimes try to bargain for these rare resources while at the same time offering little in return. This can lead to trade offers that really shouldn’t be made, and if you happen to have an excess of a particular resource, expect every faction to demand you give them a piece of that pie on every turn end. So much like a lot of things that have plagued the Total War series for years, it’s good but not perfect.
Troy: A Total War Saga has set the benchmark of what to expect from the rest of the Saga series moving forward. While not all of the series’ bug bears have been completely amended, the game makes enough changes and improvements to make Total War feel fresh and exciting again. The historical setting of Troy being chosen was genius, and I’m amazed this era hadn’t been covered sooner. The continued expansion and polishing of role-play mechanics continues to get better and better. My only wish would be that we one day get a Total War game that contains a narrative so expertly told, that battles will carry more emotional weight, resulting in a more emergent story. If you’ve been on the fence about picking this one up, I highly suggest that it’s at least worth your time to check it out if you managed to grab it for free from the Epic Games Store. Otherwise, it’s still a solid purchase for Total War veterans as well as newcomers.
- Great time period
- Character focused campaigns
- Faster gameplay
- Accessible diplomacy
- Battle AI could be improved
- AI diplomacy spam
Total War Saga as a mini series of smaller scoped historical settings has allowed for incredibly rich myths and legends to be portrayed in a Total War game. Troy is no different. The Total War formula is able to seamlessly integrate itself into the Homeric epic, and the added mythological nature of the original story makes for a diverse range of Heroes and Kingdoms to choose from, making each campaign feel unique and purposeful. Whilst there are problems here that have plagued the series for years, such as AI both on and off the battlefield, the game is still able to present a rich tapestry of historical figures and events that keep you engaged throughout the entirety of your campaign.
My only hope is that Total War continues to stick with this new found formula as a way to explore the incredibly rich and diverse stories that world history has to offer. And by focusing on the micro level, Total War is able to near perfectly marry tactical gameplay with character driven stories. By presenting more of an emphasis on role-playing and providing avenues for emotional investment, it makes simple risk/reward trade offs much more impactful.