As I did with Rome 2, I thought I’d post my early impressions of Attila before I do a full review. These impressions are based on 10 hours of play in which I completed the tutorial Prologue campaign, all of the Historical battles and several custom battles. I’ll talk about each in turn, and also a little about performance.
Beginning with a defensive siege battle, the Prologue really hammers home the core theme of Attila – survival. As you would expect, it teaches you the basics of battle and campaign management before slowly expanding to include all of the new features of Attila including the Horde system.
I spent about 4 hours playing through this prologue which is mostly scripted, but does offer the player opportunities to experiment. The prologue is also where I hit my first bug. At one point it just wouldn’t progress to the next scripted sequence, forcing me to reload an earlier save.
As a tutorial, it does its job and I have to say, some of the battles I fought, particularly a lengthy, desperate defensive siege against an army of Huns (resulting in a valiant defeat) was more intense, atmospheric and enjoyable than any of the sieges I’ve had in Rome 2. On the campaign side, the combination of the family tree with a refined version of the political system introduced in Rome 2 creates what feels like the most in-depth Total War campaign yet. Obviously, I’ll need more time with the system, but I liked what I saw a lot.
In addition to the Prologue, I also played through the 9 Historical battles. These are mostly land battles with a sea and siege battle also thrown in. They’re all good fun and offer a varied mix, but replayability is somewhat limited. Finally, I played some custom battles to test the AI and also push my system performance.
The AI, so far at least, appears solid and competent. It seems like a small step up from Rome 2 which is pretty much what I expected. I haven’t seen it do anything stupid, and it has managed to surprise me a few times too, especially when it comes to how it uses its cavalry. The only AI bug I saw was when I tried to push the AI to its limit. Maybe it wasn’t very fair, but I wanted to see how it would react.
In a custom siege battle I gave the AI a couple of battering rams, 4 siege towers and some catapults. It began the siege by using the catapults to attack my gates. So, using some heavy catapults of my own, I destroyed its artillery. The AI responded by advancing with the rams, smartly spreading out its troops into loose formation to reduce casualties. But, before it could reach my gates, I destroyed the rams. The AI then retreated back to the towers and began to load up its men. I was very impressed by this. But this is when it seemed to hit a bug.
With the loss of its artillery and rams, it didn’t seem to know quite what to do next. The map I was fighting on didn’t allow for the towers to simply be wheeled up to the walls (it had a moat) so the AI just seemed to stop. If you’re worried that the Attila AI has Rome 2 release issues though – don’t be. This was the only time I saw it ‘break’ as such, and like I said, it wasn’t exactly a fair test. I’m not sure what a human player could have done in this situation either, other than to retreat.
Okay, onto performance. Like Rome 2, the benchmark utility isn’t very accurate as it tries to create an ‘extreme’ situation. Using my custom settings which you can see in one of the screens in this post, I get about 40FPS on the benchmark, but in the actual game I get a very consistent 40-50 in battles with a solid 60 on the campaign map. I could probably improve upon this quite a bit if I switched off the 4xMSAA, but I think it looks a lot better with it on and I’m happy for the trade off.
I did a custom battle test to really push my system – a massive siege battle with a 20v20 in Constantinople and it dropped to about 20-30 when I was zoomed into the streets. Zoom out, and it jumped back to 40 or so. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it and the game looks fantastic, especially the new lighting, weather and fire effects. I do think it could be improved upon in terms of performance, but it’s very solid on release. In terms of bugs, aside from the Prologue issue and that single incident of the Siege AI, I’ve had no problems and not a single crash. Load times are fast, as are turn times.
It’s still early days, and I’m yet to begin a full campaign, but I’m feeling quite positive about Attila. It feels like the game we all wanted Rome 2 to be. I’ll probably do another post soon to talk about my first campaign as the Western Roman Empire.