Ancient Greece, it seems, is once again in vogue. With the roaring success of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Ubisoft aren’t the only game makers to explore this rich setting with the launch of A Total War Saga: Troy.
Compared to last year’s Total War: Three Kingdoms, Troy is bound to resonate more with western audiences. If the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, this latest instalment in the twenty-year-old series is centred around the Trojan War – easily one of the most iconic events in Greek mythology, made famous by Homer’s Iliad. It all kicks off when Paris, prince of Troy, steals the wife of Menelaus, having only just brokered peace with the Spartan king. Fleeing behind the walls of his impregnable home city, the foolish prince awaits the enraged Menelaus and his warmongering brother, Agamenon…
With A Total War Saga: Troy, Creative Assembly have manoeuvred into a pincer formation, looking to flank both their core audience and prospective newcomers. On one hand, the generally more cinematic tone of Troy as well as improved tutorials and onboarding, help pave the way for first-time generals. Meanwhile, that dense strategic core remains steadfast with the option for seasoned Total War commanders to get stuck straight in while only having new and revised features explained to them.
As always, Total War relies on a tried and tested mix of turn-based strategy and real-time battles. However, in order to keep the formula feeling fresh with each new game, Creative Assembly continue to work in some clever changes. The result is a familiarly rich and satisfying strategy experience though one with few alterations to its core ruleset.
We won’t go too in-depth though here are some highlights. First up, there’s the new Total War economy which is now split between five main resources including food, lumber, stone, bronze, and gold, which can be traded seamlessly between factions. Each has its own specific use in recruiting units and building structures, giving them strategic importance.
With this being Ancient Greece, you’ll also want to curry favour with the gods. Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, and other deities rule over the Total War pantheon and through paying tributes, you can earn yourself temporary and long-lasting boons to help benefit your faction.
Of course, this latest game brings a completely different change in setting and with that comes new units, agents, and leaders, all plucked from the Bronze Age. At launch, there will be eight generals to pick from, split between the Achaeans and the Trojans with mythic heroes including the mighty Hector and the unrivalled Achilles.
Like Three Kingdoms, and both Warhammer games, before it, Troy empowers these heroes to become more than fancily dressed characters embedded among your rank and file troops. They are essentially their own units, complete with unique table-turning ability, equipped with weapons and treasures throughout your campaign. While far from invincible, they stand out on the field of battle, each of the faction leaders also having their own unique campaign mechanics, too. For instance, Agamenon can receive (and demand) resources from his vassals, whereas Menelaus can claim razed settlements remotely, without needing to dispatch his soldiers.
As for units, expect your usual mix of melee, ranged, and cavalry, spliced with thematic elite units. A Total War Saga: Troy also features special units and agents such as gorgons, centaurs, and cyclopes. They’re not actually mythical beasts (they’re just dressed up to look like them) though the abilities and combat prowess they can add to your faction make them highly valuable.
Total War still relies on a heavy mix of grand battles sandwiched between long stretches of diplomacy and managing your territory. For those who simply want to lead armies on the battlefield, there’s a separate mode for that though campaigns demand that you focus on more than just skirmishes and sieges. Play long enough, and you’ll witness feats of glory on the battlefield with surprise ambushes, heroic rallies, and mythic moments of triumph. However, victory often hinges on how much homework you’ve done before charging against an enemy.
In terms of visuals, Creative Assembly straddle between a “realistic” depiction of what the Trojan War could have looked like and a more theatrical, stylised look. They continue to raise the bar in just how polished these games look with a gorgeous campaign map and sweeping battles which play host to hundreds of individual soldiers clashing swords as arrows fly overhead. It’s a shame that we don’t see more cinematic cutscenes or authored set-piece moments, yet these wouldn’t fit the sandbox nature of the Total War series.