As someone who is partial to the occasional strategy games and an avid fan of Ancient Greece, A Total War Saga: Troy caught my eye instantaneously. Having only ever played one Total War game before, I was more or less going into the series’ latest entry as a rookie. Despite my lack of experience in the franchise, A Total war Saga: Troy has proven to be one of my favourite games of the year, providing me with an enjoyable challenge, a fairly easy to pick up learning curve, and a captivating and magical aesthetic.
For newcomers to the series, be ready for a challenge, as the game ensures that your strategic mind and tactical prowess are always put the test. However, I found the more I played the more comfortable I became with the difficulty curve and gameplay as a whole. Additionally, the game is well aware of how difficult it can be and upon first opening the game, players are presented with a menu asking how much support they'd like the game to provide depending on how new they are to the series.
The gameplay of Total War can be very complex to those not used to strategy games, or the franchise in general. Balancing your resources can be pretty tough, and at times, extremely frustrating, as I often found myself clamoring to either make a trade deal with another faction or straight up wipe them out just to get a settlement that provides enough food to get me out of a deficit. Interestingly enough, diplomacy wasn't my strong suit, as I don't think there was ever a time I wasn't at war with some small faction that for some reason thought they were the top dog; and after a few turns, they quickly found they were not. However the challenge presented by the games various systems, coupled with its unpredictability only add to its charm, producing unlikely situations and scenarios, all the while forcing you to constantly think out your next move.
In terms of actual combat, the game excels (as always) at putting you in the shoes of a great military general, with its staple brand of large scale, real-time strategy battles. A Total War Saga: Troy provides players with a lot more options regarding strategic play, with units now clearly distinguished as either light, medium, or heavy troops, all of whom operate very differently. Where heavy and medium units act more as frontline defenders and attackers, light units can be utilised for ambushes and flanking the enemy, which gives you a significant edge in the battle. Every unit has its own strengths and weaknesses, and building the right army composition is key to winning any battle in A Total War Saga: Troy. Thanks to the games setting, players also have the option to recruit mythical units into their army, from the minotaur, to the cyclops, to the great centaurs of Ancient Greek myth, however Troy tries to ground itself in reality, realising these creatures as extraordinary warriors who inspired the myths they are based on. All of these special units serve as great additions to an already extensive roster of troops, and combining them with both standard infantry and ranged units opens up a variety of interesting opportunities for players, making every battle feel exciting and tense.
Where A Total War Saga: Troy shines however, is in its setting, and how developers Creative Assembly have perfectly captured the aesthetic and feel of Ancient Greece. The campaign map covers the entirety of Greece as well as the lands of Troy, which in game appears small, but is crammed full of territory for you to capture. The map itself is visually stunning, gorgeous and truly evocative of the world of Ancient Greece, from the craggy plains and cliffs of the Greek islands to the forests of Macedonia, the game truly transports you to the bronze age. Even in battles, and in settlements in particular, there's a significant amount of detail, from the terrain, to the mudbrick settlements and to the towering walls of great cities. A small but welcome addition to the map is the lack of any sky, instead replaced by Ancient Greek paintings and art often depicted on the pottery of the time, which is something that translates over to the games many loading screens, and it is something that only adds to the games charm and inspired visuals.
Aside from its aesthetic, A Total War: Troy truly makes you feel like you are part of the timeless tale of The Iliad, placing a heavy emphasis on how it was an era where great heroes, destiny and tragedy were mainstays. The game is obviously centred around the story of Troy, and while the game features many of the characters and influences from the classic tale, players are allowed to attack and befriend nearly any faction they wish, however fate will always bring about the same end goal: either to take the great city of Troy, or to defend it. Upon starting a playthrough, you are presented with a choice of eight heroes to play as, with four heroes on the Greek side, and the others on the Trojan side, each coming with their own unique mechanics and starting situations.
Throughout my time playing the game, the two standout heroes available had to be the demigod Achilles, and his rival, Hector of Troy. As Achilles, you are the toughest melee hero in the game, and are made to feel as such, tearing through nearly every other hero in the game in one on one combat. Though as you rampage through the Greek world you must manage the multitude of tempers Achilles can go through, each with their own perks and downsides; and if you didn't feel like you were bullying the other factions enough, you can force other heroes the recognise you as the only living legend in Greece, which again, offers its own bonusses. Unlike the godlike hero of Achilles, a playthrough as Hector makes you feel more like a hero than a warlord, as you unite the many factions of Troy to better prepare yourself for the invading armies of Greece. You are also placed into competition with your brother, Paris, to determine who gains your fathers favour and admiration, ultimately leading to one of you becoming the heir of Troy, and subsequently inheriting all of the other brothers stuff; and considering Paris started the whole mess, you should be fine.
Every hero also has two means of victory; a Homeric victory, and a Total War victory. The Homeric victory is a great addition, and as the name implies, this victory type will have you following the story of your character as told in the original tale, with some differences here and there, and completing the different stages of this victory can grant you unique rewards and bonusses. For a game that leaves players to do as they wish with the tools and world they're given, its almost refreshing to see A Total War Saga: Troy offer up a definitive end goal, a somewhat narrative purpose rather than just to conquer everything in sight.
In battles, the hero leading your army is an essential part of combat, coming with their own levelling system that provides access to unique abilities and bonusses that can be applied to the heroes themselves and the units in their army. The best and coolest feature of heroes however, has to be that when in battles, opposing heroes can enter a one-on-one duel with each other, as they are surrounded by their troops to decide who the greatest warrior on the battlefield is. Whether it be through the notable faction leaders or the role heroes play in A Total War Saga: Troy, the game accomplishes the task of making you feel like you are truly part of the heroic epic depicted in The Iliad.
A Total War Saga: Troy has its flaws though, whether it be minor balancing issues with certain elements of the game, or a lack of personality and depth from the AI. Occasionally, you can exploit the diplomacy system for evidently one sided trade deals, and the most prevalent issue I've encountered, has been with army composition. The fact that I can decimate near enough four armies at once with one army of chariots, seems not only historically inaccurate, but very much overpowered; however extremely fun. Other factions within the game seem almost lifeless and pretty plain, with some factions randomly going to war and others not interacting at all, taking away from the experience just a little bit. Though these issues will most likely be fixed in a later patch, for some players it can definitely reduce the quality of the game experience, however minor the issues may be.
Despite its minor flaws and issues, I honestly had a blast playing A Total War Saga: Troy. With its unique and inspired appearance, heroic feel, and overall challenging gameplay, A Total War Saga: Troy is a must play for any fan of strategy games, and even for those looking for an immersive dive into the world of Ancient Greece.
A Total War Saga: Troy is available to buy now, exclusively on Epic Games Store.