THRONES OF BRITANNIA: A TOTAL WAR SAGA
How many kings does a couple of small islands need?
WITH THE WARHAMMER GAMES, Creative Assembly has been making some of the best titles in the TotalWar series, but has also found itself on a punishing release schedule. This year sees two releases, with Total War: Three Kingdoms scheduled for the fall, so we wouldn’t blame the studio for taking its foot off the gas a bit.
As the first Total War Saga, Thrones of Britannia is a stripped-back title focused on a small historical landmass—the British Isles of 878 AD—running on the historical engine that powered 2014’s Atilla. It’s had some polish applied, but is clearly not the particle-fest that’s behind the Warhammer games. Ultra settings should not be out of reach for most, especially at 1080p, as the relatively mild recommended specs show.
Stripped-back it may be, but there’s still a lot of content. Ten playable factions vie for control of small but dense areas, rich with towns to besiege and varied terrain to take advantage of. Thrones looks like every other TotalWar game, in that its interface insists on doing its own thing, and it’s your job to keep up, but the carved, glasswork-infused style gives it a unique look, authentic to the period. After two years of wizards and Lizardmen, it’s almost nice to see the devs getting to grips with history again.
If there’s a drawback to the focused setting, it’s that everyone on the battlefields of dark age Britain tended to be bearded, wear brown, and carry a shield along with something sharp. Careful use of the army management tools is required to avoid leaving a unit of archers standing around doing nothing because you thought they were on the other side. A major change is in the way armies are mustered, with units joining your forces at low strength, then gradually becoming stronger until they’re ready to be deployed. It adds an extra layer of planning to the strategic map game, as going into the real-time battles with an under-strength force is a path to defeat.
Victory can come in several ways: by achieving objectives, such as conquering a number of provinces, or by not achieving anything much but becoming famous. You can be handed a victory if the powerful king of another faction dies after naming you as his heir, without having to face him in battle, or you can play the long game for an “ultimate” victory that sees you face off against everything the game has to offer.
The pared-down nature of this Saga has given TotalWar a new lease of life. The small map allows the devs to really drill into the detail of the period, while the cutting of skill trees and agents/heroes has taken some of the baffling complexity out of the huge number of windows it’s possible to open. In a genre where more is most definitely more, sometimes a little less can go a long way. Thrones of Britannia: A Total War Saga
BRITISH Honed, focused campaign; changes are improvements.
SKITTISH Troops a little samey; some victories relatively easy.
RECOMMENDED SPECS 3.2GHz i5-4570; 8GB; GTX 770 4GB or Radeon R9 290X 4GB.
$40, www.totalwar.com, ESRB: Teen
habit of filling the screen with windowsstill hasn't been tamed.
...but also shows how drab and similar thetroops look.
Zooming right into a battle reveals pleasinganimations…
Naval battles are enlivened by mighty Viking longboats.