Review – A Total War Saga: Troy

Overview

Developer Creative Assembly Sofia
Publisher Sega
Genre Turn-based strategy, Real-time strategy
Platforms Microsoft Windows
Release Date August 13, 2020

Since its inception with Shogun: Total War in 2000, the Total War series has become a long-running hit with many a PC player. Its engaging turn-based strategy components on a world map that encourages negotiations and trade to build a strong economy, combined with allowing the player to control real-time tactical battles from beginning to end, has stood the test of time with each installment. I have very fond memories playing Rome: Total War, Medieval: Total War, and Medieval II: Total War, although was easily frustrated by the difficulty of managing a growing nation.

A Total War Saga: Troy is actually the first game I’ve picked up and played from the series since then, and I know that much has been updated and changed in the succeeding titles over the years. I was thrilled at the idea of playing a Total War game set during the Trojan War, and being able to play a story with characters from what is probably the most famous Greek epic in all of history made me look forward to trying this new installment first hand. Is Troy a worthy addition to one of the most beloved strategy games on PC?

Content Guide

Spiritual content: The Greek gods play a crucial role in how the world is run through the Divine Will mechanic, and building altars and praying to specific gods grants certain boons for a few turns. Priestesses can be recruited as agents and pray to execute actions against opposing nations.

Violence: Basic soldier and army animations are on display during tactical battles, with the goal being to kill as many of the opposing forces as possible. Battle resolution animations show the leaders of the two armies dueling one-on-one, with the deciding victor giving the finishing strike, but no blood is shown.

Sexual content:  The opening cinematic to the game showcases Helen voluntarily joining Paris of the Trojans, despite already being married to King Menelaus of Sparta, which sparks the Trojan War conflict.

Review

The Total War series is best known for its strategy-based gameplay rather than plot, and Troy is no exception to this. When beginning a new game, players will choose one of eight different heroes and play through their campaign, each one with their own unique abilities, weapons, units, and strategic positions on the map. I chose to play as Sarpedon, King of Lycia for my playthrough, whose campaign focuses more on trade with other nations as a way of building power rather than just on military might. Once a hero is selected, one of two victory conditions for the campaign can also be set, one being the Homeric Victory that requires more specific steps in each individual campaign and is more narrative, compared to its Total War victory counterpart, which is the same for any campaign chosen and is more focused on total domination.

Some aspects campaign for Troy may feel familiar for a veteran of the Total War franchise, but there are enough new components added that players may need to take the time to learn in order to succeed. Fortunately, there is a tutorial mode offered for new players or players who feel as though they still need a better understanding of how to use the gameplay mechanics. Instead of managing gold to strengthen a kingdom’s economy like in past Total War games, players must manage five resource types, each one critical in strengthening cities on the map. Utilizing food, wood, stone, bronze, and gold in both trade and development will be critical in the survival of your faction, but these can also be used in the game’s tech tree, or Royal Decrees.

I did find a bug while bartering resources with other factions. It can lead you or your opponent to demand vast amounts of resources for very little in exchange, creating an imbalance in trade. This bug may be resolved in the future, but it’s good be aware of it as it can make a significant difference in a playthrough.

Faction leaders this time around are known as heroes, with playable heroes such as Sarpedon or Achilles being called “Epic Heroes.” Each hero recruited comes in different classes with their own strengths that can be employed in their units, which include warlords, fighters, defenders, and archers. When choosing which faction to play, keep in mind that each will have a specific hero class that they will initially be unable to recruit unless you conquer another faction that has that one already.

Heroes possess a motivation system that will fluctuate depending on their preferences, such as which god they like or dislike, whether or not they’ve recently sacked a settlement, and much more. Heroes will never become disloyal and rebel against you, but keeping their motivation high will help them perform much better in battle than if they have low motivation. They also possess a skill tree and can earn points through battles, which can unlock special perks and abilities for each unit to help aid them in battle.

Agents also make a return in Troy and can be recruited, although they are limited to only three which are envoys, priestesses, and spies. These units are just as essential in running a successful campaign as military units, and they can also be improved with their own skill trees and points which will make their abilities more potent, especially against hostile factions. Priestesses in particular are as they can not only hamper enemy settlements and units, but can gain favor with the gods through the Divine Will system, which allows you to obtain their boons to aid both on the campaign map and on the battlefield. It’s possible to gain the favor of multiple gods, but maintaining this can be difficult and costly. If the player is successful and is able curry enough favor to the highest level, they will be able to unlock a unique mythical unit, such as the minotaur, or a special agent to recruit. If they neglect the gods, however, they may incur their wrath in the form of ill omens or harmful incidents.When it comes to the real-time battle gameplay, I feel that the mechanics are not nearly as polished or strong as they could have been. While the landscapes and buildings are attractive and stylish, the poor AI and limitations in siege weapons make controlling the outcome of real-time battles more of a chore than it should be. Troops can be difficult to control, and would sometimes take actions contrary to your commands. I preferred using the auto-resolve option on the campaign map more than the real-time battle mechanic for the sake of time, but if you would rather control your troops directly, keep in mind that it will take a lot of patience and careful thought in order to personally claim a victory against your opponent.

In conclusion, as a fan of the older Total War titles, I have to admit that I found myself confounded when I started up this game for the first time, and I worked on learning and mastering the new elements Troy possessed that simply didn’t exist in those older games back then. Nevertheless, it’s clear that developers had a lot of love and passion for the development of this game, as they worked hard to bring the story of the Trojan War to life, and made it so that the players are free to determine the outcome of its story. Visually, Total War: Troy is stunning with vibrant campaign map and menus, and exudes its own character that made me want to press on, no matter how testy the campaign became for me at times.

That being said, this is far from being the best in the series and certainly wouldn’t be my first recommendation for those who are curious about entering the Total War series for the first time. However, if you appreciate the classic Trojan War story, enjoy learning how to overcome challenges, and have tremendous patience for yourself as well as for the game, then you may find yourself enjoying A Total War Saga: Troy for what it is now. Even though it is not my first pick in the series, I believe that with enough updates polish, this entry may become one that fans will enjoy for many years to come.

The Bottom Line

 

A Total War Saga: Troy is a promising, if not quite polished game, that brings the Trojan War epic to life and has a lot to offer both veterans and new players of the Total War franchise.

 

7

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Andrea Racoti

When she isn't travelling to far-off fantasy lands in a book or a video game, Andrea Racoti can be found in Central Texas writing out her latest projects and ideas, and teaching as a dyslexia interventionist. She loves games with rich storytelling, compelling characters, and makes people think. A breathtaking soundtrack and beautiful landscapes are icing on the cake for her.

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