With Total War Saga: Troy, Creative Assembly is taking a number of novel steps for its historical Total War series. Besides entering a timeframe more than 3,000 years ago that's rarely the subject of games, TWS: Troy features a new resource system and a mixture of mythical and historical elements. Having spent the past week playing, I actually feel like still so much more to see. With over 230 regions, the campaign map in TWS: Troy is simply so vast and every turn requires so many detailed decisions, that I feel I still haven't experienced everything the game has to offer yet. So far though, I've really enjoyed what I've played.
First of all, each of the eight playable factions has their own storyline and faction-specific mechanics. Inspired by myth and history, they make each campaign a different experience. I started my first campaign with Agamemnon of Mycenae, brother of the Spartan king whose wife was stolen by the Trojan prince, Paris. Obviously, this puts you square in the camp of the Achaeans who are intent on razing Troy to the ground. As the most senior faction among the Achaeans, Mycenae has the ability to vassalise other factions, recruit from all unit rosters, and they can appoint heroes to positions at court for faction-wide benefits, such as increased happiness. Other factions have equally interesting mechanics. For example, as the Lycians, you can gather special resources for faction-wide benefits and as Hector or Paris of Troy, you're vying for your father's approval to inherit Troy itself.
Faction-specific mechanics aren't new to Total War, but they work well in TWS: Troy. Besides adding replayability, they encapsulate your campaign inside the Trojan War narrative. Playing a faction that clearly focuses on trade, warfare or sailing makes the narrative come alive and I enjoyed trying to fit into my role. Diplomacy also forces you into a certain direction in the game that follows the course of the Trojan conflict. For example, your faction is more easily befriended by factions of the same tribe.
The campaign steadily moves towards a big showdown between the Achaeans and the Trojans by forcing players to choose sides at important events. When you reach a certain level of power, you can even acquire an antagonist from the opposing side that's especially intent on destroying you. I like how diplomacy and the course of the game is a bit more predetermined compared to other Total War games, granting you enough freedom to build an empire within the storyline of the Trojan War. But perhaps the biggest reason why diplomacy works well in TWS: Troy, and why you generally stick with your historical allies, is the new resource system.
Instead of just gold, TWS: Troy has five resources: food, wood, stone, bronze and gold. In my experience, this is the best new addition to the game for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows you to work separately on building armies and on building your economy, as the former mostly requires food and the latter wood and stone. This allows for more varied gameplay and removes the dilemma of older TW games: am I going to build or fight? Unit cost and upkeep also gets more interesting, as stronger armoured units cost both food and bronze to keep in the field.
Secondly, with each province and settlement providing different resources, I was feeling more direction in my empire-building than ever before. I was usually in dire need of one specific resource I could find in a certain province. Moreover, only some specific regions allow recruitment of mythical units. Capturing areas around Rhodes, for example, allows you to recruit Centaur cavalry units. Thirdly, thanks to the new resources, diplomacy really matters. In each of the campaigns I tried, I ultimately needed allies to barter for resources at a reasonable price. I was often losing up to tens of thousands of food each turn when my armies got larger and the number of enemies grew. Especially in the early campaign, you simply can't get enough of each resource on your own.
In my experience, the empire-building aspect of the game is excellent. It's simply hard to stop playing with new conquests and challenges always on the horizon. For example, I turned out to be too ambitious in my Mycenean campaign. Playing on 'normal' difficulty, I'd started an early war against neighbouring Corinth, whose allies subsequently kept attacking me. By the 70th turn of my campaign, I ran out of resources and had my most important provinces taken. I was defeated. My cautious campaign as the Lycians is going the best so far with most of Southern Anatolia under my control, but I'm still a long way from the game's end. Being the kind of player that tries not to load games after things go wrong too much probably plays a role in this.
Due to upkeep, you can only afford to field so many heroes and units, meaning you'll often be rushing armies from one end of your empire to the other to avoid settlements being captured. It can be quite frustrating though, especially because the AI is evil enough to raze your settlements to the ground in order to cripple your economy. Besides the option to occupy, loot or sack a settlement, razing effectively removes the settlement from the map for the first time. It then becomes a neutral region that's open to colonisation by a passing army. A very nice addition is having the option to rename your cities.
Despite my overall very enjoyable experience, there are also some things that don't work that well for me. One of them is the 'Divine Will' mechanic. Worshipping one of the gods by building temples or holding sacrifices will provide specific bonuses, for example, to your armies if you worship Ares. In practice though, I'm always too busy fighting wars, building structures and bartering for resources to actually care about the favour of the gods. Losing their favour doesn't really seem to provide much of a hindrance. I noticed an earthquake and a failed harvest every now and then, but I feel like I had more pressing matters nearly all of the time. Enemy spies and other agents seem more important to keep in check as well because they can damage your units or structures and even assassinate your heroes.
The heroes in the game also have their downsides. There are epic heroes, such as Achilles or Hector, and regular recruitable heroes, each with customisable skills and abilities. They look great, adorned with carefully researched Bronze Age armour. Sadly, they can be a bit too overpowered. In one of my battles defending a city, I had managed to destroy or rout all enemy units except their hero unit and was ready to rejoice in victory. However, when the enemy hero came walking up to my three remaining (more than half-strength) units, they all suddenly routed and I lost the battle. It felt kind of ridiculous.
There were a number of bugs affecting my games as well. I had to load back a few games because my main army got stuck, a siege battle crashed once, agent actions caused crashes, and we weren't able to try out one of the epic agents, a Satyr, because whenever we issued an order the game froze. Diplomacy didn't always make sense either, with factions paying gross amounts of resources for military access and then breaking it off themselves a few turns later. Random requests for gold are still there as well. I'm quite confident many of these bugs will be fixed though because the review build already received three updates over the past week, it's just a shame that the version of the game we played suffered from so many issues because that has certainly affected the score.
All things considered, TWS: Troy is a highly enjoyable Total War game. With its huge map, it feels more like a proper Total War game than just a Saga. Some of the new additions, especially the new resource system, should probably be included in future Total War games. With plenty of variation between factions, improved diplomacy, a challenging road to victory, and with multiplayer arriving in November, Total War Saga: Troy offers hours of gameplay. In fact, if they can fix the issues that I've encountered pre-release, this could end up being one of the best Total War games to date.
Loading next content