Aside from the new type of nation, Attila is by and large an expansion on the mechanics introduced in Rome 2, albeit much more honed and tightly developed. The ability to create unique armies complete with badass names (Lightning Riders is a personal favorite) makes a welcome return and is possibly one of my favorite additions of the past couple Total War iterations. The “Crusader Kings-lite” dynasty tree, along with all its accompanying internal slapfights, has also been tweaked to match the era. All in all, the game almost feels like Creative Assembly’s attempt at an apology, as if they’re saying, “Guys, we know we goofed, but check out the way it could’ve been!” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but praising the developers for new ideas in Attila would be somewhat akin to praising EA for successfully releasing another iteration of Madden. There are a number of solid, well thought out tweaks and minor additions, but no one’s revolutionizing the genre over here.
For what it’s worth, the AI seems to have improved since the last couple outings. From Shogun 2’s, “Did the Oda just completely abandon their capital city?” to Rome 2’s, “I think I just saw General Octavius eating a jar of paste”, Attila’s strategists seemed much more capable of properly reacting to their surroundings. The same goes for the tactical aspect as well. At no point did my captains report back, “Well sir, we would’ve met them in battle on the shores of the Mediterranean, but it looked like they weren’t quite sure how to get off their boats. So, we just kinda wandered off at some point.”
My time with the Attila’s co-op gameplay was split into two distinct campaigns, each with their own polarized experience. Initially choosing the highly unlikely Franks-Saxons alliance, my partner and I soon decided that the crumbling husk of the Western Roman Empire was ripe for the taking, which is where we ran into one of my main issues with the game. At first, our conquest went as expected. We pushed the technically superior Roman armies back through sheer numbers, razing some cities and capturing others. Unfortunately, even though we tried to be selective with what cities we took as our own, our campaign quickly ground to a halt as we discovered that our newly captured Roman cities had to be “converted” for our use, lest they further detract from our empire’s efficiency. The conversion process took quite some time and drained resources from what would’ve been an effort to reinforce our now scattered armies. As such, we were forced to spend a number of turns doing little more than checking a few numbers while we waited our cities to become sufficiently barbaric. In a single player campaign, this would not be a very significant issue, but it lead to a bit of early-game boredom that was tough to shake.