[Review] Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

During the last week I was browsing Steam for some new games and I found out that Total War games were heavily discounted. After some thoughts I decided to purchase Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia. Although I heard some polarizing opinions (from it really sucks to it’s fine) about this game I thought to myself: “I liked Total War: Attila and Total War: Medieval II Kingdoms Britannia, I love Great Britain and English history, it can’t be that bad, right?” After playing this game a whole weekend (about 40+ hours), I think I can provide a good opinion and overview of this game. This is my Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia review.

Good start

To answer the most important question: “Is it really that bad?”, well it’s not awful, but it is neither good (I get to that in the next parts). I started my first campaign playing as Gwynedd (Welsh faction) and there is something you should know, when I first time play any new Total War game I play on easy difficulty, not because I’m bad at the game, but to understand the new mechanics. My first campaign was really fun, I tried to unite Wales under my rule and successfully conquered two provinces (Powys and Ceredigeaun), after about 30 turns, I turned the Gwynedd campaign off and decided to play as Circenn and Mide (Gaelic factions) my final “learning” campaign was for West Seaxe (English faction). All these campaigns were very enjoyable and quite fun. I said to myself “well I think I learned enough” and I started my other campaigns on hard difficulty and this is where cracks start to appear…

Battles

Battles are the second part of the Total War games, real time battles with units, this is perhaps the most celebrated part of any Total War game or at least it was. I don’t get it, this should be the favorite part, housecarls, vikings, shield wall formations, gallowglasses and early knights and yet I don’t get into these battles. Upon closer inspection I find out that soldiers in these battles use exactly the same moves and kill animation as in Total War: Attila and Total War: Rome II, while I understand this in Rome II and Attila, but in Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia I would expect some new moves, these aren’t roman legionaries after all. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only problem with battles, unit collisions are once again an absolute mess, formations almost immediately break into messy brawl. Once during the defensive siege battle, I reinforced my loosing unit with another and relieved troops just “glide” into my already loosing unit. I would think that Creative Assembly finally learned their lesson after Rome II and Attila, they are using the same engine since Total War: Empire so they should be able to fix this by now. Maybe I’m just tired of the same old things, AI does the same illogical mistakes as before and tactics to defeat your enemies remain the same.

TWS Blood
Bloody battles in Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia

Hard learned lessons

I started my campaign on hard difficulty once again for Gwynedd, because I liked them in my initial campaign, everything was going fine until nobles started to be disloyal, I have such a hard time appeasing them, usually they are disloyal from a start. My strategy against it was as in previous Total War titles remove a disloyal general or governor and replace him with someone new, well this didn’t really worked, because the new guy is not much more loyal then the previous one. What backward mechanic is that? I haven’t done anything to the new guy, on the contrary he should be grateful for the new position. One other solution to this problem is the “secure loyalty” option, but the problem is that it usually costs influence of the king and money (which you don’t have), so appease disloyal some nobles and you latter find out that they are more influential than the king. What does it mean? Declining loyalty for nobles, Jesus Christ Creative Assembly.* On YouTube I found some explaining videos and in one of those videos, Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia was described as a “civil war simulator” and I completely agree with that. After that I started a new campaign for Mide and later find out that with enough legitimacy I can annex factions into my own faction and get their territory without attacking them, well this is an excellent new feature, I love it already. On Sunday I started a new campaign and decided to annex factions into my own, they are my allies of same culture I’m stronger and larger, this should have worked out. Guess what, I can annex other factions, but only as a Gaelic faction (Mide and Circenn), sorry WHAT? You introduce this great mechanic and only two factions in the game can use it? Worst thing is that the AI which controls Gwynned can use it, but when I play as Gwynned I can’t. After that, I said to myself: “Well I clearly don’t understand this game yet, I should turn off the campaign and start a tutorial.”

Missing features

To my absolute surprise, there is no tutorial. How the hell can I figure out how to control the game if there is no tutorial? Every Total War game has it, this game has a lot of new difficult features and I can not learn how it works. Good luck, if you are new to the Total War franchise and this is your first game. Well that is discouraging and that’s not all. Another feature that is mysteriously missing are agents, you know spies, assassins, priests and champions, although these agents in AIs hands were extremely annoying, but instead fixing them Creative Assembly removed them from the game. One of my favorite part of any Total War game is a feature called “historical battles”; it’s an in-game reenactment of famous historical battles, with voice-over explaining the historical background. In Thrones of Britannia this is completely missing, there are no historical battles. Why? This era of British history (it is set from the year 878 to 1066) is filled with important battles, Hastings, Stamford Bridge, Fulford, Edington, Conwy and surely much more. Creative Assembly, you removed this significant feature, that made your games more historically authentic.

Devolution

For what is worth it, I’m sorry to see the Total War franchise in its current state, with every new installment it becomes more and more streamlined. Removing fan favorite features like general speeches before battles and now historical battles. Is it just my imagination, that Total War games are becoming more mobile-like, building system unlike diplomacy is really basic, unit recruitment is no longer over turns, but it’s instant, trade now is automatic, I love how in previous Total War games I could become a trading superpower, now I don’t feel any more special than any other faction in the game. Yes, trade in previous games was really flawed (neutral factions were refusing beneficial agreement), but once again instead of fixing it Creative Assembly basically got ride of it. Their next installment is Total War: Three Kingdoms and that looks like it has the same problems.

Conclusion

After 40+ hours of playing I’m glad that I bought Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia during sales, because it is not worth a full price. This game is a testament of all problems with the Total War franchise, I honestly think that Creative Assembly didn’t learn anything from the feedback of their devoted community, their bad habit of removing problems rather than fixing them is more apparent than ever before. Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is not an awful game it is just an extremely frustrating one, while the campaign map is beautiful and detailed and I like some new features. Its problems outweigh the positives. The Total War Saga is not a bad idea (smaller time period on more detailed map), its first installment is. I give this game 4/10.

Until than keep playing Total War: Medieval II and its expansion pack Kingdoms!

*Remark: Now I found out that you can increase loyalty with abilities for nobles

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