One of my favorite aspects of the Total War games is how they transport you to different time periods throughout human history. I’ve always wanted a game set during the Trojan War – we got close with the previous Alexander expansion earlier on in Total War’s life, but the team really never dove deeper than that. Thankfully, the new Saga format installed by Creative Assembly allows for that hyper focused look at periods and places in history that may not fit the scope of a full Total War entry.
Coming off the incredible Total War: Three Kingdoms, A Total War Saga: TROY takes some of the best elements of its predecessors and transports us to the Aegean during the Bronze Age, right at the outbreak of the Trojan War. Calling upon archaeological evidence, as well as drawing from sources such as The Iliad and more, Creative Assembly Sofia have taken the myth behind the story of the fall of Troy and given it new life in beautiful detail.
You’ll be able to choose between one of eight Homeric figures to play as, from the Spartan king Menelaus, cunning Odysseus of Ithaca, to Troy’s greatest protector, Hector. Each of these heroes has their own Epic Mission to complete should you choose that puts you more in the Homeric version of the war, such as Paris needing to make amends with his former lover after bringing home Helen, or Odysseus conquering the Minoans. Each faction also plays differently, with each having its own mechanics that make it feel distinct and unique from the other heroes.
This seeps into the playstyle of each faction as well – Sparta for instance can colonize any razed settlement in its line of sight without needing to send an army there first – for a cost. Odysseus can use his network of spies to establish safe havens, allowing his armies to recruit units in enemy territory where a haven exists. Paris of Troy must keep Helen near to him to boost both his morale and that of his army, while Hector is tasked with forming the Assuwan League, a group of alliances to defend Troy from Achaean aggression. You can still go the normal Total War route and conquer everything should you choose, but the alternate Homeric victory path gives each faction more replayability as a result – and makes the story of the Trojan War unfold before your eyes.
It’s especially interesting from the perspective of the Trojans as, historically speaking, there isn’t much from them as the major sources we have are Greek. The team at Creative Assembly Sofia had to, erm, get creative to craft a compelling Homeric victory condition for each of the Trojan factions, adding flavor and piecing together parts from sources and archaeological digs into the ancient world.
As such, each playthrough feels distinct from the last, something that not every Total War game gets right. The downside is that some of the abilities of the heroes do hinder, such as the fact Odysseus cannot build beyond the main building in a land-locked settlement due to his Coastal Mastery passive. The trade off is he can maintain unique buildings in coastal settlements, but it does make conquest a little limited if you want to take over the world instead of simply Troy. You can still conquer those landlocked areas, but you might find yourself holding the great city of Athens, only able to build the main settlement instead of taking full advantage of your new holding.
The world of A Total War Saga: TROY is absolutely beautiful to behold, its color palette making me feel fully transported to the Bronze Era. The fog of war is a parchment that literally burns away the pages of history as you explore, while the horizon is beautifully painted in the style of ancient Greek pottery. Heroes are well detailed, with the major faction heroes each receiving their own model. As armies clash, we’re taken to center stage, the two heroes duking it out for all to see – a very Homeric inclusion.
All of this makes for a compelling illusion, making me feel more rooted in the world and time period of the Trojan War. The campaign map itself is incredibly detailed, from the hills and valleys of the Greek islands to the walled cities that hold strategic points across the map.
The battle maps themselves are equally as detailed, each map giving the feel of being on the beaches of Troy, or the plains of Marathon. Each map is crafted in away that allows players to take advantage of natural chokepoints and terrain features, allowing armies to maneuver around each other to strike the decisive blow. In fact, unlike other Total War games, TROY might have combat that is most about how you maneuver during battle. Some units excel at flanking, while some hero abilities can raise flanking defense of an army to protect against the chaos that ensues when a running spear unit crashes into the side of your otherwise engaged swordsmen. Cavalry are more of a novelty during this time period but can still be effective – seeing units flee a chariot charge will never get old. It’s an interesting twist on the normal Total War army formula and makes for some interesting theory crafting to find the most useful troop combinations.
Players will also have access to mythical units, such as Harpy spears or, should you hold Minoa and have favor with Zeus, the might Minotaur. These units represent the mythological units we see in Homer’s epics but are flesh and blood like the rest of your army – however they can provide quite the advantage on the battlefield. Giant bowmen are incredible, I’ve found.
Religion has been part of previous Total War entries, such as Shogun’s mechanic allowing Christian traders into the country to gain access to medieval firearms, or the Papal mechanics in the Medieval series. However, in TROY it takes on a different role. Homer’s epics drip with the influence of the Gods, and while the team at Creative Assembly Sofia are aiming to take the myth out of the legend here, it’s such an integral part of the life of the average Achaean or Trojan that their perception of the God’s influence is on display in the Divine Will mechanic.
You can gain favor with the six gods in TROY, such as the Warlike Ares or using the favor of Zeus to help with diplomacy. You’ll gain favor by spending resources to pray to them, as well build temples in your major settlements. Priestesses agents can also curry favor the more that you use them to hinder enemies and lift up your troops. Hetacombs can give you a blast of favor quickly if need be, and the more favor you curry with the Gods, the more bonuses they confer onto your faction. I personally found myself forgetting about this mechanic as I played – probably to the detriment of all my playthroughs. It doesn’t factor into diplomacy, as no faction will be antagonistic or more open to working with you depending on the God you’ve focused on, so it was easy for me to forget while I was moving through turn after turn. That’s not to say Divine Will is a bad mechanic, just for me it wasn’t something I really got into overall unless I was notified my cult status was going down.
The most meaningful change in A Total War Saga: TROY is the multiple resource economy. As one of the smaller Saga releases, it allows the team to play with new ideas, such as the mustering mechanic found in Throne of Britannia. A multiple resource economy isn’t new for long-time RTS fans, but Total War really only focused on currency as its only resource. Now you’ve got to keep track of food, wood, gold, bronze and stone to keep your faction and armies afloat. Armies use mostly food as upkeep, so keeping your army fed is paramount to dominate on the campaign map. Bronze is used to armor some troops, while stone and wood build your fortifications. You’ll acquire these resources by capturing settlements that specialize in producing the different currencies.
It adds a whole new layer of strategy to the experience, and allows more opportunities to grow your faction, even if you’re low on one resource. No longer am I stuck in a rut because I’m out of gold, so I can’t build or recruit. If I’m low on food, I can still build a new farm or temple to Aphrodite just fine. The economy also factors into how I plan conquest – I found myself plotting my invasions based on the resources I needed at the moment – such as targeting a coastal faction that had food producing buildings and more. The economy plays into almost every aspect of the Total War experience that I honestly hope to see it continue in the next mainline entry in the series.
This also factors heavily into diplomacy, oftentimes for the better, though it’s not perfect. My ally in my main review playthrough, Mycenae, kept my troops fed as Odysseus really doesn’t have the best go at growing food on rocky Ithaca. In turn, I kept his civilization supplied with Bronze and stone. Bartering and trading added a new element to diplomacy, though it had its annoyances. The amount of times I was asked to just hand over large chunks of my wealth to factions with nothing in return, just their goodwill got really annoying as the campaign wore on. But being able to force a peace, and gain some extra gold, bronze or food for my efforts. The addition of multiple resources changed much of the normal interactions we’ve seen in other Total War games, mostly for the better.
Thankfully, performance has been mostly rock solid. There are the occasional dips in framerate, especially during close up battle sequences, but by and large TROY never really dipped lower than the low 50s at 4K on my i5-9600K/RTX 2080 equipped desktop. This was put to the test more fully when I played one campaign on my laptop – a powerful laptop with an Intel i7-9750H and and RTX 2070. The performance was rock solid at 1080p, a real treat considering the performance of previous Total War games was an issue for me.
On notable omission is the lack of multiplayer at launch. The team at Creative Assembly Sofia have released a roadmap with multiplayer coming in November, but it’s a shame that I’ll have to wait three months to play with my friends – especially when November already looks stacked with compelling games such as Cyberpunk and Valhalla. It’s a real shame, as one of my favorite parts of any Total War game is playing with friends, and given the very different playstyles of each faction in TROY, it would have been interesting to see how my friends navigated the likes of Achilles and Sarpedon of Lycia.
A Total War Saga: TROY combines the mythical with reality, bringing to life the Bronze Age world in beautiful detail. The setting is one that has fascinated historians and lovers of myth for centuries, and being able to take part in the story – to say that I defeated Hector of Troy – is something I’ve always wanted since I started playing Total War games two decades ago.
The multiple resource economy adds a new element to the series that I’d like to see continue with the mainline releases as it adds so much to amplify the strategy of your conquest. Divine Will is an interesting mechanic, but not one I found myself worrying about too often in practice. I would love to see it take a more prominent role, such as influencing diplomacy.
A Total War Saga: TROY takes what the series does best – transports you to a time in history and puts you in charge of your own destiny. With the very different playstyles of each faction leader, they don’t feel like carbon copies of each other while in motion, offering different ways to play each time. The Total War path is still open should you choose, or if you want to experience an epic closer to the Homer tale, you can do so as well. Seeing the influence of all the sources blend into a compelling experience makes for hours of fun.
It’s not perfect – again Divine Will could play more of an in-your-face role, especially considering how prevalent the societies of the day saw the Gods and their influence on everything. And while the new multiple resource economy makes for more strategic diplomacy, it can also show some of the cracks in the simulation when you’re constantly being badgered for resources for nothing in return. However, A Total War Saga: TROY deserves to be listed among the best strategy experiences in the last few years, and one I’ll find myself returning to over and over again.