A Total War Saga: TROY Gameplay Preview
Re-Living the Historic Battle Between Achilles and Hector
Last week, I was able to get hands on with the upcoming A Total War Saga: TROY being developed by Creative Assembly Sofia. There are several new mechanics and features that have been added or tweaked in TROY that allow it to maintain a realistic depiction of this historical period, while still bringing something new for Total War fans. I was fortunate enough to experience one such battle featuring Achilles of Greece and Hector of Troy. Here are my impressions so far of A Total War Saga: TROY.
WHAT IS A TOTAL WAR SAGA GAME?
First, it would behoove everyone to understand what Creative Assembly Sofia is doing with TROY and what sets it apart from the other Total War series. The Saga moniker is used to differentiate TROY from other Total War games on the basis that a Saga is an iconic conflict in a key flashpoint moment. Instead of spanning several different eras, TROY is firmly rooted in the specific time period that the Trojan War took place in: the Bronze Age.
This means that everything from war tactics, unit types, and factions are all based on historical evidence from the Bronze Age and tied to being as close to realistic as possible. TROY will feature a new Multiple Resource Economy based on building blocks such as food, wood, stone, gold, and bronze as well as a new Divine Will system that allows factions to receive benefits based on which God within the Greek Pantheon they praise and worship. Unfortunately, neither of these systems were available for me to try out during my limited time with TROY.
ACHILLES VS HECTOR
What I was able to enjoy was a dynamic battle between the Achaeans (Greeks) and the Trojans in one conflict during the Trojan War. The Achaeans were led by the warrior Achilles, the central character in Homer’s The Iliad, whereas the Trojans were led by the Prince of Troy himself, Hector.
Achilles is a Fighter type of Hero, whom is light, swift and hard-hitting. He performs better in shorter, quicker fights and won’t last long if a battle rages on for too long. Given his great speed and maneuverability, he performs better as a flanker than trying to meet enemy units head-on. As a leader, he has the largest variety of well-drilled elite warriors – such as the Myrmidons – and can utilize unique battle abilities that help him to unleash fury upon his enemies.
Hector, meanwhile, is a heavy type Hero with enormous defense that lets him soak up and absorb damage. As the Prince of Troy, brother to Paris – the one that got him into this war – he is the city of Troy’s greatest protector. Under his command are the Champions of Troy, the Guards of Troy, and Hector’s Chosen which are among the strongest defensive units available in TROY. These defensive units may be slow, but they are harder to rout and resilient in prolonged skirmishes.
PLAYING AS ACHILLES
For my first battle, I opted to play as Achilles – the main protagonist in The Iliad and one of the strongest warriors the world has ever known, according to legends. His army featured a healthy mix of heavy, medium, and light infantry units including Aegeanian Runners which are able to hide in tall grass and the mythical Centaurs, a wild tribe of nomadic people who appear “as one with their horses.”
Greater distinction between the different infantry classes were created in order to provide more dynamic interplay. As part of this, and to utilize the mythical monsters described in The Iliad, Sofia has created historically accurate representations of what these myths may been based on. I really liked these “what could have been” depictions of mythical creatures and I’m glad that Sofia didn’t go in the direction of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and included the fantastical representations instead.
The opening part of the battle allowed me to freely choose the placement and positioning of my units. It behaves the exact same as other Total War games, so anyone with previous familiarity with the franchise will feel right at home. The individual units do have more stats and attributes associated with them however, which provide greater detail yet increase the difficulty in being able to tell at a glance which units would be ideal for a given situation.
As I was positioning my units, I honestly had a difficult time differentiating between unit types. Unless I zoomed in enough to look at their equipment, I was not able to differentiate between heavy and light units very easily. For this first battle, I primarily looked at the weapon icons for each unit and played a guessing game with which units would be effective against whom. I imagine this familiarity would come with time – and with more experience with the Total War catalogue of games – but, to me, the unit types present during this time period all look extremely similar. In a way, I wish they appeared more outlandish despite ruining the historical accuracy of their design.
For my tactics, I sent my Centaurs around the right flank – passed a forested hill that I expected would prohibit Hector’s forces from penetrating. I had my ranged units take up the left flank, and I made them immediately start marching to the tall grass on that side as soon as the battle started. My strategy was to wait for Hector’s forces to come to me – wading through the thick mud in the center of the map – and I could have the Centaurs sweep in from behind while my ranged units hammered them from the side, hidden away by the grass.
What actually happened was my ranged units were immediately spotted, and Hector detached a platoon of heavy units to go wipe them out. I had them retreat back behind my main line, and I broke a light infantry unit away to go and flank them, utilizing hit and run methods. Meanwhile, Hector had the same idea I had to send cavalry around the side of the forested hill, and my Centaurs were soon engaged in battle with a much more defensive unit than they were.
Luckily, I was able to hold the line and I broke up Hector’s main army into two smaller legions. Both Hector himself as well as his own mythical monstrosity, the Minotaur, were engaged with Achilles, and I had some my nimbler units sweep around to the side to flank his heavy defensive line. This worked out, and I was able to effectively drive away several of Hector’s units very quickly. I then sent a light infantry unit behind the forested hill to provide a sneaking back-attack against the cavalry engaged with my Centaurs. They made short work of that unit, and I was able to bring them back into the fold and start attacking the other separated portion of Hector’s army.
By this time, my forces were completely surrounding both Hector and his Minotaur. Weirdly, my units didn’t look like they were engaging with Hector though. My ranged units stood to the side, not moving a muscle, and half the soldiers surrounding Hector himself were his dawdling and twiddling their thumbs. I guess that only a certain number of units can animate attacking a singular unit without it looking weird, but I think that it actually looked stranger to just have a legion literally sit back and do nothing.
The Minotaur detached itself and slowly ambled away from Hector’s side. Several units of infantrymen followed him as he fled, attacking him all the while, but the Minotaur’s health pool was so massive that my units hardly left a dent in him. I really liked the style of the Minotaur and the way he looks on the battlefield. He is an overwhelmingly tall giant of a man, wearing a cow’s skull on his head and sporting a huge double-sided axe. I think that the Minotaur appeared a lot more fantasy-like in nature compared to the Centaurs, and I almost wish that there was a group of smaller Minotaur composing a unit instead of the single giant one.
Eventually I took Hector down, and all of his forces were either decimated or fleeing away. The battle itself lasted about 8 minutes long. I think I could have enjoyed a longer battle – I feel like the beginnings of the battle happened so quickly, and the later half just dragged on. I wasn’t able to call out Hector into a one-on-one duel like I had seen in the presentation earlier, which just left the victory seeming a little bit lackluster. Now, I specifically chose to play this battle in Easy mode because I have very little experience with Total War games and I was too scared to try Hard mode just yet. That said, I love strategy games and I think that anyone who thinks tactically will enjoy the grand strategy involved in A Total War: TROY.
PLAYING AS HECTOR
To provide the antithesis experience, I immediately restarted the scenario with Hector as my chosen Hero. Most of his units were heavy on the defensive front, but he still had a few light infantry units and ranged javelin throwers. I figured since the last battle went so well, I would try a similar tactic.
For this round, I had my javelin throwers more slowly approach the tall grass that was located on my right flank this time. Meanwhile, I created a thin, long defensive line using all of my units and had them march uniformly to meet Achilles’s army. My light infantry ran far ahead of my main contingent, but I was able to pull them back before Achilles’s own ranged units were able to attack them. My javelin throwers had successfully arrived at their intended ambush location, and I proceeded to rain spears on Achilles’s flank as soon as our armies collided.
This time around went much more smoothly than when I was playing as Achilles. I didn’t have to change tactics at all, but I did have difficulty maneuvering my units in a position to flank Achilles’s forces. I felt spread too thin with the few light infantry units I had at my disposal, but thankfully the javelin throwers’ damage output made up for my lack of flanking. In fact, I think the ranged units – if used wisely and tactfully – can be some of the most powerful and deciding units in the game. At least, that was the impression I got from using them in this particular battle.
This time around, thanks to my successful ambush from my ranged units, I was able to quickly decimate Achilles’s army and before long several of his units broke away in retreat. I noticed that some of them would return to the fray shortly after running, so I think it was a strategic retreat in order to re-position on my flank. Unfortunately for them, every time one of Achilles’s units broke away it meant that my units could more easily swarm and overpower the remaining forces.
The battle against Achilles lasted only 4 minutes; half the time the previous battle took. Again, there was no flashy duel between Heroes – in fact, I’m pretty sure that Achilles himself retreated and that’s why I was able to win the battle. It all happened so fast; I was surprised when the Victory screen popped up during the fight.
What I didn’t utilize in either conflict was the secondary weapons that a lot of units (if not all) have available to them. I also never used any unit’s combat abilities, nor did I use any of either Hero’s abilities. Which just goes to show that on Easy difficulty, you can focus more on the rock-paper-scissors nature of the infantry units rather than getting more in-depth with all of the special abilities and advanced tactics that I’m sure veteran Total War players will enjoy.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE
Now, I specifically chose to play this battle in Easy mode because I have very little experience with Total War games, and I was too scared to try Hard mode just yet. That said, I love tactics games and I think that anyone who thinks strategically will enjoy the Grand Strategy involved in A Total War: TROY. After I become more familiar with the systems (and as I play more Total War: Shogun 2 and Total War: Warhammer) then I’m sure that I’ll be able to tackle Hard mode on A Total War Saga: TROY when it launches for PC on the Epic Game Store on August 13.
We’ll have more on A Total War Saga: TROY coverage in the coming months, but for now you can read our deep dive into the new mechanics and elements covered in a recent presentation. Later this week, we will also have an interview with Senior Game Designer Milcho Vasilev from Creative Assembly Sofia.