Total War: Arena is being developed by Creative Assembly to bring us real time mass battle with people all over the world. I mean, what’s not to like? Hopefully they have achieved their goal and this is going to be one epic indulgence. Time to strap on a pair of steel boots, clamber onto a steed and charge into a preview.
Once Total War: Arena opens you have to choose your squad commander and the units. Read the descriptions to see what type of game you prefer playing. Charge in with cavalry, grind out melee combat with swordsmen or fire in arrows and stay safe.
Once you have chosen your squad, hit play and you will be matched with players of a similar skill level. The terrain will pop up and several starting positions will be available. Pop your squad in one of these and wait for the start of the game.
Now the magic begins. Move your units to engage the enemy in a tactical and advantageous way. Wait a second, who am I kidding? BUNDLE!!!! Simple charge at anything red with a total disregard for the longevity of your people. Archers, fire everywhere, after all a kill is still a kill even if you’re the same team. Use your special abilities to wreak havoc on your enemies, charging in on horseback is very useful, but use they wisely as they have to recharge. So this is how it usually goes down, either that or I’m unlucky with my random comrade selection.
Creative assembly have put in a very good way of ensuring that this does not happen. There is a very clever tool that allows you to write on the map. So put where you are going, put where you want your comrades to go and everything should be fine. Well as of yet I haven’t seen it in use except to play noughts and crosses before the game starts. After your team has either won or perished into the fiery pits of hell it’s time for a review. See how you did compared to the other players on your team. See how much experience that your troops got and how much silver you earned.
In the same way as most of these games you can upgrade weapons, armour etc… Use your coins wisely. Once your commander levels up you get a whole new set of troops to upgrade. Get all the commanders, get all the units. It’s like 2000 year old Pokémon.
In a game like Total War: Arena you are never going to get to see the sweat of the individual soldiers or the horses ball bag swing from side to side. Expectation needs to meet reality, or reality needs to meet expectation. You can see your troops, you can see which way they are facing. You can see them get slaughtered at the hands of the enemy. There is terrain, it looks like a rock, I guess it’s a rock. It looks like water, must be water. You get the general idea. They could be better, they could be worse, but they definitely do the job required of them.
Behold the sound of battle. Total War: Arena provides enough sound effects to give the player a sense of atmosphere. Sword on sword, spear on sword, spear on armour, I could go on. Some verbal information is provided as well when things are not going your way. Audio is not an essential part of the gameplay, but Creative Assembly have done a great job in enhancing the experience.
Total War: Arena does a few things well and a few things not so well. The upgrade system, the pairing of matched commanders, the actual number of options for you to control are all good. The not so good is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop disorganised chaos sprouting from organised ranks. Is there a way of having an overall commander who doesn’t have any troops, but issues orders? Could this lead to more organised skirmishes? Maybe there just needs to be more time to experiment to find your way and to devise the best tactics. Just remember, if you see me playing, just walk away. My men die faster than you can say ‘Thumb Culture rocks!’. I am very much looking forward to seeing this game progress and also getting an opponent for my level X commander. So far no one has accepted the challenge. Stay tuned for more information as the game develops and improves like a fine wine.