Thrones of Britannia Is a Smaller Region with Greater Focus yet the Same Scale
Total War, Total War, Total War. When we think of these two words we think of magnificent empires and gigantic battles on a grand scale. With A Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, Creative Assembly decided to take a new, focused approach—one might say, intimate. After my hands-on time testing their new direction, I can say that it shows serious promise.
A genius once told me that the best way to tackle a subject is to write more and more about less and less, and I think this game has nailed that principle. By revolving an entire Total War game around a single region during a pivotal moment, the developers over at Creative Assembly have richly represented the factions and have further deepened the player’s potential relationship with each. Despite being a bit of a departure, Thrones of Britannia seems like an enhanced Total War experience for narrowing its focus. Moreover, it’s a perfect entry point for anyone who enjoys Viking-related history, television, film, etc.
Starting with aesthetics, the presentation gets an automatic thumbs-up since it will hook anyone with the slightest affinity toward Britannic history. Like many of its predecessors, Thrones of Britannia models its UI after the period. From start to finish, it’s engrossing. With factions, the map, and the battles, a pre-Romanesque style keeps everything grounded in the century. Simple yet effectively immersive.
Diving into what makes Thrones of Britannia an interesting addition to the Total War grand archives, it puts players in the middle of a volatile stalemate between Vikings and Britannic natives. The war-like Danes have taken control over the majority of Britannia, extending their reach as far as contemporary Scotland and Ireland, and the only thing that stands between them is a handful of independent lords, the most determined of which is Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great). Thus, the world map works well as a free-for-all realm of small kingdoms, any of which the player can lead to dominance.
“This may not be a campaign across the Mediterranean or the world of Warhammer, but the scale is still awe-inspiring.”
Do not be fooled by the focus, however. This may not be a campaign across the Mediterranean or the world of Warhammer, but the scale is still awe-inspiring. For starters, a region like Ireland is no longer a blip with 2-3 provinces to conquer; it is a massive, isometric masterpiece that will enrapture you with its battlefield environments. Not to mention the other kingdoms – Kingdoms across England, Ireland, and Scotland are wholly unique and split into cultural identities that add more replay value than previous historical Total Wars. Thanks to a fine-tuned world-map, the extra attention to little details will solicit the historian side of you like never before.
Manage your nation, manage your family, manage your units, and customize. Thrones of Britannia further sets itself apart from its predecessors by adding RPG elements—or as Project Lead Jack Lusted stated, it succeeds as a “choose your own adventure” experience. You’ll find yourself investing a little more heart, soul, and money into characters. Generals in the campaign are neither immortal lords nor dime-a-dozen NPCs; They are mortal servants whose reputations can alter the course of a campaign. As always, they persistently acquire unique characteristics, but the game is designed in such a way that their effects on recruitment, battle, and upkeep are more tangible. One may even become the perfect general whose traits prove invaluable to your conquest, at which point you’ll really feel the blow when they die. But family members don’t only function as commanders; they can fill adequate roles as governors. Depending on who you appoint to manage your settlements, your kingdom will prosper.
And one can never overlook the fun of real-time combat, butter to the bread of Kingdom management. The formula prevails as well as ever, inducing the traditional gravitas that comes with managing armies. Per usual, units and formations have been built to coincide with how period warfare was conducted. Though I cannot speak for the nuance in every Total War entry, you’ll note that a Viking shield wall in this game looks and functions as depicted in historical texts. At their discretion, too, Creative Assembly has reconfigured some traditional units. For example, the javelins do much more damage in this title than any other I’ve experienced. Naturally, new and intricate details vary per unit model.
More detail, better replay value, and the setting will go a long way in connecting player to the campaign. This iteration of a twenty-plus-year franchise has potentially broadened the spectrum of possible Total War games. From my session, I say Creative Assembly has done a service to its fans, to history, and itself by granting more attention to a specific conflict. They can do more with less and the franchise doesn’t have to be limited to expansive wars across continents, as ironic as that sounds.
Thanks to the sum of its parts, A Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia has taken another leap in immersing players. Coupling its narrow focus with a more streamlined UI (e.g. lack of Agents), the title is a bit more accessible and may better suit veterans with a soft spot for Britannic history. Whatever the case, it shows huge promise as a standalone “Saga.” Hence, I’m excited about this and whatever’s next in Creative Assembly’s bucket list. A Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia releases for PC on April 19, 2018.