Genre: Strategy, Real-Time Strategy, RTS, Turn-Based, Historical, Fantasy
I have hundreds or possibly thousands of hours across many Total War games, so trust me when I say I’m no newbie to Creative Assembly’s Total War franchise (you can even check my Steam profile for validation). I’ve admittedly always been a fan mostly because I’m a huge history buff, especially when it comes to matters of war and conflict. As such, I was never a fan of the fantasy elements introduced in the Total War Warhammer games or even the over-the-top legendary heroes featured in Total War Three Kingdoms.
To this day, my favourite Total War games are Total War Rome 2 and Total War Attila. I’m explaining all this first so that you, the reader, will have an idea of my background as a Total War player before delving into this review. I would also like to clarify that I played A Total War Saga Troy when it launched on Epic Games Store last year, but it didn’t take long before I went to the older Total War titles.
Now, about a year later, I’m returning to A Total War Saga Troy with not only the game’s new full-on fantasy Mythos expansion but also after a year’s worth of updates and patches. If you’re one of the seven million players who redeemed the game for free on the Epic Games Store but have since dropped the game, I’m sure you’re wondering whether the game is even worth returning to even with all the expansion and new content.
Well, I’m here to answer both that question and whether or not historical Total War fans should even bother with this game.
Going Full Tolkien
The biggest problem with A Total War Saga Troy at launch was how half-baked the concept felt. It felt like the developers wanted to try and hit the middle ground between history and fantasy. It ultimately didn’t work as well as it should have, feeling like the game compromised on too much. This was a bummer because the game was surprisingly stable and almost bug-free at launch, something that would have been unthinkable for the company that launched Total War Rome 2 in such a broken state back in 2013.
In actuality, not only was A Total War Saga Troy optimized and smooth, Creative Assembly did a lot of work in re-introducing the best of what came before and refining them even further; including the improved diplomacy system and legendary heroes from Total War Three Kingdoms, as well as fantasy elements with Greek gods providing buffs and benefits to the addition of mythical creatures as playable units à la Total War Warhammer.
However, the biggest changes to the core Total War formula unique to A Total War Saga Troy was dividing one financial in-game currency (gold) into several different resources like food, bronze, gold, stone, wood, and more. This added more depth and complexity to the game’s economical and diplomacy systems. Now, you didn’t have to only worry about food and gold like in previous games, but instead, you’ll have to work with finite resources while building your empire.
Traditional trade agreements? Those are gone too, so you can’t just stack a bunch of trade agreements and rack up money passively that way. You can participate in barter agreements with other factions to get more resources that you lack or require. That’s a whole new dimension of diplomacy since you can take advantage of a faction requiring a certain resource in order to push the negotiation in your favour.
Oh, and another massive problem in 2020’s A Total War Saga Troy (which stemmed from another new mechanic) was the lack of cavalry. Yes, due to the game’s setting of the Bronze Age, the Greeks didn’t really use cavalry units in history. They were usually used to pull chariots or for generals to ride on. The game compensated for the lack of cavalry by having three different types of melee units (light, medium, heavy) of varying speeds. The light melee units ars essentially the game’s replacements for cavalry units.
Of course, you also had the aforementioned half-baked “truth behind the myth” units such as centaurs (which are disappointingly only men on horses) and others. It all felt like a missed opportunity with huge potential. Sure, historical Total War fans like me wanted realistic units and historical accuracy but why have a minotaur as a playable unit when it’s just a man cosplaying as a minotaur swinging a club? It defeats the purpose, not to mention that it would be equally disappointing for a Total War Warhammer fan.
The A Total War Saga Troy Mythos expansion fixes that by finally giving players access to actual giants, centaurs, harpies, sirens, minotaurs, cyclops, griffins and the like. There are three Mythic Beasts that you can hunt, but you can actually only choose one per playthrough. Getting one is no easy feat though, as it requires players to send an army on an “expedition”. Once this army embarks on the expedition, the game will give you a story decision to make every few turns.
It’s a lot like those Choose Your Own Adventure-style narratives, where the decision you make will have either positive or negative outcomes. Plus, certain decisions will lock future decisions, and by the time the expedition reaches the Mythic Beast, your army might already have incurred losses along the way. In my expedition to hunt the Cerberus, I lost a few units, but also gained a few unique Siren units as part of the decisions in my storyline.
When the expedition reaches its narrative end, that’s when you’ll actually have to engage in combat, and no, you can’t auto-resolve battles against Mythic Beasts. Before the fight, you can choose to bring in another army, and trust me, you’ll need every last man and monster to defeat these Mythic Beasts. I barely won my battle against Cerberus and his army of Shades (kind of like the ghost soldiers from The Lord Of The Rings. At least, I’d like to think so.)
That battle took me more than 20 minutes to finish and that’s with two full-stack armies. These truly are Mythic Beasts. Once I defeated Cerberus, I could use him either outside of combat like an Agent or inside my Army as a Unit. A Mythic Beast like Cerberus comes with its own unique mechanics, and Cerberus’ is that I can steal the souls of my fallen enemies to recruit units of Shade ghost soldiers.
Saga Format Limitations
However, it’s not perfect. This is still very much a A Total War Saga game, so don’t expect as much depth or content as a full-fledged title like Total War Rome 2 or Total War Three Kingdoms. The limitations of the scope can be felt after spending several hours in the same campaign. Playing as Sparta after more than 10 hours, and the game suffers from the same tedious endgame that has plagued the franchise since forever.
It definitely doesn’t help that the setting is limited to Greece. You’ll just be facing similar factions to your; the only difference is that they’re either Greek or Trojan. Of course, the game tries to spice things up with unique mechanics for each faction but that only goes so far in making things fresh, especially during the bloated endgame. After more than 10 hours as Sparta, I was simply mopping up whatever settlements I could on the long journey to Troy.
Trust me, Troy is really far from where your starting position is, and Sparta is located at the bottom left of the map. There are hundreds of settlements and a massive ocean separating me and Sparta. By the time I reached Troy, I just wanted to get it over with. Fighting the same-ish Greek and Trojan factions get old after a while, which was the same problem that popped up in more focused settings like Total War Three Kingdom‘s China and Total War Shogun 2‘s Japan.
Along with Mythos comes the free 1.6.0 patch, which is a free update for everyone. It introduces a huge new mechanic call Administrative Burden. The way it works is that as you occupy more settlements and the larger your empire becomes, the more negative effects you accumulate, such as increased upkeep and more. The only upside of higher Administrative Burdens is speeding up the process of unlocking royal decrees and increasing influence. The developer calls this the “anti-snowball mechanic” but the negative effects stack up and it makes the already-exhausting micro-managing of a huge empire even more tiresome, though I guess it does add an element of ‘realism’.
The economy also feels less balanced than I expected it to be. Late-game and exclusive units are often expensive as hell not only to recruit but also to maintain. Some require a ton of gold and bronze, which is crazy. It’s no easy feat trying to juggle resources while expanding your empire. If you’re not careful, you could end up lacking one or two important resources that you’ve been either using too much of or straight neglecting.
Other aspects that remind me that this is a Saga game includes there being a lot less voice acting than I’m used to in a Total War game. You’ll miss the over-the-top voice acting of leaders and factions from previous games when the ones in A Total War Saga Troy simply remain silent most of the time.
Juggling the resources are fun at first because you’ll have to make careful decisions while spending them. Still, I miss the days when food and money are the only two resources I have to worry about in a Total War game. Little improvements like being able to filter factions by how much or how little of a resource they currently have also diplomacy easier.
Should historical Total War fans get the A Total War Saga Mythos expansion? I was sceptical at first too, but I’m glad I gave it a try, despite my initial prejudices and reservations. Even if you’re adamantly against fantasy elements in a Total War game, there’s still the free Historical Mode as part of the 1.6.0 update. While I might never really get into the Total War Warhammer games, A Total War Saga Mythos is a great compromise for those who still prefer historical flavour in their Total War games.
Still, I’m looking forward to Creative Assembly taking everything they’ve learned and implemented in A Total War Saga Troy Mythos and apply and improve in a future full-fledged historical title. Including both Mythological Mode and Historical Mode proves that the developer hasn’t forgotten its historical roots, and that’s reassuring for veteran fans of the franchise.
- A Total War Saga Troy finally goes full fantasy.
- Historical Mode is available for historical Total War fans.
- Lots of little improvements.
- One of the most stable Total War games to date.
- Still plagued by long-time franchise problems, such as a tedious endgame.
- Despite the addition of fantasy units, it gets old fighting the same Greek/Trojan factions.
Final Score: 70/100
Review copy provided by Sega. Played on PC.