After developing two games in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe, Creative Assembly has returned to its traditional roots of immersing players in critical moments in history with Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia. Set after the defeat of the Great Heathen Army in 878 AD, players build up their kingdom in the British Isles during the uneasy peace between the Anglo-Saxons, Gaelic clans, and the Viking settlers. What a perfect time to rewrite the annals of history and seize the opportunity to unite Britain exclusively under your favourite factions banner. In anticipation for the game’s release date announcement, Sega was gracious enough to fly me and other members of the industry out to their headquarters for some hands-on time with Thrones of Britannia to deliver these first impressions.
During my one-hour play session, I took the role of Flann Sinna, the King of Mide and later one of the High Kings of Ireland. While Flann may be known largely for his unorthodox strategies, in my hands he became a ruthless king who laid siege on anything he could get his hands on. Using his faction’s specialized units of javelins and skirmishers, my armies were built around dominating the mid-range of the battlefield. My swordsmen units acted as their fortified shields while mounted cavalry came in to cut off my opponents escape route and deliver the finishing blow. Everything was great about this strategy until I faced a food shortage from over expanding too early, forcing me to disband four of my units to maintain public order and lower my military strength.
Compared to my recent experiences with the Total War Warhammer games, Thrones of Britannia was a much more hardcore and thought out battle. I had to slow down and think two turns ahead to come up with an effective strategy to defeat my opponents and maintain my army’s presence. It was only when I started to work off of the new mechanics in Thrones of Britannia that this slower and more tactical approach to warfare started to click. The first mechanic I had to get used to was mustering. When players recruit units in Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia they will only come in at a quarter of their total unit size and will build up over turns. To make up for the lack of initial manpower I depleted my food stores and gold to recruit more units before immediately charging into battle with them. By holding back and letting them build up my force would have been considerably more cost-effective and more cohesive as a whole.
The other mechanic I started to employ in tandem was War Favor. During the turns my units were mustering up I was making them grow inpatient and hungry for battle. Represented as a bar near the top of the screen, I allowed my War Favor to fill up to the point where my armies started to receive buffs. This was the moment where the next step in my plan for conquest could begin as I rushed for settlements with a band of healthy and maxed out units. However, War Favor can work in the opposite way. By going off to war constantly the player’s units can feel fatigued and lose interest in the fight, receiving rebuffs and making the force vulnerable to assault. There’s a fine balance players have to consider when making any type of move excessively in Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia.
Unfortunately, this was where my time was up with Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia. Within that hour of gameplay I experienced a wealth of depth and immersive strategy that only a historical based Total War game could deliver. Yet there were so many things I had yet to touch, including the impressive technology tree, the ability to create arranged marriages with my allies, or even trigger exclusive events tied to the kingdom of Mide. Thrones of Britannia may be built off of the same engine as the unstable Attila, but Creative Assembly is crafting this game with the utmost care and has seemed to work out the chinks in the armour. Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia releases world wide, April 19th, exclusively for PC.