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Total War: Arena preview: War sometimes changes

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 16, 2014
Total War: Arena lifts the real-time component from the esteemed strategy series and turns it into...a MOBA?

Total War: Arena

Imagine you're a general. You've trained all your life in the arts of war. You see troop movements and terrain and pincer movements and cavalry charges in your sleep. You're the ultimate killing machine--not by your own hands, but as an extension of thousands of others.

A day comes that will determine the course of the future. The opposing army stands on the other side of a small canyon, evenly matched with your own. You ride up and down the ranks of your soldiers, giving them some sort of rousing speech about how, "A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day."

The horns blow. You go to charge into battle and...all your troops break off into different directions. Ten of your lieutenants are giving contradictory orders. Some of them just stand in place confused. One group heads into a forest where they're promptly slaughtered. Another group walks into a narrow pass and is murdered from above. Within seconds the other army is in your base pulling down your flag.

Welcome to Total War: Arena.

Keep your friends close
I like the Total War series when it's not a broken mess. Its blend of real-time and turn-based strategy keeps me interested far better than pure 4X games, and I've put a lot of hours into various entries over the years.

Total War: Arena attempts to make the series into a more viable multiplayer game though by stripping out the turn-based component entirely. After all, in the age of e-sports it's hard to compete with something as fast-paced as a MOBA when your game takes thirty hours to play.

So instead of lifting the real-time component wholesale from the core series, however, Total War: Arena reimagines it as a team-based experience--basically a MOBA in disguise. No longer is it two generals squaring off across a table, directing troops from on high. Now it's ten players on each team, with each player taking on the guise of a famous historic general and three legions of troops.

The generals fall into assault, defense, and support roles and are taken from across history. The game encourages you to pick a character and stick with it, as you level him up, so I spent most of my time in the shoes of Germanicus, the Roman assault specialist.

Then you choose troops appropriate to that general. Troops are tiered and you'll have to unlock various upgrades to open up newer, better versions. Your basic melee class may soon become Hastati if you win enough glory on the battlefield, and from there you can evolve into Principes, et cetera.


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