Religion will also play an important part in Attila. You'll have your empire's religion, but also potentially pockets of dissenting religions, which can cause conflict in your holdings, similar to Barbarian Invasion.
And in keeping with the Attila theme, you can now raze your own cities to the ground in what Creative Assembly termed "an ancient-world scorched earth policy." Outnumbered? Don't want your enemy to take advantage of that beautiful city you built? Burn it to the ground. Destroy it and don't look back. This both denies the enemy use of your city, forcing them to build up from scratch, and also damages the resource potential of the region temporarily.
As far as smaller features go, Creative Assembly is overhauling tech trees and the building interface to make things (hopefully) less cluttered and easier to understand, though from my brief look at the game "easier to understand" also seemed to correspond with "fewer options." Again, however, I didn't get hands-on time with the campaign map so it's hard to know for sure.
Some good news, though: Creative Assembly is bringing back family trees for leaders, which disappeared in Rome II. Also, there's an in-depth, shareable event log for those who like reading about stats. Creative Assembly specifically name-dropped Reddit and /r/totalwar in that regard.
On the battlefield
Creative Assembly dropped us into the middle of a battle for our hands-on demo. A battle where we were outnumbered two to one on defense. I played through the battle twice. I got murdered twice. The fine folks working the demo told me not to feel too bad--at the time we'd played, apparently only one person had emerged victorious.
There are a few new battle features. Tying into the campaign map, there's now an increased focus on siege. Besieging a city for a few turns will now leave it in a partially-ruined state before you attack, making it easier to get inside the walls. Considering Rome II was a nightmare when it came to attacking walled cities, this is a much-needed change. Fire also spreads dynamically now, both burning down structures and negatively affecting defender morale.
But defenders have a few new tricks also. Though they weren't in our demo, city maps will now include civilian bystanders who might try and fight back against the invaders or, more likely, will simply run away. They exist, though! These cities aren't empty! Defenders can also set up barricades at predetermined spots during the deployment phase, both giving cover to troops and potentially herding the enemy down a specific path.
What did it feel like to play, though? First of all, the battle we fought was (I believe) in England, and thus overcast. It was dark, and so dark it was a bit hard to keep track of what the hell was going on. Skirmishes between groups of troops just become a morass of bodies, which is certainly more realistic but a bit frustrating as a player who needs to see who he's controlling.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.