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Total War: Arena Game preview

Game preview 19 December 2014, 14:02

author: Asmodeusz

Total War: Arena hands-on - World of Tanks invades ancient Rome

We’ve just tried out Total War: Arena, a online game set in the times of Rome II: Total War, which focuses on fast skirmishes amongst 20 players. Will Creative Assembly be able to cash in on the free-to-play craze?

This article was written prior to the game's release.

This text was based on the PC version.

  • A mix of the MOBA and RTS genres;
  • Dynamic 10v10 combat…
  • …in which we lead only three units of troops;
  • A simple combat system based on the rock-paper-scissors mechanic;
  • a free-to-play model;
  • a game intended for the PC audience

In the recent years, Creative Assembly has been aiming for extending their range of games with titles out of their comfort zone consisting of the likes of Shogun, Medieval, Rome and Empire, especially targeting the mobile games market (Total War Battles: Shogun and the recently announced Total War Battles Kingdom). The newest release from the studio tackles the f2p market, under the absolute rule of the games such as League of Legends and World of Tanks. Does Total War: Arena have what it takes to stand out and win over its’ own audience? Taking into account what We’ve seen before – it’s quite possible.

What is the Arena?

It’s a fast paced, team-based online game in which we take part in battles of 10 against 10, leading a small group of soldiers. It doesn’t seem that complicated… and in fact it isn’t. After starting the game, we choose one of the available generals (the tested version offered only Romans and Greeks, but barbarians and leaders from the Near East can be expected in the final release) and along with our leader, we receive three starting units. As we don’t have much choice at the start, we press the glowing ‘play’ button, and after a short wait, we are teleported to the battlefield alongside other players.

General choice impacts units and their abilities.

Similar to other MOBA games, the combat is the heart and soul of Total War: Arena. Before we engage in combat, we have a few dozen of seconds to choose one of the pre-defined points on the map and talk over our tactics with the other players. Apart from chat, we are also given an ability to mark locations on the map, and drawing an attack path (and not only that, as the wannabe artists in the beta have made us believe). Our objective is to take over the enemy base (flag) or defeat all of our opponents. Ready, set… battle!

The control of our troops and the camera is identical to other games from the Total War franchise. We can advance our units, set them in the right direction, shoot our enemy with bowmen and javelins, and charge the flanks or the back of the opponents army. Additionally our troops can use special skills, such as a more effective charge, dropping shields for enhanced speed or equipping bows with flame arrows. Nihili novi sub sole (nothing new under the sun) as the old Roman saying implies.

Clash in the middle of the map.

World of Tanks in ancient times?

And here the differences appear. In comparison to the full-scale Total War games, we only lead 3 units – the other 27 are in the hands of the other players. On one hand, it might seem like a number too small, to have a visible impact on the struggles, on the other, gives us more control over our troops. The combat comes down to the rock-paper-scissors mechanic (infantry-archers-cavalry) which results in us often circling our opponents spot, in search of a perfect place to strike. As the other players are not bots, we can be certain that the enemy is doing the same, trying to find a weakness in our ranks. The most important thing is the cooperation with the rest of the team. If an ally slows down the adversary, we should quickly provide support with flanking, or if leading archers, we should focus our fire on the spearmen troubling our infantry. Sometimes it’s worth it to sacrifice our own troops and stop an enemy’s rescue to buy some time for the allied player who is just taking over a flag.

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