Total War: Attila devs talk units, Hun politics and the apocalypse

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PC Gamer: I wonder how you both personally like to play. What your favourite armies are and what are your favourite play styles?

Pawel Wojs: For me, I'm always a big fan of the barbarian factions. So the first factions I'll play are, you know, the Saxons and also the migrating factions, I do like the flavour, and the feeling and the freedom of the barbarian factions, and the bonuses you gain from raiding, so you're not bound to capturing. Essentially you can just raid, pillage and make money and be free, that's definitely my favourite play style.

Simon Mann: It's a bit barbaric for my play style, I have to admit. I like playing as the Sassanids, so the Zoroastrian faction. They are just a whole interesting play style for me, because they're a small faction actually, they haven't got much, but they've got seven or eight satrapies around them, and basically you just get everyone else to do your dirty work for you. So you declare war on someone and then just send your satrapies to go do it. But also, within that there's a very lovely thing—your satrapies will begin fouling up, and you've got to step in. So you've got this internal nation-state politics going on when you've got Sassanids and I like that kind of intrigue narrative thing going on.

PC Gamer: Do you have any favourite units, or new units that you recommend people experiment with?

Simon Mann: Certainly from a siege perspective we've done a lot to help archers a little bit, because archers are getting really important at this point with the proper torch and cross-bow they've got a lot going on. I love Hunnic horse archers at the moment, especially they have a lot of guerilla horse archers, so guerilla units can deploy outside of their deployment area. And you can take four or five of them. And they have what we call Parthian shot, they can fire 360 degrees around themselves, so while they're running away, they're firing backwards, killing the oncoming cavalry.

This is a cool form of warfare. Also because of a lot of the balancing we've done, especially with archers, you've got to save your arrows till the right time, right. You don't want to be firing all your arrows into a unit with a shield, because you're just wasting them, right? One out of every 10 arrows might hit, and that's great. If you can get 10 out of 10 arrows to hit, then you're into a winning tactic there. So there's a lot of holding off on using your horse archers—especially as the Huns—and actually waiting till the moment when they're exposed and then just letting fly. You can just decimate entire armies with it.

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PC Gamer: I guess that more decisive combat is intended to reduce the number of autobattles players fight over the course of a campaign.

Simon Mann: We've got an interesting kind of ebb and flow thing to the battles, which I don't think we've had before, in that units tend to rout much easier, so they're much more likely to break and they'll start running away, but they're also much more likely to reform afterwards. So you get the actual battle arc. Rather rather than just being arranged in a straight line, units are breaking and moving forward and coming back. And there's this kind of, almost snake that forms as the lines start shifting and that opens up opportunities for attack. Especially with cavalry.

Pawel Wojs: It gives a much more dynamic feel to the battles as well, so you're not stuck in one mosh trying to move. You're breaking, reforming, the enemy's breaking, reforming and it does, yeah, ebb and flows. It very much feels more dynamic.

PC Gamer: Thanks for your time.

Total War: Attila is out on February 17.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.