Thrones of Britannia is the first of the Saga series, whose instalments will act as small spin-offs that aim to focus on several key-points in history, with this one focusing on the Anglo-Saxons. From most of the descriptions around as well, the game is mentioned as being different in terms of certain gameplay features as well, with certain mechanics making it approachable for newcomers.
Whereas the previous games focused mostly on the battles, Thrones of Britannia combines real-time battles with Kingdom-building, allowing you to construct cities as well as manage armies and population. It makes sense as to why they would add a managerial aspect to this particular entry, as after all you are tasked with not only defending and attacking, but also uniting all British Isles under one rule, so you have to do more work than just attack people, but you do have the freedom to do only that if that’s what you want.
To start off, you get a choice of 5 playable factions, each with their unique mechanic and setting. Along the way depending on your standing and setting, you will get various interesting objectives and quests that you can partake on. One of the examples is that you may be tasked with going on a nationwide treasure hunt. However, the interesting thing to note here is, since the campaign and AI is dynamic they too may come across the same type of narrative events that either alters their standing or puts them on a crash course with you.
The interesting thing is perhaps that the events are not completely scripted so playing different campaigns will net you with a different experience, and even playing it as the same faction twice may not lead you through the same path. This overall provides for a lot of replay possibilities. Furthermore, you have battle mode and multiplayer as well, which works rather well, and with my time in it I rarely noticed any drops (internet connection used: 56 Mbps Down – 12 Mbps Upload 22ms ping – Wired).
The battles appear to have been stream-lined since I last tried a Total War game (Warhammer) where I remember it was more in-depth and I had to be cautious about different types of troops and what they did, which broke down into different orders. However, here most of the time I did not feel a need to do anything more in-depth and was content just positioning and guiding my units to where I would feel to be the optimum attacking position. You still have your standard Total War controls from multi-selection to orienting and the like.
However, this simplicity is where some problems come in as well, as the fights can be too easy and short for Total War veterans, as I didn’t feel like I was given an in-depth system as I was in the previous Total War games. Most of the time all I felt like I was truly doing was tapping away at the enemies. Now, I may be a simple mind to entertain, but I truly believe long time fans will take issues with this whilst newcomers will get to have a lite Total War experience.
Still, one thing I have always appreciated about the Total War series is how close you can zoom in on your units, and when you do, your units are fully animated and detailed as they fight against the enemy. Some actions make them feel more real, like some soldiers fall behind when moving around with their units whilst at the other time you can see certain members dealing a killing blow or falling. It doesn’t feel as grand as something like the epic battles in Total War: Warhammer II did, but skirmishes still feel like actual battles. After the battle, you get to decide the fate of the defeated, either to have them join you, sell them or kill them. Each with its pros and cons.
Of course, since battle is not the only focus of the game, you must invest in technology trees. For those who have not played Total War before, tech trees can be compared to how you would unlock skills in different games. There are different types of trees, you’ve got those that are more military focused while others are more civic. The military tree allows you to improve your combat ability, such as better range for infantry units or lower cost for recruitment whilst the civic tree gives you stat boosts such as fame, or research rate increase, which helps more with the managerial part of the game.
Civic based milestones will mostly need to be unlocked by building and upgrading key structures, however the military unlock requirements are more challenge based where you have to complete a certain task to unlock them. It can be anything from attacking an enemy a certain number of times to winning a set amount of battles.
Now because there are a few different ways to play the game, the victory requirements have been expanded as well. For example, if you play the game with a more managerial focus, you will be able to utilise the fame you earn to gain victory. Fame can be acquired by either being a good ruler or building certain branches of key structures and even unlocking milestones in the civic trees. This, overall, gives the game’s mechanics more meaning where how you play will contribute to your campaign, preventing certain mechanics from becoming fodder material.
One thing I have to mention is that the game manages to grab your attention quite quickly through a well-made motion comic intro, which reveals the setting of the game and the situation the lands of Britannia have been plunged in to. In fact, one thing I must really give props to the developers for is the overall presentation of the game as the cut-scenes are very well made and stylised. The voice acting is top notch, with accents that truly fit within the time-period and the music is in equal parts memorable as it is adrenaline pumping and varied for each faction. Effectively, it manages to sell the scale of the conflicts.
The game ran surprisingly better than I expected as well, and even though running at 1440p (2560×1440) on a GeForce GTX 980Ti with ultra-settings didn’t net me a consistent 60 fps, it still managed to be more than 40 during busy and crucial events. I have had issues with some Total War games not running as well on my system, so this was a nice relief. To top it all, the UI is scale-able as well, so you won’t be left staring at small text at higher resolutions.
There is no need to fret if you don’t have the latest and shiniest system specs since the game is scalable to quite a good degree with a lot of customisable graphical options. In fact, at minimum you can even get away with an Intel HD 4000 integrated card at 720p (1280x720p). Ram is something that is utilised quite a lot though, so that will have to be at least around the 5gb mark.
Overall, I had a fun time, but there were still aspects that prevents this game from getting the highest score. For starters, although the beginning hours of the game are engaging and fun, it does become monotonous 8 or so hours in. Furthermore, as I have mentioned with the combat before, the game does feel like a Total War-lite, something for newcomers as it can be way too quick and easy to be truly satisfying for series veterans. It even has an option to quick battle, where the game auto-simulates the battle and takes you to the outcome instantly which is actually a plus side. Still with issues like an unfinished Estate system where all you do is just give away stuff without any repercussions, mixed with the shallow AI it does stop it from reaching its full potential.
For veteran players who love the stellar entries like Atilla or Warhammer II and how strategic they could get, this may not be something they’d fully enjoy and is probably something they’d quickly tire out of due to how easy it can get. However, if you are someone who wants to really try something from the Total War series but were intimidated by the complexity of it all, this may be a very good jumping point.
+ Strong Voice Acting
+ Stylised and Well Animated Cutscenes
+ Dynamic Events
+ Fantastic Music
- Shallow AI Compared to Other Entries
- Estate System Feels Unfinished