In the sixth year of my nomadic campaign as the Visigoths, I realized Total War: Attila had turned me from a conqueror into a starved wolf in the wilderness.
That sensation of desperate hunger for a land to call home is game-changing for the Total War series, and makes Attila’s campaign feel like much more than a glorified expansion pack for its predecessor, Rome 2.
In fact, Attila is proudly its own game, and puts a firm foot forward in contrast to Rome 2’s initially unsatisfying jumble.
Its biggest faults come across largely as missed opportunities in an overstretched empire, rather than ill-conceived banes to my ability to enjoy myself.
The dynamic, driving forces of the campaign are the strongest rallying points for recommending this iteration of Total War.
From the East comes the onslaught of the Huns; from the North come increasingly harsh winters that will eventually make large portions of the map almost uninhabitable.
My Visigoths - one of 10 playable factions - were flung into the resulting barbarian pinball machine, bombarding the weakened Roman Empire while battling other tribes for the steadily vanishing fertile land.
Where most Total War games see your empire expand ever outward, Attila instead forces you to keep a foothold on a shrinking island of safety and prosperity.
Having no home province to defend at all costs, and being beset by unstoppable elemental forces changed the way I thought about waging war, and created dire situations that forced me into a ruthless, survivalist mindset.
When a blizzard caught my nomadic band in the Alps and killed a third of my men, I knew I needed to find food and shelter, now.
It didn’t matter how much blood I had to spill, nor whose blood it was.
For a moment, I felt like I understood the perspective of these ancient people, notorious for raiding and pillaging.