I’ll be upfront. My Total War Arena review is coming from a completely nooby place.
Total War: Arena is a free-to-play real-time strategy game. It combines all of the great commanders through the history of warfare in one brutal package.
Creative Assembly has re-energised the large-scale warfare of the previous titles and coupled it with a multiplayer environment.
Coming into the Total War: Arena I felt like such a noob. I hadn’t played one of the total war games since Rome: Total War back in 2005.
Even though I had a basic knowledge of how the game works I quickly learned some new lessons. The battles are still massive in the sense of scale but the strategy required is next level.
Total War Arena Review
There are a lot of similarities to the Total War series, but Arena has some elements that make it feel like an all-new game. The fact that you can have commanders from different parts of history fighting each other, or even together is a huge change.
But the biggest change is being able to play with and against ten other players. Each player commands three units of 100 strong. This really changes the dynamic of the game.
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At first, I was really put off by such large-scale battles and so many teammates. I found while playing by myself it was best to pick a commander who uses units that cover your weaknesses. Working closely with teammates means you should be victorious in most engagements.
Especially if you work together and flank the enemy units you engage. Routing the enemy can also be the most useful tool towards victory.
Learning the commanders’ abilities and skills is imperative to progressing as a player. They all have their own kinds of buffs and debuffs they can use and each of these will also be more effective with certain types of units.
Early gameplay is fairly balanced when it comes to units and commanders. But I would suggest trying all commanders and unit types early on. Finding what you’re comfortable with or find more effective will help you progress later on.
Onward to Battle
The battle system is fairly easy to get a grasp on after a few games. Learning how use your units and commanders abilities will mostly come down to trial and error. At least it did for me.
Getting your timing and positioning right will make everything more effective. In saying that I did have some possible input lag on occasion where my units would be idle for a few seconds before acting. This was especially frustrating when it turns the tide of battle against you.
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In addition to managing your commander’s abilities and timing, you also need to keep an eye on your unit abilities. Using them too often can leave you defenceless at times.
Alternatively, using them too little means you may not get the upper hand in a straight out fight. For example, if you keep an eye on infantry defensive stances as cavalry you will know when to charge. I would often use my cavalry to bait opponents to give an opening for my teammates.
The progression system is simple and streamlined as a whole. I did have to fumble around a little through various menus, but once I became familiar with it the upgrades flowed.
Being a free-to-play title, there’s obviously a system of currency in Total War: Arena. The more you battle, the more experience and silver you will earn. This is all traded in for upgrades to the commanders, which will unlock new skills for them and raise their tier.
The same goes for your units and their equipment and abilities. You must unlock certain gear upgrades before you can purchase the next tier unit. This is a pretty time-consuming effort but if you like the grind it’s well worth it.
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There is also another currency which is gold, this is purchased with your real hard earned money. It doesn’t really allow many advantages apart from speeding up progression.
As I previously mentioned, the early game is fairly balanced. The only real disadvantage is your own skill and strategy. There will always be people who are better than you. This is compounded when I ran into some matchmaking issues. I assume it may have been due to fewer players in the higher tiers but I did seem to occasionally run into slightly unbalanced teams.
These teams weren’t anything that couldn’t be handled with teamwork and communication. But if you have too many lone wolves on your team you will get decimated by the higher tiers units.
I was really surprised to see region locking on such a multiplayer focused game. Being one of the few Australians with a decent internet connection I do enjoy playing certain games with players in the US or EU regions. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible since I made a Total War: Arena account in the Asian region.
It certainly didn’t kill the game for me but did make it harder since I had no one to squad up with.
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I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to play a Total War game again. Especially with the multiplayer PVP aspect built as the focus. I can see myself putting a lot more time in it, mostly due to my competitive nature.
It’s what makes this game as good as it is really. The fact that you can pit yourself against multiple enemies at once and test your keenness for strategy is the reason to keep coming back for more.
Fans of the series will like the transition and ability to test themselves against the world. Newcomers can slide in comfortably due to the tier system. This gives them plenty of opportunities to learn the game.
I really don’t see a lot of new players coming to play due to its strategy heavy and historical specific nature, but free-to-play will entice some.
For a free-to-play game, this game certainly exceeds its value.
Total War: Arena was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided to PowerUp! by Wargaming.
Game Title: Total War: Arena
Free to play if you don't mind the grind - 9/10
Testing your mettle against other real Sun Tzu enthusiasts - 9/10
Region locking for accounts - 6/10