Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is the next instalment of the Total War franchise from Creative Assembly. However, Thrones of Britannia differs from previous entries in the series by focusing on a very specific time period which was pivotal in the history to follow. The year is 878 AD, the English king, Alfred the Great, has mounted a heroic defence against the Great Heathen Army. But the war is not over, and the Norse Vikings are not the only threat in this war of kings.
Thrones of Britannia is a standalone strategy game which features both real-time and campaign map gameplay. Build your armies and your kingdom within the campaign map and then conduct battle in real-time as the commander of your armies. With ten playable factions including the Anglo-Saxons, Gaelic clans, Welsh tribes and Viking settlers you can alter the course of history for better or worse.
In terms of graphics the game is as beautiful as ever with dynamic weather being mirrored both in the campaign map and the battle view. Some of the more stylised elements such as the unit portraits are very reminiscent of the period. As with all total war games, the sheer scale of battles is what leaves you looking on in wonder, and in this respect Thrones of Britannia is no different. Whether you’re watching your armies finally breach the walls after a prolonged siege or watching your soldiers clash on open ground with your enemy; the ability to zoom in on the action and see each individual soldier fight in an army of thousands is incredible.
Similar to other total war games, each faction is heavily focused to a particular play style. Whether that’s utilising archers and shield walls like the Anglo-Saxons or being more naval focused such as one of the Viking factions, The Sea Kings. But Thrones of Britannia takes this a step further. The very culture of your people can have great influence on other factors in the game. Take the Welsh for example, being a very proud and heroic people the simple act of ranking up heroes and owning Welsh land alone grants bonuses to your kingdom. Bonuses such as these are unique to every nation and so should be kept in mind when considering your play style and which nation best suits you.
Moreover, each campaign features a narrative based on the faction you are playing. This narrative provides a guide as to what your ambitions should be in the early game and what you should be working towards. The implementation of this feature overall seems to be aimed at newer players who have yet to experience a game in the Total War franchise. Understandably newer players are likely feeling lost as to what they should be doing on starting their first campaign. For experienced players however it can feel as if you are shoehorned in one direction without being given the freedom you may have grown accustomed to in earlier games.
This is the main area of the game I have problems with. As a player who has fallen in love with the Total War franchise since the early games Rome and Medieval 2, Thrones of Britannia feels like it has little depth in comparison. Arguably down to being aimed at newer players to the series, Thrones of Britannia is sadly a disappointment for veterans of the franchise. Overall, the game feels like a rushed expansion which is being offered at a slight discount to a full price game. Ever since Rome 2 that sad feeling of disappointment after the release of a new Total War game still seems to linger in the air.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate Creative Assembly taking the franchise in a new direction like they did with their Total War: Warhammer games. In many ways strategy games are considered a dying breed when it comes to profitability and as a result reinvigorating the series with new gameplay or new ideas can be nothing but good for the franchise. Sadly it seems the execution is never as polished as it needs to be and Thrones of Britannia is no exception to this. Even the earlier games were not without their problems but what they did well they excelled at whereas Thrones of Britannia always seems to feel as if it comes up short of what it could have been.
In conclusion, as a veteran of the Total War franchise I cannot recommend Thrones of Britannia for experienced players of the series unless you have a specific interest in the time period. Although the aesthetics and music is there the game play unfortunately comes up short of what it could have been. For newer players who want to experience a Total War game for the first time Thrones of Britannia seems to be a good starting point to discover your interest in the series.
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