Total War: Arena Hands-off Preview: Quick Matches With Deep Strategies

Total War fans who love the “War” aspect of that franchise will probably take quite well to Total War: Arena, which aims to give players a deep and strategic war management experience in nice small doses. At E3 I met with the development team to talk about the game, as well as to see it in action in a hands-off setting, and I have to say that I was impressed by this free-to-play title for PC.

As mentioned previously the game is purely about multiplayer battles only, and it will feature the ability to host 10v10 matches that typically last 10-15 minutes. Being someone who enjoys strategy games and RTSs, I appreciated Arena’s bite-sized matches, which will allow players to get through them quickly in between other daily chores, or before bedtime. You won’t have to worry about getting bogged down in a multiple hours long matches, so this game is suited to players who want a deep experience, but don’t want to have to commit huge amounts of their free time.

The first part of my demo revolved around the Camp interface, which is the main hubs players will use to pick their commander and units before a battle begins. The game has three total factions in the form of Romans, Greeks, and Barbarians, and each has various historical commanders to lead forces into battle. In the demo Germanicus was chosen as the commander because of his unique abilities (He was really good at fighting), which all commanders will have three of. A new commander was also revealed during the demo in the form of Boudica, who to me looks like a female William Wallace but even more radical, so she too will have unique abilities that are based on her actual history and fighting style.

These abilities are rooted in the commander’s actual history, which the game does a fine job of explaining in their bios if you’re up for a bit of reading. Commander abilities can also be passed on to the troop units you chose if they match up with your commander’s abilities. For example, Germanicus is all about melee combat, so any troop unit that is melee-based would get his ability boosts when used. This provides all sorts of strategy even before a match begins, as well as once one has started, because players will have to decide on the best commander to use for the troop units they prefer, and vice versa.

Each faction also has a tech tree with 10 levels of progression. All of the levels and tech can be unlocked for free, but they can be accelerated with in-game purchases. The developers made it clear that Arena will not be a pay-to-win game, and that unlocking a tech tree naturally is almost preferred because it will give the player time to learn the best strategies and units to use based on their tech progressions.

Like I mentioned earlier matches will last 10-15 minutes, and the two win conditions are the decimation of enemy forces, or a base capture. Morale plays a huge role in each match too, so if you pull off an amazing flank, or just overwhelm a group of enemy troops, they can be routed. When this happens buffs and debuffs get applied, which will affect the strategies of a match to recover from or take advantage of a routed unit.

Total War: Arena just looked like a very fun game that performs quite well even in beta status. The engine can handle up to 60 units, or 3000 soldiers on screen at once without seizing the engine, and based on the battle I saw the tech can handle the load perfectly. Visually it looks fine, but since the tech is more geared towards the gameplay, they really didn’t stand out as a prominent feature. If you’re a Total War fan, then I think you’ll appreciate Arena, especially for its short match lengths and deep customizations, as well as the various real-life war tactics you must pull off for victory. Stay tuned for a closed beta reveal, which should be happening soon.


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Tags : Total War: Arena
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.