TW: Attila – The Last Roman DLC Review
On June 25th, The Last Roman DLC was released for Total War: Attila. I’m usually a little hesitant when picking up Total War DLC, and I believe that many others feel the same way. If I were to purchase all of the DLC for Attila then I’d have to fork out almost as much money as I did to buy the game. That’s a steep price for what you get as additional content. And, unfortunately, I don’t think all of those DLC packs are worth it; there are several DLC that provide noticeably less content than others, and there are some that aren’t even necessary. But, I decided to go ahead and preorder The Last Roman after watching the developer’s Rally Point episode detailing all of the DLC’s new additions. I’m glad I did; however, I’m not sure if The Last Roman is for everyone.
The Last Roman has you following Belisarius’ campaign to recapture North Africa and as much of the Western Roman Empire as possible. It was the Eastern Roman Empire’s last attempt to reform the Roman empire of old. The new campaign features a whole new campaign map spanning Europe from Spain to the Adriatic. And the new map does look great; the amount of work put into its creation really shows through. To my knowledge, it is the first campaign map with noticeable altitudes for its cities. It’s nice to look at, and adds a bit more depth to the campaign map, but it’s just an extra perk.
All of the more prominent changes are for Belisarius’ faction, the Roman Expedition. It is because of their faction that The Last Roman DLC stands out. You start off with two “hordes,” similar to those in Attila’s grand campaign. You can go rampaging across Europe with Roman armies with horde dynamics (except you don’t need to camp to recruit); and any of the cities that you capture can either be given to the Eastern Empire, or you can found your own nation and go it alone. If you decide to go it alone and capture enough territories then you can reform the Western Roman Empire.
Now this may sound similar to the Huns from Attila’s Grand Campaign except Belisarius’ faction is also story driven; it’s much more narrative heavy than any other Total War campaign. You receive missions from the Emperor, Empress, and your wife; often these will conflict and you have to decide where and how you want to navigate your faction. From my various attempts at the campaign, the missions seem to appear in the same order, but can be handled differently. The missions provide bonuses and penalties for your faction should you succeed or fail; however, they also serve to guide you and provide direction for your campaign. This is a new feel for Total War gameplay; usually you’re left to your own devices to achieve your victory conditions. In The Last Roman, I think the narrative heavy gameplay really works; it brings the time period to life, and it provides you with short and rewarding objectives when you would be otherwise conquering aimlessly. It puts you in fun situations; what do you do when your in the middle of Vandalic Africa and your wife asks you to raid the Berbers to the west to gain gems to appease the Empress, when shortly before the Emperor asked you to sail to Italy to free a pro-Roman Queen from the Ostrogoths? You’re free to conquer as you wish, but you really feel like your one of the Emperor’s generals. It just works.
Unfortunately, this only applies to the Roman Expedition. If you decide to separate from the Eastern Empire or play as one of the other four barbarian teams, then you lose the heavy narrative focus. You’re not provided the narrative from another perspective, you just play like any other Total War game. And so, the campaign plays out and feels almost identical to Attila’s grand campaign, but on a different map. The barbarian teams have a host of new units, as well as new faction traits designed for Kingdoms instead of hordes, but that’s all the Barbarian teams have going for them. All of the new the gameplay tweaks want you to play as Belisarius’ faction. That’s not to say that trying to halt Belisarius in his tracks as the Vandalic Kingdom isn’t a fun challenge, it really is; it’s simply that the Barbarian teams, plus a separatist Belisarius, lack most of the new features that The Last Roman provides.
Because of this, The Last Roman DLC is really only significant because of Belisarius’ faction. The many new features for the Roman Expedition definitely make the DLC worth playing and trying out. But, if you prefer a more sandbox style of gameplay, or dislike the Roman team, you can still play as one of the other factions, but you won’t find all that much new here. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you enjoy Total War gameplay then you will enjoy the other teams and the new map to conquer. But then again, if you’re not interested in the Roman Expedition you’ll get a very similar game from the Grand Campaign; in which case, I might wait for a sale.