Features and buying advice from the experts

Total War: Arena – Hands On

Total War: Arena was originally announced way back at GDC back in 2013 by Creative Assembly, the company behind the wildly successful Total War series.

The game will enter open beta on the 22nd of February. At this point there will be no more progress resets, so anything you unlock on your account will be permanent from that date.

Have a look at Creative Assembly’s next Total War title, Three Kingdoms.

Although the development of Arena hasn’t always been smooth, as resources were pulled from the game to work on Rome II early on, the entrance of free-to-play experts Wargaming helped shape the game into the state it’s in today.

The game is rather unique, which is sadly all too rare these days, as it operates essentially as an RTS MOBA. 20 players are split into two teams of 10 and face off across a battlefield. Each player controls 3 units with a commander that provides certain abilities.

There are various troop types from slingers and archers, to light and heavy infantry, spearmen and javelin throwers. There are even artillery units and if you’re feeling very unique, a barbarian unit that operates war dogs.

The commanders add a nice layer of customisation to the gameplay, allowing you to play the same type of troops very differently depending on which commanders you have selected. Leonidas is a melee focused Greek commander with abilities such as Shield Bash, which orders the front ranks of his units to swing their shields up in unison, stunning the front ranks of the enemy. Fight in the Shade is an ability that orders his troops to bring their shields up above their heads, protecting them from arrow fire while moving more slowly.


The units themselves also play inherently differently, even without their commanders. Greek Spear and Pike units make use of a Phalanx formation, which they can activate to close their ranks and make them all but impossible to assault from the front – but makes them slow to move and turn, allowing them to be more easily flanked.

The Barbarians on the other hand, don’t make use of formations at all – they’re flanking troops, and get a bonus when moving through rough terrain and cause huge morale shocks to enemy troops when attacking from the sides.

The game is free-to-play with added micro-transactions, which are not directly intrusive. You can put more money into the game to help you advance and unlock units faster, but this doesn’t allow you to become stronger than other people in the same battle.

However, paying for a premium account (£8 a month roughly) allows you to level up your units faster, and alllows you to generate more silver (the in-game currency). While some people may find this a little steep to pay monthly for this type of game, content will be added such as new factions, units and maps that everyone can play for free – so paying a little each month isn’t the end of the world, if you’re getting a solid amount of hours out of the game.

You can buy higher tier units for money, so called ‘premium units’. These tend to be worse than their traditional equivalents, so they’re not exactly buying power, but they are WILDY expensive. Some Units costing upwards of £25/$30 which is more than the cost of some games.

The game is a breath of fresh air as it actually brings something new to the table, as the chances are you haven’t played anything like it before. It’s also completely free to play, so why not give it a try.

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