A Total War Saga: Troy

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
A Total War Saga: Troy Game Poster Image
The myth of the Trojan War gets a dose of reality.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Takes the mythology behind Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War, transforms it into a somewhat more realistic take on the characters and events. Spotlights culture of Ancient Greece and provides inspiration for players to learn more about both mythology and reality of that period of history.

Positive Messages

Game is based on romanticized tales of Bronze Age, but its primary focus is still on raising armies, conquering foes. Reasons, rationales tend to be little more than a way to set up these massive conflicts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Takes characters from Homer's epic tale The Iliad but reimagines them in a more realistic, grounded way. This removes a lot of the classic "heroes versus villains" aspects of the lead characters and, in fact, makes them significantly more basic.

Ease of Play

Requires a lot of micromanagement on player's part, not just in recruiting and organizing armies for battle, but also in things like resource management and diplomacy within various regions. This is made all the more frustrating by balance issues and odd behaviors by some computer-controlled gameplay factors.

Violence

Combat is a key component, with massive armies battling it out in epic fashion and players able to zoom in tight on the action. Some commander battles put a literal spotlight on one-on-one fights. Armies use a variety of weapons, from spears and swords to massive siege battering rams. Lots of fighting but very little in the way of blood shown on-screen.

Sex

In converting mythological creatures into units more grounded in reality, some units become more sexualized -- e.g., sirens are represented as troops of sex workers in revealing outfits, luring enemies into ambush.

Language

Some mild profanity ("damn," etc.) in dialogue.

Consumerism

Supports future downloadable content to expand the experience, the first of which is an Amazons expansion. It's also the latest chapter in the Total War franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional references to wine and to drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Total War Saga: Troy is a historical strategy game available for download on Windows-, macOS-, and Linux-based computers. The game takes the Total War series in a new direction, with battles set in the Bronze Age and based around Homer's epic The Iliad. The game takes liberties with the story, reimagining most of the mythological elements in a more grounded and realistic way. This does change how certain creatures are represented, such as sirens now presented as troops of sexualized human females luring enemies into ambush. Fighting is a constant in the game, with players able to move the camera around the battlefield and zoom in tight on the action. Despite this, there's surprisingly little bloodshed shown on-screen.

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What's it about?

The premise behind A TOTAL WAR SAGA: TROY is "What if the stories of myth were based on reality?" The game revisits the tale of the 20-year war between the kingdoms of Troy and Mycenaean Greece as it's told in Homer's Iliad, but reimagines it as events that might actually have taken place. Creatures of myth are replaced with real-world units that could have served as the basis for Homer's romanticized stories. For instance, instead of sirens luring sailors to their doom with an irresistible song sung at the rocky shores, it's a troop of sultry women seducing hapless soldiers and leading them into a nearby ambush. The half-man, half-beast Minotaur is no less frightening as an ax-wielding brute of a man wearing the fur and head of a bull. You'll choose the hero to lead your armies, from the seemingly invincible Achilles to the prideful King of Mycenae, Agamemnon, to Paris, the Prince of Troy, whose actions and obsessions instigated the Trojan War to begin with. Each leader and faction has its own strengths and weaknesses, and their ultimate fate, as well as the fate of Ancient Greece, lies in your decisions. Will Troy fall once more and fade into little more than stories passed from generations, or could the kingdom survive and thrive, changing the face of the Bronze Age forever?

Is it any good?

For more than two decades, the Total War series has reached deep into the history books to re-create the experience of diplomacy and warfare throughout the ages. A Total War Saga: Troy mixes things up a bit, digging deeper into the past than ever before and taking on the legendary Trojan War. What's even more interesting is how the game strips a lot of the mythology and romanticized aspects of the storied event in favor of a conflict that's more grounded in reality. While this means you won't see flocks of winged harpies fighting against a serpent-like gorgon and her stone-cold stare, you do get to see a squad of agile and deadly spearwomen cower before the gaze of a dark priestess and her strange curses. It's a unique vision of the past that keeps the fighting believable while also revealing how mythological tales could have recast them as creatures of fantasy.

If you've played any of the previous Total War games, things should feel familiar here. The game still has the grandiose battles with swarms of armies charging each other on the field. There's also the precarious balance between managing resources to fuel your troops and working side deals for the sake of diplomacy. And while this is all something fans should enjoy, balance issues and weird AI behaviors make the game feel like a big step back in the evolution of the series. One minute, AI-controlled units seem to be tactical geniuses, flanking and laying waste to the enemy with precision. The next minute, that same group will blindly charge straight at the enemy, outnumbered and outmatched in a suicide run that'll leave players wondering what just happened. Outside of the fighting, the gameplay is constantly interrupted by leaders of other regions sending lopsided and ridiculous requests. It feels almost like the pesky neighbor who always knocks on your door for just one more cup of sugar. Unfortunately, it's the gameplay issues like these that ultimately tarnish the luster of this Bronze Age chronicle.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mythology versus reality. How did mythological stories help to guide ancient cultures, and what are some of the ways those cultures might have used myth to explain real events?

  • What is the importance of learning about ancient history? What lessons can we learn today from events in the past, and what are some ways that innovations from the past still affect the modern world?

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