Indsendt: 26. december
If you're willing to play with DeI or another overhaul mod, the game is worth an upvote and can actually be fun to play, but this review is for the base game, which is underwhelming even post Emperor Edition release.
First and foremost, only the first couple of turns - depending on the starting faction between 10 and 30 - feel like an actual challenge, even when playing on legendary. If you gets past that, the rest of the game will essentially become a rather annoying chore that will lead to your victory, unless the infamous civil war will make you ragequit, since that appears to be its only purpose.
Civil war was a bad mechanic at the time of release, and Emperor Edition has somehow managed to make it even more annoying. It simply punishes the players for making progress by randomly turning parts of their territory and armies against them, unless they bother doing lots of micromanagement within the faction politics system, which is boring and requires putting some aspects of character development (political traits) outside players control. I recommend using a mod that disables it altogether and hoping that Creative Assembly will finally stop adding punishing mechanics that try to emulate an actual challenge to their games - realm divide in Shogun II and civil war in Rome II have set up a bad trend, and I don't want it to be continued in Attila.
In my opinion, too many buildings give happiness penalty from squalor when upgraded. It's neither a good gameplay concept nor a realistic situation, unless people living back then had nothing better to do than riot because someone in their province was farming cattle with clearly nefarious intent.
The battle AI got better since release, but it can still be exploited, for example some barbarian coastal settlement maps have areas that AI never enters unless you lure its units there by coming close and then retreating inside them slowly, allowing to safely murder it with ranged troops. Siege battles haven't really gotten much harder in my opinion. Previously all you needed to do in order to win them was place a single unit of pikemen in pike phalanx behind the gate. Now you just block the stairways and towers on the wall section the AI is attacking, which will force a fight on the wall. This has the advantage of making your units pretty much immune to slingers and javelinmen - throwing stones and javelins up the walls doesn't really work, whereas a unit waiting behind the gate could still be hit - while also allowing your towers to score a lot of kills. The AI still mostly attempts to attack instantly instead of waiting for a few turns, except in certain settlements, such as Pulpedeva, where it will usually try to besiege.
The factions are diverse when it comes to troop rosters, but they're still lacking balance. Armored elephants can easily destroy several units, and depending on troop composition sometimes entire armies by themselves. This is offset by the fact that they require completing one of the military research lines to recruit, so normally you can't get them early on. Except if your faction can use them as general bodyguards, in which case you can get them at turn one. Sword infantry in general is also pretty underwhelming, which makes Rome itself a not-so-good faction. Basic barbarian units have morale horrible enough to make them route from being sneezed at and barbarian cities have pretty much zero defensive capabilities when compared to 'civilised' factions. The wooden towers at barbarian city gates also tend to burn one another with their own arrows if the attackers come from certain directions.
When it comes to diplomacy, AI has some major issues when it comes to anything client state or satrapy related. Your allies will often declare wars against them, forcing you to either break the allience or lose the client state/satrapy. This happens because your allies will hate your vassals for having past wars with you, trespassing on your territories et cetera. It also seems that other faction don't acknowledge resources produced in settlements that are being upgraded. Even if you have several settlements that produce a single type of resource, if you're upgrading just one of them then the chance to get the AI to trade with you will go down. This tends to only be noticeable at the beginning of campaigns though.
The agents in general are far too strong. An experienced spy is especially broken, as he can can reliably kill over half of an army with a single poisoning.
There are several major issues with the battle system.
Firstly, AI troops (not whole units) will always turn to face the player cavalry charge. This is especially annoying when you try to charge at spearmen who are currently engaging your own infantry in the rear. You will notice that before your cavalry hits them, the last row of the spearmen will turn towards it, causing some extra casualties. This can be avoided by ordering the cavalry to run in the direction of the unit and only make them attack at the very last moment, and this only occurs when player does this to the AI, never the other way around.
Secondly, flanking penalties are applied too often. Sometimes a single soldier will awkwardly move too far to the left or right, giving the opposing unit a morale penalty for being flanked.
Thirdly, all the AI does in battles is ram your battle line with 2-3 large blobs of units, while also attacking your flanks with cavalry - even if the flanks consist of spearmen turned to face them or horse archers/skirmishers.
Fourthly, giving active abilities to pretty much every single unit is annoying and is nothing more than a micromanagement nightmare that doesn't really increase the complexity of the game, since most of them have no drawbacks and should simply be used as soon as possible.
Lastly, the points where reinforcements enter the battle are somewhat random. It's perfectly possible to have enemy reinforcements pop up behind you and vice versa, regardless of campaign map placement.
My last concern lies with the DLC. There's more of it than it was in previous total war games, and most of it also costs more than before. In the main campaign, only 14 of the 32 playable factions are available without the DLC, which to me feels downright insulting.