The Lernean Hydra and the Venom Drinker cult are coming to TROY: MYTHOS

A Total War Saga: TROY

Ben Barrett
July 29 2021

Welcome back to TotalWar.com – let’s talk MYTHOS. A Total War Saga: TROY is getting an expansion, as I presume you’ve heard. MYTHOS includes mythical creatures in a brand-new mode where you send armies to hunt down, face, and then recruit one into your forces. The monsters are Cerberus, the Griffin Patriarch, and today’s topic of discussion: the Lernean Hydra

The Myth behind the Monster 

The Hydra is one of the most recognisable mythical beasts, up there with Dragons, Vampires, and Mondays. Much like all those it is vicious, deadly, and has origin stories scattered throughout ancient texts. 

The most well-known Greek telling, where we took our inspiration, is the nine-headed snake that battled Herakles (or Hercules, if you’re Roman) as part of his second Labor. Crafted by the Goddess Hera to kill Herakles, eight heads of the Hydra would regrow into more whenever they were severed or destroyed, while a final one was completely immortal. With his nephew Iolaus, Herakles battled the Hydra, eventually cutting off its heads and cauterizing the wounds so they could not regrow. 

He then took the final, unkillable head and buried it in Lerna – near the swamp that was the Hydra’s birthplace – covering it with a boulder so it could never escape again… 

…unfortunately, at least in our version, the poisonous blood seeping from the head’s wounds infected the local water and crops. As the people of Lerna consumed it unknowingly, they came under the sway of the Hydra, forming the cult of the Venom Drinkers. They unearthed the head and are now dedicated to the resurrected Hydra, which roams the land looking for prey to feed its vitality and grow more powerful – so no ‘hero’ can ever defeat it again. 

The Quest for the Hydra 

To bring the Hydra to your side, a Mythic Expedition must be undertaken, as with all the monsters. This involves trekking to the site of its ‘burial’ and dealing with the cult built upon the monster’s apparent allure. What will you find there, who will you trust, and can you and your men even get to the Hydra intact, sound of mind and body? The first step on your journey reads thus: 

Ancient Argive kings once prided themselves on their fertile Lernean territories, gifted to them by Poseidon himself. In those long-ago days the Hydra slept and grew, fattened on lamb sacrifices and stray travelers. Lerneans didn’t mind parting with some of their plentiful flocks: it was Hera herself that demanded her pet monster be fed. As for the travelers… you prepare to be one of them, though you hope to not share their fate. You will be hunting for the monster’s immortal head, buried by Herakles after he slew it. 

Lerna is no longer as it once was. It is a poisoned land, and barren, ever since it was cursed with the Hydra’s disembowelled corpse festering upon the once-verdant lands and crystal-clear streams. 

No outsider dares tread there. Except you. You have to be ready. 

The Hydra on the Battlefield 

In battle the Hydra is a ranged powerhouse, spitting deadly poison at enemies. Along with its massive-range basic attack, it also has poison bombs for further long-range bombardment and a breath attack that covers a wide area. Any fool brave enough to strike the Hydra in combat will also be poisoned by its malicious blood, the source of its power. While locking it down in melee is likely to be the best way to win, you will pay a heavy toll. 

It is best supported by a strong front-line and ways to prevent it from being ambushed, and best used as an artillery piece that can still hold its own in the melee of combat. Make no mistake, while the Hydra’s strongest elements are ranged attacks and spewing death, it will make easy work of ill-prepared mortals in melee. However, the rest of your army may be vulnerable with such a powerful unit taken out of its element. 

The Hydra as an Agent 

When not directly destroying your enemies in battle, the Hydra has several powerful effects on the campaign map. Its central resource, its own Vitality, provides large buffs to itself the higher it is. This is gained from, ahem, fulfilling the Hydra’s appetite with sacrifices of enemies, cities, or your own armies. 

Uses for Vitality include: 

  • Building and upgrading unique Hydra buildings that allow for the recruitment of its followers.
  • Hydra buildings are normally very expensive and take a long time to build, but using the Hydra and its Vitality can decrease both. 
  • Buffing the Hydra and its armies.
  • Vitality tiers increase the health, ammunition, and damage of the Hydra depending on how well-fed it is. 
  • Spending Vitality can give all units in an army poison attacks for one battle. 

The Hydra also has a batch of potential skill selections as it levels up, improving itself, and altering the use and gain of Vitality in different ways. 

The secondary benefits of the Hydra are access to the Hydra Cultist units. These are the remnants of the Lernean people, now slaves to the Hydra’s will and insidious fighters. 

The Hydra’s Army 

Drinkers of Venom 

Those who have imbibed the Hydra’s blood and still live, albeit in a near-fugue state. They are not trained warriors but are willing to unleash the fury of their Mother on any who stand in the way. Not the most precious of children for the Hydra, they are thrown towards the enemy lines in haphazard attacks as likely to harm the chargers as the charged. Of course, with poisonous blood coursing through their veins, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • An expendable unit, unlikely to be missed by anyone except each other. 
  • Poisonous attacks and regenerative properties, like all children of the Hydra. 
  • With their lasting impact even after death, they’re some of the most useful disposable troops there are.

Hydra Archers 

Inspired perhaps by the tale of mighty Herakles and his use of their Mother’s blood to empower his arrows, they are arguably the truest children of the Hydra. While their long-range poison comes from a bow rather than powerful spit, the Archers are equally capable of mowing down whole units of enemies thanks to the growing infection that comes from their attacks. The venomous blood that keeps them alive does not make them the most accurate, however. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • Lightly armoured and slow but with long range, they should be protected along with their Mother. 
  • Target different enemies rapidly to poison their entire army, rather than focusing on a single foe. 
  • Will also poison enemies in close combat, should it come to it. 

Hydra Defenders 

Those without the talent or persuasion for the bow can still serve the Hydra, and they play a vital role. The Defenders are just that – great walls that stand before their cousins and their Mother to protect both as they rain death on those foolish enough to stand against the Hydra. They are heavily armoured and provide an incredible bulwark against everything but the most powerful of foes. 

Notable characteristics: 

  • Very slow, but other than that are almost all-upside. 
  • Extremely hard to kill thanks to all their armour and health combined with their (un)natural regeneration. 
  • Cutting their head off will, however, probably work. 

Hydra Priest 

Rather than his siblings, so dedicated to personal combat and bringing the good word of the Hydra to their enemies as violently as possible, the Priest is a leader with minimal prowess in the world of blade and bow. However, his ability to summon the Hydra’s poison from beneath the Earth to infect enemies must be respected. If he can be protected, he will turn the tide of battle thanks to this and the capacity to heal allies. 

  • Fairly weak in combat itself, as he’s just a quite sick old man with a sword. 
  • However, his pairing of special abilities, and the authority with which he can lead children of the Hydra is nothing to sniff at. 
  • A priority target when facing the forces of the Hydra, or his trickery will see your armies felled. 

That’s all for the Hydra and its minions – a whole suite of reasons to seek it out and bring it on-side. The other Mythic Monsters of TROY: MYTHOS have their own, and we’ll cover each in turn. For now, consider drinking poison carefully.