Total War: Warhammer is a refined, rewarding strategy experience
Total War: Warhammer. The title is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s the perfect banner to represent what the game is. Creative Assembly and Games Workshop have fused two beloved and well established brands together, taking the merits of each into a single title and doing something new with it. With the historical setting out of the way for this entry, the lore of Warhammer is allowed to shine, creating battlefields filled with Greenskins and dragons over roman soldiers.
Leaving history has given Creative Assembly the room to explore, offering the most experimental entry yet. While the base is something many will have played before, having giant siege machines, dragons and undead hordes march adds a real new angle to the game. It helps that there’s a lot less assuredness in victory. When tackling Rome Total War you could reliably quell rebels and mercenaries with a strong army, there’s not too many ways that clash can go. But Dwarven miners clashing with vampire lord’s undead forces? There’s a lot more outcomes that could arise.
This variety is one of the game’s biggest draws, with the main factions all playing very differently. They retain the inherent balance and style that their tabletop counterparts have – the Greenskins specialise in chaos and numbers, but can be competently combatted by the organised forces of the Empire. Each will appeal to different types of players, but I found going out of my normal style was quite rewarding. For instance I chose to play as the Dwarves in an early campaign, their mix of almost out of place gadgets and stone monuments dotting their territories was easily one of my favourite moments with the game.
Each of these factions has their own goals on the main campaign map. The Vampire Lords aim to poison the land and spread to stay viable, raising their slain foes to fight for them in battle. The Dwarves however can travel underground, sharing faster travel routes with the dangerous Greenskins. As enemies take territories and events play out, a grudge list is created – and the Dwarves must complete this to succeed in their campaign.
It’s a neat design that stops things from becoming repetitive and plays into the forces themselves. Winning by diplomacy is never something the Greenskins or vampires could complete, and the game is more enjoyable because of it. The AI for other factions is pretty good for the most part, but can sometimes become overly predictable in their actions. It’s still not perfect but they’re definitely a step up from previously, offering some serious challenges for diplomacy as you go through your story.
The other thing is the campaign actually has a narrative this time around. The Chaos forces have a major role to play as you move closer to the end game, and it works well to keep attention longer than just sieging and managing your faction. That too has been polished, making the skill trees and construction much more straightforward, but by no means any less complex. This becomes its own challenge as the game progresses, with upkeep being costly and your empire’s happiness to manage.
Scrolling across the world map is much more exciting than it has been in previous titles, with faction homes showing a lot of character through the environment. Regal castles of the empire are a stark contrast to the dwarves mountain homes emblazoned with rock carvings and deep tunnels.
The maps extend further than just the world view. Like in previous titles your real time battle maps echo the place on the campaign map, with some of the most memorable clashes taking place in huge Dwarven underways, or fields looked over by huge monuments. The sense of scale created by the environments alone is stellar, eclipsing even the most foreboding units at times.
The sense of scale created by the environments alone is stellar, eclipsing even the most foreboding units at times.
The introduction of flying units like bats and dragons brings some very welcome disruption to the formation based formula. You have to always be on the watch for enemies capable of destroying your strategy from above while you’re trying to manage a situation – it also adds a new level of strategy to these engagements. There’s nothing quite like sending a squad of griffin riders to pick off foes before they manage to start their offensive, promoting chaos from the get go.
Even when the outcome is less than stellar, the clashes are great to watch thanks to the rather detailed unit models. When you zoom in close the textures aren’t always as sharp as you’d like, but considering the sheer amount of units rendered on screen and fighting, the look of the mid battle chaos is spot on.
Aside from a few minor technical hitches and the sometimes iffy camera controls, the game ran quite stable during my time with it. It’s a very good sign for the series moving forward & the game’s continued support, to have such a stable release at launch.
Total War: Warhammer is a strong evolution for the series, taking the well-trodden foundations of Total War to the next level. The Warhammer lore proves a natural fit for the strategy and diplomacy staples Creative Assembly’s fans have come to expect, delivering the best strategy entry in the franchise in a long time.
Developer: Creative Assembly