In a stark contrast from Creative Assembly’s usual historical roots, Total War: Warhammer adopts the fantasy and epic scale of Games Workshop’s brand brilliantly. There are many things that make this feel like a traditional Total War game, but it’s in the differences where it shows off.
The races in give a shake-up that Total War needed; sure, Roman Spearmen are different from the Greeks, but when you have a force of bloodthirsty Orcs going up against a horde of Chaos driven monsters and corrupted men, you can see clear diversity. It’s not just in the Unit design differences, the overall campaign changes from race-to-race.
The Orcs have Flightiness: a scale in which the army is driven by the Waaagh; making you consider a more violent path in order to keep your goblins pacified. Vampire Counts offer a new system of corruption, a requirement to establish a settlement with good public order and can raise the dead, using this to build an army quickly after a defeat or heavy loss victory to carry on the fight. The Empire have Offices which allow your Lords to be entrusted with a higher status and added benefit of bonuses that come with a title. Even though the Empire felt like a more traditional Total War faction, as soon as I was recruiting Demigryph Knights, I was once again brought back into the fantasy setting.
The Demigryphs aren’t the only bestial unit: CA make full use of the monstrous beings that inhabit the Warhammer universe. Giants that tower over your normal infantry and can easily pick them up, Arachnaroks, the titanic spiders with goblin archers perched on top, the Terrorgheist, an enormous undead vampire bat that can soar into the enemy, causing fear to all who are susceptible. Flying units are a staple in Total War: Warhammer, adding a new layer of strategy to the already complex battles.
Speaking of complexity, CA have made significant improvements to the UI, offering all the tactical information you need in a battle to the unit cards. You can see who is in combat and if they are winning or not very clearly, grouping men together is now easier and you feel more in control unless your forces are fleeing from a tower of fire brought forth by an enemy spellcaster.
Yes, it wouldn’t be Warhammer without magic, and this game does it well, with specific units and races having spells that fit them. A well timed and placed casting are effective and offer another new element to the battles. Either buffs to your men or magical attacks on the enemy can result in great losses; not only is it deadly, but the effects of the spells are incredible. For a franchise that prides itself on realism, the fantasy effects and creatures are beautiful, a true testament to CA’s design team, along with Games Workshop’s guidance. The photogenic nature of this game can be seen on the Total War subreddit, where users are posting screenshots of great clashes between zombies and trolls.
Ever lurking in this world, throughout all races campaigns, is the threat of Chaos (unless you’re playing as them thanks to the free DLC), whose impending arrival urges you to prepare for a new threat, sometimes a little earlier than I would have liked. They are a horde faction similar to Attila, bringing with them corruption to the world and even stranger and scarier beasts than the Orcs or Vampires possess. Demons and dragon-ogres make up their ranks along with corrupted warriors, who now fight for the Chaos Gods.
At this point I think I should say that even though it seems like I understand words like Terrorgheist and Waagh, I’m quite out of touch with Warhammer, but even with my little knowledge, I found the game to be refreshing and, after a while, I was fully engrossed within the world. So don’t let the non-historical fantasy aspect put you off this game – considering it’s the fastest-selling in the series, I doubt that the setting deterred people. Tt’s quite clear to see that CA is onto a winner with this new combination. Merging the two properties seems like a no-brainer now, but we should therefore be thankful for THQ’s (R.I.P.) demise somewhat, as without the purchase of the Warhammer trademarks, Sega wouldn’t have given CA its new blockbuster.
Warhammer itself gives people a chance to collect and battle their own personal units and one thing strangely missing is some sort of army customiser akin to the Dawn of War army painter. With that you could select primary and secondary colours along with an emblem to make you feel like you are battling with your own force just like the miniatures. The addition of this to the multiplayer side would have been a welcome aspect, but with mods already providing custom units I’m sure it will get there eventually. Mods are a new realm for CA just like Warhammer, but they have embraced them offering mod support day one with Steam Workshop. Just over a week since launch there are already 447 mods as of writing, with the possibility of many more. They range from simple camera changes to all factions playable. A Lord of the Rings re-skin seems even more achievable with the inclusion of flying units!
After playing for 50 hours, I think I’m stuck in this new world, with Chaos ever lurking and so many unique parts to each race, I feel I sort of have to play through each one’s campaign, just to see what it’s like to win as each of them, and that’s why CA has done such a good job with this new entry. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future content and race packs, but for now I must return, for in this dark age, there is only war.
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