Without contest, at 900 hours Total War: Shogun 2 is my most played game in my Steam library. But after the absolutely abysmal ignition of Rome II, I had almost lost all faith in Creative Assembly’s ability to launch a decent Total War game ever again. It should have been an easy sell… but it was a hot mess. I never touched Atilla. That’s how much of a step back in quality Rome II was to me.
But I’ve always wanted to see what Creative Assembly could do with a non-historical setting in their Total War franchise (I’d still love to see a Total War in The Witcher universe or Middle Earth!). My prayers were answered with the announcement of Total War: Warhammer. I’m absolutely pleased to say that the game is not only functional and way less buggy than Rome II was, but it’s also a damn fine Total War game.
If you’re new to the Total War franchise, I think Warhammer would be a good stepping on point, but truth be told, the franchise has a lot more going on for it than what is covered by their in-game tutorials. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea for newcomers to set the game into easy mode. Even I had a pretty rough time with the difficulty before getting into a good groove and nurtured my blossoming faction into a full blown Empire.
The game is split into two portions: the 3D real time battle simulations and the turn-based tactical-map screen.
In the 3D battles, you coordinate groups of small armies to clash against enemy forces. It’s a paper, rock, scissors, lizard, Spock formula, so you want to make sure you’ve got a nicely balanced force. Artillery will force turtle armies to advance more quickly than they’d like. Ranged units mow down melee fighters before they get in close. Spears do a great job at knocking soldiers off their mounts, and cavalry will plow through unprotected range fighters. And you also have to account for flying and giant enemies as well.
But Warhammer has heroes and lords. Generals in the past have gained special traits when leveling up like an increased range of inspiration, but Warhammer adds some nice roleplaying flair to each hero. Mage heroes can learn new spells. Fighters can get new mounts, or armor or weapons. And all heroes can get camp followers who add even more perks, allowing greater civil or military control.
A good hero can often tip the scales of an entire battle. They can single-handedly crush weaker or less experienced armies. At first, I didn’t care much for the hero system, but as I played more and more of Warhammer, the more I liked it.
Lords lead armies while heroes can leave armies and act on their own accord. They can sew the seeds of discontent in foreign lands, demoralize or harm enemy armies on the march, or they can assassinate other lords and heroes on the map screen which adds a great balance between the map gameplay and the battle gameplay. They are the agents of past total war games, but they can now be used to great effect in the 3D battles.
Cities come in regions again, instead of being standalone entities. You can pass edicts that govern over a region only if you control every city and town within that specified region. It’s also much easier to grow and maintain order when you control all provinces, so which towns you keep and occupy vs which ones you want to off the map come into your move to move decision making.
Public order needs to be maintained from city to city, otherwise you may have an uprising on your hands. If a city falls to rebellion, its income is lost and your entire economic balance may crumble.
But aside from keeping your populace happy, you also need to balance order and chaos, vampyrism and more. The mechanic is similar to religion in previous Total War games, but I feel Chaos’ influence is a little overpowered at the moment and might need a little tweaking.
But players can do a fair amount of tweaking on their own by dipping into the Steam Workshop where there is already a good amount of mods to alter the game more to your liking, so a big thumbs from me in that department.
Do I love everything about it? Not really. There’s some minor changes that I miss from older Total War games like the general’s speeches before battles. The formation options are super limited now. Now the players options are melee units in front or missile units in front. While formations options are missing from the 3D battles some new army options are available when on the march on the map screen. Armies can manually go into raid, ambush, and encampment modes to replenish forces, steal income, or surprise the enemy anywhere on the map. I also miss the on screen formation controls, but I’m happy to see that the keyboard shortcuts for them still work (like hitting ctrl + left arrow or right arrow to turn your entire armies’ formation in unison), but new players to the series would never know that on their own. Armies cannot exist without a Lord leading them, which I don’t really like, but on the flip side to that argument, Lords don’t need to wait for a special unit to travel across the entire map before they are reinforced. They simply appear within his army.
The desyncing issue in multiplayer campaigns is still alive and kicking. I’m not sure why this isn’t something Creative Assembly has solved by now since it’s been around since… forever. And I think the early campaign gameplay for all factions is a little difficult and could use some light balancing.
Other than that, I didn’t crash once. The game ran fairly smoothly on my machine for a Total War game. With everything on Ultra I was seeing framerates around 45 consistently with a few dips in the 30s with heavy action on screen. I didn’t have any units act erratically.
Creative Assembly hit this one right down the middle of the fairway. It’s nice to see the deviation from historic campaigns (though I don’t hope they abandon them altogether in the future). The main campaign will take a long time to finish for players–hundreds of moves. While there is a few minor features that I miss, there are others (like weather) that I don’t miss at all, so it’s sort of a trade-off.
I am disappointed that The Chaos Warriors Race pack is free to only people who purchase the game at launch especially since they are a MAJOR part of the Warhammer universe. Right now players can play as the realms of men, Dwarves, Greenskins, and The Undead as part of the base game. I hope to see the remaining Warhammer races in DLC or faction packs.
It looks good. It plays great. This gets a worth buy from me. Will it knock Shogun 2 off of it’s pedestal of being my most played game? Only time will tell. I think both Warhammer and Total War fans will like it, and more importantly, I think it’s a good enough place to hop on for new fans who are curious.
Tested on: PC
Developer: Creative Assembly
Launch Date: May 24, 2016
Copy purchased with personal funds