Published on May 24th, 2016 | by Joshua Wright
TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER REVIEW
Summary: Total War: Warhammer is the game you’ve always wanted to happen. Well, celebrate, because now it finally has!
Time to Celebrate!
The Total War series has always felt like something I should be into – live battles full of strategy and manoeuvring, epic maps playing out like an extended RISK tournament, and just general geeky historical fun. But they never quite grabbed me. Compared to the visceral thrill of RTS combat, Total War’s battles felt fiddly and confused. Its learning curve was always high, its in-game camera was unwieldy and it controls all over the place. Now Total War: Warhammer has arrived. And indeed, some of these same Total War problems are still here, but the Warhammer universe is just so appealing, all the potential fun that awaits will make you to knuckle down and do your homework. TW: Warhammer will be the game that finally gets you into the Total War series.
The Warhammer fantasy universe is already a well-developed franchise that’s been with us since the 1980s. Set in a pseudo-European medieval dystopia, the world features several races/nations locked in in near endless conflict with one another. In TW: Warhammer they’ve narrowed it down to four of its major factions – humans, orcs, dwarves and the undead. Each faction has an elaborate back-story and individualised culture which fits wonderfully into the crazy Warhammer world. The intrepid men of the Empire play out like a traditional medieval force. The rancorous Dwarfs are much more into deadly gadgets, machinery and heavy armour. The sinister Vampire Counts who lead the undead faction spread across the map slowly, they can only go where eternal night exists, and thus it’s up to you to roll it out as you play them. They command all sorts of zombies, ghouls, ghosts and beasties. Finally come the brutal orcs and goblins of the Greenskin tribes. They attack in mad swarms and the more aggressively you play them, the more powerful they become. Indeed each race is wholly different with their own unique characters, campaign mechanics, battlefield units and play style.
Each faction has its own special units. Larger beasts, giants, siege weaponry, flying forces and spell-casters. These add a whole new dimension to the traditional Total War play style. It’s no longer just melee and missile units – you have to defend against things like giant spiders, griffin attacks, lightning bolts, and the ground erupting up from under you. However when such wild units are in your employ the game takes on such a fun new element, you’ll want to keep playing just see what you can develop to throw at your enemy next.
On top of unique units, TW: Warhammer features the ability to play as one of eight Legendary Lords from the pre-existing WH world. As you progress, they level up, acquire new abilities, and unlock fabled weapons, armour, mounts and battle magic. Each character’s unique narrative quest chain plays out as you progress, drawing you deeper into the world. Armies who succeed also attract unique followers who grant you buffs and bonuses. Play well and musicians, blacksmiths, peasants, fanatics, etc. will ask to join your campaign.
Hero units are especially fun. These serve as unique characters which can be joined to an army or moved independently around the game-map. Wizards, warriors or monsters, these characters can perform special actions like assassinations, sabotages, instigate rebellions, rally troops, helps out in townships, all sorts of juicy little benefits. They also level up and gain abilities like a Lord, and their antics keep the game interesting even in quieter turns.
A big part of Total War: Warhammer is the magical element. The ‘Winds of Magic’ flow across the game-map like waves, so timing battle locations to suit where the waves are strongest can be a boon if you have spell-casters in your army. Smiting your enemies with magical storms, melting armour, sap fighting-spirit or bolster your own forces with devastating magical happenings. Wizards, shamans and necromancers can cast all sorts of wacky spells that (once you’ve got a handle on them), will give each battle yet another layer of interest.
The campaign map itself is familiar Total War fare. The Warhammer world (does it even have a name?) lays before you, waiting for your faction to spread out across it and dominate. Dozens of enemies wait to block and harass you, and also potential allies to side with or rally to your banner. Diplomacy and trade are a big part of this greater game, making the right friends, funding your faction, and building up your townships are crucial. More money means more armies, healthier cities means more buildings built, which means more units developed and greater power gained. Technological research also helps buff your faction – it’s all part of that addictive drip-feed of bonuses perfected by Sid Meier’s Civilization that’s now part of every successful strategy game.
It is the world of TW: Warhammer which ultimately makes this game so involving to play. Having already spent 30 years perfecting its game mechanics in the tabletop format, Warhammer Fantasy Battles (as it’s known) being now converted to PC now feels a very smooth transition. There’s just a lot more to do than in a Total War’s traditional historical settings.
TW: Warhammer is not without its faults of course – this is no title for casual gaming. The tutorials are near hopeless. Unless you commit yourself to study, you’ll be scratching your head as to WTF is going on. The game has A LOT of numbers to keep track of and variables to consider. And whereas as a game like Civilization does its best with each iteration to simplify things, there’s none of that here. If you want to successfully play TW: Warhammer, you’ll have plenty of homework to do first. Battle tactics are up to you to figure out, and how to manage units is overwhelming at first. Battles are pandemonium, with no clear indicator as to what you’re doing wrong or even how to play. Better tutorials would again help here. The in-game camera remains just as clunky as ever, and scrolling madly around trying to see what’s actually going on is a big part of your first 20 hours of game time. Another frustration are the graphics themselves; in all the promos you’ll see exciting close-ups of epic combat, but in reality the game is only truly manageable when zoomed out to eagle-eye heights. You’ll be so busy trying to win, you just won’t have the time to sit back and enjoy all those glorious hack n’ slash moments.
Ultimately TW: Warhammer is a deep game with plenty to keep the fan of the genre committed. The learning curve is steep, but will prove rewarding once climbed. There’s also plenty of potential here for future mods and game expansions. Total War have healthy history of fleshing out their titles with DLC, so we can expect new armies and campaigns down the track. Indeed, if you’re a fan of fantasy battles, Warhammer, or just never had the time/money/skill to paint all those bloody little lead miniatures, doing it on PC is the ticket for you. Total War: Warhammer is the game you’ve always wanted to happen. Well, celebrate, because now it finally has.
Primary Format – Games – PC Gaming
Game Genre – Real Time Stategy
Rating – M
Game Developer – Creative Assembly
Game Publisher – SEGA