The game that Warhammer fans have wanted since before Games Workshop realised they could charge crazy amounts of money for small lumps of plastic and metal, and that Total War fans never realised they wanted, but really do, is not out. Creative Assembly, masters of their craft and developers of the greatest series of RTS games since RTS games began, have combined their Total War game with Games Workshop’s World of Warhammer, resulting in an epic real-time strategy game based in a rich fantasy world. All hail Total War: Warhammer.
And after that build up, it better be good…
While the Total War games have been going from strength to strength in recent years, they have been becoming a bit stale. There is only so much that can be done with real world history, and as most interesting periods of history have already been covered by the series, something new was needed. Something new like Orcs. Or Wizards. Or Chaos Warriors. You get my point. Sure, I have no doubt that many an armchair general will be twiddling their mustaches with fury at this incursion of make believe creatures and magic. But c’mon, it’s got Dragons!
For the Total War fans that have never dipped a toe into the dark fantasy world of Warhammer,TW: Warhammer will be quite a shock to the system. Creative Assembly have created a beautifully detailed fantasy map across which to play, offering a massive change to the usual historically accurate maps of previous games. But it is the controllable factions which make the most difference. Four playable races were available at launch, giving control of the Empire, the Dwarves, the Greenskins and the Vampire Counts. With these races come different ways to play and different things to learn.
While a lot of what has been picked up from the previous games will still be relevant here, the interface remains very similar for example, the variety of different unit types in the different armies will give players new tactics to consider. Working out which units or heroes are needed to counter the threats from new enemy units will present a challenging learning curve. There is a great balance to the different armies that ensure no obstacle is insurmountable, but veteran generals will have to develop some new tricks to dominate the battlefield.
For the Warhammer fans, the Total War system may seem a bit overwhelming to begin with. While mechanically there has not been a huge amount of change since the previous Total War games, TW: Warhammer is most certainly the most approachable entry in the series. Tutorials offer guidance for the new player, and the investment in time spent learning is well worth it.
While the chaotic real-time battles, including the revamped sieges, are the real showcase moments in the game, Total War games have always been games of two different styles. Outside of the battlefield, players will also find themselves managing their chosen faction in a Civilization style. Build up your faction as you spread across the map, facing off against enemies on the battlefield, but also turn your hand to diplomacy and forge alliances. Improve the towns, add new buildings, make money, research, build bigger armies to vanquish your opposition. Obviously it is a bit deeper than that, but you get the idea. It is a simple formula, but one that is so satisfying.
Again, the different factions have their own quirks outside of the battlefield, with the likes of the Dwarves having a constant drive to exact revenge on those who have wronged them, and the Vampire Counts spreading corruption. It makes each campaign that little bit different and thoroughly enjoyable for Warhammer fans. Heroes can wander the map gaining bonuses for their faction or performing their own special missions. There is a lot to do in the campaigns and plenty for each faction to unlock, making the battles themselves more interesting. There is a certain amount of repetition to the battles, but players can choose to auto-resolve battles if they wish to take a break, and are confident their army is more powerful.
Visually, Total War: Warhammer is a feast for the eyes. From the massive monsters, flying units and epic heroes wandering the battlefield, to the environments themselves both in and out of battle, everything is beautifully Warhammer. The units, from the smallest grunt to the largest monster, are all faithful recreations of the Warhammer models, and the different faction areas are all flavoured to match. It may be because this is a more varied Total War game, but I would say that this is the best looking game in the series. It also runs very smoothly on our gaming machine, which is something that cannot be said for previous Total War games.
Having played every single Total War game, and being enchanted by the Warhammer tabletop games for more than 30 years, Total War: Warhammer certainly feels like the ultimate mash up. Not only does the game fill my need for a decent Warhammer based RTS, but it also happens to be possibly the best Total War game ever, and one of the best RTS games ever. There will still be a learning curve for new players, but it is well worth playing if you have any interest at all in epic fantasy battles.