The Creative Assembly’s latest goes into battle with its head held high.
Strategy games tend to bring out the thinker in me but more in regards to which unit to deploy in which formation to properly annihilate an enemy force. I can make do with the diplomacy and resource collection but it’s always been about the battles. The Creative Assembly knows its battles. It knows how to capture that visceral feeling of combat, the rush and madness of hundreds of soldiers colliding together, and the loss you feel afterwards but for some time, there was an element of freshness missing in the developer’s Total War franchise. With Total War: Warhammer, it’s not only delivered a strategy experience that’s fresh for fans of the genre but it’s also seamlessly incorporated the tactical play of Warhammer into its roots. This has resulted in not only one of the best Total War games I’ve ever played but also one of my favourite strategy games thus far.
"Though previous Total War games had you exploring differing approaches to conquest, Total War: Warhammer injects a whole lot more personality into the proceedings."
You know about the varying factions in Total War and their historical significance. Warhammer is a completely different beast though. It concerns four factions – the Empire, Greenskins, Dwarfs and Vampire Counts – as they each manage their own conquest of glory on a sprawling continent under the threat of Chaos. By Chaos, we quite literally mean the Chaos faction which is spreading corruption throughout the land and must be combated. Though previous Total War games had you exploring differing approaches to conquest, Total War: Warhammer injects a whole lot more personality into the proceedings.
This is thanks to the sheer diversity of its factions – while the Empire may be content with managing its neighbours and building a strong, mutually beneficial alliance for all, the Vampire Counts are concerned with increasing their ranks of the Undead and bringing the entire land under their wing of corruption. The Greenskins are even more unique, constantly war-minded and constantly pushing for that next big battle. These unique campaign elements don’t interfere with the freedom you have when managing your various technologies or relationships. On the contrary, they provide compelling twists to the somewhat tired mechanics of territorial expansion, making your faction more of a presence, a force than just a bunch of units who’s numbers swell. That distinction is important and it makes Total War: Warhammer‘s campaign a blast to play.
Of course, there is a story and each faction will have a different approach to it. You’ll ultimately want to do something about those Chaos warriors in the North but how you do that while furthering your own agenda across multiple war-fronts is up to you.
"Though the perks of the Lords aren’t as overwhelmingly effective as they might seem, the sheer might of seeing one tear apart an entire regiment of enemies is something to behold."
And combat is something you’re going to enjoy a lot. Total War and Warhammer may seem diametrically opposed in terms of their universes but they mesh incredibly well when it comes to combat. When encountering enemy armies, the game shifts to a real-time skirmish based affair. You’ll determine formations and take advantage of the terrain to properly fight your foes. But where Total War: Warhammer shines is in how vastly different and fun battles ultimately shake out to be. Much of this is thanks to the enemy units, ranging from hulking orcs to dragons and the undead.
You’ll be clashing with Bretonnians and their winged steeds while also fighting back with Terrorgheists and Vargheists. Each faction has its own trademark quality. While the Dwarfs are hardy and reinforced with technology, the Greenskins are hulking and comically brutal, bringing Trolls and Arachnarok Spiders to the fight. The Vampire Counts will doubtlessly be a favourite for many players. Despite their tendency to wear out and die over time, you’re constantly converting dead enemies to your ranks when not summing a cavalry of ghouls to do your bidding. Legendary Lords and Heroes, along with magic, further mix up the equation since they’re capable of turning the tide of battle with their abilities. Though the perks of the Lords aren’t as overwhelmingly effective as they might seem, the sheer might of seeing one tear apart an entire regiment of enemies is something to behold. More importantly, each Lord and Hero feels important and a vital part of your plan.
The utter tactical mayhem is further reinforced by the arrival of the Chaos faction, though different factions will have different experiences when reacting to the same since the Chaos can effectively convert any unaligned tribes and armies to their cause. It won’t outright disrupt the base experience – which consists of exploring the world and completing some of the well-structured, well-written quests – but it does feel a bit rushed depending on which faction you play.
"Total War games tend to be a bit buggy at launch but Total War: Warhammer was fairly solid for me throughout my run and past the launch."
Given the utter time sink that a single campaign run could be, it’s nice to see an instant action mode for Total War: Warhammer that simply throws you into pre-made missions with units and simply go from there. Those interested in skipping the politics and conquest will certainly appreciate it but it’s also recommended for hardcore players since the combat is just so damn enjoyable.
Besides the amazing visuals, aided by an improved skeletal animation system that brings every undead unit, every disgusting Troll and every dragon to life, and the great sound effects, it’s wonderful to see Total War: Warhammer running without any major issues. Total War games tend to be a bit buggy at launch but Total War: Warhammer was fairly solid for me throughout my run and past the launch. Multiplayer hasn’t been delved into too much but it was fun to try and match wits with real opponents using these fantastical new units. Those wondering about the annoying camera should take heed though – it’s still very much like previous games where it switches to an overhead view when you simply want to zoom out further. It takes getting used to but can be fairly annoying in the thick of battle.
Total War: Warhammer comes highly recommended for just about every kind of strategy gamer. Whether you’re a Total War fan, Warhammer fan, interested in conquest or simply want to experience some fun battles between absurd fantasy-based armies, Total War: Warhammer is for you.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Excellent combination of Total War and Warhammer. Diverse selection of factions with their own unique units and styles of gameplay. Compelling battles that feel unique and fresh every time. Great visuals and animation.
Camera can be unhelpful when trying to zoom out. Chaos arrival in campaign can feel a bit ill-timed. Legendary Lord benefits feel underwhelming at times.
Total War: Warhammer provides a fresh take on two of the most compelling strategy and tactical franchises in history, creating an excellent mash-up that's well worth your time.