Total War and Warhammer is seemingly a match made in heaven and ever since the game was first announced there was a certain amount of skepticism that this will be just a Total War reskin with characters from the Warhammer universe. Well I can proudly announce that this is definitely not the case as Total War: WARHAMMER is a deep and rich RTS and a move from historic setting of previous Total War games to a more fantasy one only shows that free of boxed historic shackles – the developer can do some really good things for the franchise going forward.
Total War: WARHAMMER is available for purchase on PC at Steam for 59,99€.
A relatively new feature in a Total War game, the story was a bit neglected part of previous entries and the story was yours from start to finish in a type of King of the Hill scenario, the ultimate goal was to win the war. That is present here as well, but factions feature a bit more cinematic, mostly hero driven narrative that will actually pull you further down the rabbit hole and help to immerse you in the feel of Warhammer universe that much more.
You will get the general idea what the factions are all about and although you could fall into a trap of discarding them as the usual fantasy tropes based on faction name (Elves, Vampire Lords, Empire, Greenskins, Dwarfs, Chaos, Beastmen) they are actually pretty fleshed out, different and with a rich backstory if you take the time to read up on your Warhammer lore. But to those new to the universe, the game itself offers enough information and lore on each of them that you won't feel that you are missing something. The story is integrated into the main map campaign where you are free to choose your preferred faction, but there are other mini-campaign focusing on one faction that will further expand on their backstory and motivations. I won't spoil the story as you'll want to discover it for yourself but I will say that faction specifics are integrated into it and there are a few surprises that can turn a game on its head just when you thought you've seen it all.
Your gameplay experience can vary greatly depending on a faction you choose as they are not simple reskins of each other with a few added units. As always the game is split between a turn-based overworld map and a real-time strategy segment when engaging your opponent. All units have specific strengths and weaknesses and it plays much like a greatly expanded rock-paper-scissors as they are fairly well balanced and you won't find many units that are overpowered, and even if they are, the game keeps them in check by limiting their numbers in an army.
When choosing your faction you are able to make a choice of your hero and you are thrust into a tutorial that serves its purpose but is pretty lackluster by Total War standards and you will have to navigate lots of menus if you want things further explained. The Empire is a well-rounded faction best suited for your first game, as other factions add new elements that will complicate your game and make you re-think your strategy. Greenskins need to move and constantly win new territories, Elves need to collect an additional resource, Vampire Lords need to spread corruption before conquering a territory, Chaos can't occupy cities and so on.
Total War veterans will find that the beginning of the game is as always, securing a first few cities and go from there, either by war, diplomacy or other race specific means. Some concepts are a bit simplified making the game more accessible to new players, however, be prepared to sink some serious hours into the game as the map size ensures your game time will be in the double digits before you win a game.
General victory conditions are fairly standard as you can win by making alliances or making war, but they are more focused as each faction has specific minor and major victory conditions to control a certain number of provinces or eliminating a specific faction. If you do decide to make war, not love – be prepared for many conflicts as things escalate very quickly and you can find yourself easily overwhelmed. So a good balance of diplomacy and war is necessary to achieve your goals. When going down to earth, micromanaging your units is very important because in addition to the aforementioned strengths and weaknesses you will have to keep track of unit stamina, morale, positioning, terrain, special skills, magic and lots more to win. You can get the AI to automatically resolve the battle but I found doing it myself only when I was only absolutely sure I will win, even thinking a few moves ahead, as a victory now and losing some units can mean certain defeat a turn or two later. All the above makes for a busy and addicting experience that will make you say "just one more turn" until you see the sun.
The part that I found most repetitive was city building as not all cities have equal number of spaces to build and the system is not explained well so you could find yourself tearing down buildings to make room for more important ones you didn't know you are going to need, costing you precious turns and possibly the game. It also involves just clicking on icons where I would like a more visual representation of the cities and their growth just to push the faction immersion a bit further. I also have a problem with some story missions as they can be unreasonable, asking you to cross the entire map with little to no payoff, changing your plans as you leave your cities to be plundered left and right. These are by no means deal breakers but just minor problems that will not ruin your experience with the game.
Graphics and audio
I remember playing Rome Total War on my older PC, my first time playing a Total War game – being on the overworld map and thinking to myself: "This plays surprisingly smooth" and then entering a battle and having a frame rate of 10 frames per hour. Not much is different here, as Total War has always been about massive battles of very detailed units and most of the graphical showcase is in that segment. Things here look great, units are very detailed, the environments are atmospheric and foliage and other terrain features are finely presented.
All in all the game transitioned to a more fantasy setting without any setbacks in terms of graphics. You will still want to have a powerful rig to be able to play smoothly, especially in more crowded battles. Testing the game with an I7 4.5ghz processor and GeForce GTX1060 at highest possible detail I still found my framerate go down to 30-40fps when things got busy with multiple armies and my frenetic zooming and jumping all over the map. The interface is not complicated but tutorials and instructions are basically like a wiki site and you will have to navigate a lot to get where you want to be.
The usual great sound of Total War games further benefits from a fantasy setting and zooming in on your units, especially the more beastly bigger ones you will hear them in all their glory, further enhancing their menacing stature and immersing you in the fantasy battle feel that much more.
Fans of Warhammer have a wide array of choice when it comes to virtual gaming, and Total War: WARHAMMER is a great addition to that library. Fans of Total War can also be satisfied as they got another, new and improved sequel but in a different and rich fantasy setting. The fusion of these two franchises is a match made in heaven and I sincerely hope that it goes on to be its own separate series of games.
The only sad thing which sparked a lot of negative feedback is the DLC policy as the content presented as DLC was blatantly cut from the main game and sold separately at a fairly steep price. Going so far as offering Chaos faction as a DLC when it is essential to the entire franchise, main story, and campaign missions. The equivalent of that would be if Blizzard decided to sell you Zerg faction in Starcraft. It is unnecessary and it alienates the fanbase. If you don't let that kind of practice dissuade you, you still have an amazing game that will easily eat up your free time and keep you entertained for days.
|+ Franchise usage||– Boring city building|
|+ Different gameplay for each faction||– Shady DLC practice|
|+ Fun and atmospheric battles||– Certain campaign missions|