Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos is the latest DLC for last year’s Total War: Warhammer III. Developed and published by Creative Assembly, in this new expansion you’ll take charge of four new sub-factions for the Warriors of Chaos. Each of these is led by a devout follower of each of the four gods of Chaos. All of whom are seeking out a forgotten battlefield rich in souls to sacrifice to their patron god.
The Warrior of Chaos have needed a major update for a long time. And this DLC expands upon them further with a host of new units for you to lead into battle. However one could argue many should have been in the base game. But that is an argument for another time. Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos has been a fun DLC to review. Though it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos is available now on PC via Steam, Microsoft Store, and Epic Games Store for £12.99 or your local equivalent.
Story – The Ultimate Prize
Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos takes place shortly after the events of the base game. More or less. The world isn’t a burning hell hole of rifts and chaos corruption but that is sort of expected. The story for this one concerns the various new sub-factions for the Warriors of Chaos. They are all in search of the lost city of Zanbaijin, the sight of thousands of bloody battles throughout history. Hidden deep on its battlefield are countless souls that will make for the perfect offering for their patron god.
Much like the base game the story bookends the gameplay. With a cutscene to open and close the campaign. Though these ones are better themed to their faction’s leader. Whilst they do share some footage there is still more of our faction leaders being present in the action. Such that it is. The writing is perfectly fine. I still don’t think it is as good as the tutorial storyline from the base game but it all feels like something I’d expect Games Workshop to have done with Warhammer Fantasy. It feels like one of the summer campaigns they used to do every few years. Where the story is of a grand enough scale to be compelling but not so grand it will upset the balance of the world. Which is how the story here feels. In all it is fine. Though the gameplay is king here.
Gameplay – Princes of the Universe
It goes without saying that given that Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos is DLC for Total Warhammer III the base game experience is essentially the same. It is the same hybrid turn-based/real-time strategy game we all know. Only with some new quirks. In case you were wondering, yes, Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos ignores the Chaos Rift nonsense. Or rather it changes it in new and interesting ways.
As I said previously this is because the DLC technically takes place after the events of that affair. As such you are treated to a far more traditional Campaign experience. At least for the most part. But more on that in a few moments. Your goal is to expand your empire, gaining souls to gain rift tokens. These tokens are used to open some of the leftover rifts from the main game so that you can eventually reach your final goal. You need to open seven of them, and then face off in one final battle to claim victory.
There isn’t a ticking clock with this one. At least none that I have found. You can collect souls and unlock rifts seemingly in your own time. I was able to put off claiming my final Rift till around turn 210 in my first game. And left it for over 230 turns on my second. This is weirdly refreshing, giving you plenty of time to build your forces and power base ahead of the final mission. The Rifts aren’t just there for the sake of the objective. Once you have opened them they spread your faction’s corruption and can be used to teleport across the map.
This not only cuts down on travel time but means you can launch surprise attacks on your foes. And even attack settlements on the other side of the map. Which is great for conquest, destruction, or just some raiding! The use of them makes it feel like you really are a threat to be reckoned with. You can strike anywhere, at any moment. As Chaos always should.
As you would expect Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos adds four new sub-factions to the Warriors of Chaos faction, one representing each of the Chaos gods. And each of these sub-factions has a selection of new units to fill their ranks. Leading each of these factions are familiar faces to fans of the setting. As one would expect each has its own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. As a whole, each of these factions feels like a cross between the Warriors of Chaos you know, and the Daemons of Chaos factions from the base game. For better or worse. Giving these factions a hybrid quality to them.
You don’t have easy access to some of the Daemon units and need to be gifted them via events and sacrificing souls. On the overworld, the factions have the gameplay quirks of their respective Daemon faction cousin. For example, the Nurgle faction can spread plagues as the Daemons of Nurgle faction can. Whilst it is a shame these new armies don’t have a more unique feel to them it does make them easy to pick up if you played their equivalents in the base game.
You’re in the Army Now
Don’t get me wrong dear reader. They aren’t totally carbon copies of the base game daemon armies. And the factions in and of themselves are fun to play. And there are a host of new additions and changes to shake things up. Or at the very least they make the Warriors of Chaos a far more interesting faction to play. Even if some of these changes can take some getting used to.
For example, unlike other factions you don’t recruit units by just going to one of your settlements, paying your money, and waiting a turn or so to train them. Here you have a limited pool of units to recruit from, but you recruit them instantly. Almost like the Vampire factions’ Raise the Dead mechanic. What you can recruit depends on the technology you have and where you are on the map. Regrettably, there aren’t any more ‘eccentric’ choices (no Chaos Empire Knights or anything of that kind) but depending on where you stand you could end up with Chaos Chosen or Dragon Ogres to add to your ranks. As well as whatever you gain from certain settlement builds.
Gifts From the Gods
These units can be upgraded using a new Warband Upgrade mechanic. As a lord fights they gain the favour of various gods, this allows you to unlock upgrades to some units allowing them to rise up the ranks in an all-new way. Well, kind of. In this new mode, you can take a band of Marauders and upgrade them to Chaos Warriors and later to Chaos Chosen when they reach certain experience goals. Or you can take said Marauders and convert them to versions more directly aligned to your chosen god. And in the process gaining the benefits associated with them.
It adds a great sense of progression which has been missing from the entire Total War: Warhammer series. Taking something that feels closer to the Path To Glory game from the tabletop Warhammer Fantasy. Sure, it lacks the same sense of progression as if you were converting and kitbashing by hand. But that is beside the point. This new upgrade system allows you to take some lowly Marauder and rise them up to a Chaos Chosen and then screw them over and turn them into a Chaos Spawn. Because that’s Chaos, baby!
Devourer of Souls
As your quest progresses you can unlock a collection of faction-wide bonuses. These are unlocked via sacrificing souls you have gathered on your conquests. These can give you new units to recruit and buffs to army replenishment and income. These upgrades will then require a certain level of soul upkeep each turn. And as the only source of souls is through conquest, a single random event, and completing the final objective you need to plan what you will use carefully.
Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos sits in this strange spot of feeling like a traditional Total War experience but also has the extra Tom Foolery with the quest you need to do. Gaining souls is simple to understand. But the Dark Keep mechanic feels a tad undercooked. When you capture certain key settlements you can build a Dark Keep, these function like traditional settlements. Whereas others are just small outposts with one build slot beyond the starting one. The Dark Keeps are fine, even if I feel they really should have extra buffs when you capture key settlements. There are a few unique buildings to be found. Not even one for capturing Altdorf which feels like a missed opportunity.
Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos is an odd one to review. On the one hand, I am happy about a more traditional experience. But on the other, it doesn’t feel like it quite lives up to its full potential. You are fighting to gain the favour of one of the dark gods. But all that translates to is just painting the map your colour. Gaining their favour just gives you a few new units and a few buffs. And it all then boils down to a final battle against the other Warriors of Chaos faction leaders in a fight that can be almost laughably easy at times.
If I am to be critical, possibly to the point that some will feel I am being rather harsh, I’m not happy with the new unit selection in the DLC. Not due to their stats or such, but due to the fact that many of them are units that, in my opinion, should have been available in the base game. And whilst I’m thankful they are finally here (and added to the other Chaos factions). Their absence from the base game was terribly conspicuous. And if I was to be cynical I’d say they were held back for the sake of this DLC and nothing more.
With all that said Total War: Warhammer III Champions of Chaos is a fine DLC. It successfully revolutionises Total War: Warhammer III by returning to the Total War status quo. It has a host of new features to expand upon the Warriors of Chaos and their new sub-factions. Even if said features never quite live up to their promise. It is a traditional DLC. And whilst one can argue that the lack of ambition, the fact you are paying for units that should be in the base game, and the fact you are essentially paying for an enhanced version of the long-awaited Warriors of Chaos rework are heavy marks against it. I won’t lie, it has been fun.
But even then I cannot in good faith say this is a “Must have!” DLC. The best way to look at it is that this is “More of what you like”; if you have been enjoying the base game/Immortal Empires then you’ll get a major kick out of this one. If you have been on the fence for whatever reason or didn’t like the base game, then I can’t say that it is worth the asking fee at present. Maybe wait for a sale.
Graphics & Audio – Blood & Thunder
The graphics and design of Total Warhammer III: Champions Of Chaos are something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, everything new that is added looks great. The new units are a great translation (and enhancement) of the models from the tabletop game. Even going so far as to include a few things that weren’t really on the tabletop at all. You can tell that a ton of passionate work has been put into making everything look as perfect as possible.
Whilst many of the freshly added units have distinct looks to them. And quite honestly put many of Games Workshop’s own efforts to shame. Almost all of them feel like variations on a theme. Rather than giving any of the factions anything truly distinct and new. Granted, they are limited with what they can do due to the lore and balance of the gameplay. But I frequently feel like I am just playing a generic Chaos army that happens to be one colour or another.
Khorne for Khorne
And given how similarly they play to one another it just adds to this rather generic feel of much of the DLC. Again, Total Warhammer III: Champions Of Chaos looks good and has been a great visual spectacle to review. But after a while, everything starts to melt together after a point. With only a few token differences between the factions visually. Differences which you aren’t often going to see in the heat of battle. Unless you pivot hard into the daemon selection. Limited as it is.
By contrast. The soundtrack and sound design of the game are honestly fantastic. And I’d hate to say might be the best thing about it. The music is every bit as good as the base game and conveys its mood and tone brilliantly. It provides you with the perfect backing for almost everything that you end up doing. My favourite sound element is the strange effect they have on Festus’s voice. It has an unpleasantly wet and slimy tone to it that is as unpleasant to listen to in the best possible way. All our new faction leaders are well-written and well-performed. Even if I do wish they had more dialogue to stop it from repeating as much.
Total Warhammer III: Champions Of Chaos was reviewed on PC.