Chomping on PC and into Total War: Warhammer III comes the Ogre Kingdoms, the title’s first DLC. Ogre Kingdoms (as the name suggests) brings the Ogres to the Total War: Warhammer world as a fully-fledged faction. Initially available as a pre-order inventive you can now purchase the DLC yourself. Perfect for those of us who are apprehensive of pre-ordering games these days.
The inclusion of the Ogre Kingdoms has been one that the fans of Total War: Warhammer have been looking forwards to since the first game. And at long last, they are here! Like most elements of the title itself, the Faction is great fun to play. And features some cool gameplay twists, some well-designed characters, and great voice acting. However, the DLC isn’t without issues, particularly with regards to how it explains its mechanics and how well (or not) said mechanics gel with the Realms Of Chaos campaign. Yep, not even the Ogres can escape being dragged into that mess. So without further ado, let’s get to the review!
STORY – EAT ‘EM BEAT ‘EM
As with Total War: Warhammer III, The Ogre Kingdoms story once again sees the mysterious Advisor meeting with the faction leaders of this DLC, Greaseus Goldtooth and Skaragg the Slaughterer. After managing to talk himself out of being eaten alive the Advisor informs the greedy pair about the deathly state of the Kislevite God Ursun and how this is the perfect chance for them to sample god meat. He offers to tell them how to get there in return for a single drop of Ursun’s blood.
Just like in the base game this opening sequence is decently written and well animated. However, it is the most we see of either leader for the majority of the story; They do not appear again until the very end of the game. Of course, they are ever-present throughout the game itself but aren’t in any other cutscenes till the very final one. This is a shame as what we see of them in that cutscene and throughout is great. The writing of them and the rest of the Ogres adds a great level of flavour that is currently missing from the main title.
BIGGEST IN THE TRIBE!
The entire faction is brimming with personality that really helps them to feel unique. I do feel that performatively there are a few issues. Though I address that later in the review. And even then that is something that is so minor and subjective it is hardly worth condemning the DLC out of hand. Creative Assembly has really gone above and beyond as far as the production values of the Ogre Kingdoms are concerned.
Any criticisms I have of the writing in Ogre Kingdoms are the same as I mentioned in my review of Total War: Warhammer III; we don’t see enough of our leaders and I feel the core storyline greatly hinders the gameplay. With that said, let’s get into it.
GAMEPLAY – SMASHING MOUTHS
I will be honest with you dear reader when Total War: Warhammer III‘s Ogre Kingdoms were first announced I really didn’t think that a predominantly monstrous infantry civilisation would work in a Total War game; many factions have units that can counter them and how slow they can be I was expecting a recipe for disaster. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only do they work but they are a ton of fun to play in battle.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘monstrous infantry’, it refers to large and powerful units made of only a handful of soldiers. Soldiers who, as the name would suggest, are monsters. This isn’t a new unit type in the Total War: Warhammer series. However, this is the first time that there has been an entire army made almost exclusively of them. And they work fantastically well.
The Ogre Kingdoms are fast-moving and heavy-hitting. Smashing into the lines of enemy armies with powerful ‘Ogre Charges’ that can eliminate the defensive bonuses that enemy troops can have. And whilst they are a largely infantry based army they do have access to a selection of cavalry and siege weapons which can prove devastating against enemy lines.
However, whilst the Ogre Kingdoms are powerful in their own right they can and will struggle against any armies that have units armed with ‘anti-large’ or ‘anti-monster’ weapons and spells. The Ogre Kingdoms are all about momentum; they are fast, and they are devastating on the charge but the longer they stay in a fight the more they can struggle due to the lack of armour on almost all their units. I wouldn’t say they are a glass cannon, but they can struggle against some of their neighbouring nations.
On the world map, you need to play a little more cautiously. You can’t just steamroll your way across the world painting the map as you go. You need to pick your battles well and know when to hold and when to expand. Trust me, your buddy Chris here has learnt this the hard way. One of the best strategies is to get a second army early on. This will help you to gain control of your starting regions as quickly as possible. Plus this second army can then stand in for your main force whilst it restocks its supplies of Food. Though more on the Food mechanic in a moment or two.
To help with your plans for conquest you can take Contracts to earn extra money and boost relations with other nations. You can also build Camps to expand your roster and provide you with extra food and buffs for nearby armies. The tools that are available made Total War: Warhammer III’s Ogre Kingdoms a joy to review. I honestly feel that they are the most fun faction to play in the game. However, this joy was spoiled by some frankly bad tutorial text and how poorly the Ogre’s mechanics work with the main Campaign.
“U WOT MATE?”
I will be blunt. I feel that Creative Assembly has done a terrible job in explaining how the Ogre Kingdoms work in this DLC. Something that has made writing this review of Total War: Warhammer III’s Ogre Kingdoms needlessly annoying. In battle, they are easy to use and get to grips with. On the world map, there are more moving parts to deal with. With some mechanics such as the Camp system being presented as an optional (and almost unimportant) gimmick when in reality the placement of Camps is a vital element of your campaign.
The Camps are the only way to access higher tier units; You will not be able to access units such as the Maneaters or Lead Belchers without them. All Ogre Kingdoms settlements are limited to four build slots and the selection of buildings available cannot be upgraded beyond level three. And this is the case even if you capture a province with a large number of build slots. Additionally, the Camps can provide a source of Food for your armies over wider distances as well as a selection of buffs and upkeep reductions. This too isn’t well explained and the absence of this explanation only ends up resulting in a cascade that can ruin a campaign.
Every Ogre army requires a certain amount of Food per turn to support the units within it in addition to their usual upkeep costs. Food is gained from settlements, Camps, and from battles. This Food can be exchanged at the start of a battle for charge bonuses or offered to the Ogre god The Great Maw for further buffs. This system works well and is simple enough to understand. As with real-world armies you need to build your supplies before you venture out too far from your territory. However, issues arise due to the fact that the game doesn’t make it clear how to gain Food. And that the sources in the early game for it are very limited.
You can gain Food via settlement buildings, but said buildings will drastically reduce the amount of money a settlement can make. Alternatively, there are the Camps but they produce less than your settlements can. You can gain it from battles, however, that amount can vary from fight to fight. I didn’t realise the Camps you place produced food. And didn’t realise it till late into one campaign. And even knowing all these things you can still be placed into a situation where you need to leave an army in your settlements for multiple turns waiting for their supplies to rise up again.
DIE DIET DIE
This issue is brought into compelling focus when you venture into the Realms Of Chaos. As one would expect food is very limited. However given just how time-consuming they can be, especially in Tzeentch’s, it can be easy to run out of food very quickly. So unless you know exactly what you are doing you run the risk of running out of food and suffering crippling amounts of attrition. Without any other way to gain food, or even reduce the amount an army uses aside from a randomly gained trait you need to park your leader in the main settlement for multiple turns before the rifts open to stand a chance. Thankfully I have written a guide that can help you navigate the realms easier which you can read here.
If you don’t give your leader enough time to build supplies you might as well not bother. As it just adds yet more time pressure into the game. Which really doesn’t match their playstyle. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of the Food system, and in a sandbox campaign, it would be fantastic. And I understand that this helps to balance the Ogre Kingdoms and stop them steamrolling the world. But when I play a Total War game, or indeed any game for that matter, I want to be playing it. And not forced to wait out for goodness knows how long before I can something! And all the while other armies are able to expand and grow their nations whilst I just sit there counting my toes.
BOSS OF BOSSES
Regrettably, much like the main game, the Ogre Kingdoms DLC is hindered by a core game which itself is hindered by a constraining narrative. I have no issue with narrative-heavy games. But the Total War series is a sandbox series; you take your country or empire to heights they never reached in their real history or in their fantasy canon. And this faction feels especially restrained as how its mechanics feel largely incompatible with the mechanics of the main campaign.
Don’t get me wrong. They are incredibly fun to play. And I am now tempted to build an Ogre army for Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Age Of Sigmar as a result of it. They offer an experience unlike any other I have played in any other Total War to date. And it is always great fun seeing them punting away enemy soldiers on the charge. But that fun is almost instantly killed off when I get to the world map and have to sit in a settlement for goodness knows how many turns to get enough food to do that all again. And I now worry that having after doing the Realms Of Chaos stuff in the Ogre Kingdoms I’ll be doing almost the exact same thing come the next Total War: Warhammer III DLC review.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – ALL STAR
Creative Assembly has done a commendable job in translating the Ogre Kingdoms from the tabletop and into Total War: Warhammer III. They all have a wonderful amount of character and are well animated to boot. Sure, there are a few creative choices I am not overly keen on which as the Maneaters being turned into a band of pirates whereas in Warhammer Fantasy Battles their designs were more varied. Sure, it isn’t a deal-breaker, but the globe-trotting mercenary aspect of the faction feels a tad muted here. Both in terms of design and gameplay.
I do feel that the voice acting of the Ogres sounds a little too Orc like to me. They all speak with cockney accents for the most part. As such, they just sound like more articulate Orcs. And to be honest I’m not sure how true to the main canon that is. I just feel they were a little more vocally distinct is all. As I feel that the performances are still enjoyable and like so much in this DLC they are full of life.