Total War: Warhammer III Review: An Epic Conclusion

Available now on PC is Total War: Warhammer III, a hybrid turn-based and real-time strategy game by Creative Assembly. Fight as one of seven playable factions in this epic conclusion to the Total: War Warhammer series. But is it any good? Read the review to find out!

Total War Warhammer III Review

Charging onto PC comes Total War: Warhammer III. Developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega Total War: Warhammer III is the final chapter in the Total War: Warhammer trilogy. In this titanic tactical title, you will play as one of seven playable races as they fight to gain access to the Forge of Souls. However, you aren’t the only one looking for them as an unseen threat lurking in the shadows.

Being a fan of both Total War and the various Warhammer series I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this one since it was first announced. And I have to say that it has been well for the wait, for the most part. However, the game isn’t without a few rough edges. As at the time of writing, there are a few bugs here and there and weird gameplay quirks which make the experience tricky (possibly unintentionally so) at the best of times. But as a whole, it’s great fun for a whole legion of reasons. So without further ado, let’s get to the review!

Total War: Warhammer III is available now on PC via STEAM, Microsoft Store, Epic Games Store, and Xbox PC Games Pass.


Total War: WARHAMMER III Announce Trailer - Conquer Your Daemons | Coming 2022

 

STORY – OUR SOULS

Total War: Warhammer III once again takes us to the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. And sees us returning to The Old World. Well, sort of. This time the action focuses more on the north in the lands of Kislev, the Chaos Wastes, and for the first time in the series’s history to the far to the east in the lands of Grand Cathay. In this title, there are a collection of seven factions that you can play as. Some of which have their own sub-factions who have their own agendas and storylines. 

The traditional Total War new game flyover.

The traditional Total War new game flyover.

As you can understand, going through every storyline for each of the groups available at launch would take all day. However, with that said the storylines for each of the factions follow the same outline; Each group seeks the power of the Kislevite god Ursun and must embark on a quest to collect the souls of four daemon princes. And then they must use that power to lead them to The Forge of Souls where Ursun is located. This core storyline and the cutscenes for each of the leaders are decently well written and have some well-produced cutscenes to go with them.

BIG STORY SMALL IMPACT

If I am to be critical I do feel there is a large disconnect between the overarching story and the storylines of the leaders you play as. The overarching storyline and its cutscenes are designed to be generic and applicable to all factions. As such you only get any scenes featuring your leader at the start and end of the campaign. And they do not feature in any others. Their actions (and by extension yours) are never referenced at any other point in the story at all.

Ursun has seen better days.

Ursun has seen better days.

Due to this, I was often left feeling like I’d had next to no impact on the story. Sure, a scene with our main villain shaking their fist and saying words to the effect of, “That darn Katarin! She has three of the souls now, why I oughtta!” might not be keeping in the tone of said villain but it would at least make my actions feel like they are leaving an impact. Goodness, even just putting the player characters in a scene with our villain or Ursun once would have been something! Total War: Warhammer III is incredibly narrative-heavy for a Total War title. And the fact there is this odd disconnect between the personal storylines and the central one feels off to me. Especially bearing in mind how well the narrative is handled in the prologue campaign.

IN THE BEGINNING

Almost every aspect of the prologue campaign is probably the best written and realised aspect of the entire game. And is likely one of the best tutorials in gaming history. It near-perfectly explains all the basic mechanics of the title to you whilst providing you with a unique storyline that is impeccably written, acted, and animated. Even if you have a history with the Total War franchise I’d highly recommend playing through it as it is one of the standout best short stories I have seen in a videogame in a very long time.

Rule number 1 of Warhammer: Never trust the glowy thing.

Rule number 1 of Warhammer: Never trust the glowy thing.

It’s not a perfect story and goes pretty much exactly as you think it will do. And I do feel that the illusion of player influence on the narrative is, upon reflection, a bunch of needless teases more than anything else. But the illusion of my actions meaning something here is more than I got in the main campaign.

END OF TIMES

Even with all these things said the storylines within Total War: Warhammer III are fine for what they are. They are grand in scale and have great production value. And many people will get a great kick out of it. Especially fans of the Warhammer series. The only issue that it has is its execution. And an argument can be made that being so narrative-heavy is the biggest issue the game has.

Total War: Warhammer III features several landmarks with historical details on them.

Total War: Warhammer III features several landmarks with historical details on them.

All the issues (beyond the bugs) that are present within the game are a result of it. And once you have completed a character’s storyline there is little incentive to replay it. And by the end of a campaign, you might not want to play through any of the others as by that point you’ll have seen and done everything. A narrative free sandbox mode would really go down a treat given how solid the gameplay is. But I can only review what is in the game at the time of writing this review. Speaking of which.

GAMEPLAY – TOTAL WAR

Total War: Warhammer III is a hybrid between Turn-Based-Tactics and Real-Time Strategy; in the main overworld you move your armies about the map, upgrade settlements, and more in a turn-based mode. When battle commences the game switches to a real-time system with you commanding your armies. As a whole, the core gameplay remains largely the same as it has done across previous iterations of the Total War: Warhammer series and the Total War series in general.

The AI can be as silly as ever though.

The AI can be as silly as ever though.

This isn’t a criticism, as “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as the saying goes. And whilst the title plays similarly to previous Total War: Warhammer games there are numerous quality of life tweaks to make the game more enjoyable. From improving how diplomacy functions to overhauling siege battles, the core gameplay loop is possibly the best that it has ever been. Sure, the A.I. can still be rock stupid at times, and the title did launch with numerous bugs, but these are things that can be easily patched in time. It’s not ideal, but that is where the gaming industry is now.

WARRIORS! COME OUT TO PLAY!

At launch, there are seven playable factions in Total War: Warhammer III. Each of these has a distinct playstyle, unit rosters, and gameplay mechanics which you need to learn if you want to have any chance of winning. Some factions have their own sub-factions which have their own traits and specialisms. All of these things need to be mastered so that you can try to secure control over your starting regions and later complete your campaign.

Your typical Total War opening objective: Subjugating the locals!

Your typical Total War opening objective: Subjugating the locals!

I can’t go into full details on each playable group as there simply isn’t enough time to but in a nutshell; There is Kislev where a schism has formed between the Ice Court led by Tzarina Katarin and The Orthodoxy led by Kostaltyn. Your respective side must work to gain followers so that you can confederate with the other smaller groups that make up Kislev. In Cathey, you must balance the forces of Yin and Yang to boost the power of your armies and economy and defend the nation from oncoming tribes from beyond The Great Bastion.

CHAOS CONTROL

Additionally, there are the daemon factions. Each represents one of the Chaos gods who in turn have unique mechanics; Nurgle can spread plagues, Slaanesh can entice others to become your vassals, Khorne gains massive boosts from bloodshed in battles across the world, and Tzeentch who can manipulate other factions into doing certain things like going to war with each other. There is also the Legions of Chaos, which is a Chaos Undivided daemon army that can use daemons from all the other Chaos factions in-game.

Legions of Chaos leader can unlock body parts to look good and become more deadly!

Legions of Chaos leader can unlock body parts to look good and become more deadly!

Yes, all of that is vastly condensing and oversimplifying the nuances of each of them. And needless to say, there is far greater depth to each of them than my summaries give. But the reason why I have done so is that there is just so much within each faction it’s astounding! Each faction is distinct and feature-rich. And I am honestly wondering how they will expand upon them in future updates and DLC given how feature-complete they already feel.

AIM OF THE GAME

As explained previously the end goal of each faction is to acquire the souls of four Daemon Princes. Once you have all four the route to the Soul Forge will be revealed and then you must fight one last battle to win the day. To do this, you must enter each of the four Realms of Chaos via Rifts that open up every few turns. These Rifts will appear in various provinces across the map, spreading chaos corruption in their wake and eventually spawning armies that will attempt to destroy any settlements that are nearby.

You can always close a Rift with an army or a hero.

You can always close a Rift with an army or a hero.

This system feels like a cross between those seen in the previous Total War: Warhammer games; giving you the constant and growing threat of the first and the more involved overall objective of the second. As interesting as this mix is I do feel that you aren’t given enough time to build up and establish yourself in your starting region given how soon the Rifts start to spawn.

INTO CHAOS

Each of the four Realms of Chaos is themed after one of the Chaos gods and each has a unique challenge that you have to overcome to unlock the battle to collect the Daemon Prince’s soul. The areas themselves aren’t too difficult once you know what to do. The only difficult one was Tzeentch’s realm given how puzzle heavy it is.

Enemy armies can complete this in like two turns. Fun times...

Enemy armies can complete this in like two turns. Fun times…

The challenge with these realms comes less from the objectives within them, and more from the sense of urgency that you are under; if someone collects a soul before you then you will have to wait till the Rifts reopen later to get another chance at getting that one. Plus when the Rifts do open it feels like you need to drop everything to deal with them. Stalling any progress you have made to such an extent that it feels like you might be better off not expanding at all.

BEGINNERS?

One of the more baffling things I found in my playthrough for this review of Total War: Warhammer III was the fact that Kislev and The Chaos Legions are listed as being recommended for beginners. When in reality they are possibly the most difficult in the game. Both groups have to deal with invasions from multiple fronts. And against nations that can easily amass a large army against you ridiculously quick. Kislev feels especially difficult due to the Supporters mechanic which adds additional pressure on top of you. 

On the one hand, powerful buffs, on the other, more micromanagement.

On the one hand, powerful buffs, on the other, more micromanagement.

By contrast, Cathay is a far easier nation to play as it feels the most like a traditional Total War faction; Their roster is easy to understand and starting location is easy to defend. And the harmony mechanic, whilst it can be an annoyance to deal with at times, offers great buffs for your nation and armies. And it encourages you to build more balanced provinces rather than maximising the most overpowered structures.

NIGHT OF THE DAEMONS

The various Chaos Daemon armies are fun to play as. They feel close to how the Vampire Counts/Vampire Coast factions played in the previous titles; You need to spread your corruption across the world to gain powerful buffs and abilities. On the battlefield, your forces are powerful but will almost instantly melt away if their morale is broken. And as previously explained each of them has unique mechanics giving each of them a distinct feel and flare.

Slaanesh is an army of horny crab people.

Slaanesh is an army of horny crab people.

Divorced from the narrative-heavy campaign and bugs Total War: Warhammer III is a great title. And is a brilliant foundation that I am certain Creative Assembly will be able to build from to create a brilliant experience. However, I feel that the main campaign is hindered by the constant race to collect souls. Not just due to the pacing of it but also due to how those battles to collect them are executed. 

DÈMONI

The quest battles for the Daemon Prince Souls are simultaneously one of the best things and one of the absolute worst things in Total War: Warhammer III. On the one hand, they offer a unique tactical challenge as in these battles you are both attacking and defending; you advance towards the Daemon Prince, capturing control points and then defending them once captured using your forces, and any defences and upgrades you buy using points you are given. There are three areas you need to capture. Each time you capture one you need to survive waves of attacking foes. Starting with some very basic enemies and then building in difficulty as the battle progresses.

Hold the line!

Hold the line!

These battles are vast in scale, dynamic, and challenging in equal measure. Forcing you to shake up your tactics and use strategies that you may never have used otherwise. You have to think on your feet and you can’t just turtle up and hope for the best. This coupled with the fantastic music and world design creates an experience like no other. Honestly, the campaign in the first Total War: Warhammer now feels quaint in comparison. However, it isn’t without its issues.

BAD TIMES

There are two major issues with these battles for me. Firstly they are incredibly time-consuming; It’s easy to spend close to an hour or more on one of them. And as they have no checkpoints, autosaves, or saving within battle so you need to ensure that you complete them in one go. Otherwise, you’ll have to start all over again. I could stomach the weird point values of items and the difficulty of them were it not for the fact they take so long to complete. Even rushing one of them for my review of Total War: Warhammer III took almost forty-five minutes to complete.

Another hour wasted!

Another hour wasted!

And the second issue is that once you have done them each at least once there is no reason to do them again. The “Wow!” factor isn’t as strong the second time around. Sure, they look and feel fantastic and you can auto-resolve all but the final one to save time if you want. And with a few tweaks, they could be made less frustrating. But even with those tweaks, they are still going to take almost an hour to complete for most gamers. And once the sense of spectacle has worn off there is little to keep me coming back to them. And the fact they and the Daemon Prince Soul race are a compulsory aspect of the game makes me reluctant to do another playthrough any time soon.

BUILD A BETTER EMPIRE

Don’t get me wrong, even with its quirks I have largely enjoyed playing through Total War: Warhammer III for this review. But some of the bugs present as well as aspects in the core gameplay can be hard to overcome. Certainly without modding or Creative Assembly reworking some of it. It isn’t a bad game. It would be unprofessional and insane to say it is. But the title has problems. Some that can be patched out and others that are harder to remedy.

Just another 429496640 seconds till this fortification is ready!

Just another 429496640 seconds till this fortification is ready!

Beyond these oddities and patchable issues, the bedrock of the gameplay is rock solid. It is a shame that it is all in service of a narrative that feels like it is constraining and hindering the gameplay. And there is a part of me that wonders if it needed at least one more month to iron out the bugs. However, on balance Total War: Warhammer III has been a pleasant game to review. Not as good as I would have liked it to be given the price of it, but it’s still fun.

GRAPHICS & SOUND – SLAY QUEEN

The visuals for Total War: Warhammer III are about on par with previous instalments in the series. But now feature a nice new layer of polish to give it a more contemporary flair; there are new effects thrown in here and there and the graphical quality feels like has been given a boost. One of the more noticeable tweaks to the art design for the title comes in the game’s world map.

Kislev is highly rated on WAAGHbnb.

Kislev is highly rated on WAAGHbnb.

All the settlements as well as the map textures have a more stylised look to them. This isn’t to say that the title has gone the way of Civilization VI with cartoony designs. No, far from it. It is just that the key settlements now have a more characterful look than we saw in the previous two instalments. Plus the new maps in the Realms of Chaos look fantastic. Seeing the sheer scale of artistry on display is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Additionally, all the new unit models look great and the tabletop player in me is really looking forward to painting these when the Old World launches in a few years.

FIGHT SONG

As one would expect Total War: Warhammer III‘s soundtrack is suitably epic. With bombastic and powerful compositions during combat and music that is more mysterious, ominous and at some points melancholic and tragic on the world map. It creates a feeling of a world on edge, one that could be in its final moments. A calm before a never-ending storm. It all perfectly sells the mood of the game. It’s flawless. So much so that it is hard to say much else about it other than I expect to hear it a lot in my local Warhammer store.

The only thing Kostaltyn hates more than Chaos is having a bath.

The only thing Kostaltyn hates more than Chaos is having a bath.

On a similar note, the voice acting and sound mixing is been fantastic. There is simply no other word for it. And whilst some characters’ voices can sound a little too over the top others are masterfully performed. One of my personal favourites is the voice acting for Kostaltyn; he does sound like a guy who has spent his entire life preaching at the top of his voice. Even the more generic characters have a distinct feel to them which is highlighted with some great writing. The production values of Total War: Warhammer III, like so many aspects of the game, are top-notch.

Summary
Total War: Warhammer III is a fantastic game, with some great factions, brilliant production value, and some much welcome quality of life improvements. However, the game at launch is rather buggy and the main campaign might be too narrative heavy for some.
Good
  • Solid core Gameplay loop.
  • Great Quality of life updates.
  • New factions are fun to play as.
Bad
  • Buggy.
  • Daemon Prince battles are too time consuming.
  • The race for the souls breaks your empire expansion.
8.8
Great
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x