Disclosure ‐ The review copy of this game was kindly provided to us by the developers
I play knowing I will never win, so instead I play to lose as slowly as possible. I am terrible at grand strategy games. It is an awful habit that I got into when I was much younger. I would play and play, hang in there, and then discover that when I was the second last nation on the field that I was totally outmatched by whoever was left. I was never able to get any better than second. At least this time I can aim for second best in a world of magic, wonder and stunning lore.
Total War has a love/hate relationship with launches. People love the games and are excited for every release, however, they have often experienced less than stellar launches. Previous games have often had some quite serious bugs on launch which hindered the experience. While the quality of those games did improve, it was always disappointing that it could not be done right first time.
The reason why I bring this up is largely due to its success in this area. In the time I have spent on this game I have not yet experienced any bugs, crashes or any other technical failure. For a game which is a significant branch from the traditional formula, adding elements such as magic and a wider range of different units, the experience seems to be much more coherence than in previous releases. Good job Sega!
Traditionally the Total War games have been set in real historical periods and places. Albiet Rome, Japan (Shogun) or France (Napoleon). This first move into the fantasy realm has been a fantastic leap. And I will say it right now, I don’t think that two franchises have ever been more made for each other.
I think that this coming together of titles means that there will be two types of people who will be looking at getting this game. First are those people who have previously played Total War and love the series for it’s high level tactics and strategy. Then there are those who are fans of the Warhammer universe, who similarly, love battlefield tactics and the lore that comes with such a detailed world.
It is easy to see why these two titles suit each other. However I think that for each type of person playing this game, there is something new that they will need to experience. I briefly mentioned above that there are new features brought in to Total War by the Warhammer universe. The most critical of which is the might of Magic. This adds not only a new level of depth to the fight, but a new way to distinguish teams.
Each race uses magic in their own ways. Some create runes that have a more ongoing effect on the battle, while others fire off powerful spells that can take a large number of enemies in a single swoop. The effectiveness and strength of spellcasters is not just determined by the unit itself, but the location of the fight.
Across the world flies the ‘Winds of Magic’. These winds change the recharge duration of the spells that are cast. If you fight with the wind beneath your wings your spellcasters will be able to fling more spells more often. For an army which has a significant number of casters this becomes a significant benefit. The opposite is also true, if you will engage an army with casters, you will be better off waiting until the winds move on so you can fight on your own terms.
The races provide a great deal of fresh air to the normal similar factions normally present in the other Total War games. There are five to six races offered by default, they are each distinct with their own playstyle and character. As someone who was always more interested in medieval history I have always been somewhat partial to the Bretonians. For the campaign I found myself pushing them to the side in favour of the slightly more down to earth dwarves.
The way the Vampires start spreading their influence into the neighbouring cities really drives the tension home. You know that they are coming, what are you going to do to stop the plague that they will bring. This is not to say that the Greenskins are any less terrifying. The way that the can just use the bodycount in their favour, and when that doesn’t work, up the size of the bodies is just an amazing way to loose a fight (I know, I have lost more than my fair share…)
This variation in character is not only evident on the battlefield, but also in the manner you manage and control your cities. There are few changes to the traditional Total War formula in this area. You still move your armies around under a single banner. You still occupy cities which you need to defend, which in turn provide you with resources, troop and other benefits. It is still a game which is all about steeling peoples hearts. Both of the people in your cities, and of those who are fighting. The way you go about doing this however, will change between the races.
The Lords and Heroes will be playing a huge part not only as leaders for your armies, but as combatants too. A force to be reckoned with, these characters will be gouging their way through the enemy forces. It is very satisfying seeing a little Dwarven juggernaut crush through the enemy front lines. The way he then quickly progresses to the middle lines, then the back lines gives cause for the enemy to beat a hasty retreat.
My limited experience with the Warhammer sometimes has me wondering what some of the lore is about. But there is plenty of information to go around. Help is located around every corner and each time there is a sizeable explanation about who the characters are and why they should be significant.
This is most commonly explored through the singleplayer campaign which gives players a reason to conquer the world. Rather than just posing a quest of total global domination, instead there are two sets of quests. One for a shorter game and one for a longer game. In essence, this makes it possible for everyone to win. Push out enough bad guys in the right places and everyone can live happily ever after.
If you do not want to get so stuck into what is happening in the universe, instead you may prefer the quick battles. These are much like normal battles found in the campaign, just with a lot more flexibility. When you start you choose your allies and you enemies, you choose your units to a certain value and you choose a map. From here you are then flung into a fight for all your honour. It is a simple feature, but by being able to try all the units out, as well as quickly explore all the different races, you quickly become much more aware of where each race stands for their strength.
In the end, is this game fun? I think that it certainly offers a great deal of depth which makes it a perfect companion to the lore of Warhammer. If you are a Total War fan, then this game will offer some well needed diversity to the franchise. It is well implemented and supports the setting very well. If you are a Warhammer fan then this game offers you a new way to enjoy the stories and the battles in a quick and replayable fashion. I do not think these two could have been any better suited to each other. It is a fantastic game, well executed. I suspect that this will be a must have for both Warhammer and Total War fans.