Title: Total War -
Platform: Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: PS4
Players: Single player, Online Multiplayer
Written by Whistler 22nd June 2016
Back when young Whistler got his first laptop and with it he inevitably ended up using it less for homework and more for a collection of cheap pc games he managed to convince his father into purchasing. Many hours were lost to the likes of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Civilization III and of course, Total War: Shogun.
Total War has always stood head and shoulders above the rest with its combat that can see two giant armies doing battle to the death. However I always felt that Total War was particularly lacking in the orcs department, and others seemed to have shared that sentiment. So really it was inevitable and a downright a crime that it’s taken this long for the culmination of Warhammer’s Fantasy setting (rendered defunct tabletop-
So is the clunkily named Total War: Warhammer the long overdue Warhammer empire strategy game we’ve been longing for will it fall short of expectations?
Thankfully one of biggest worries has been put to rest right out off the bat.
Whilst the selection on launch is considerably dwarfed by previous Total War faction rosters the vast selection has been traded in for superior variety. Currently the board is populated with five warring factions; these are the Empire of Man, the mountain dwelling Dwarfs, Vampiric Counts, the greenskin hordes of Orc & Goblins, and finally the undivided Warriors of Chaos (assuming you grabbed the DLC pack during the first week of release or separately afterwards).
Each race plays significantly different from the other both in terms of combat unit rosters and strategies as well as varying depths of play style on the campaign map.
Each of the tabletop counterparts are represented fairly well ingame with unique quirks. The Vampires are capable of instantly recruiting the dead into their ranks, particularly at previous battlefields and can even resurrect fallen troops during combat.
This allows the Counts to potentially rejuvenate entire regiments within a single turn after both decisive victories or the worst of defeats assuming they can afford the costs of such a rapid recruitment. The stoic Dwarves, true to their nature are capable of tapping into plentiful resources with strong trading routes, and are owners of the Book of Grudges. Otherwise known as the Dammaz Kron, the book is closely tied to the populace’s mood as it recounts all treacherys taken against the Dwarven kingdom. The book demands the Dwarven High King take appropriate action to set these wrongs right and strike off these entries to avoid rising public disorder and loss of leadership.
My personal favourites were the Orcs and Chaos Warriors; the greenskins don’t only require but reward the player for taking a highly aggressive approach as the Orcs are in constant need of finding new fights. Each greenskin army needs to have a steady stream of battles to avoid infighting and suffer casualties as a result (a nice representation of their tabletop ruleset).
Additionally with consecutive victories the Orcs ‘Fightiness’ gauge rises and once you accumulate the required amount you can set about starting a Waaaagh!
Waaagh’s are massive AI controlled armies that you can direct to set about tearing a path of destruction wherever you please enabling you to snowball certain unsuspecting factions. Chaos operate in a similar fashion where their playstyle promotes going on the offensive; their armies also operate as your base of operations as Chaos cannot conquer territories, only raze or sack them. The Empire are the only race I feel stands as the weakest of the selection but that can be attributed to serving as the vanilla Total War faction.
This does lead me to one of my biggest worries of the game’s future.
The variety in the races (if you include Chaos) offers certainly enough replayability as it stands, however it’s how Creative Assembly handle implementation of additional races. There are still a plethora of races absent including individual human factions, the jungle dwelling lizardmen, both woodland, dark and high elven races and of course, everybody’s favourite, the rat-
Cynicism aside however the developers have done a fantastic job translating each tabletop faction into the Total War format; each faction’s unit choices, themes and charming little nuisances are woven brilliantly together.
It must be said though that the campaign map, while not necessarily the weakest entry in the series, is somewhat lacking.
While the streamlining of the empire building mechanics is arguably both beneficial and detrimental to the game as a whole, some will find it has been oversimplified.
The need to maintain Public Order is still present and is joined with both Chaos and Vampiric Corruption, but honestly on the baseline difficulty I rarely got even close to worrying about these playing as Dwarfs, Orcs nor Vampires. It mostly resulted in having to garrison some troops in a settlement until I had managed to build one or two structures that tackle these and/or initiating the province wide traits. Structure management has also been streamlined with only a handful of buildings for each faction almost soley operating as methods to unlock unit types or gain extra income/resources.
While technically a better option as it lets the player get on with Total War’s highlight, the combat, it does end up leaving you with very little management to do once you hit the turn 70 mark (and results in repeatedly hitting next turn till your armies ready for the next battle).
As it stands though the campaign’s region locking is still a controversial decision, one that I still feel unsure on either way. A departure from previous titles will see factions limited in terms of conquest. Each race can only conquer specific regions belonging to their ‘lore based’ enemies; Orcs vs Dwarfs, Vampires vs Humans, and Chaos vs everything still left breathing. The argument for this decision was it’s more in line with the lore yet any Warhammer fan worth their salt (and even a casual observer willing to do some reading like myself) can easily bury said argument.
Diplomacy is also a fair tad underwhelming, whilst it’s true diplomacy has always tightroped the line between decent and atrocious, I found the AI’s diplomatic ventures to be utterly bizarre. As the Empire it was relatively solid as I worked my way to unifying the human factions either through sheer force or graceful diplomatic meetings. However almost every other race (Chaos excluded since duh everyone hates them) I found it borderline impossible to get on peaceful terms for any lasting duration. An issue especially thanks to the negative modifier ‘Great Power’, that seems to contradict the concept of convincing smaller factions to assimilate into your mighty empire. Other times I noticed how easy you could abuse the AI’s willingness to have you wage war against an enemy faction. Whilst playing the empire I tested a theory of mine where I would be on peaceful terms with the Dwarfs who in turn handed me a large sum of gold to help against the other Dwarven faction. This faction was nowhere near my kingdom and yet after agreeing, a few turns later I would then receive a visit from the enemy faction offering up another large sum to make peace. Rinse and repeat this worked for 20 turns before I decided I had easily amassed enough gold to accommodate a bloodthirsty campaign through the entirety of the vampiric provinces.
Total War’s strongest aspect is yet again the combat that translates unsurprisingly well to the Warhammer setting. Battles are big and attention to detail in units and the environment are superb. Everything to be expected in a TW game is here from unit morale, skirmish tactics and an emphasis on utilizing unit types. I will say due to the variety in each faction’s unit rosters it does take some getting use to and isn’t immediately clear which unit type works against the other. AI in combat has seen improvements but aren’t likely to be pulling out any shocking tricks other than backing off to let their over fondness for missile units. Sync kills this time around are almost borderline nonexistent. While this was likely an attempt at fixing previous issues with unit collisions getting stuck in everything and anything it makes watching the battles close up fall into that uncanny valley.
While combat is strong, sieges (one of the most enjoyable combat scenarios) doesn’t hold up so great. Encampments and fortresses are no longer multi-
Despite these shortcomings though (given that the region locking is already moddable), Warhammer is by far one of the best Total War titles to date. With an already strong replay value at five factions, TW: Warhammer lays a strong foundation for CA to build upon. From a technical standpoint it’s next to flawless compared to Rome 2’s launch and even arguably more stable than Shogun 2.
While a clunky ass title, Total War: Warhammer is most certainly what we had been waiting for despite a few niggling hiccups. With a small yet deeply creative faction diversity, breaking free from historical restraints has proved rewardingly liberating and delivers an excellent grand strategy title to sink plenty of hours into.
Great replay value,
Fantastic faction diversity,
Great detail put into each faction's units and theming.
Disappointingly streamlined Sieges,
Oversimplified campaign management,
Questionable region locking.
Total War: Warhammer goes to Waaaagh! with a solid 8/10.