Total War: Warhammer Review | A Solid Game with a Few Additions to a Solid Formula

Review by: Rob Logsdon

Total War Warhammer is Creative Assemblies newest edition into their long running series of real time strategy games. Warhammer is a solid addition to the Total War catalog, and represents the first non-historical foray by Creative Assembly in their world conquering strategy games. I got am playing this game as a veteran of both Atilla and Rome Total War games, so its safe to expect some bias in the favor of Creative Assembly, that being said, let’s get to the review.

I did love this game, but by no means is Total War Warhammer perfect. With the newest instalment we see great visuals especially with the campaign map itself. Warhammer models are famous for their specific detail, and Create Assembly has really worked hard to bring this level of detail to the individual models. Each unit seems lovingly sculpted with the care and time the most devout tabletop players, emblems stand out, hero units look unique and the whole world feels alive.

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The level of detail in the game is stunning

The user interface will be familiar to veteran total war players and easy to understand for newcomers to the series. There haven’t been many UI tweaks to this entry, but the ones that are there are mostly related to magic, new tabs for lore, with videos of each spell in action, and explanations of each lore, are some of the new features.

The addition of magic is well implemented with multiple schools of magic ranging from the lore of death to the lore of metal. On the battlefield you will now see your general as an individual who will be a capable warrior able to singlehandedly take on units of normal infantry. This is quite a change from the previous squishy lords. Its not mostly safe to charge your hero in to a large group of enemies and tie them up in melee combat. Your lord may not win against an entire unit of say heavy cavalry, but he will keep them engaged until you can find something in your army to counter with.

Watching units of flying creature’s crash into your lines as units of trolls and giants tear through your lines is a both an amazing and terrifying sight to behold for the first time. Creative Assembly has done an amazing job of bringing the visceral world of tabletop Warhammer Fantasy to life. You can feel the power of a strong magical spell doing its work as infantry units get tossed aside by a column of fire from the sky. Calvary crashes through ranged missile units, utterly devastating them, and your heroic lord holds the center of your line, his mace swinging back and forth with devastating effect. It’s all very stunning to see.

Stunning visuals are not the only thing this game offers, each of the four playable factions: The Empire, Dwarves, Greenskins, Chaos, and Vampire Counts, all look and feel and play very differently.  Despite the difference between the races, anyone who has played the tabletop game will quickly see the similarities between game and tabletop. Each race keeps its most important traits without any one race being too powerful.

Dwarves are very heavily armored and able to absorb enemy charges and beat them back with powerful artillery and ranged units. They excel at defense and have powerful late game artillery that can devastate entire enemy units. Dwaves do not wield magic, instead they have runesmiths who capture powerful magic’s in runes and can release them on command. Dwarves excel at both ranged and melee attacks with a good balance of units and some of the most powerful cost effective artillery in the game.

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Empire troops defend a wall in a high tier settlement

The Empire’s infantry and ranged units are not as powerful as some other factions, but they make up for it with powerful cavalry which used well to attack enemy units in the flanks and rear will quickly turn the tide. The empire is strong in magic fielding wizards, of three types Fire, Light and Celestial lores, each bring powerful spells to combat. The empire is in my opinion the most balanced faction, it possesses a decent amount of everything, war machines, cavalry, and monstrous creatures, and while none are devastating alone, together they form the best rounded army in the game.

The vampire counts field hordes of cheap infantry combined with death magic and powerful monstrous infantry. They trade the ability to have ranged units for large amounts of cheap infantry, and some seriously scary monstrous creatures that that can cause Terror in the enemy ranks. Their lords can raise the dead, quickly turning the tide of a battle that may not be going your way. They also get to corrupt the land they currently hold giving them bonuses and doing causing attrition to invading armies.

Chaos functions like a horde armies from the Atilla game where they have no permanent settlements and each horde builds and carries its own building with it. Chaos was a late announcement to the game, and was meant to be the first DLC, but anyone who pre-ordered got them for free. They get chosen warriors of chaos and chaos knights so though infantry and cavalry at higher tiers is very powerful. Chaos wields the magic of Fire, Death, Metal, and have some extremely powerful spells.

The Greenskins have powerful melee infantry and the ability to bring Trolls and giants onto the battlefield, plus once there fightness meter reaches its peak a Waagh army will spawn to aid in further conquests. goblins have the little waagh lore of magic ork shamans have the big waaagh also they get giants and trolls as there top tier units which is just cool.

Each race feels unique and even though there are only so many ways to do infantry and Calvary and ranged units, each race feels separate, but not so much that if you are playing say empire you can’t go and pick up vampire counts.

 

While Total War Warhammer has been well crafted and implemented it is not free from flaws. One problem I discovered quite quickly is that Empire and Vampire counts have a hard time keeping an economy that can support their armies and allow for new conquests. Few buildings especially for the Vampires add significant amounts of money and units. Meanwhile  army upkeep ramps up very quickly. So these two factions will quickly be running either in the red or making very little money a turn making it quite challenging to build new armies.

Next up we have to talk about the AI which has plagued the total war series since the beginning. While the enemy army will for the most part be competent using its ranged units, plugging gaps in their lines, and trying to use units to outflank you, I experienced a bug where very rarely an enemy army will sit in place and eat your artillery shots. With the new focus on lords as individual units a new problem has arisen in that the enemy AI will often run their lord ahead of an advancing army and allow you to either kill him or do very significant damage to him before he has even reached your lines. Lords are way more powerfull than in say Atilla, or Rome, but you still can’t put them against an entire army and expect them to survive. So to say the Ai is more liberal with its generals is a bit of an understatement. This can be easily fixed with patches, and I hope that it will be.

The diplomatic mechanics have been significantly reworked from Rome two, it is now much easier to know where you stand with a faction. Confederating is now a much more useful and doable mechanic than it was in previous games. With this comes a very silly exploit that will hopefully be patched out. If you declare war on a faction that cannot reach you in several turns they will generally sue for peace and offer a sum of gold or whatever your factions variant is, which you will accept of course because you will need the money. Several turns after an ally will ask you to rejoin the war again generally with an offer of a sum of money, you can repeat the cycle over and over to farm gold. Obviously this is a slight issue again hopefully that will be patched and changed in some way.

Next let’s talk settlements. Total War Warhammer keeps in line with Attila and Rome two that the provincial capital has walls and can reach size five. Minor settlements have no walls to start, but, there are defense that can be added to them to give them walls. This is a nice feature, and since they top out at size three.

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Settlements

The major issue I have with this is that sieges and city assaults are just plain boring now. If you attack or defend a minor settlement without walls the battle takes place in a normal open battlefield instead of within the confines of the settlement. So gone are the days of your minor settlements using narrow streets and possible city centers on hills with small ramparts to station ranged units. This is a great loss as that helped sieges feel more alive and to give you a chance to overcome terrible odds with clever use of terrain and buildings.

Sieges of provincial capitals have also taken a huge step backwards in that instead of being able to attack from all sides choosing how you will overcome the enemy defenders and cities that generally had at least several defensible positions once you had breached the walls. Now you get one wall to assault two if you are really lucky, towers are only active if one of your units is standing with its influence box. Once the walls are breached you have maybe two or three large streets for the enemy to move down into the city center capture point. Also for some unexplained reason every unit in the game can run up to the enemy walls and pull out ladders and start climbing. Sieges have taken a huge step backwards taking a lot of the fun of it with them. The last issue with settlements comes that all factions cannot take any settlement Dwarves and Orcs can only control the others settlements and Humans and Vampires are the same this is by far one of the worst ideas introduced into total war it limits the gameplay potential as a whole and will kill replay value as the strategies and maneuvers you make game to game will end up being very similar since you are so limited on what settlements you can control.

All things said though Total War Warhammer is a fun game and a fine addition to the series many of the issues above will either be patched out at some point and failing that there has always been a thriving modding community for total war so the people will get what they want one way or the other. The game is beautiful with a lot of potential and the freelc of Britonia and they many other to be announced DLC packs will provide hours of fun for those willing to look past its minor issues. Beautiful with tons of potential I am looking forward to seeing how this game changes and grows as we go forward.

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