Walking across the snow covered fields I barked orders to my troops. “Miners to the front!” The ancestral enemies of my dwarven clan had dared encroach upon my mountain home. “Artillery shift 15 degrees to the right.” I will make them pay. “Rain hell on those greenskins.” Soon the snow on these peaks will turn red with the blood of my green skinned enemies. This is war.
Warhammer and Total War are a match made in hellfire. That is if you consider hellfire to be the perfect place to forge a strategy game. If you are familiar with one, both, or neither let me quickly recap them for you. Total War is a full service strategy game that involves diplomacy, trade, nation building, and war. Warhammer is the IP by Games Workshop that focused on miniatures battles that Blizzard lifted relied upon heavily for their inspiration for Warcraft. But don’t worry. Even if you know what an orc, human, or dwarf is you’ll do just fine.
The previous Total War games found themselves rooted in history, whether it be Shogun, Medieval, Rome, or Empire. Each was constrained by the history we already lived. Factions and units were based on humans and by extension could end up feeling just a bit too similar. With Warhammer Creative Assembly ditched the shackles of humanity and freed themselves to play in one of the richest fantasy properties there is, and in this world there is only War.
Whether you elect to play as the the Empire (Humans), Vampire Counts, Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Dwarves, or as Chaos (DLC or preorder bonus) you will be treated to a unique experience. Each race has its own perks and limitations. The Dwarves have the Book of Grudges that in a way acts as a bit of boon and bane. If you suffer a transgression from an enemy you are slighted and will hold a grudge. This is placed in the Book of Grudges. You are then required to retaliate against your grudge. You are rewarded for righting this injustice, real or imaginary, but the problem is what while you have a grudge you must focus your efforts on resolving it first. This can distract you from focusing on objectives that can be more helpful to the long game. The Chaos also have an interesting dynamic. Instead of focusing on capturing towns and provinces you are rewarding for driving marauding bands. If you chose to occupy a city as opposed to razing it once you have conquered the previous occupant you suffer some pretty stiff penalties. There will be times where you have to settle down a bit but Chaos is definitely built to go, go, go.
Each faction also has different Legendary Heroes you can choose to start with. These heroes have their own unique unit type with their own strengths and weaknesses. This furthers the diversity of each army. You’ll run up against armies of your own faction during campaigns. You’ll start off neutral with them but can quickly strike a pact if you so choose based upon your similar race. However that doesn’t mean you’ll have identical strengths and weaknesses. There are deep research trees that will allow you to specialize your forces to suit your playstyle or counter those of your enemies. It will take multiple turns just to research one with some skills taking upwards of 20 turns to learn.
When it comes to battle Total War has a system that is hard to top. You can click on individual companies and maneuver them around the battlefield. While it might dismay some of the micromanager out there the hero units are the only ones you can move on an individual level. But don’t fret. There is plenty of other systems you can meticulously dwell on. The beauty of this combat though is it looks and feels so much like the Epic variant of Warhammer. In that system units where made up of squads and not individuals and moved around the battlefield in formations. While the rest of the game takes place in turns combat does not. You do have the ability to pause and assess the battlefield. If you tire of the clash you can also fast forward and watch the skirmish play out at what feels like 10 times the normal speed. If you prefer strategy to combat and fancy yourself a politico you can elect to automate the battles and just receive the outcome at the start. The chances are slightly higher that you’ll lose this way but it definitely picks up the pace of play.
While the intricacies of the systems in Total War and the depth of lore in Warhammer are the culmination of decades of labor they can present a steep learning curve for the uninitiated. The game does present the player with an advisor that acts as a tutor in the early stages but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. There is also a wiki that goes to even more depth on topics if you click certain highlighted words in the game. This will bring a pop up on screen and while it’s a bit disruptive in a sense the game is turn based so if you are playing against the NPCs there is no real harm in taking your time. Even with both of those features the game still could stand to have the in game tutorial be a bit more fleshed out. However, this is a minor grievance for a game of this scale but it would go far to making it more accessible for the new players to the different series which this crossover is sure to draw.
Whether you are a fan of Total War or a fan of Warhammer you will find something to love in this game. This might truly be the best of both these franchises worlds. This may even rival the great team up of peanut butter and chocolate.
This review was conducted with a digital PC copy of Total War: Warhammer provided by Sega’s PR team.
Gameplay: 8 Total War has taken the strategy genre and continued to refine it. This latest mashup with Warhammer works wonderfully and feels like both an authentic Total War game as well as a Warhammer game.
Visuals and Sound: 8 This is not a beautiful world. This is a war ravaged world and Creative assemble brought that to live in great visual detail. The individual hero and legendary units look like they could be miniatures out of a White Dwarf magazine.
Polish: 8 Both the over world and battlefield maps looks great. Different factions have different strengths that suit their Warhammer lore. Only thing holding this score down is the lack of a more robust tutorial in game.
Longevity: 9 With 4 different factions (5 if you count the DLC / Preorder bonus Chaos) there is plenty to do in this game. With each faction having unique playstyles you’ll have plenty to do in this strategy epic.
Value: 9 At $59.99 this is a premium game at full retail price. However, the production value and the replayability make this game a good value even at the upper limits of the MSRP spectrum.