Total War: Warhammer III, by Creative Assembly, is out this week, and I have had the opportunity to play the game now for just over a week and a half. As a fan of the series since its inception, I was eager to check out what the third iteration had to offer. How does the experience hold up and does it improve on the foundations built by its predecessors?
Telling A Story
The first thing that impressed me was the prologue story. In it, you take on the role of Prince Yuri. He is the brother of Tzarina Katarin of Kislev. I expected the prologue to be a simple tutorial similar to the previous games that provided the story setup. While it does an excellent job of introducing players to the base game mechanics and the step-by-step directions provided seem more clear compared to previous offerings, I was not expecting the story to be quite so compelling.
You follow Yuri and his expedition north to investigate what has become of the northernmost outpost. As you learn the basics, it also introduces you to two of the four chaos factions and the realms of chaos. By the end of the prologue, I struggled to pick which of the recommended campaigns to play first. The narrative does a great job setting up the story for Kislev and the Daemons of Chaos. The question I ended up having to ask myself was, did I want a more traditional Total War Warhammer experience or to dive right into the daemon side of the pool.
I noticed during the prologue that the UI had a few improvements compared with Warhammer 2. Elements like unit stats are easy to bring up quickly or hide on the main screen. During tutorials, areas/buttons of importance are clearly identified or highlighted. This carried over as well into the campaigns when I first interacted with any new system/element. It is similar to TWW2 in many ways but the directions provided seem more clear and made navigating the UI easy.
While the TWW games have a lot of depth, new players should find it easy to get started with TWW3. Small touches like the change of using the G key to group units quickly made this easy and more convenient to set up my army for a battle compared to grouping units and then using the previous CTRL with a number commands from TWW2.
I started my Kislev campaign on easy and once I was underway pushed it up to the normal difficulty. I am not sure if I have gotten more used to the TWW series over the years but for TWW3 the normal difficulty doesn’t feel the same as TWW2 as enemy factions don’t seem to be as aggressive. I still had a number go to war with me during my playtime, but those instances made more sense where during the previous game a faction could suddenly turn on me without any reason.
The terrain maps in TWW3 look amazing as always. The navigation of the campaign and battle maps are identical to TWW2, so veteran players will feel immediately comfortable. The only unusual aspect I have run into is the realms of Chaos. These pockets of Chaos are technically on the map, in that you can move your view over to look at them, but you need to use a portal to reach them. I also noticed that when I had an army in one of the realms it wouldn’t always prompt me that they hadn’t moved or acted in a turn and I would have to double-check my army roster to see if I missed them, so something for players to keep an eye on.
Visuals for unit models are a bit of a mixed bag. I found that armor and non-humans look great, but when it comes to some of the underlying Kislev human models, they look good but are showing a bit of age. Spell effects still look great and watching the enemy go flying when I drop a large area of effect on a blob of units is satisfying. I want to bring specific attention here to the daemon units that Creative Assembly produced for TWW3, many of them look amazing even if many are absolutely disgusting.
Music and sound effects are again excellent with this entry in the series. The tracks fit the atmosphere of the various areas you explore or wage war in. I love how much it adds to combat when spells land and you hear the effect go off. One thing that did get to me a bit was the random comments made by lords and heroes which seemed to happen a lot more often than in TWW2. My opinion quickly changed though when I started playing the Daemons of Chaos and had a chance to listen to some of their character comments… I expect the developers had some real fun with recording several of them.
As I progressed further with the Kislev campaign, I did notice improvements to the AI as well. Computer opponents seem to respond more quickly to approaching armies, and at times I had to chase them deep into their controlled territories.
For new features introduced to TWW3, there are three main ones I want to touch on. The first is diplomacy. The developers have added new options that include building an outpost in an ally’s territory, a balance the deal button during proposals, a quick deal button, the get off my land warning, and the ability to threaten factions.
I did build outposts when I had the chance, and it was nice to have the option of recruiting units from an ally’s roster, but I didn’t make use of it much so far. What I found the most useful was the option to balance a deal that I was proposing by automatically adding the minimum amount of goal needed to have it accepted. No more random guessing in increments of 500 gold. Threatening armies and factions I didn’t get much use out of yet since most of the factions I tended to wipe out if they crossed my border without military access, but I can see them being useful in certain situations.
Second, minor settlement battles which have appeared in other TW games add a more enjoyable experience to manually taking a settlement. Whereas previously in TWW2 when minor settlement battles took place outside the location, I tended to auto-resolve most town/city conflicts. My first couple of experiences with this feature so far have been a bit odd since I just overwhelmed my opponent instead of capturing checkpoints. But I can see the appeal of using the narrow streets to outmaneuver the opposition and keep my casualties numbers low.
Finally, the biggest feature I have been enjoying is the random chaos gates and the realms of chaos. During the campaign, gateways will open when a specific event occurs. I loved this since it added a lot of player agency to the game. I suddenly needed to decide if I wanted to pass through one to try and get one of four main quest items, use it to travel between gates, or close it before daemon armies pop out into my territory.
If I chose to crossover into one of the four amazing-looking chaos realms, I then had to deal with the challenge on the other side. Each realm requires the player to complete a trial before they can make their way to the main castle/fortress and initiate a survival battle against the resident chaos champion. For example, in Slaanesh’s area, you need to pass through multiple rings using portals. As you pass each one Slaanesh’s minions tempt you with major rewards such as money and items. If you accept. Your army is kicked back to the material plane until the gates open again.
I have had a go at each of the chaos realms so far and been successful only in Nurgle’s and Khorne’s. While in each realm you have to deal with accumulating negative traits that can impact various attributes like leadership and the local denizens. Meanwhile, the other factions are trying to reach the same goal. At times either another faction has won the race to the middle, I was beaten by a daemon army in the area, or an opposing faction took me down after I was weakened in another fight. It is challenging but fun.
Like with the previous games in the series, each faction has its interesting mechanics and I am finding them to be more interesting than most factions in the previous game so far. For Kislev, you get to customize your lords and heroes who are part of The Ice Court by selecting one of two random traits every turn as they progress in training. Also, once you hold enough provinces players can appoint an Atamans to a province for additional bonuses in the area and occasional quest requests.
The faction can also call on the Motherland to produce limited duration benefits, these are powered by devotion or money. Devotion can also be used to build certain structures and reduce the number of supporters your opposition faction has gained. I found myself using the option to reduce supporters the most. Since once you max your side’s supporters the opposition automatically enters into a confederation with your faction.
The only thing that marred the prologue/early experience for me was the minor technical issues I ran into during the Lucent Maze campaign battle. During my first attempt, the game crashed at the final fight. On my second round, a large white square appeared in a section of my screen, but I was still able to complete the encounter by adjusting the camera a few times.
Unfortunately, the AI for individual heroes also doesn’t seem to be much improved from TWW2. I have been able to wound or assassinate them without much of a reaction. They just continue with whatever goal they are after until I succeed at eliminating them.
The only other technical issues I noticed were a crash during my first fight in the Kislev campaign and the game stutters at the start of my turn as it loads the results of what the AI factions did along with any new events. Other than that, the game has been running very smoothly, and I am curious to see how well it performs when I try the up to 8 player co-op after the official release.
Now I thought the Kislev faction mechanics were great and very well done. Then I started playing the Daemons of Chaos factions. Have you ever wanted to build your own Daemon Prince? How about building a daemon army out of units from all four chaos gods?
By gathering glory that is unaligned or that is dedicated to one of the chaos gods you unlock body parts that can be swapped in and out. Each body part has different stats and abilities. Also, as you rise in glory for the different chaos gods you unlock access to their more powerful units if you have the proper buildings. Otherwise if playing one of the chaos god factions you are locked into the units used by that chaos god and the typical strengths and weaknesses they have in battle. It makes for a highly customized legendary lord with tons of tactical options.
Once I got used to swapping around the various body parts and claiming different settlements in the name of the chaos god I wanted units from, I ended up loving this system. I can make the character look the way I want and if needed tailor him for specific encounters. If I want even more power from a specific chaos god, then I can also eventually dedicate myself to it and unlock more powerful body parts, weapons, and units. I also liked having the option of remaining neutral if I want to keep my armies using a good mix of units.
I haven’t had the chance to play any of the chaos god campaigns yet, but each one has its own mechanics and playstyle which I can already see how they would be limited in tactics from having used various units with the Daemon Prince. They also collect different items from battle such as skulls for Khorne and grimoires for Tzeentch. I am looking forward to the challenge though and one feature all the chaos factions have is the ability for Lords to evolve into greater daemons, which when it happens at random is immensely satisfying. They retain some experience/levels from their previous incarnation, but they also become stronger and their new character model looks amazing.
The downside of your Daemon Prince is you don’t have a tech tree for this faction or the ability to use items with the legendary lord. But you can still equip all the gear on other heroes and lords. Once I goes used to all the differences I honestly didn’t miss the tech tree much with all the other options to play with.
As a fan of Warhammer Fantasy TWW3 has been a joy to play. I do have had to take my mild objections to the story premise of mortals crossing into the chaos realms and surviving, but I have set those aside and the story just clicks with me. In the two previous games, I have also had factions I just didn’t want to play at all. For this entry, each faction is interesting to me in its own way, and I am looking forward to playing through the campaign with all of them. Plus, who doesn’t want to build their own Demon Prince?
Thus far we’ve had the chance to check out the campaign, but one aspect we couldn’t test thoroughly enough was the multiplayer mode. Total War: Warhammer 3 includes a co-op campaign that will house up to eight members, all taking simultaneous turns. This is a large departure from the turn-by-turn nature of Warhammer 2 - which also only included 2 players taking turns separately. We’ll have more on this as we round out our full thoughts after we’ve been able to test with the live servers come launch.
What are my initial impressions of Total War: Warhammer 3? Thus far, this is anamazing final entry for the Total War: Warhammer series, and I think fans are going to be very pleased. If you were not a fan of the previous two games, TWW3 won't change your mind since it is more of the same gameplay but refined and expanded upon.
The story so far has been interesting, with the systems improvements being quite enjoyable, and the new features are engaging. The game has minimal technical issues and while the new features are not breaking new ground, they add a lot of fun gameplay. I have only run into only a few minor issues during my playtime. Which are far outweighed by the positives.