As a History fanboy, it should come as no surprise to find that I really like the Total War series. Conquering Italy and Spain as Napoleon, building an empire that the sun never set on, beating back the Carthagians, I could do it all. But one thing I couldn’t do was use magic or command legions of giant trolls. Or get the games to not be buggy at launch. It’s no secret that the series is on shaky ground when it comes to innovation and playtesting; Napoleon and Empire are still buggy messes today. But along comes Total War: Warhammer, the most wasted opportunity for a cool pun since…well, Total Warhammer. But is the game worth putting your faith back in Creative Assembly for? Does Sigmar smile on this game?
Total War: Warhammer is the first game in the series to not be based in history, instead taking cues from Games Workshop’s Warhammer fantasy universe. A match made in heaven, and it shows. CA show a diehard commitment to keeping a fine balance between the rabid fanboys (and fangirls, in this day and age women can be obnoxious too) who would settle for nothing less than a perfect rendition of their Little Wars clone and the expectations from the Total War series. The game mostly disregards the rules of the tabletop version, but fans of the universe should still feel satisfied with its presentation. I was always more of a 40K person, but I still had a blast in the Old World. Fans will also be relieved to know that it’s a Warhammer game that doesn’t suck. The franchise has had some really shoddy players in the video game scene, sans a couple of more prominent games like Relic’s Space Marine and Dawn of War. But Total Warhammer is a step in the right direction, and everyone should be rejoicing. We can finally forget Fire Warrior.
Total Hammer: Time is chock-full of content, despite my fears of the game getting bogged down with DLC that should have been in the base game like the armies of goddamn Chaos being a pre-order bonus or launch purchase. Four races are featured, each with their own distinct rosters taken straight from the tabletop game: The Empire, masters of industry with their steam-powered weaponry and really cluttered uniforms. The Vampire Counts, commanding legions of the undead who don’t actually go “bleh”. Dwarves, who are more used to a good scrap than most and spit in the face of magic. Finally, the Orcs, not the football hooligans of the 40K universe, but not far off in terms of brain power. Each of these races are unique to an absurd degree in terms of both unit variety and the tactics required to become successful, which should satisfy those looking for a greater amount of tactical depth than offered in previous Total War games. And what a tactical depth it is! Flying units pick at formations from the sky with bow or claw, enormous monsters break lance lines apart like a cheap candy cane as magic crackles through the air, but never underestimate the stopping power of a simple musket volley or a plain old horse’s hoof to the face.
Game of Banners
Spooky scary skeletons~
“Show them no mercy… for you shall receive none!”
I see trees of green, piles of bodies too…
Where Totally Spies: Warhammer succeeds the most is in its presentation. The graphical side of things looks absolutely stunning, and gives off exactly the right brutal atmosphere of a Warhammer game. The sound design is just as muddy and gruesome as it needs to be, with each clash of swords and armor sounding better than the last. The campaigns that are as iconic to the Total War series as peanut butter to jam bring the complexities and politics of the Warhammer universe to the forefront in a way that can only be called intriguing and thrilling. Each faction’s campaign (four in total…war) boasts different objectives, minor factions to juggle and/or backstab, and even gameplay features such as the classic ‘Waaagh!!!’ where the Orcs get to swamp a piece of land like ants to an innocent picnic. As the games progress, managing your empire will become more convoluted and difficult to manage. This is where the game’s change of pace truly comes into its own. It’s incredibly refreshing to actually struggle to beat back enemy invasions and for your victories to be won by the skin of your teeth. No Total War game has ever made me scared shitless of my enemy’s gains quite like this one, and yet it never made me feel like it was too unfair. These campaigns will keep even veteran players occupied for days on end, with the multiplayer falling to the back as usual. Not that it’s a bad feature, I just never saw the series as a multiplayer one.
But, alas, no game is perfect and Total Recall: Warhammer is no different. Fans of the universe will be disappointed at the lack of other races (that are no doubt coming as DLC) like the vile rat-men Skaven or the Elves, whose entire campaign would consist of reruns of Westminster Abbey with each line being replaced with something racist about dwarves. Bretonnia, a highly important human faction in the lore, is also absent for now. The campaigns, while gripping, tend to border on frustrating at times, especially when the game forces you to lose an engagement for the sake of a tutorial or plot point. These were few and far between, but they were still quite the keyboard destroyer. The voice acting could have used some work as well. It doesn’t look good when the Empire’s advisor sound like he’s in an ad for a county fair.
Total War: Warhammer is the best Warhammer game in years, and amongst the best Total War games. The firm-but-fair campaigns, fantastic unit variety and faithful visual presentation that shows passionate dedication to the Warhammer universe and its lore (and the fact that the game isn’t bugged out the arse on launch) all make the latest entry in this classic series well worth your money and your time. The game’s this close to being absolutely perfect, and that’s a rare sight indeed. If you’re itching for some hardcore strategy action, get this game. Even if you’re not a Warhammer fan, get this game. It’s the best strategy game in years.
PC exclusive. A free copy was provided before release by the publisher.