Thoughts on Total War: Warhammer
Admittedly I’m a bit late writing this but I have been playing the game since the day it was released and having a tremendous amount of fun with it. With the latest DLC (Wood Elves) released late last year, I thought it was time to give my thoughts on what is one of the best strategy games out there at the moment.
Total War Legacy
I’m a huge fan of the Total War series and I think I’ve owned or played pretty much all of them. Despite some of the obvious thoughts with some of the series, nothing beats controlling huge armies and having a massive battle; be it as Caesar, Napoleon or Attila. My personal favourites were the two Rome games and also Napoleon; all of which I still go back to, albeit with a lot of mods installed.
Others have said it, but an obvious issue with some of the previous Total War games was sticking to being historically accurate. This could sometimes hamper the game if taken too far, or if game balance was implemented instead, this took away from the realism. Delving in to the world of Warhammer has given the developers a new lease of life and freedom to have a lot of fun.
I think it has been quite a brave move for the Total War devs to go in to the World of Warhammer for two different reasons:
Not every one is a fan of Warhammer and for some it can be a bit of a turn off, particularly for strategy gamers more interested in history
Warhammer fans can be quite demanding and if lore isn’t adhered to…then woe betide you!
I think though that the devs have dealt with both issues, creating a game that is steeped in lore but also where strategy matters and battles are genuinely challenging affairs. The Warhammer Legacy has also given the devs huge freedom to create interesting units, characters and a complete world.
Playing a Campaign
It is hard to do justice to an overview of a campaign as every race plays quite differently, as they do in battles as well. For non-horde armies you control cities and provinces that you need to manage carefully to ensure that you can develop a balanced economy and balanced armies. In my first few games I found myself trying to build everything without planning properly, leaving me with unbalanced armies that proved a big handicap in battles. Horde armies face a similar issue but they can build on the move, the same as horde armies in Attila: Total War.
There is also an element of diplomacy but this will vary wildly from faction to faction. For some of the main factions, such as the Empire, Dwarfs and Greenskins, where possible the aim is to get other factions of your race to confederate with you, thereby peacefully expanding your realm. This is particularly satisfying as the Empire, re-creating the unification of the entire nation.
Of course the most important part is building and managing your armies; no easy feat in this game! Your resources are often so limited that building multiple huge armies is not really an option. This means that you have to be very careful how you pick your enemies and your battles, otherwise one defeat could spell complete disaster. I’m undecided whether this takes from the fun of the game or not but it does make for a more satisfying time when you win a battle or achieve an objective.
The other two main elements worth mentioning are quest battles and chaos invasions. Quest battles will appear throughout the game when your legendary lord(s) reach a certain level. They depict similar events to those in the lore and will give you some pretty good bonuses and items if you win. You can either travel to the location of the battle manually or pay a small price to teleport to them. I’d recommend teleporting to not take one of your precious few armies potentially far away from where you need it. The chaos invasions represent a kind of end game scenario and will start turning up from around turn 80 onwards, though there is no absolute to this. They can be a challenge but it really depends on how your faction is doing in the game and how far away you are from the Chaos wastes. If you are the Empire then you could face four or five strong stacks with legendary lords coming at you; a not so easy challenge!
All in all the campaign plays well with all races and provides a good challenge for even an experienced player.
Whether a normal battle or a quest battle, this is the best part of the game. With such a varied roster of units within and across factions, the possibilities in a battle are endless. Nothing quite beats watching a unit of reiksguard knights crashing in to a unit of zombies, or a horde of dragon ogres laying waste to dwarfs. With artillery, magic, huge monsters and flying units, every battle is a lot of fun, even if you know you are going to easily win or lose.
A quick word on lords and heroes as well – they are epic! Karl Franz can lay waste to entire units on his own, as can even a generic lord or hero. This doesn’t detract from gameplay though as you have to ensure you use them wisely. Do you go toe-to-toe with the enemy lord to take them out of the game, or do you go for easy targets and risk your units getting battered by the enemy lord?
Core Factions – these come with the base game and are available to all players
The Empire – the most balanced roster with infantry, cavalry, artillery, wizards and a few flying units. They also have a pretty decent starting position that they can easily expand from and/or confederate with nearby provinces. The negatives from my point of view is that their roster is almost too varied and I’ve always struggles to put together the ‘perfect’ army. There are worse problems to have though and uniting the Empire and throwing back the Chaos hordes makes for a fun and satisfying game.
Dwarfs – my favourite faction but I’ve always had a thing about dwarfs! Dwarfs are probably the easiest to play as tactically – you have no cavalry but solid infantry and the best missile and artillery units in the game. Where possible find a hill or an easily defensible position, sit on it and let the enemy break against you. The starting position can be slightly challenging with greenskins to the north and south but if you deal with the ones in the north quickly enough, then domination of the south should follow, although it can still take a long time.
Greenskins – the most challenging faction for me to play as but one of the most fun. Having hordes of orcs and goblins charge at the enemy, regardless of the odds, has an almost addictive quality about it. They do have a varied roster of units and once you start getting black orcs, you could be almost unstoppable. There is also the Waaagh! mechanic that gives you an extra army you can direct if you keep being successful in battle. The starting position is pretty good and you can concentrate on dominating the southern tribes, before an all-out assault on civilized lands.
Vampire Counts – They most challenging starting position, being hemmed in by dwarfs and Empire provinces but their advantage is the huge armies they can raise in a short space of time. As well as normal recruitment, the Vampires can raise the dead, giving the possibility of recruiting almost half an army in one turn. Balanced against this is also that the armies will suffer attrition if there isn’t enough Vampiric Corruption that has been spread in to a province. This spreads automatically in to neighbouring provinces but it can take a while before it reaches a level that benefits your army.
DLCs and other Factions (as of January 2017)
Chaos Warriors Race Pack (paid) – this came as a free pre-order bonus and is also available to pay for now. It gives the option of playing as the Warriors of Chaos and heralding the end times yourself. The campaign mechanics are horde based and the goal is essentially to wipe out all life in the old world. You get the choice of 3 legendary lords including Archaon the Everchosen, but my personal favourite is the immense Dragon Ogre Kholek Suneater. Worth the investment if you like horde gameplay and/or want to play as the true side of evil.
Blood for the Blood God (paid) – simply a DLC to add blood and gore to battles. Especially if you play as chaos, it feels a bit more realistic (!). Only worth paying for if you really want it though, otherwise wait for a sale.
Blood Knights (free) – simply adds the powerful Blood Knights to the Vampire Counts faction, giving them some deadly shock cavalry.
Call of the Beastman (paid) – adds the beastmen faction to the game with a couple of legendary lords, each with their own starting position. Playing as the beastmen is a challenge but creating havoc in the old world from turn one can be quite satisfying. A mini-campaign for the beastman is also added, with a good story of Khazrak the One-Eye fighting against his old nemesis, Boris Todbringer of Middenehim.
Amber Wizard (free) – adds the wild and rustic Amber Wizard, as well as the lore of beasts that is also available to Beastman.
The Grim and the Grave (paid) – this DLC added a range of new units, as well as a legendary lord each for the Empire and the Vampire Counts. The additions for both factions are worthwhile, particularly the Flagellants for the Empire and the Corpse Cart for the Vampire Counts. It also added Regiments of Renown for both factions, special one-off mercenary units that you can pay for if your lord has reached a certain level.
Vlad von Carstein (Free) – Simply adds Vlad to the Vampire Counts factions. Hands down I think he is the best legendary lord they have, particularly as all units in his army can vanguard.
The King and the Warlord (Paid) – this adds two new factions to the game: Clan Angrund for the Dwarfs and the Crooked Moon for the Greenskins. Both factions start in the west of the Old World and the ultimate goals is to take back Karak Eight Peaks in the South-East. Doing this opens up a whole set of bonuses for each faction that could help lead to ultimate victory. It makes for a slightly different play style, particularly as both factions are handicapped until Karak Eight Peaks is taken. The DLC also adds a load of new Regiments of Renown and some standard units for all Dwarf and Greenskin factions.
Wurzag (Free) – this DLC gives a new faction, the Bloody Hand, as playable. They are another Greenskin faction but this time you have huge bonuses to recruit and use savage orcs. This makes for an even more aggressive greenskin campaign.
Grey and Jade Wizards (Free) – simply adds both types of wizards as available heroes for the Empire.
Realm of the Wood Elves (Paid) – this fantastic DLC adds the Wood Elves as a playable race to the main campaign, as well as a really good mini-campaign for them. The play style with the wood elves is so different to any other, it being all about mobility and hit-and-run attacks. It makes for a real challenge and you will have quite a few failures before you get the hang of it! The campaign mechanics are also slightly different, with the addition of the Great Oak; if you upgrade it over time, it gives signficant bonuses across your faction.
There are tons of mods out there, be it through the steam workshop or otherwise. They do everything from adding new units, factions and game mechanics. My personal favourites are:
Radious Total War – this adds new units and modifies a fair few mechanics, but most importantly allows you to field a lot more armies at less expense
No aggressive AI agents – to stop what can be annoyingly debilitating effects every turn. I realise for some this is effectively a cheat but if makes the game more fun, what does it matter?
Tier 4 Minor Settlements – now all settlements can build tier 4 buildings, giving you a lot more flexibility in how you manage a campaign.
The base games is only one of a planned trilogy of games; the next two will be standalone games but will also bolt-on to the main game. This ensures a bright future for the game and I’m sure there will be plenty more DLCs coming up as well. The next will be a free one with Bretonnia in February.
If you love strategy game and/or Warhammer then this game is a must have. You will spend hours on this game and even if you find a particular element of it annoying then remember, there is probably a mode out there that will make it more enjoyable for you.