Editors Note: Originally posted on 5/29/16 on Vox Ludicus. My views of this game remain largely intact.
I look upon the battlefield. The Greenskin horde, a full WAAAAGH in fact, was preparing their assault. I had already been driven back by Grimgor Ironhide, and now he had backup. But I was not going to give in. I would take as many grobi as I could with me as I went to the halls of my ancestors.
I arranged my Dawi on top of a nearby hill, Cannons in the center of a half circle, surrounded by Quarrlers, ready with axe should the enemy close. Around them my stoutest Longbeards, veterans of many engagements and very angry. And in the center stood my general, Ungrim Ironfist the Slayer King!
The Greenskin tide sweep up and after a long, protracted battle, they wiped out my forces and wounded Ungrim. But I gave an accounting of myself: I wounded Grimgor and the other generals, and wiped out over half the forces.
This is the account of a single battle in Total War: Warhammer. I have have done quite a few such battles in my time with the game. I have spent around 8 hours thus far, and have tried the Empire, Vampire Counts, and Dwarves for races. I have conquered keeps, been forced back by rebels, and driven the hordes of the undead before me.
And I have loved every minute of it. Truly. I love a good strategy game, and I love the world of Warhammer, and I have been waiting for a game that captured the feeling of the tabletop game, but allowing me to play without spending thousands of dollars.
Let’s dig right into the four Pillars, and talk about what makes this game great.
This game is amazing looking. You have two primary things you will staring at: The campaign map, and the battlefields. Both have a distinct view.
The Campaign map is easy to read, and while the UI could use a little work, it’s serviceable. It took me a while to figure out how to read the settlement screens, building trees, and even figure out where the movement points for my armies were, but once I figured it out, it became second nature.
During battle, however, you go into an actual representation of the area you are fighting in. These can get a tad repetitive, but there is some variation. The worst for me was when I was fighting in the Greenskins’ domain, which is mostly desert. It’s very dull, lifeless, and foreboding. It gets the job done, but is bland at times.
The character models are solid and detailed. I played using high settings and was pleased with how everything looked. When zoomed out you have to use the Unit Flags to determine where your units are, and who is doing what, and I must say that on occasion the blob of units can get a little silly.
Magic effects honestly could use some work, but again, they are serviceable. Most of the time it’s muted as I spent my time using buffs and debuffs and didn’t use much in the way of offensive magic. The few videos I have seen however show them as being decent. Overall, I love the visual presentation and really enjoying zooming in and watching a mob of dwarves smash into some goblins.
Firstly, the soundtrack seems great. I say seems, because I never hear it in game. No, really. The only time I have heard the music outside the menu has been this video on Youtube. It sounds great! And yet it never seems to play.
The sound effects in battle however are amazing. Humans scream when taken by fear effects. Your troops shout and groan and scream during battle. The sound clips that play during diplomacy are hilarious as your faction leader says things to the other leaders. Overall, the sound effects are solid but really nothing stands out, other than the actual soundtrack not playing.
I put Story here because, frankly, it’s an open ended strategy game. The primary story is taking your chosen race, be it Vampire Counts, Chaos, Greenskins, Empire, or Dwarves, and conquering the world. There are bits of story involving the Legendary Lords of each faction, quests that have you completing objectives to obtain relics unique to them based on Warhammer Lore, but in the end this is a game about you and the stories you make with it, much like that bit I wrote at the start of the review.
Alright, I am going to try my best to not go overlong with this, because as a Strategy game there is a great deal to talk about here.
First, be aware that all Total War games are a mix of two gameplay types. First, you have the Grand Strategy section, played out on the Campaign Map. This is where you move armies, take over settlements and cities, perform diplomatic relations and build up your research and development.
The second section is the Battle system, which plays out in the form of a Real Time Strategy game. You setup your troops in formation and then move them into combat. You cast spells, use abilities, and generally try to murder your opponent.
You can however avoid the RTS systems by using a function called Auto Resolve, but with Total War Warhammer you cannot use this for Quest Battles, which are the story battles for each Legendary Lord.
There are 4 base races and 1 DLC Race. The base races are Empire, Greenskins, Dwarves, and Vampire Counts. The DLC Race, which if you pre-ordered the game you got for free, is the Warriors of Chaos. Each race plays vastly differently from each other, and allows you to try different playstyles.
The Empire is your standard human faction, a mixed arms style of play with a variety of magic users and tech. They are the closest to a traditional Total War army. The Dwarves are slow, tough, and have no magic ability. They have some of the best ranged units in the game, however. The Greenskins need to be in constant battle and raiding as they have a stat called Fightyness that if it gets too low they start smashing themselves in boredom. The Vampire Counts have no ranged units whatsoever, but their Vampire Lords are extremely tough and they have some very fast and hard hitting units. And the Chaos Warriors are a Horde Faction, having no settlements to call their own, being nomadic raiders.
You start the game by choosing your faction, and then your Legendary Lord to start the game. The Chaos Warriors have three lords to choose from, while the other factions have two.
After that the game puts you into a tutorial fight, and then right into the Campaign Map. From there, your goal is one of expansion and survival. You have to upgrade your settlements to unlock new unit types, manage income and recruit new Lords to lead armies, then take those armies out into the world to conquer and enslave (or liberate) other settlements.
Most factions have the simple goal of controlling a certain number of settlements while also keeping the Factions of Chaos in check.
Difficulty-wise, the game is hard – in a good way. Even on easy, which I admittedly play on, I struggle on occasion. The AI is pretty smart, keeping their ranged units away from you, ganging up on you with reinforcements, and such.
However, there are a few issues. Offensive Magic, for instance, scales poorly. Apparently, the Unit Size setting in the options causes Magic to be a bit wonky. Set unit size to Small, and you can sometimes two-shot entire units and lords with spells, but having it on Large causes the spells to be borderline useless.
Also, on higher difficulties the AI will spam Agents, which are individual units that cannot be attacked which will do things like sabotage your army, your walls, and even outright assassinate your own Heroes. You can do the same, but it never seems to work. I had one army besieging a Castle, and a goblin agent walked up and attempted to assassinate my Hero every single turn until it succeed. It is a cheap thing and Total War veterans will recall this as the same issue of some of the previous iterations of the series.
Despite its faults, this has been a fantastic release. Little to no bugs save a launch day issue that was quickly resolved, great gameplay, fantastic replayability and striking visuals. This is a game that any Strategy gamer would be remiss in skipping.
Personally, I cannot wait for the planned DLC and 2 Expansions, so we can get the rest of the Races of Warhammer in here. The plan, for those curious, is to release 2 full expansions that will be both standalone, and also connect together to create the entire world of Warhammer in digital, adding in the full 16 races and expanded rosters on top of it.
You can purchase this game currently on Steam for $59.99. The Chaos Race is not really needed at purchase, as they are considered the hardest race.