It has been a long time since I lost full weekends to Total War: Rome on the PC, so to get an advance copy of Total War: Warhammer was a pleasant trip down memory lane”¦and a great damn game to boot.
For those of you not familiar with the Total War series, created by Creative Assembly, the games are built around high-concept city building and politics mixed with real time land battles of massive medieval armies. If you’ve ever played the Civilization series, imagine that game if every time you wanted to fight an opponent, you would zoom down to the tactical level to control individual platoons of swordsmen and concern yourself with keeping your flanks secure and your archers behind your defenses to rain death upon your enemies.
When I heard about the addition of Warhammer to my indepth and more importantly realistic strategy simulator, I immediately grimaced imagining gryphons and dragons zooming around the battlefield with Vampire Lords flinging fireballs and wrecking my beautifully aligned rank and file. But this was not the case: while fantasy troops like trolls and zombies do live in the game, they are not as invasive and game breaking as I’d thought. This is going to sound like a negative, but Total War: Warhammer feels more like a reskinning of a lot of the usual assets in a Total War game. Sure, the Chaos Warriors (which are a downloadable add-on, mind you), have Dragon Ogres and Chaos Spawn at their disposal, but again, they are balanced nicely as to not interrupt the usual Total War power triangle of Ranged beats Infantry beats Cavalry beats Ranged.
What is a smidge game breaking for Total War: Warhammer is the use of spellcasting on the battlefield. Having played starting as the non-spell casting (to start) dull Humans through the Empire and then switching over to the Vampire Lords and Chaos Warriors, magic in the game is seemingly a too powerful mechanic. Want to win your first dozen battles in the game? Simply find the enemy general, cast your most destructive spell at them, kill their leader, then chase the rest of the demoralized army off the field. Having played almost 20 hours of Total War: Warhammer and playing on normal difficulty, I haven’t run into a single enemy force that has used magic against me as effectively as I have against them.
I bring up difficulty as it is important to mention: Total War: Warhammer pulls zero punches. The computer run forces may not be the smartest and it is fairly easy to use that human brain of yours to decimate a larger force with superior tactics, the computer is more than happy to suddenly run an enemy force from off the map you didn’t know existed until they’re surrounding your encampment or capital. All three campaigns I ran with all ended in me having a wonderful time mopping up the computer until Lord Billy Badass, who I was unaware of his existence on the map, suddenly pulled up from beyond the fog of war outnumbering me three or four to one.
Overall, Total War: Warhammer does an amazing job of balancing the fantastic while still feeling like a Total War game. The fantasy aspect, while coating everything with fairy dust, is simply a dash of flavor on the basic mechanics that Total War fans have become accustomed to over the last decade. But Total War: Warhammer is a refreshing way to come back into the series again after so many years; it’s one thing to try to figure out how to stop a Napoleonic cavalry charge with your spearmen, it’s something entirely different to use a militia made of zombies hold themselves together against charging goblin wolf chariots. If you’ve ever enjoyed any of the Total War games before, you owe it to yourself to get Total War: Warhammer.