Total War: Warhammer – Review
It’s fair to say over the last couple of years the Total War games have really come into their own. Sure Total War: Rome 2 had its issues at launch, but that didn’t stop the team over at Creative Assembly working tirelessly to fix the issues with the game and setting up an extremely solid base for 2015’s historical entry into the series focusing on that pesky Mongolian, Attila. So now it’s 2016 and in a series first, the Total war series has broken away from the burden of being historically accurate with Total War: WARHAMMER.
Right out of the gate, the opening cinematic (which is by far the best in the series) really rams home the fact that we are not in Kansas anymore Toto. Dragons, Vampires, Magic spells, giant spiders, the unstoppable hordes of Chaos and of course ORKS – all within the first five minutes of starting the game.
Thankfully at its core, this is still a Total War game, you still need to build and manage your armies, maintain a steady growth and public order in your lands, research new military and economic technologies and of course manage diplomatic relations with your neighbors, but you get to do it as either the Human empire, the dwarven kingdoms, the Vampire counts, the greenskin horde, or the legions of chaos. By the by, not much in the way of diplomatic relations going on with the Orks or Legions of chaos, mainly messages of “The Blood god, Khorne demands your blood, we will give it to him” or “we iz killin you now”, which I guess is still technically diplomacy, just not very good diplomacy.
The main new feature to Total War: WARHAMMER are the hero units, which serve as your army generals and are an extremely powerful stand-alone unit in their own right. They have their own upgrade skill tree’s, equipment slots and special abilities. Also they take a lot to be put down, which is great if you have killed your enemy’s Hero unit, but really bad if yours is presently having a ‘dirt nap’ and the enemy’s Hero is literally carving your army to pieces. That’s not to say that the Hero will single-handedly win the battle for you, but they go a long way to helping.
Another obvious break away from the shackles of “historically accurate” with the WARHAMMER license is the addition of Magic. Most heroes will usually have a magical ability, whether that be a morale boost for your army, or a special attack, but some heroes are less warriors with a morale boost and more powerful magicians with the full range of offensive magic at their disposal. This new magic system is all governed by how strongly the ‘winds of magic’ are in the province your army is currently fighting in. The ‘winds of magic’ will change every couple of turns, either increasing or decreasing in strength. The strength of the ‘winds of magic’ affect how often your hero can use their abilities and the strength of said ability.
Apart from the hero and magic stuff, the main brunt of your army will be made up of either melee infantry, ranged infantry, cavalry and siege or artillery style units. Very similar to how the previous games were made and with the same “rock/paper/scissor” mentality – Swords beat spears, Spears beat Cavalry, Cavalry destroys ranged etc etc.. This “core” army will help those of us that are a little rusty on their WARHAMMER lore get a handle on what exactly an Ork ‘BIGBOYZ’ unit does, or how to best take them down.
Army morale is still very important to winning battles, as the loss of the Hero has a much larger effect on how quickly a unit will break and run. This army morale mechanic – known as “leadership” – plays a much larger role in Total War: WARHAMMER, this is coupled with the increased survivability of the heroes. Which is why it pays to target the hero units with as much ranged artillery and armor piercing units as you have. As the hit 2005 TV series Heroes taught us, Save the cheerleader, save the world – except more like Kill the enemy hero, rout their army. Sure it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I think that is because there is a distinct lack of cheerleader based hero units in Total War: WARHAMMER.
Previous Total War games have suffered terribly from ‘same shit different shield colour’ syndrome for a while, mostly due to the historical restrictions, which makes sense, One early British tribe looks and is equipped very similar to the neighboring tribe. This is just how it was, and it is not until you get into late game battles where you have traveled far and wide before you start to encounter different units. This really is not a problem in Total War: WARHAMMER. Right from the get go, most starting locations have 1-2 similar factions nearby then at least one other completely different race.
As an example the Human empire starts off surrounded by similar human variants, whether they be Empire Secessionists, or simply other empires, they are, by the by, pretty similar, but not far from your provincial capital a horde of Orks are rampaging the northern lands, the Vampire counts are raising armies of the dead to the east of you, and the Dwarven kings sit in their mountain holds to the Southwest of you.
This means that whatever direction you choose to advance into, you only have a few battles fighting similar units before you are thrown against something completely unknown. It’s fascinating, exciting and downright scary coming against a new enemy type, having to learn their weaknesses, mobility and combat them on the fly, usually by sacrificing some poor unit against them hoping they will prevail.
If you are a long time Total War player who has gotten a bit tired of the historical restrictions that has been placed on the series to date then Total War: WARHAMMER is the game for you. It retains the core tactical mechanics that are a staple of the Total War series, while allowing for these new WARHAMMER additions of magic and overpowered hero units. If you are new to the Total War series then this seems a little more forgiving than previous games in the series, while still being challenging enough to keep you on your toes.