I have a bit of a mixed opinion about the Total War games, but the last one I had played was ages ago in the form of Total War: Medieval 2. I do love the idea of large armies clashing on a tactical board, but somehow the execution on both the tactical and strategic layer left me feeling unsatisfied. Much of the tactical layer would spin out of control quite rapidly (I guess that is sort of a good tactical simulation of real war!) whilst the strategic layer seemed too simplistic.
However, when the awesome Warhammer universe gets folded into a Total War package, I'm tempted to try it out and see what improvements have been made to the Total War formula over the last decade or so!
Warhammer: Total War puts you in charge of one of the many playable factions (more with DLC!) that inhabit the rich universe of Warhammer. It follows a similar style to the rest of the Total War franchise, with a departure into the dark fantasy setting of the Warhammer lore... and a first foray into away from the psued-historical emphasis of previous titles.
Dwarfs, Vampires, Humans, Orcs or Chaos factions... you can play them all. Each faction has a storyline and quests that guide you through your eventual conquest of the map and lends flavour to the otherwise formulaic mechanic of grow, crush and assimilate.
After choosing a faction to play (and they are quite diverse, with many differences in perks and playstyles!), you are dropped into a huge playing field of the Old World. Pictured above is just a small slice of the Dwarven starting area of the large continent on which the various empires try to dominate.
There are an incredible number of little provinces and kingdoms, all vying for supremacy... but ultimately, most of them will be assimilated into larger more powerful empires. Your survival does essentially boil down to being the biggest and baddest empire around, and to bend others to your will... by military force or otherwise.
I've always found that the strategic layer of the Total War games was always the weakest part of the game. Much of the time, they boiled down to building a powerful army stack, and then going around chasing and steamrollering other army stacks. Although there are changes to the way that armies move around the map due to the different race advantages, it does end up being a similar experience. You have a primary army stack that does most of the fighting... whilst secondary army stacks are busy trying to beat off incursions despite often been outmatched. In which case, you have to drag your main army stack back from the front lines to chase down a powerful enemy.
... and it means that the strength of your primary army stack will pretty much determine your survival. There is so much that you can do with tactics and maneuvering, but if your army is just too weak... then you will get slaughtered, and there will be nothing that you can do to avoid that fate. Likewise, the reverse is true... if your stack is powerful, then you will just sweep aside most resistance after defeating the opposing primary stack.
Some of this can be balanced out by the logistics advantages of a defender... but in the end, it really does end up being the main focus of the game.
Cities and provinces are the main production engines for your empire, producing both units and the economy that supports the fight. Getting this balance is crucial if you want to be waging a successful sustainable war... and trust me, you are at war quite often! If you have a powerful war machine that isn't supported by a decent economy, you will find yourself rapidly falling behind in the logistics and research areas of the game.
Capturing and holding all the cities in a province grants some pretty nice bonuses across the province, so it does give you some incentive to push your armies just that little bit further!
Speaking of research, each faction has a pretty flavourful and full tech tree associated with it. The upgrades are nice lore based increments (with the occasional jump...) to your military or economy. You have the base number bonuses, but it is just so enjoyable to read the accompanying lore blurb that goes with it!
Fundamental to the Warhammer universe is the concept of the Heroes, and Total War doesn't disappoint! Every hero-type character has an extensive skill and upgrade tree that is specific to either the unique hero or the class type. You have the option to turn your avatar into a unstoppable killing machine... or one that bolsters your economy/armies... winning battles through sheer brute force, or the incremental bolstering of their empire leadership.
... and no Warhammer game is complete without, WARGEAR! Again, every hero has an inventory of Wargear and supporting followers and sergeants. Picking up a new shiny after completing a quest or defeating an enemy hero is really the most child-like moment... as you cascade all your artifacts and weapons from hero to hero to find that perfect mix for each character!
Various strategic level events occur on the main map, with some requiring a bit of role-play and choices to see what outcomes will afflict you. It is an interesting flavour to the game... and later, it will herald changes to the campaign as seismic events start to change the course of the empires.
Tactical Battles will pit two or more armies against each other. Both sides can be reinforced during the battles if there are nearby allied armies... these events can really shake up the balance of a battle as a horde of fresh troops swarm onto the field from a new and unexpected direction!
As in previous iterations of Total War, there is a bit of a Paper/Scissors/Rock mechanic at play between the various unit types. Trying to keep your moral and formations in check is more of a critical element in the battles rather than just trying to slaughter the enemies in bulk... of course, killing lots of enemies will also help break their morale!
You can always zoom in for a really cool perspective... however, at very close zoom levels.. you do start to notice the clipping and lack of solidity between character models as they hack away at each other.
Much of your time will be spent in the slowest of the speed settings in a medium zoom level. As you are frantically juggling your formations to ward off enemy feints whilst hopefully managing to reduce the effect of their artillery and ranged attackers. Once battle is joined, the whole affair turns into a chaotic mess as you lose the ability easily order around your platoons.
So, much of the tactical outcome is highly dependent on your initial positioning and contact!
Visuals, Sound and Performance
Visuals on my review hardware were pretty decent. Most of the time, you are zoomed out on the tactical map and you are a bit too busy to notice the details. However, the game does look pretty awesome on the strategic map.
There were no issues with performance even on my slightly aging gaming rig. Meanwhile, the soundscape for the game was appropriately "metal". Every tab selection is a thumping ring of metal clashing that really evokes the dark world of Warhammer! I loved it!
I love Warhammer... but I'm a bit lukewarm on the Total War idea. I really want the Total War format to work, but somehow, it just doesn't really click for me. Most of the problems I have are to do with the lack of detail and "realism" on the strategic map. It plays out a bit like a Civilization or 4X game to me... somehow, I would prefer something along the lines of a Paradox game.
However, Warhammer: Total War has piqued my interest with the faction specific lore and storylines... and so, I've been able to overlook my misgivings about the Total War format and mechanics to play the game... I really love the Warhammer lore and universe that much!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
Intel BX80662I76700 Core i7-6700 Prozessor (3,4GHz)
6GB EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC GAMING
Ballistix Sport LT 16GB DDR4
Samsung 960 EVO M.2 512GB
S4 Mini Case (NFC Systems)
Splinterlands (aka the best blockchain game out there!)
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