Total War: Warhammer
The Total War franchise has popped out all sorts of entries from various time periods and historical backdrops. Throwing history to the wind and embracing a classic fantasy franchise in Total War: Warhammer is an inspired effort, breathing new life into a series that was feeling weary under the weight of legions of axemen, spearmen, and trebuchets. With a smorgasbord of diverse units and a magic system at the forefront of the classic economy-driven war for territory and control, the series has never felt so fun.
The more historically focused strategy fans may turn up their noses at the embrace of Warhammer factions, but it works out wonderfully for creating conflicts and strategies that wouldn’t work in the traditional human-versus-human confrontations. Insane flying creatures and units make their first appearance in the series, monstrous and terrifying beasts, and magical artillery do an excellent job shaking up the formula. The various factions have considerable differences beyond legions of unique units, and play differently off the battlefield as well, taking advantage of things like underground travel, necromancy to fuel armies in an instant, or corrupting the very lands around their holdings. This is all handled with a pomp and zeal that doesn’t make sense in any sort of historical context; nothing beats laying waste to a settlement with terrorgheists, a Luminark of Hysh, or an Arachnarok Spider.
Each campaign and skirmish differ significantly and allow for all kinds of new approaches to each situation, like using hordes of the dead to overwhelm opponents or casting magic to crumble armies in mere moments. Unique units, abilities, and mechanics add faction flavor and diversity – a major draw that keeps me coming back to master the four available factions.
Longtime fans of the franchise shouldn’t worry that things have been dumbed down or changed to facilitate the more fantastic approach. If anything, this entry has even more depth. Your management skills are continually put to the test with settlements and provinces, legendary lord and hero units, and technology trees. You must also keep the diplomacy engine running outside of the massive, series-defining battles and quest encounters.
With all kinds of faction-specific abilities, bonuses, and rules, keeping up with everything going on can feel slightly overwhelming, even if you’re already a seasoned strategy game veteran. However, an expansive advisor option keeps you in the know through your first campaign and beyond, if you still need assistance. While tons of new mechanics and important info is constantly thrown at you, the game does an incredible job keeping you informed, even if it feels a little off-putting at times to be halting the action and reading up on new things.
While the time-consuming campaigns can devolve into long slogs, they can be rewarding as well. Seeing things change over the course of time (Chaos faction units may even show up to rain on the party!) and taking over the world is always a pleasure. For those who want to get right into the mix, a nice variety of “instant action” quest battles are available outside of the campaign, loading you up with units and placing you in the thick of combat. Multiplayer bouts are also available, and a nice 1v1 or 2v2 is your best bet for a quick and dirty tactical battle.
In addition to nailing the function and flavor of the Warhammer fantasy, this is also one of the more technically sound Total War releases. Sometimes it can take time after launch to iron out the quirks and glitches, but I experienced almost perfect performance during my approximately 40 hours with the title, with no crashes or major errors.
Total War: Warhammer is one of the best Total War games I’ve ever played, and fans of either franchise should find themselves with a winner here. Those looking for more historically rooted fare may find the fantasy over the top, but plenty of solid strategy lurks under the magic and mayhem.