Ever fancied raising an army of marauding Orcs and Goblins and leaving a trail of destruction across the world? How about raising an army of the shambling dead to build an empire of the night?
Now you can. Total War: Warhammer is the game that so many gamers have been waiting for since the Total War series first marched onto the scene with Shogun: Total War back in 2000. The series is known for blending a turn-based empire-building strategy overview mode with massive real-time strategy battles featuring hundreds and thousands of soldiers.
Until now the Total War series has focused on historical empires from the ancient Roman Empire to the days of the Napoleonic Wars. Not any more. Developer Creative Assembly has teamed up with the Games Workshop to build one of the most exciting titles in the series to date and Total War: Warhammer is the result.
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As a jumping off point in the massive Warhammer fantasy universe that the Games Workshops has created Total War: Warhammer focuses on the Old World and the races of the Dwarfs, the Empire, the Vampire Counts, the Orcs and Goblins and forces of Chaos.
Each faction has access to their own unique array or units, heroes, resources and technology and development trees.
Heroes are a new thing to the Total War series. This brings in the use of magic and special abilities during battles to help turn the tide.
The Vampire Counts can raise the dead during a battle for instance adding extra units of zombies to help influence the result of the battle for instance. The Dwarfs use magic in a different way using it to forge runes which enhance units and weaponry in a variety of ways.
As well as leading armies and providing extra punch in combat, heroes can guide and watch over conquered provinces, spy on enemies, attempt sabotage and assassinations and counter the actions of enemy heroes.
They also level up as they gain carry out actions and fight in battles which gives them access to enhancements of their skills in different areas, new abilities and even mounts ranging from barded warhorses to great flying beasts increasing their impact in battle even further.
There are interesting tactical changes to the Total War formula. Each faction is limited to the sort of settlements they can capture. While all factions can sack or even raze a settlement they are only interested in capturing settlements they can actually use. The Dwarfs only want mountain fortresses that are occupied by other Dwarven factions or the Orcs and Goblins while the Vampire Counts believe they are the rightful rulers of the Empire and are only interested in capturing human settlements for instance.
It’s a curious spin on the way Total War functions and it adds an extra dimenson to the way you must approach conquering the world.
The whole story of the game revolves around the factions regaining what they see as their rightful power in the Old World and preparing for the eventual rise of Chaos again. Chaos appears some time later on in the game as a marauding nomadic faction and are one of the toughest enemies to beat. They arrive like the armies of Attila or Genghis Khan and cut a bloody swathe across the Old World claiming the dead for their malevolent gods.
The plan is to conquer as many regions as you can and buidl up your economy and armies in order to satisfy your faction’s lust for power and prepare yourselves for the arrival of the forces of Chaos in order to beat them back to their home in the Northern Wastes.
The campaign map is where the majority of the action takes place laying out the whole Old World to explore, enact diplomacy and conquer but the individual battles are a revelation.
Total War’s battle engine has always been brilliant allowing players to pull out and view the entire battle and guide units to counter enemy maneuvres or zoom right in to the action to watch the soldiers hacking away at each other or see a cavalry unit smash into the side of the infantry with a devastating charge.
What is really cool is being able to see how they have brought the quirkier fantasy units to life. Yes there’s ranks and ranks of spearmen and archers but it’s things like the Goblin Doom Diver Catapult which rains crazed kamikaze Goblin hangliders down their enemies or the Dwarf Slayer units with their huge axes, ginger beards and lack of armour cut a frenzied swathe through enemy troops that really brings the magic.
Total War: Warhammer as a Total War game is as accomplished as any other game in the series. It may not have the detailed naval battles of Shogun 2 or the political detail and siege warfare of Rome 2 but it excels in capturing the spirit of the Warhammer universe completely. As a Warhammer game it perfectly brings to life the unique units of the game’s factions with every bit as much detail and care as the miniature scupltors of the Games Workshop.
There’s only one thing to do when you play – crank up some Alestorm, raise up a massive Dwarf host and go crush some Greenskin heads.