I find it hard to write this review. I feel like I had to rush it out after the announcement of another DLC! Hooray! Even though I have had some encounters of the same kind with the Total War franchise, Warhammer is a different thing. It gladly flutters away from the historical warmongering, deciding to instead slap itself with some swords and dwarven beards. It has the same mechanics that make up a Total War game but its partnership with the Warhammer Universe makes it all the more different. Amidst controversy and some uptight approach, Total War: Warhammer got rave reviews. But does it deserve it?
The World of Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer is set in a high-fantasy world that features elves, the undead, orcs, and dwarves. Typical Tolkien fare and very different to the more exposed Warhammer 40,000 universe with the hulking ‘roided space marines and alien invasions. This fantasy world is beset in an endless cycle of war between the numerous inhabitants of the world. Differences in ideologies and genetic makeups are probably the only reasons why this world is embittered and wholly depressed.
Okay, let’s do a bit of bunny trailing. With that said, you must be very excited to play all of those factions, right? But no. SEGA pulled another corporate greed ticket for this one. Sadly, just four of the major ones are included in the vanilla game. Want to play as Chaos, the Scourge of the Earth, Bringer of the End Times? You need about PhP 259 for that! Want to see blood encroaching upon the vast plains? Shell out PhP 99.95 for that! Heck, the game is just two months old and they already have another faction launching at PhP 490 (see above video)! Wow! Sounds like the game just got its knee chopped up before going gold. It’s this kind of practice that makes the purchase of the game all the more uninteresting and not tempting.
Now back to the game, Total War: Warhammer is split into two different types of play. In the campaign map, you get a full overview of the game world, just a snippet of the whole world of Warhammer lore. In this mode, you can build towns, make alliances, move agents and armies, like the typical Total War version of 4X. One major change is that each faction has their own set of settlements that they can only capture. You can’t dream of world domination here, you must ensure that the settlements you attack can further your ambition. For example, dwarves and their underground havens cannot be built on former human towns. Why? I don’t know.
Another new feature is that armies like Chaos and the Vampire Counts have to make use of “creeping”. Think of it like the purple ooze in Starcraft which the Zergs have to produce. This “creeping” is used to supplement faction forces while making the surrounding areas suitable for their kind. Vampires hate greeneries so they are afflicted with attrition if they mobilize across those kind of areas in the map.
Once armies meet or towns are besieged, the game then moves onto the battle map.
Into the Fray
In the battle map, you can see every trooper made in the campaign map. Total War takes pride in its one to one rendition of the units, thereby making the player feel like a supreme commander. Initially, the player is given a chance to check if the “Winds of Magic” favor your side. “Winds of Magic” pertains to the availability of magic points that can be used by specific characters during the battle. After that is the positioning phase. If all is well, the battle can then commence.
Even on medium settings, these things are still a sight to behold!
Again, if you’ve played any of the recent Total War games, you’ll feel at home in this part. In lower difficulties, you can pause the game for micromanagement, way-pointing, and positioning. The good part is that you can zoom in and out during the melee. Seeing bones crushed by a giant or cavalry charges messing up a formation is definitely a sight to behold.
Magic and flying troops are major deviations from the original formula. While magic, on paper, reads like spectacular effects brought down by the gods that be, are lackluster when in play. While they have tide changing effects, most are just buffs or debuffs for the combatants.
Tanks versus beast
Flying units are unobstructed by the terrain and the physical dimensions of landlubbers. They can swoop in and disrupt formations, buying time for the cavalry to time in a well-timed charge. They can also be used to crash down into the middle of the fight, shifting the momentum towards their side.
It’s always fun to watch the generals do a one on one bout in the midst of the confusion. Makes for a great story after everything. While this mechanic is fun, I went about ignoring it as my units got better and stronger.
After a battle, assuming that you’ve won, there is a chance to get some items. These items can be equipped on your generals or subjects. Along this mechanic, the player can level up a general. For veterans, this might sound as a typical mechanic, but Total War: Warhammer transformed it to fit more of an RPG with stats and character attributes displayed at the left side of the screen.
Is it Worth Your Time?
Let’s go to the positives first because the negatives might take longer to digest. First, this is a fun game. That much is true. I had fun controlling the Dwarves, the Empire of Man, and the Vampires. While the map may be limited in scope and grandness, faction-specific activities do make up for it. Second, the graphics are incredible. I had fun zooming in and out of the battlefield, watching my griffin smack the middle of a Greenskin mosh pit. Overall, it doesn’t take that much time to grow into and while it has many features, Total War: Warhammer isn’t as complex as it seems.
Now for the bad parts. While not part of the game, the shady practice of DLCs makes it less enticing in a customer’s standpoint. First, they release Chaos, an integral race, as a pre-order DLC. Why not just include it in the main game? That question is best answered by the coats in SEGA and/or Creative Assembly. Again, just less than two months of release, they are again teasing another DLC. One that involves another faction and a dedicated campaign. Alright, I get it. These things take time. But it just shows that the company is more driven to gauge eyeballs rather than deliver a finished and fulfilling product. Which now brings us to the second point: length. Total War: Warhammer is short. Battles are short; the campaign is short, save for some quick save/load blunders. You play the faction once and you’ve played it in its entirety. I don’t find it compelling to replay the game as the Empire of Man once I’ve finished it as one.
I won this battle because I had the better guns and technology. Giants were no match against a wall of flamethrowers.
My last concern is that the battles feel arcade-y. Instead of relying on pure ingenuity and the player’s ability to make quick and proper decisions, like the old games, Total War: Warhammer instead regresses into a mishmash of who has the bigger guns in the field. Your veteran units from your first army won’t matter once they face tanks and a two-headed dragon. Technology eclipses the old units and there’s not way to upgrade them other than to disband them and build new troops. While flanking and other basic tactics are still there, they matter less when dragons and giants that can squish people are involved.
Not that I’m nitpicking. It might be due to the change in theme, but I felt that it lost the old Total War feeling of domination during the later stages. Here, you’ll just blurt out a tired sigh as you mow down the remaining opposition after the war with Chaos. It lacks the “Realm Divide” of Shogun 2, and the “Civil War” of Rome 2. The hordes of Chaos are not scary enough to warrant a panic as everyone else turns their spears towards them. Alliances are made and everything else ends. The AI is not brave enough to break treaties, designating the player as the new villain as he is forced to break these agreements to win the game.
The Dwarven campaign tasked me to assassinate one of my men! Wow!
By the way, I also encountered a bug that made my Dwarven campaign impossible to finish. So much for polish.
Now, for the final question: should you buy it? Nope. Better wait for a sale. Or better yet, wait for a whole year. Total War: Warhammer is a good game. It’s enjoyable and there’s value in it. But the DLC turdfest shows that punches have been pulled and have yet to be delivered. Since there’s Steam, I suggest and strongly recommend to wait for a more “packaged” form of the game. Wait until the DLCs come bundled with the base game then go for it. For now, just try to enjoy life with less insulting games.