Total War: Warhammer Review – A Grim Universe Comes to Life at Last

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Total War: Warhammer
Creative Assembly

I admired the sprawling lush green foothills in the distance which were engraved by shadows cast by a ever-dimming sun on the horizon.

“Make a run for that hilltop to the right!” my gaming friend urged, obviously excited about the unfolding battle at hand.

I snapped myself out of my adulation for the battlefield’s impressive visuals as the drums of war sounded. It was technically my friend’s battle at hand, although he had delegated his two missile units— one bowman and one hand gunners— to me, while he took command of the remainder of his human empire’s troops, including several infantry companies, a swift phalanx of cavalry, and of course his main legendary hero, newly crowned Emperor Karl Franz.

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We’d just managed to scale the excessively verdant hill when the enemy’s troops, a comparable force of secessionists, arrived. They poked my comrade’s infantry troops with their bowman. I returned fire in retaliation and my gunmen sent their missile troops into withdrawal. Meanwhile, my cohort stationed his cavalry unit behind their lines a ways off in the distance. As the enemy infantry troops finally rushed forward, they left their bowman unprotected and our cavalry galloped in, and their barded stallions smashed into the stunned troops and sent them sprawling.

Then, as our frontline troops joined in glorious mano a mano combat with our adversary’s frontlines we carefully monitored the conflict.

“Check out that force coming up the middle!” my friend yelled.

Squinting at the battlefield, I saw a narrow line of enemy swordsmen marching up between our joined battle lines. The enemy had made a bee-line straight for my two missile units. Suddenly, my friend disengaged one of his nearby units of spearmen and attacked the enemy’s flank, breaking their shield formation which had been largely saving them from my bow and gunfire attacks. This in turn broke our foe’s resolve and sent them into panic mode as they attempted to flee the battlefield.

Total War Warhammer

This clinched the battle for us—but just barely. Thus, ended one of our early-game engagements, uniting the newly-formed Empire’s province, and successfully thwarted the secessionist’s bid for power. This also marked one of our first indications as to the robustness of Total War: Warhammer’s A.I., and the straight up fun to be had with developer Creative Assembly’s gleefully grim creation.

Total War: Warhammer is what you get when you combine the best aspects of the Total War series with the fantastical nature of the Warhammer universe, and the results are astounding. Freed from the moorings of more restrictive historical contexts, the developers have thrown everything into the Total War mix, including lumbering giants which can flatten whole phalanxes of men, magic users who can cast meteor storms down onto foes, and bands of goblins perched atop blood-thirsty giant spiders.

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Of course, this being a Total War title, the game is played essentially in two portions. The first is its turn-based mode, which allows you to develop your settlements, manage your armies, build-up your leaders, and observe enemy movements, all on a more macro level. Once a battle is imminent, however, everything zooms in so that you can more carefully manage your troops. And while the combat is both gripping and visceral, a couple of wrong strategic moves can make your day a dark one.

Therefore, it is sometimes wiser to stay on the overland map and sharpen your political skills with neighboring factions. Making a strategic alliance (or at least a non-aggression pact) can delay or fully eliminate the need to get into a costly war, sparing you the loss of troops and possibly territory to an enemy.

The main factions at play in Total War: Warhammer are the relatively low fantasy (they don’t have a lot of monster units) forces of The Empire, the sturdy and battle-weary Dwarfs, the ever-blood-thirsty Orcs, and the nefarious and plotting Vampire Counts. The Chaos Warriors are a fifth DLC faction that is free if you buy the game within a week of its initial release. Sadly, there was no Elven faction upon release but I’m assuming that Creative Assembly will include them and other races in further content packs.

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Total War: Warhammer’s user interface is easy to use and features handy tooltips for people newer to the Total War series. There is also a good amount of lore packed into the game as well for people who aren’t as familiar with the Warhammer universe. I found this particularly useful as I’ve played much more Warhammer 40K as of late, such as the excellent Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, but the only computer-based Warhammer (as in the fantasy setting) game I’ve played was the equally impressive Vermintide.

Total War: Warhammer also sports some of the most impressive graphics that I’ve seen in a game of this genre (turn-based/RTS hybrid). During some of my battles, it was really hard to resist the urge to zoom in and ogle my troops while they waged war with the enemy—they’re that impressive. One thing that did strike me as a little odd about Total War: Warhammer is the curious lack of blood and gore. I mean, Games Workshop’s Warhammer tabletop miniatures could be pretty grisly and blood-encrusted, and the Total War series itself has also always had blood and gore as an option (or DLC pack), so it seemed like it would have been a natural fit for this game.

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Nevertheless, Total War: Warhammer is the greatest Total War game yet (and I’ve played them all). It combines seamless macro-strategy with satisfying real-time tactical battles, luscious visuals, excellent sound effects, a thrilling soundtrack, and a more open-ended narrative scope than previous offerings. I, for one, will be waiting to see what the developers have planned for the future of the series. In the meantime, however, I’ll be guiding my Dwarfen Slayer King against the vicious hordes of Orcs in titanic, epic battles that will determine the fate of my peoples.

SCORE: 88%

Total War: Warhammer is loaded with great visuals that will really immerse you in its fantastic universe, but you may need a powerful gaming PC or gaming laptop, such as:

 

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