Total War: Warhammer – Realm Of The Wood Elves Review – A Nimble, Yet Fragile Hurricane

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Total War: Warhammer – Realm Of The Wood Elves
Creative Assembly/SEGA

When I was younger I was an avid pen and paper role-playing geek, and it took me a long time to get into video games, besides ones that I use to play in the old video game arcades. Although I did play my fair share of board games, the Warhammer board games never really appealed to me. First, let me explain that the first board game in the series was Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which was sort of like a combination of Dungeons & Dragons and Tokienian mythos. And then there was its far future equivalent, Warhammer 40K.

My first excursion into the Warhammer realm was with the first Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War video game, which, combined with the Ultimate Apocalypse Mod, I consider to be the best RTS in the world, and that’s saying a lot. My very first experience with the fantasy Warhammer counterpart was with last year’s excellent Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide game, which served to make me hungry for more, since it reminded me of the many fantasy pen and paper games that I’d played in the past.

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Creative Assembly, long known for their deep strategy hybrid RTS/Turn-based Total War video game series, came along and surprised everyone (myself included) by releasing Total War: Warhammer. Eschewing the more traditional tropes of historically-based narratives that they had utilized in the past, with the Warhammer Fantasy Battle universe, CA was able to have much more of a free hand with which they could develop a Total War game (within the conventions of the license of course).

What makes Total War: Warhammer so intriguing to us armchair strategists, is how different each of its so-far released factions play. However, some of the ardently disagreeable types out there still felt that there was much more room for diversity between the factions. It seems that CA has listened to all of the naysayers and perpetual whiners, because their latest DLC, Total War: Warhammer – Realm Of The Wood Elves, is so completely different than anything before it, that it almost seems like another game entirely.

I’d played the futuristic version of Elves in Dawn of War, in which they’re referred to as the Eldar. So in that respect, I did have somewhat of a frame of reference with which to play them.  But there were still some major adjustments that I had to make in order to do so successfully. With the Eldar, you had advanced technology, since they were one of the most ancient races in the Warhammer 40K universe. Therefore, you could move units around much faster than any of the other factions, and even had warp gates and teleportation abilities available. In Realm Of The Wood Elves, not so much.

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The Wood Elves are indeed quick on the battlefield—in general terms, more so than the other factions, but there aren’t any handy technological abilities to fall back on. I say “fall back,” because the Wood Elves, much like the Eldar, are your prototypical glass cannons, so avoiding physical contact (at least with many of their units) is a wise choice. I must say, however, that although the Wood Elves do have some fierce melee units that can dive into close quarters combat, the way in which they do has to be carefully considered. Meanwhile, the bulk of their army, which consists of that game’s most deadly ranged units, must be kept well away from the front lines.

For example, a strategy that I developed has been to stow many of my units away in forests during the setup phase of a battle, so that they can’t be seen by the enemy. If I pull off a successful ambush (which can be tricky), I flank the enemy’s forces with melee units and attempt to divide and draw the enemy’s phalanxes into more vulnerable spots. All the while, I utilize my diverse cadres of ranged units to constantly pepper my foe’s ranks with their potent, multifaceted arrows, and use my magic users’ spells as backup.

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On the field of battle, the Wood Elves forces are really like differently-purposed elements of a fast-moving, hurricane of nature’s fury, that, if implemented well, can obliterate superior forces. They have about as much in common with tree-hugging hippies as Boy George has with the Armed Forces. However, each piece of their army’s puzzle must be properly implemented just at the right time, in order for them to fill their individual roles to their maximum potential. In other words, if you don’t like micro-ing troops, you will probably experience a few migraines while trying to manage the Wood Elves.

Off the battlefield, the Wood Elves also need special attention. I’ve looked around high and low for guides on how to properly play them, but have found nary a one that was comprehensive or otherwise clearly presented. Therefore, playing the Wood Elves is not only a fun challenge, but can also be an exercise in frustration. Take, for example, their new form of currency, amber. Through trial and error (much more so error than anything) I finally figured out what its primary uses were. I could either spend it on upgrades to my Oak of Ages, which is the most important thing the exists for the Wood Elves—which in turn gave me access to upper tier units, or upgrade my existing army. Choosing which one to save up for can have deep strategic implications later on throughout a game. Consequently, I also learnt that amber could only be earned by either conquering enemy bases, or completing certain race-specific quests. I could elaborate more on this, but I think you get the picture.

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Realm Of The Wood Elves continues CA’s fine tradition of exceptional presentation. The DLC’s graphics are not only highly detailed and full of beautiful colors and textures, but are very different from the other factions—even more so than the recently released Beastmen faction’s. Playing this on a beefed-up laptop, I was able to show some friends some gameplay, and suffice it to say they were beyond impressed.

Realm Of The Wood Elves is an excellent Total War: Warhammer DLC—the best one yet, in my opinion. However, it must be said that you have to be patient in order to come to grips with this rather finicky personification of nature’s wrath. However, handled correctly (with a fair bit of micro-ing) the Wood Elves can be a devastating force that put the “A” in asymmetric warfare. Their disparate army can make short work of armies too slow to react to their turbo-charged tactics. CA took a risk in Realm Of The Wood Elves, and it paid off, big time.

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SCORE: 89%

Total War: Warhammer – Realm Of The Wood Elves offers highly detailed visuals that suit its high fantasy theme. However, you have to have an equally fast gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

YEAR END SPECIAL I

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