Total War Warhammer II Review – Perhaps the Greatest Total War Experience Yet


Total War Warhammer II
Creative Assembly/SEGA

Ever since I played pen and paper role-playing games, mainly Dungeons & Dragons, I’d always known about the Warhammer Fantasy Battle miniatures game. I couldn’t afford them at the time, and so thought to myself: “Hmmmm…I hope that they make that board game into a video game someday so that us pen and paper guys can try it out.”

Well, years later, Creative Assembly did just that. Total War Warhammer took the gaming world by storm last year, but not without its share of detractors. Many gamers were miffed by its creator’s DLC policy, while others had more of a let’s wait and see attitude about it. However, after a dicey start, CA pulled out all the stops by offering up some pretty stellar content, for free, assuaging many of TWW’s critics.

Personally, I thought that the game was fantastic. I never could have imagined leading my very own empire of dwarves, elves, or greenskins, along with mighty wizards, beasts of war, and so on, both on an overland map and in large epic battles. I mean, I’ve played many high fantasy, empire-building games before, such as the Age of Wonders series, but nothing came close to commanding entire legions—literally hundreds of combatants—upon epic, sprawling battlefields. It really blew me away.

I knew of CA’s plan of rolling out two additional TWW games in the future, but didn’t really know what to expect. Topping the first game would have to be a pretty tall order. However, the more I learned about the second game in the series, Total War Warhammer II, the more confident I became that it would at least measure up to its mighty forebearer.

Total War Warhammer II was launched today to a cacophonous caterwauling of sound and fury, but fortunately backs it all up with plenty of gravitas. It leaves the Old World of TWW behind and shines the spotlight on the New World, a land of cracked badlands, freezing tundra, and lush tropical jungles.

This time around we have a campaign that is much more focused in its breadth, but that doesn’t mean that it contains less content. Indeed, TWWII almost feels like a quasi-story-driven RPG strategy game compared to the first game, with its more narrative cut-scenes and wide assortment of race-specific quests.

I’m one of the seeming minority of gamers out there that love the more standard variety of high fantasy race tropes, such as humans, orcs, and elves. However, since I wasn’t too much in the know about the Warhammer universe’s more exotic factions, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see CA throw them into the mix in this latest installment. In the first game, I got a hint of what was in store with the fantastic Beastmen race, but in TWWII we have even more of a treat.

Sure, TWWII offers up the high and mighty (and rather haughty) High Elves, who have honed their battlefield prowess to a fine edge, as well as the Dark Elves, who delight in torture and mayhem, but we are also introduced to two more interesting factions.

First up are the Skaven, which you may have already gotten a glimpse of in Vermintide. These dastardly bipedal rat-men use disease and poison to bolster their ranks, and have access to some truly devastating monstrous units. Although their rank-and-file troops are rather on the puny side, their large numbers and quick speed make them excellent for swarming the enemy like the ravenous vermin they are. Meanwhile, the Lizardmen, a more neutral race of ancient Incan-themed—for lack of a better word, lizards—field enormous dinosaurs that can lose control in the heat of battle, and go on terrifying killing rampages that cut bloody swaths through the ranks of enemies.

The new main campaign is centered around the Great Vortex, a shimmering blue cloud of mystical energy that was created by a covenant of High Elves long ago. Its powerful magical forces form a bulwark against the forces of Chaos, which would otherwise be able to invade the elven continent. Each of the four races have different goals in mind for controlling the Great Vortex. Whereas the Dark Elves and Skaven have more sinister plans afoot, the High Elves and Lizardmen seek to protect it in order to continue keeping the Chaos hordes at bay.

Visually speaking, TWWII has to be the grandest looking fantasy strategy game on the market. The environments have been bumped up a notch, and now the battlefields are even littered with obstacles to maneuver around. The individual units themselves are also stunning, and are also more interactive with each other whilst in the midst of battle.

For instance, in my first play-through as the High Elves, I remember facing off against a numerically superior force of Skaven. I was defending an important elven city against my own little Vermintide, and with my back against the wall, I attacked the foul rat-beasts. I fought tooth-and-nail, but it seemed that my enemy would get the best of me. That is, until I unleashed a couple of units of Ellyrian Reaver Archers I had secreted earlier in a nearby forest, and effectively flanked the vermin hordes from the rear. With the tide of battle tipping in my favor, I pressed my advantage in a glorious comeback assault. TWWII is chock-full of epic battles such as these. In fact they reminded me of some of the more epic ones featured in The Lord of the Rings films.

CA also seems to have become keenly aware that offering a much more robust tutorial, featured at the beginning of any of the four race’s campaigns, is the way to go. Not only did it explain many of questions that I had about things on both the overland campaign map and also upon the battlefields, but I can see how this new fleshed-out guidance feature will attract new players. Or perhaps even those who were maybe sitting on the fence and wondering if they should invest time, money, and energy in this rapidly burgeoning franchise. Sadly, there isn’t any naval combat yet, but then again it’s hard to imagine how they’d introduce it with all of the monstrous units in the game.

Total War Warhammer II improves on just about everything that its predecessor established in the first entry. A much more interesting campaign, more immersive real-time battles, and a more epic sense of intrigue and purpose for all four of the starring races. What more could you want? Well…maybe the Tomb Lords next.

SCORE: 92%

Total War Warhammer II features great graphics that make its space high fantasy theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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