Total War: Warhammer – Mortal Empires Review – A Great Strategy Undertaking Pays Off

Total War: Warhammer – Mortal Empires
Creative Assembly/SEGA

I’ll say this right off the bat—being a fantasy geek who has played all manner of pen and paper RPGs in the past, I’ve always lusted after a computer game that could emulate the titanic battles showcased in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga. Unfortunately, although I’ve looked high and low for a strategy game (real time and turn-based) that could pull this feat off, I’ve always been disappointed.

For whatever reason, when it comes to computer fantasy strategy games, no one has ever been able to render hundreds of individual troops on a battlefield, all fighting it out at the same time. I tried with RTS games such as 2003’s Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, as well as TBS games like the entire Age of Wonders series (which I’ve played faithfully since 1999). But truth be told, looking back at the low unit counts within those games, I was trying to stretch my imagination a little too thin—imagining that one army man each equaled a hundred.

Thanks to modern day computing power, my dream eventually came true with a video game that emulated the Warhammer Fantasy Battle board game, titled Total War: Warhammer, just last year. Finally, I could actually see not just hundreds, but thousands of troops slugging it out on beautifully-rendered battlefields. And although TW: Warhammer didn’t quite get the siege battles right, it still captured the overall epic-ness and grand-scale of the Lord of the Rings battles.

Although Creative Assembly followed that up with an excellent sequel, Total War: Warhammer 2, they further blew everyone away by announcing that they’d be merging the two games together for on gigantic campaign called Mortal Empires. I, as well as legions of my fellow fantasy and strategy game geeks, were pretty much beside ourselves after that press release.

I think a big part of the excitement was merely the fantastical thoughts of imagining all of our dream battles now becoming potentially possible. We’d be able to take the grudge-laden Dwarfs on a single-minded, vengeance-fueled, tirade against the prissy High Elves; the haughty kingdom of Bretonnia would be able to match their knights up against those of their greatest rivals, the mighty Empire; the savage Beastmen would be able to clash with the insidious Skaven to see which of them would emerge as the most depraved faction within the Warhammer universe. The list goes on and on and on…

Well, Mortal Empires debuted a little more than a month ago to mostly positive critical reviews, both from publications as well as gamers. It has been pretty unanimous—Creative Assembly has pulled it off, enabling us Warhammer fans to play out our more feverish and outlandish fantasies. Ones that until now we didn’t think would ever be possible. But I wanted to wait a bit before reviewing it because that way there would be less bugs to quibble about.

Well, what do you know? My patience has paid off. One of the main initial complaints about Mortal Empires was that towards the end of the grand campaign, the Warriors of Chaos were just too powerful to deal with. Indeed, I remember playing my first Mortal Empires campaign as the Dwarfs, and watched as the forces of Chaos mystically composed huge doom stacks, seemingly out of the ether. With these massive armies, they stormed down directly from the north to my towns and cities, while ignoring all of the other factions.

Even with the seemingly impregnable defenses of the Dwarfs, I was crushed time and time again. However, CA has recently addressed this (and a few other issues) and has greatly balanced the end game to be more survivable than it was before. It’s still hard as can be, but it’s at least a little fairer.

The Mortal Empires grand campaign is only available to owners of both Total War: Warhammer 1 and 2. For those whining and whinnying about both games being too expensive, compare the total price of the two video games to the price of even a small analogue board game miniatures army. The video games cost much, much less.

This massive campaign lets you take command of one of 35 legendary lords, and there are around 100 different sub-factions as well. Couple this with the fact that every faction is drastically different, and each has a different set of victory conditions, and you’ve got some serious variety and replay value on your hands.

There are also random quests that are presented to your faction, as well as all kinds of diplomacy going on in each game. For instance, I’m playing a Mortal Empires campaign right now as the Lizardmen, and am being threatened by the prospect of the Greenskins allying with the Skaven. In real life terms, that’s equivalent to the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse.

It should be noted that Mortal Empires is so grand in its epic scope that CA had to sacrifice at least one thing. Well, actually two things. They had to combine the massive Old World map of TW: Warhammer 1, with the sprawling map of TW Warhammer 2, which necessitated that parts of the New World map had to be cut off. In my opinion, this isn’t a bad thing at all, since this newly spliced together map is so humongous that I think it would have been too large to finish, if they had kept everything intact.

Total War: Warhammer – Mortal Empires is definitely the most ambitious Total War game to date. Not only is it grander in scale when compared to its more historical predecessors, but it literally blows away any other strategy game I’ve played thus far. Lastly, what’s super exciting is that we haven’t even see the second game’s future DLC schedule yet.

SCORE: 90%

Total War: Warhammer – Mortal Empires features outstanding graphics that make its high fantasy gameplay truly shine. 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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