I return to the world of Warhammer, over twenty-five years after last playing the now legendary table-top fantasy role-playing game with Total War: Warhammer.
When I first played the real-time strategy game, Shogun: Total War, way back in 2000, it reminded me of the childhood table-top battles I used to play using tiny metal Citadel Miniatures.
The table-top game was the original Warhammer and its expansion, Forces of Fantasy. It’s is thus, quite ironic that I return to the rich fantasy world of Games Workshop’s seminal table-top role-playing-game with Creative Assembly’s Total War: Warhammer.
For over fifteen years the Total War series has allowed players to control armies throughout history in epic battles from Feudal Japan to the plains of the New World. Total War: Warhammer is the revered series’ first foray into a fictional world.
For me, one of the big draws of the Total War games is the series’ historical foundation. Playing out campaigns based on real events and partaking in battles with accurately modelled units makes the Total War games serious and ‘proper’ strategy simulations. So you can understand that, despite my reverence for the Warhammer games, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of a Total War game with a fantasy spin.
After playing the game, my concerns were very soon allayed. By untethering themselves from realism and historical accuracy, Creative Assembly have been able to craft what is perhaps their ultimate version of their Total War games.
As with the other games in the Total War series, Warhammer works on two levels, campaign and battles. The campaign game is the best way to experience all the Total War Warhammer has to offer. Alternatively, players can opt to go straight into battle with one of the game’s set Quest Battles, create their own custom battles or select a multiplayer battle.
For a campaign game, players choose their faction, from the straight-laced Empire, Dwarfs, the orcs and goblins of the Greenskins or the Vampire Counts. Each faction has it’s on play-style and campaign story.
The regional campaign map allows players to strategize and administer their controlled regions. You can check your settlements, building construction, tech trees and unit recruitment. As with previous Total War games, an advisor introduces player to the game’s mechanics. And it is worth taking the time to become acquainted with the game because, as accessible as it is, Total War: Warhammer is a complex game to master.
The campaign map shows the position of units and objective that need to be undertaken. Managing unit cost is an important part of the game, ensuring that you armies are strong enough within sending you into bankruptcy.
Enemies are more diverse than ever, with warg-riding orcs, dragons and other beasties joining ranks of dwarves and rival human factions as you fight to dominate the campaign map.
It’s not all about war. You can form alliances, create trade routes and succeed using diplomacy rather than the sword. Player can spend quite a long time peacefully building their populations and researching technology. But know that in Warhammer, war is never far away.
It is when your units on the campaign map confront enemy units that the turn-based strategy of the game switches to the real-time action of the battlefield. Battles are fought on a landscape with players in charge of individual units on the battlefield. For the first time, and befitting the fantasy setting, you can also play on subterranean maps.
Seeing hundreds and hundreds of fantasy units on the battlefield warmed by heart, as this was exactly how I’d imagined my table-top Warhammer battles looking like. With Pegasus-riding mounted units, dragons, giants and spell-casters on the field, the battles in Warhammer are unlike any of the those in past Total War games.
Having lords and heroes with their own enchanted armour, weapons and abilities adds even more depth to the already deep Total War battlefield gameplay. The fantasy flying units, change both your defensive and attacking tactics, as do the huge monsters that enter the fray.
The spectacle of the battlefield is made all the more breath-taking by the game’s stunning graphics. Zooming into the battlefield action you can watch as individual warriors go head-to-head. It is exactly like a game of Warhammer brought to life.
In recent years the Total War series has been a bit hit and miss performance-wise, being a die-hard NVidia-equipped player. Many games in the series, most notably Napoleon: Total War, gave me no end of grief on release. It was only with subsequent patches and driver updates that Napoleon actual became a playable game.
Alas, Total War: Warhammer, whilst not having any game-breaking performance issues for my GTX 1080 system, is suffering from more than the odd graphical glitch. These will, no doubt be sorted out in due course. But right now, the game does not like V-Sync enabled with an NVidia card.
Total War: Warhammer, as a non-historic, fantasy strategy game exceeded my expectations. Not only have the developers manages to bring the world of Warhammer (and those painted Citadel Miniatures from my childhood) to life, but they have also managed to make the best Total War game to date.
I do, however, draw the line at a futuristic sci-fi based Total War game- don’t do it. Take heed Creative Assembly!