Total War: Warhammer Review
Gone are the days of throwing historical factions at one another. No longer will I be pitting Samurai against one another. No longer will I be sending my Spartans to push back the encroaching Egyptian forces. Instead, I now pit humankind as a whole against the gnashing, “WAAAAGH”-ing hordes of greenskins (Orcs, for those not acquainted with Warhammer) entering my lands, while brokering trade agreements with Dwarves. The undead loom in the area as well, but those all pale in comparison to the dire threat of the forces of Chaos. It all sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, but this is Warhammer, and the marriage between its lore and ideas, with the gameplay of Total War makes for what could honestly be one of the best entries in the entire franchise. Total War: Warhammer was meant to be.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Warhammer is built on battles with this sense of scale. Each faction has cannon fodder by the thousands, as well as unique units that help them stand out and give them an edge in battle when played properly. The Orkz have an especially impressive unit list compared to the other factions, but no race feels left behind. With enough diversity, this alone would be enough to make the races stand out on their own, but each one is augmented even further by other factors. Orcz suffer attrition within their ranks if they go too long without fighting, dwarves can only capture territory held by other dwarves or Greenskin armies, and the undead are almost entirely bare of missile/ranged units, but can resurrect the dead, gaining back portions of their armies each turn. The sheer diversity between each faction is one of the biggest pulls of this game, and each campaign feels fresh enough with each faction that it is well worth experiencing more than once, and boy are you going to be sinking some time into this game.
“This is Warhammer, and the marriage between its lore and ideas, with the gameplay of Total War makes for what could honestly be one of the best entries in the entire franchise.”
The unit/faction diversity is easily the biggest part of why I adore this title so much. Total War has been starting to feel stagnant due to factions having heavy overlap with minor, specific advantages. Each race has their merits, and their shortcomings, but a smart player will make use of them to the best of their abilities, and can overcome serious odds with some smart tactical gameplay. I’d run into an Ork Warboss early on, and managed to stave off his WAAAAGH (A massive orc horde that generates when their “fightiness” hits a certain point) but making use of skirmish tactics and some heavy artillery use. My stout dwarves could weather plenty of punishment thanks to how I chose to grow my leader, and they were able to weather a seriously impressive amount of punishment. This is just one way in how a faction would have a certain playstyle, and when you multiply it five-fold, it presents some serious tactical depth.
The battles are a treat to watch, as well. You can choose to auto-resolve most encounters (although you really shouldn’t), as the impending warfare builds up some huge anticipation. As you determine how to align your units, you can overhear the enemies psyching themselves up as well, and as the war machine starts to chug to life, the ground quakes with the sounds of battle. Clangs against armor and shield can be picked out as arrows whistle through the air, and the horrifying screech of a Vargheist (a huge, pissed off were-bat) can immediately draw your attention away from a battle. Seeing the larger units take the field is a treat as well, especially due to the sense of scale not just of the battle,and it’s for this reason that Total Warhammer (let’s just get that portmanteau out of the way) is such a breath of fresh air. Creative Assembly could really flex their muscle with this title thanks in part to the license. Instead of lining up a pile of sort of similar factions and pitting them against one another, we have five wildly different races with unique play styles and available weaponry and units, all culminating in one impressive package that runs well, especially for Total War Standards.
I did run into a few technical issues with the game though. At more than one point I encountered some strange artifacting that was fixed by a simple alt-tab, but it’s distressing to see it pop up none the less. Screen-tearing also helped to serve as a disruption as you’ll frequently look to various units to see how they are handling the workload of their encounters, and even with vertical sync enabled, it appeared to cause issues. The game appears to run better on AMD GPUs versus NVidia GPUs, although NVidia has gone on record saying that they plan to smooth out any issues with the Creative Assembly team, so hopefully those with NVidia hardware can expect performance hikes in the near future.
The issues weren’t purely from a hardware point, sadly, as the AI appears to be all over the place. In more than one encounter, I watched a vampire count execute a well-coordinated ambush that decimated my forces, and turns later, saw him abandon a town he was guarding that I simply razed to the ground. Diplomacy is also all over the place, and enemies opt to take the “attempt to brokerage peace” every single turn until you wipe them out, serving as a minor annoyance, but still annoying in any capacity. Overall though, the AI on the whole is still vastly improved from previous Total War titles, both from the gameplay side, and the technical side. I only noticed slight slowdowns when the game battles were featuring units in the thousands, and that’s only when I was really zooming into them to examine every little detail. GPU performance is more of a factor than in previous titles, and that’s a huge relief to CPUs everywhere.
All in all though, this has to be my favourite entry in the series, despite these gripes. The gameplay is Total War at its finest, and the variety in factions and units allow for many ways to handle your short and long campaign objectives. Seeing gryphons tear away at giants while a troll grabs your footsoldier by the legs and smashes him into the ground all in the same battle is a very welcome changeup from seeing walls of dudes run into each other with pointy objects, and if this is the path that Creative Assembly is taking the Total War series for the next few entries (they’re planning two more titles to include the races left out, after all), I welcome this sort of change. The sweeping scale of Warhammer is a perfect fit for this franchise, and it poses as a breath of fresh air for a series that was getting a little bit stagnant. Tactical gameplay with the hilariously grimdark setting of Games Workshops tabletop game makes for one hell of a combination, but it leaves me with only one real complaint: What took you so long, Creative Assembly? This is a match made in heaven.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Each race has depth to it
- Top notch sound design
- Campaign is lengthy
- Battles are downright massive
- Some intermittent performance issues
- AI feels inconsistent at times