As a fan of Warhammer, I was eager to see what Total War brings to the table with their preview of Total War: Warhammer at PAX East this year. As I walked through the illustrated stone arches, I saw fans of both games engrossed in the gameplay. At my own station I was pleasantly surprised with the game that met me.
The Warhammer table top experience was completely brought to life. Fans of the game will finally get to see the battles that raged in their imagination as they play this turn-based strategy game with real-time battles brought to life through the Total War game engine. I had a chance to play through one of the many epic campaigns with Creative Assembly's lead writer on Total War: Warhammer, Andy Hall at PAX, and the experience was everything I, as a fan of Warhammer, hopped for.
"This is the game all Warhammer fans have been looking for. When I was 12 years old pushing toy soldiers across the table top, this, in my head, was what was happening," said Hall, clearly excited to show off the title. As we sat down to play, he asked which Army, based on two of the Legendary Factions, I would choose— the Empire commanded by Karl Franz or the Mannfred Von Carstein and his Vampire Counts. I chose the Vampire counts and to a look of "are you sure?" from Hall.
"Well," he laughed,"it's the more difficult mission!"
Confident that an expert at my side would get us through the battle, we plunged forth with the Vampires.
"We’re in the Badlands of the Pillar of Bone," Hall explains. "Goblin shamans are chanting round it, and Mandfred needs to slaughter them at the Arcane Fulcrum. That will empower his Sword of Unholy Power." If you don't know Warhammer, the blade is one of Mannfred's legendary items, taken directly from Warhammer Lore.
We commanded our Vampire army in a full-throttle assault on the orc invasion that stood before us. I was flooded with memories of campaigns that raged among my friends and I as we maneuvered our pewter pieces across the board. It was as if those battles were taken out of my minds eye and placed front and centre in on the screen before me.
"We’ve obviously been inspired by the table top versions, but we brought it into the Total War engine using Total War stats," he continues. "However, there are more similarities than there are differences."
Hall opened up the stats for Mannfred and explained. "It follows the Total War mechanics, but there are definitely similarities to the tabletop rules: leadership is the same, armour is the same as toughness, there are a lot of related aspects."
The armies follow the lore fans are familiar with. For example, the Vampire have no ranged weapon attacks. Instead, they posses fast-moving airborne bats that will quickly overcome your enemy. As the Orcs continued to descend upon us and our manpower waned, we took advantage of another mechanic unique to our army. Mannfred summon the dead, resurrecting fallen soldiers from a grave token on the map, and replenish our army, giving new life to our battle.
Campaigns include over one hundred hours of game play for each of the four armies that release at launch. The campaigns are extremely story driven, as you expect from a franchise that built years of history and lore.
“We want to bring a load of fiction into it without disrupting the sandbox game-play. And to do this, we’ve created these quest chains," says Hall. "So one of your legendary [characters] will play through this quest chain, we placed through all these story missions."
"We’ve really gone for the thematics of the races," Andy tells me. "The dwarf race, for instance, we’ve created a Book of Grudges mechanic, so they’re really easy to offend and get slighted. They’re all about vengeance. In your campaign, if the enemy kills one of your heroes or lords, or takes one of your settlements, that’s issued in your own personal Book of Grudges. You can’t win the campaign until all your grudges have been stricken out. But the bigger your campaign gets, the more your enemy is going to attack you - it’s like a vicious circle. But if you ignore them, which you’re entitled to do, the other dwarves stop talking to you because you’re not being very dwarfy."
"Orcs and Goblins have a 'Fightiness Meter', "He continues. "If you act like humans, have a secure empire and stop fighting, the 'Fightiness Meter' drops and they start cannibalizing their own units; they start fighting each other. You need to keep fighting while playing as the orcs and goblins. You have to keep finding them new enemies, otherwise they start killing each other. All these races have very different mechanics, which makes playing the very different experiences."
As our forces pressed onward, devastating the last of the last of the enemy forces, I was almost sad that the battle had ended. Eager for the chance to play the full campaign, I asked what the future had in store for Total War: Warhammer.
Creative Assembly plans on releasing Total War: Warhammer as a trilogy of games, this being the first one. They are hopeful that by next year, fans will be able to play the second installment. Although each part of the trilogy can play as a stand-alone title, all three games will build on the ones before them, creating a bigger map and adding to the story with different races. By the end of it, gamers can play the entire Warhammer world, making this series the biggest digital representation to date.
To complete the experience, Total War: Warhammer will have multiplayer co-op and PVP campaigns and single battles. As and added bonus, Sega announced Friday that the Chaos Warriors Race Pack will be offered free for those who purchase the game during its first week of sale, starting May 24th and ending May 31st. It's an exciting offer for fans of either franchise.