As the gates to the Old World temporarily close, players embark on a new campaign of conquest and power in the second entry of Creative Assembly’s planned trilogy, Total War: Warhammer 2. Speaking as a player of the Fantasy Miniatures game it was a treat to see the units on the tabletop come to life in the first entry, but with the addition of four new playable races and an ambitious new campaign, Warhammer 2 reaches a depth of strategy that makes it stand out as one of the best Total War games to date.
Set in the New World, the campaign in Total War: Warhammer 2 is centred on The Great Vortex, a powerful maelstrom of energy that has been thrown out of balance by unforeseen forces. Now in a vulnerable state, each of the four new races enter into a war to take control of the Vortex’s mystic powers in order to accomplish their own ambitions. The Vortex isn’t just for show though, it’s a critical gameplay component players need to pay attention to during their campaign because it is the primary win condition. This adds new depth to the gameplay of traditional Total War games by thrusting players into a race for power instead of just focusing on territorial conquest.
Without further ado let’s introduce the games key factions, starting with my personal favourite, the Lizardmen. After gushing about them during my E3 preview it was clear this was my go-to race for my first campaign playthrough. The eclectic mix of savage warriors and feral dinosaurs are insanely fun to field when they go on rampages, but I also enjoyed their political game quite a bit. The Lizardmen’s key strategies involve claiming territory to build a network of magical energy known as the geomantic web, which grants buffs and benefits to their armies.
Next up are the Ancient High Elves, who are the easiest race to approach thanks to their mix of offensive and defensive units. It also doesn’t hurt to have access to three different kinds of dragon and two huge birds. Their political game is one of the more interesting aspects to them. As the High Elves build their armies they gain a unique resource known as influence, which they can use to apply pressure to other factions to ally with their goals and bend to their will.
Just as ancient as the High Elves are their counterpart, The Dark Elves, which are a perfect choice for offensive focused players because of their rush-down gameplay. After summoning one of their exclusive Black Ark units, Dark Elf players can spread their waves of destruction far easier and obtain more slaves to build up their empire. The Dark Elves’ best mechanic is “murderous prowess”, a meter which fills up for every death that occurs on the battlefield. Once the meter is full the army is granted a massive buff that can tear through enemy forces like butter. While at first the Dark Elves might seem like a clone of the High Elves because they share a similar name, their unique unit composition and exclusive gameplay mechanics make them feel like a race that stands on its own.
Lastly we come to the filthy hordes of Skaven, who fester in the burrows of ruins and feast on their enemies. This race is my second favourite to play as because of all the micromanagement players have to keep their eyes on. From corruption levels to food reserves to sowing seeds of plagues, this is the most advanced race Total War: Warhammer has yet to offer. They may be the weakest race offensively, but they have amazing advantages when it comes to controlling the map and affecting surrounding enemy territories. Within a dozen turns I had access to assassins, priests, and engineers that feature a host of unique abilities with which to destroy my enemies without needing to commit my forces to a massive battle. This race excels at stealth and hard-countering opposing armies, so it’s wise to have a strong focus on reconnaissance.
I could go further into the strategies, the units, the lords, and the massive tech trees of these races, but I’ll leave that for players to discover on their own because that is the heart of the Total War experience. Unlike the base races of the first game, the roster in Total War: Warhammer 2 feels more fleshed out and exciting to play. Each unique mechanic and specialization creates more strategies and tactics for players to explore, which in turn creates an intense campaign filled with epic moments that people will want to share.
It’s even more fun when you share those epic moments side-by-side with a friend. Multiplayer is another huge piece of the Total War Experience and Warhammer 2 delivers on all fronts, offering cooperative campaigns and competitive skirmishes that are a blast to play. I especially grew fond of the new free-for-all mode, which is a great place to settle who is the best Lizardmen player out of your group of friends.
Throughout my 20+ hours of play Total War: Warhammer 2 ran perfectly on my mid-range AMD gaming PC. I never suffered a massive drop in framerate or encountered any game breaking bug that would destroy my save files or impede my progress and this was even before the game was updated into its retail build. Creative Assembly has upgraded their engine’s stability and the hard work shows.
The largest complaint Creative Assembly has learned from is the community response to their DLC practices. The DLC in Total War: Warhammer 1 suffered from multiple issues: pre-order DLC, lack of impact, a barebones mini-campaign, and an expensive price tag for what essentially boiled down into just a new race pack for skirmishes. Going forward the developer has a good grasp on what their players want out of post-launch support and is planning out an equal mix of quality free and paid content. Even before launch, Creative Assembly has been teasing its fan base about the recently announced “Mortal Enemies” mega campaign, which is free for owners of both Warhammer games and set to release in the following weeks.
What excites me even more than developer support is community support. Within months of launch the Steam workshop for Total War Warhammer 1 was filled with incredibly detailed maps, new weaponry for units, and mods to improve the overall quality of the experience. I can only dream of what modders have planned for Total War: Warhammer 2 once they get their hands on the game.
Creative Assembly has forged Total War: Warhammer 2 into a fantastic love letter to both Warhammer fans and strategy game players alike. Even new players to the franchise are sure to have fun learning all of the in-depth mechanics and strategies thanks to the informative tutorials and different scales of difficulty. Every time I booted up my PC to play Total War: Warhammer 2 I was excited to sit down for hours and lose myself in the politics and battles. When I left the miniatures game I was sad to lose one of my favourite childhood hobbies, but Creative Assembly has brought Warhammer back into my life in a new, meaningful way.