If 2016 turns out to be the year of everything Warhammer, consider me one happy soldier of the Empire. Vermintide kicked off the festivities way back in October, putting a fresh spin on horde-style first-person combat and becoming one hell of a co-op game. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada brought us to the war-ravaged cosmos with incredible RTS combat between ships the size of cities while offering a look at a side of Warhammer 40K not often visited. With the highly anticipated Space Hulk: Deathwing and Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor – Martyr (which has unfortunately been delayed until 2017) still slated for future release sometime this year or next, and the recent announcement of Dawn of War III, it’s a great time to be a Warhammer fan.
Our next stop is Total War: WARHAMMER. You will definitely want to hang around this one for a while.
Imagine the developers took down a can of paint labeled “WARHAMMER” and poured it on to the Total War franchise. That is exactly what this game is and the reason I love it. I don’t know if there’s mods out there that change around previous Total War games to include Warhammer elements, but even if there is, I don’t think they could stand up to this. The combat is gritty, engaging, tactical, and can ruin your day in a matter of moments. This is only improved further with a deep over-world encouraging you to explore outwards and sharpen your political tongue in the hopes of recruiting your neighbours to your cause—or crushing them in an all-out assault. Setting the tone for the game are extraordinary graphics with a vibrant colour pallet, fueled by a rich soundtrack.
A tone of war is set here, and I’m all about that when it comes to, well, games about war.
Playing through WARHAMMER’s campaign with my favourite fantasy race, the Dwarfs, has been an awesome experience that I don’t plan to leave anytime soon. You are given a choice between four races: The Empire, Dwarfs, Greenskins, and Vampire Counts. I am not a heretic or a friend of chaos, so normally I would pick The Empire, but I never turn down the chance to play as Dwarfs if it’s available.
What I came to notice throughout my first battle, aside from the amazing looking field of combat I was on, was how every little thing mattered. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Total War game and my memory was a little fuzzy. At first, I was trying to keep my Lord to the back of the battle to keep him from harm’s way. If the enemy takes out your Lord or vice versa, that’s game. In WARHAMMER however, my Lord was, for a lack of a better term, wrecking the enemies. The developers definitely seemed to have buffed Lords as I remember them being kind of weak in previous titles. These battles also demand your attention. Take your eyes off for just a few seconds and the battle can change drastically. More than a few times the enemy came in from the flank and smashed the side of my army, causing a number of them to flee from the battle and thin everyone out. It’s details like this that really keep you on your toes and thinking ten steps ahead in battle.
Something new for players to try out on the battlefield for the first time in Total War is the use of wizards, necromancers, and flying units. The spell casters seems to be in an okay place in terms of power right now, it’s possible they might require a slight adjustment, but the flying units can definitely be a factor in battle. They are quick and agile but also strong enough to shift a battle in that army’s favour. These should definitely be looked at.
The over-world of the game is massive and will leave you with multiple options on where to conquer next if that’s your sort of thing and just prefer total annihilation. If you’re looking to make friends on the other hand, that might be the better option. Several branches of each race exist throughout the campaign map, some close by, others blocked in by enemies. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to join forces with them or wipe them out—I’m all about making friends. Strength in numbers, you know? This can be sparked through Non-Aggression Pacts or Military Pacts, and a nice bribe never gets turned down. I also found out I kind of suck as a leader when my population kept trying to stage revolts against me. Your people can grow weary of your command if you do things that make them unhappy, such as taxation or when you first take over a new area. I usually end up building a tavern to keep them calm.
Bolstering all of this is one heck of a graphics engine. For those of you who like to get in to the nitty gritty details, there is a pretty impressive options menu with hover-over details of what each item does. Again, it’s the little details. I think I noticed a couple hiccups during some of the battles, such as framerate dips, but they weren’t too severe. I have been playing the game on the Ultra graphics preset so that probably has something to do with it. The soldiers and the battlefield are all meticulously detailed with several ranges of colour, almost as if a bunch of miniatures had come to life. To round it all off is an amazing soundtrack by Richard Beddow, who composed for previous Total War games such as Empire, Napoleon, and Rome II. The battle music is incredibly epic and got my blood pumping even in small conflicts, and it adds a nice ambience for the over-world sections that gives WARHAMMER its own unique sound.
Fans of Total War and Warhammer can now rejoice and form a pact as this is a game that blends the two franchises together beautifully. The action never feels boring and always has you thinking and planning, making sure to avoid the one crucial mistake that could cost you the battle. This also rings true in the over-world where politics and citizen unrest are constant threats against your rule. Throw in some amazing graphics and a great soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself the next great Total War game. I look forward to what the developers serve us up down the road.