Creative Assembly’s Total War franchise has endured for over eighteen years. The series has evolved as the years went on, adding new features, increasing the graphical fidelity, and ushering new settings into the fold.
SEGA has brought over several big properties to international markets over the years, including the beloved Yakuza series of games. With the series receiving seven mainline entries and two remakes of the original two PlayStation 2 titles from the early 2000s, Yakuza has become a pillar in SEGA’s game line up for both local and international markets.
Total War is a series that I have been playing for years, since Rome: Total War to be exact. Now, this is not to say that I am particularly good at the franchise or an expert, quite the opposite. I enjoy the installments and have been amazed at the level of consistent quality in each new title, but I have never mastered the combat beyond a novice level. So when I had a chance to sit down at a pre-E3 event in LA and play the latest installment, Total War: THREE KINGDOMS, I approached the task with a level of trepidation.
At PAX West 2017, I got to play Total War: Warhammer II for more than 40 minutes. Long-time Cosimaniacs (the nickname I have for anyone who reads my work, regardless of whether they like me or not) may remember the quest I undertook to play an early build of the game.
If not, here’s the short version. The folks at Sega offered to fly me out to San Francisco to get a look at the game. Immediately upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, Southwest Airlines piled on delay after delay until I was saddled with a 21-hour travel day & a sliver of my original Total War appointment. These conditions were less than ideal, so Sega and Creative Assembly set me up with an appointment at PAX.
I spent around two-and-a-half hours with the game’s campaign, mostly in an attempt to answer my own questions from my original preview. The brief amount I played helped me understand the moment-to-moment gameplay of Total Warhammer, but I was still curious what the macro game looked like.
“For our game, because it’s so complex, it’s got so many different levels, you need to teach players the macro first,” Total War: Warhammer II lead designer Richard Aldridge said in an interview conducted at PAX. “Basically, for Total War, you need to know a couple of things. You need to build armies, and you need to go capture cities. In the campaign especially, that’s how you’re going to progress.”
The tutorial I saw during my time with the game provided a very cursory glance at army building and city management, but I feel like I’m just starting to understand what sets Total War: Warhammer II apart from the other strategy games I’ve played. To be more specific: I do not know what differentiates Total War Warhammer II from the other games in this series, but I have a better grasp on what makes it different from games like Civilization V.
For example, in Total War: Warhammer II, army management is crucial. You can’t just leap from conflict to conflict, no matter how powerful your forces may be. Even trivial battles wear down your armies, like water lapping against a cliffside. That’s a really cool way to make each battle feel important.
Total War—at least in the early hours—feels more like a management game than a large-scale empire creation game. These cities over here need more housing. I need to win some battles so other characters don’t overthrow my guy. I need to corrupt the land around me so my Skaven hordes can be more powerful, but it can’t be too corrupt otherwise the whole thing falls apart. More than anything else, Total War: Warhammer II simulates the feel of being a leader; of making minute decisions with a long-reaching effect that you can only estimate.
If I had one regret, it’s that I didn’t have enough time to conquer an enemy city. That’s not Southwest’s fault this time; it feels like a mid-game objective, the kind of thing you can only accomplish once your empire is churning out plenty of resources. I walked away with an itch for more siege combat, especially after getting a look at some proof-of-concept videos during my initial preview appointment.
I’m happy I got to spend some extra time with Total War: Warhammer II. My thoughts on the game remain mostly unchanged, but now I have a better idea of what this game actually is. I think I might be a good fit for the Total War series, and Warhammer II seems like as good a place to start as any.
I had big plans for this article. I wanted to come to Total War: Warhammer II as a relative RTS newbie who cut his teeth on Firaxis’ suite of user-friendly strategy games, bridging the gap between my fellow Civilization enthusiasts and the sort of people who understand what “4X” means. Thanks to a comical series of travel mishaps (I spent literally 21 hours travelling that day), I arrived in San Francisco for my preview appointment, with only 40 minutes left in my gameplay session before the event closed shop. I say all this not to complain, but to inform my readership so they have context for the rest of this article.
Let me be frank: with few exceptions, 40 minutes is not enough time to preview a strategy game, especially if this is your first time with the series in question. As a result, here’s my biggest takeaway from Total War: Warhammer II: I need more time with it before I can say anything substantive. I’m not being hyperbolic, this isn’t one of those times where I have a deep itch to play more of a game I’ve just previewed, I simply believe that I cannot make informed criticism until I play more of the game.
But damnit, I’m going to try anyway.
Previewing strategy games is challenging because the sum of the complete experience is so often the only thing that matters, arguably more so than any other genre. In strategy, gameplay on the micro exists in service of the macro; everything you’re doing moment-to-moment is done with a much larger goal in mind. Those goals stack on top of each other, to the point where all decisions made during single, otherwise innocuous, turn is in service of [X] which itself is in service of [Y]. So when you’ve got such little time to preview a strategy game’s campaign, all you can speak to is the tutorials—you’re only allowed to see the trees, with the forest just out of view.
My short time with Total War: Warhammer II’s campaign was spent with the Skaven, a violent tribe of ratmen looking to corrupt the game’s world and gain control of the Vortex, a torrent of magical energy that acts as the game’s MacGuffin. No matter which race you choose, there is a definite objective in Warhammer II, along with some cutscenes that add flavour to the game’s story.
In order to control the Vortex, the Skaven have to conduct rituals by lining up three settlements and using them as a sort of magical conduit. Theoretically, that’s a great way to make settlements integral to the campaign. They aren’t just resource generators for your army, they’re also necessary to move the story forward. So you have an incentive to protect your own settlements while also trying to pillage your opponents’—, which is great design. In a game called “Total War,” every aspect of your empire should be working towards your victory. The map game is turn-based, while the combat is real-time and requires constant attention lest your army fall before the might of your enemies, so the game delineates tone for the player rather than forcing the player to adjust their playstyle depending on what part of the map they’re looking at.
Although who knows, maybe all this falls apart in the final product. Maybe it’s super frustrating to protect your settlements, maybe city management is too involved and pulls the player’s attention away from the army metagame etc.
Again, 40 minutes.
Knowing my time was limited, I made a point of trying out Total War: Warhammer II’s one-off combat encounters. I was only able to play one in full (a Dark Elves vs High Elves brouhaha), but I really enjoyed myself! It was a solid look at mid/late-game combat, with plenty of high-concept units and flashy particle effects. I’ll always prefer the back-and-forth of turn-based combat, but watching my army fight in real-time, zooming in to watch their individual deaths happen before my very eyes then zooming back out to watch them swarm like ants, was tremendously satisfying. I only wish I could control the camera with the mouse, using WASD to swing the camera around never felt intuitive.
At first, I hadn’t quite decided which race I would play when the full game drops, but we were shown early footage from the High Elf campaign that sounded very promising. High Elves have a currency called “influence” they can use to, well, influence other factions in the diplomacy metagame (another part of the game I did not see for myself). I’d love to utilize all the tools the game has to offer, so I think I’ll run High Elf when Warhammer II launches this September. Unless everything past minute 41 sucks, in which case I’ll be running away from this game at top speed.
If you liked Total War: Warhammer, I feel somewhat comfortable saying you’ll like Warhammer II. The game’s not even out yet and I’ve only seen a fraction of it, but this full-on sequel is coming out less than a year after the first one—I would bet cash that Warhammer II plays almost identically. For the rest of us, Total War’s real-time combat is undeniably solid, but even a non-truncated preview would only scratch the surface of what the campaign has to offer. Wait for reviews if you can.
While I adore the Total War games for their engaging campaigns and full-scale skirmishes, the multiplayer offerings have always come across as weak and poorly balanced. So to remedy this lack of a quality multiplayer experience, Creative Assembly and Wargaming.net collide to create the free-to-play strategy game, Total War: Arena. Set back in the times of the Roman Empire, massive teams consisting of 10 players each must put their wits and ingenious strategies to the test if they wish to become victorious.
Total War: Arena is currently at its closed Beta stage during the time of this piece, meaning that the game is playable, but everything I experienced is subject to change. What I like about this choice is that the community that is slowly building up for the game is communicating with the devs directly, offering critical feedback on balancing, unit viability and General effectiveness. This approach will hopefully ensure that at release, Total War: Arena becomes a game that any level of player can enjoy and learn to become competitive at.
The first step to winning a game of Total War: Arena is by picking a general to lead your troops. Picking a general is more than just a simple click, however, they are the soul of your army and strategy so it’s wise to think about what you want to accomplish as a team member beforehand. By picking a general like Germinacus, the player is saying that they prefer a strong melee focused army and will probably field units with a variety of swords, spears and shields to keep in line with their specializations. Even after picking a general that fits the player’s key strategy, now they must pick out three abilities for that general from a hefty 10 layered skill tree. Obviously, Generals will only start out with a couple abilities at their lowest levels, but as the player continues to play and levels up that General they love to use, more powerful and diverse abilities will unlock.
With the general locked in, players must now pick three units to comprise their army. The roster of Total War: Arena is deep, comprised of a wealth of ground forces, range specialists and siege type weaponry. Now the unit count might sound alarming to some traditional Total War fans because half the spectacle is watching two massive armies of 10-12 types units collide with one another, but three units work well in this 10v10 scenario. By maxing the unit count to three, players don’t have a huge force to micromanage and they can dedicate their focus on getting the most potential out of their army as possible.
Heading into gameplay, Total War: Arena feels like a traditional Total War experience, but with an added boost of adrenaline so battles don’t take a large amount of time. The arena’s themselves are quite diverse and feel comfortable for these large scale, 10v10 engagements. There are towers to plant archers into, there are different height levels to maximize the use of catapults and there’s cover to shroud your army for a surprise flank attack on an unaware enemy. While the game demoed quite well there are some concerns I have for the game as it heads further into development which I discussed with some of the devs.
My first worry about Total War: Arena isn’t the large team sizes, but how the communication between teammates appears limited. The only examples of communication I saw were waypoints saying to attack the objective or defend the base, but the devs assured me that there was more to offer. While waypoints are one of the main pieces of overall team communication the team is actually split up into squads of 3-4 people with voice chat enabled. Squad setups like Battlefield are a great solution to make sure voice channels aren’t flooded with overlapping information and callouts. It also keeps the team focused in on one of the three key lanes of the battle.
My last worry was how the team planned to handle microtransactions for Total War: Arena. Unfortunately, this question didn’t receive a clear answer due to the game’s current development state, but the devs were able to go through with me some of the details. As is the standard for free-to-play titles there will be two types of in-game currency, one free and one paid. The free currency will have no restrictions on it allowing players to purchase anything the game has to offer in its marketplace. The paid currency is akin to a progress fastener, allowing the player to outright buy units and more generals. There are definitely some ways the game could price gouge players like making them pay multiple times for units and upgrades if they die, but because this is the experienced team at Wargaming.net publishing Total War: Arena, I have faith that the microtransactions won’t be game breaking.
A new spin-off of Creative Assembly’s Total War series is currently in the works.
Roaring out of the dense jungles of Lustria, these ancient, cold-blooded warriors are the servants of the Old Ones, enactors of the Great Plan and the true protectors of the world.
Sega has teamed up with Humble Bundle to release several of the company’s titles at incomparable prices to support over 35,000 charities.
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.
Creative Assembly have officially announced that Total War: WARHAMMER will feature the Assembly Kit and Steam Workshop support on launch, which is set for May 24.
From the email sent out, it was stated that the game would originally not benefit from mod support, but Creative Assembly and Games Workshop have since been working to make this feature a reality.
Upon launch, players will be able to access CA’s Assembly Kit which will give them the tools to create mods and upload them to the Steam Workshop. It is also stated that further functionality will be added to the kit later in the year, including battle map editing.
The DotA 2 team at Valve also announced last week they will be accepting submissions for new treasure with the Total War: WARHAMMER theme.
A new Total War game launches globally for free on mobile next week.
Total War Battles: Kingdom is a real-time strategy game that allows players to change the world around their kingdom to their needs. Featuring a persistent world, players can work on their kingdom on their phone or mobile device while they’re out and then continue at home on their PC.
Players can grow their armies and engage in huge real-time battles against AIs or other players. Build up towns and castles, manage your economy and expand your territory into the wilderness.
Total War Battles: Kingdom is available on Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, PC and Mac on March 24 around the world. Check your mobile device’s store to download and Steam for PC and Mac players.