Game Review: Total War Warhammer




Last week, Creative Assembly released its latest edition to the Total War series, Total War: Warhammer. This is first time the makers of the much adored real-time strategy series have delved into making a strategy game around a fantasy setting, and by partnering with Games Workshop, makers of the Warhammer franchise, they have managed to do what very few gaming companies have been able to do: make it work. While there are still some issues that need to be ironed out, all in all, the game is a must have addition for anyone’s gaming library – even if you typically don’t play strategy games.

At the heart of everything is the lore of the Warhammer universe, and while it is not something everyone is going to be familiar with, intimate knowledge of the setting doesn’t matter. The factions are different and distinct enough that the uninitiated (like myself) will have little trouble figuring things out.

Empire – Imperial, likes diplomacy, magic, and large swaths of land. Hates vampires.

Orcs – Likes to kill things.  Replenishes health by eating opponents. And also, WAAAAAGH!

Dwarves – Technologists. Greedy. Hate orcs. Always grumpy. Obsessed with gunpowder…

Vampires – Creates armies from the dead. Pretty much an endless supply of volunteers there.

Chaos Warriors – BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! Pretty obvious where this is going.

These factions all struggle in eternal conflict against one another. Unlike previous Total War games, which have a definite end point, Total War: Warhammer keeps on going and going. You think you defeated the Lords of Chaos? Think again!

There are a few NPC factions thrown in there that are currently only playable through mods, like the chivalrous Bretonians, the Nords, and then there’s the can’t-quite-figure-them-out Lords of the South. While elves and other Warhammer favorites are clearly missing, Creative Assembly promises they will make an appearance in future campaign expansions. Don’t fret though! If CA carries it out like they did with the Attila expansions, each release will feel like a completely new game altogether with new campaign maps, factions, borders, and cities to raze and conquer.

In the Total War series, this game really stands alone. After lackluster releases of Empire: Total War and the disastrous release of Total War: Rome 2, Creative Assembly’s future looked rather bleak. Then Total War: Attila came along, shocking fans and former players by actually being one of the best Total War games of all time. Attila ushered in a slew of improvements to various mechanics that had been broken and neglected for years, as well as adding in new and interesting story-driven game design that enriched the campaign map and the cultures in it even further. Yet what all these previous games have in common and Warhammer is finally free of is the ever-present chains of historical accuracy.  Now, alone and free, Total War: Warhammer is on the verge of something great.

Sigmar’s Blessings

For those who are seasoned in the Total War games, Creative Assembly has been busy adding in a new and (somewhat) powerful hero customization and utilization system.

Heroes and Lords

This is one of the biggest changes. Generals have been replaced by Lords, and all the ancillary specialized units like diplomats, spies, champions and priests have been replaced by an assortment of faction-specific “heroes” who can not only have the power to affect the campaign map, but can also be embedded in your army to change the tide of battle by using their awesome powers to totally annihilate the other side. While they can be killed, they’re generally very hardy and can sustain numerous times of getting “wounded.”


In addition to missions, quests have been added to give players faction-specific storyline events without having to worry about a time limit for completion. They are a great addition to the campaign, and help create a unique experience behind each individual faction.

Flying Units

For the first time ever, CA has introduced flying units, giving players more tactical abilities on the battlefield. Some of these units are fairly weak (like the Dwarves first tier of gyrocopters), while other are incredibly strong (like lords on flying mounts).

Tanks and Monsters

That’s right: there are tanks. This is a really interesting mechanic that, again, is making its debut in Total War: Warhammer. These units are extremely difficult to kill, and if utilized in the right place on the battlefield, they will certainly help turn the tides.

New Faction-Specific Campaign Goals

There’s really too much here to list, but one of the most exciting aspects of the game is in how each faction’s victory is determined. For instance, Dwarves have a book of grudges and they cannot win the campaign until every single grudge has been carried out. No other faction has this. Grudges are written down usually after losses or other demoralizing events and they are an intricate part of Dwarf culture. This sort of criteria adds a new level to the game that is much more interesting than the simple “conquer everything that moves,” (Don’t worry! You can still do that too!).

Conquest Limitations

Unlike previous Total War games where the entire map was conquerable (unless you played a horde faction, in which case you just sacked everything) Certain factions can only conquer certain other factions due to their culture and living conditions each are accustomed to. For this purpose, Dwaves can only conquer Orc strongholds (and visa versa), humans can only conquer Vampire provinces and other humans (and visa versa), while Chaos Warriors are the Horde faction which cannot directly conquer anything but has the advantage of being able to sack, loot, and spread chaos corruption to everything! On the flip side of this, no one can conquer the lands of Chaos, which is a bit annoying. While my first impression of this was dismay on CA creating limitations like this, I found in practice, the game was so large, having these limitations mattered very little and in fact, does a lot to serve to lore and story of the game in general.

As for “unending campaigns” I have played through the Empire and the Dwarf campaigns through about 250 turns, which I found was more than enough to achieve the “Long Campaign Victory.” This is somewhat shorter than previous total war games which general broke the turns down into years, giving the player one-hundred or so years to play through, which each year being composed of three or four turns depending on the game. So in total, the games were designed around three-to-four-hundred turn campaigns. In this regard, Warhammer’s campaign feels incredibly short.

To combat this shorter campaign, Creative Assembly has promised that the game will essentially “never end” as the Lords of Chaos can come back at any time. That said, one multiple restarts of the Empire campaign, I’ve found that the AI has reacted very differently to my decisions and thus entirely different campaigns have spilled out as a result of such folly. I highly recommend going back to the beginnings and replaying them to see what sort of anarchy can be devised as a result of some well rounded decisions making. Either case, I still long for the conquest. In both my campaigns it is myself, and about three other factions all waiting around for Archaeon to show up again. Thus far, he is afraid to see his shadow.

Blood for the Blood God!

This is not an entirely sunny review, do not fear! While the game is fantastic overall, as a long time Total War veteran, there are some quality of life issues that need work which haven’t been worked out in over a decade. Namely, that is in the size and management of armies.

Year after year and game after game, the same army system exists without change. While large clashes in the campaign will allow the player to control up to forty unit stacks at one time, the default, unchangeable size of a single army remains at twenty unit stacks, as it has since the dawn of time. While some of this is certainly due to graphics limitations and fears of causing poor performance, many players yearn for updates to the battle and army management system that only the developers (not modders) can implement. Some suggestions are to raise the default army size to allow for forty stacks of units (something which is already possible when fighting a battle with two armies you own that are in close enough proximity to one another) while others ask for possible ways to limit the order in which each unit appears on the battlefield as well as placement and pre-positioning of armies.

One of the features that Attila improved upon greatly was how to manage an army on the battlefield, and it is here that I find Warhammer to be the most lacking. The UI for Warhammer’s battle commanding has been oversimplied. While keyboard shortcuts will be your friend, it is as if Creative Assembly took a step back or a step in the wrong direction. Battles are beautiful, yes, but they are over incredibly fast. With long load in screens on top of it, the battle experience is my least favorite part. While the physics, graphics, and everything about the look and feel of the battles have been greatly improved, the way in which a player commands them was much better in Attila or Rome 2.

Skulls for the Skull throne?

All in all, I’m very happy with Total War: Warhammer. I cannot play through a single part of my orc campaign without smiling at least a little bit. The lore, the jokes, the folly of it all – they help deliver a rich experience that is often lacking in these types of games. New player or veteran alike, Total War: Warhammer is a fantastic edition to any RTS lover’s library.

This article originally appeared on, written by Porkbutte.

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