Total War: Warhammer’s campaign map is unreadable

Total War: Warhammer is good at presenting complex information in battles. Your unit of spearmen will tell you when they’re attacked from behind and their banner will flash when they’re about to retreat. Your general glows, and he or she is often comically large compared to regular soldiers. Arrows, cannonballs and spells have brightly coloured trails so you can tell what’s about to hit you.

Outside of battles though, TW: Warhammer has trouble presenting basic information. In particular, the game’s campaign map is a mess which is difficult to parse and frustrating to use. In battles, Creative Assembly make good use of visual shorthand so can you extract relevant information at a glance. The campaign map, meanwhile, is so visually busy that basic information like where your armies are and how far they can move is obscure.

The problem with TW: Warhammer’s map is that it has a stylistic goal which it pursues to the detriment of usability. Specifically, the campaign map is comparatively realistic, so terrain features like mountains shoot up from its surface and forested areas are covered in dozens of tree models. Where most strategy games simplify terrain on their maps for the sake of clarity, TW: Warhammer’s map is crowded with distracting visual noise.

Losing track of your armies is about the most basic thing which could go wrong in a game about setting up battles, and yet in TW: Warhammer it happens irritatingly often. The problem is particularly acute for the Greenskins and Dwarfs, who spend much of the game moving their short counters through narrow and tall mountain passes. If you lose track of your own counter between the peaks you can access the forces list to find them, but the same can’t be said for enemies.

AI factions don’t make great use of the ambush stance, which allows you to take an enemy by surprise, but they hardly need to in mountain areas where the counters are just too short to be clearly seen. Often, you end your turn just short of an army you couldn’t see, and fight a battle you couldn’t reasonably predict. Mercifully, it’s impossible to accidentally send your troops into an offensive battle if you mistakenly click past a hidden army. Instead, however, your army will chart a new path to their objective which avoids the enemy, and if you’re not alert your twenty troops will end up doubling back because there’s one unit of goblins at the end of the pass they haven’t been instructed to fight.

The same is true to a lesser extent in the game’s forests, where dozens of tree models make it difficult to tell at a glance where you stand in relation to enemy settlements and armies. Worse, you can’t actually pass through all of TW: Warhammer’s forests, and the game makes no effort to communicate which are impassable. You can, for instance, go through the forest south of Bretonnia but not the one in the Empire’s capital province (except in the centre where it’s less dense). You can’t go through the forest below Grunberg, except at the very bottom – yes, that looks identical but for some reason it’s different.

There are tooltips which distinguish between light and dense forest if you hover over an area for long enough, but it’s not immediately clear that light means passable, nor is it apparent how far the light forest extends beyond the point you’re hovering over. Also, even if you find a forest you can pass through, TW: Warhammer makes it difficult to move by placing the path selection beneath the trees, so it’s obscured unless you zoom in.

Similarly, it’s possible to determine that you can cross the river directly above the Empire’s capital. If you mouse over the collection of discoloured rocks on the shore, you’re rewarded with a tooltip telling you it’s a land bridge. Given, though, that the campaign map clearly strives to be readable by all players at a glance, these are bizarrely cryptic way of delivering basic information. Worse still, if you’re new to the game the first you hear of the land bridge might be when an enemy army crosses over and besieges your capital.

The realistic terrain also makes it difficult to figure out what, if any, movement penalties are applied to your units. I noticed early on that my Vampire Count armies were moving more slowly in mountain snow than on grassland. That makes instinctive sense, of course, but when the map gradually transitions between snowy mountains and grassy plains, it’s impossible to determine except by experimentation where movement penalties begin and end. Likewise, while most of the Dwarfs and Greenskins territory is situated in mountain passes, the game only inflicts the extra ‘mountain pass’ attrition in some areas, and it isn’t clearly related to the appearance of the pass in question.

The advantage of TW: Warhammer’s map over the extremely simple design of early Total War games is that you can move your armies freely. In other words, if you want to set up an ambush in woods or block a particular road, TW: Warhammer supports you. The busy scenery gets in your way here too, though. Armies in TW: Warhammer have a glowing circle around them called a zone of control. In theory, enemy armies must engage your army if they want to cross this circle. However, since armies can go off road, often they can skirt around your army by passing through an area that looks impassable, such as the foothills of a mountain or right along the shore. It’s frustrating to be tricked not by the cleverness of the AI but the deceptive map.

The best way – often the only way – to get a clear picture of where you are and where you can safely go is to use the strategic overview map. In addition to the standard campaign map, it’s possible to switch to a flat, paper map where terrain features are drawn on and roads are clearly marked. You can even switch between various map modes and see, for instance, the attitude of your neighbours to you. However, you can’t issue orders on this map so you’ll always have to use both views in conjunction. Obviously the game is better for the inclusion of this view, but it’s difficult to fathom why TW: Warhammer has two views with serious limitations and not one clear, responsive view.

It would be wrong to say TW: Warhammer’s map values style over substance. Recent strategy games like Civilization VI have shown it’s possible to have a clear, clean map design which is also beautiful. This isn’t limited to hex grid games either: Paradox’s maps in games like Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV aren’t perfect, but they’re legible and they’ve become much better since the respective launches of both games. It’s difficult to appreciate the aesthetics of something which gets in your way.

TW: Warhammer is not a very complicated game outside of battles. There is no good reason why all the information relevant to your campaign can’t be presented in one view. When you’re fighting another army the game does a good job of relaying relevant information. At a glance, you can tell which fights are going well, which units are going to flee and where you ought to be looking. By contrast in the campaign, it’s often difficult to figure out where your armies are and where they can move. TW: Warhammer’s battle view presents complex information simply. The campaign view presents simple information in a needlessly complex way.

60 Comments

  1. Landiss says:

    I haven’t even read the whole article yet and I already have to say I agree. In general a lot of strategy games struggle with readability (looking at you, Civilization VI). Total War really lost a lot of that when they moved from the old, stylized 2D maps of the first Shogun and Medieval. It lost even more than that at the time, but they are slowly trying to get some things back (for example, the 3d map made it more difficult to catch enemy army on the field, so the recent games in the series have corridor-like maps, another problem connected to that was that most battles turned into sieges, they managed to mostly fix that now).

    Oh, I so wish the next TW game would use the old 2D map with army movement of one province per turn…

    • Landiss says:

      “In battles, Creative Assembly make good use of visual shorthand so can you extract relevant information at a glance.”

      At first I was inclined to agree with this sentence. But the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between the battle and the map interface. There are glaring readability issues in the battle map as well. For example, try to have a battle in a forest. Or can you tell what is field of view of your units? Or where your cannons will be able to shoot from a specific place on the map? Etc. etc. Most of the real information is contained within icons and the melee fighting is so unreadable that they long ago added tooltip info about which side is currently winning.

      Perhaps the difference is that they actually bothered to add those icons and that people are much more forgiving as the battle visuals are 1:1, realistic representations, not symbolic like what is naturally expected from the map.

      //edit: I didn’t mean to reply to myself, now it looks like I’m talking and arguing with my other personality… Oh well, I’ll leave it like that now :D.

      • Doctor K says:

        To play devil’s advocate for a moment, it’s not generally that difficult to figure out what the field of view is on ranged units. You’re given a very attractive arc of fire on every one of your units, as well as their positions and destinations if you hold down the spacebar. I never had any real trouble with the campaign map either, but I can’t claim that means anything – I literally grew up playing Total War games.

        • 7thApostle says:

          I’m in the same boat as you, having played a shitload of Total War, but I think one of the gripes the previous poster was referring to was the inability to see how far your cannons could shoot *IF* they were somewhere else.

          For example, if you could hold down the mouse or something while giving the move command to your cannons, you could find out what they’d be able to hit from a certain hill and not only where they are currently. That’d be slick as hell if you could do it with any ranged unit!

          • Landiss says:

            Yes, that’s exactly what I had in mind.

          • Grimjowl says:

            Totaly agree! As it stands i have to make an educated guess if moving a unit to a different part of the map will mean they will be in range of an enemy unit.

          • Archonsod says:

            You can already do that via the good old fashioned method of measuring by eye :P
            I suspect the main reason it isn’t implemented is that it’s not something you’d want to use all that often. Usually you’d set up your fields of fire at deployment (when you can see the range of a unit by selecting it) and draw the enemy into those rather than trying to move your ranged units into an attacking position, particularly with artillery since the time taken for most to switch between moving and firing leaves them highly vulnerable to cavalry (and in TW:Warhammer’s case, airborne heroes, flying beasties, wizards and sudden appearances of undead).

      • Horg says:

        When fighting in forests there is a hotkey toggle to make all tree branches invisible. Holding down space bar brings up an options menu which can temporarily toggle various parts of the interface on or off.

        • Landiss says:

          I’m well aware of that. It doesn’t make for a readable interface if you have to have a filter that alters the view to get the very basic view of what’s going on.

          • Horg says:

            Yes, it does. That’s literally what it does, with the press of one button (with customisable options) you can go from pretty to functional. Very few games give you that much control over UI layout and it couldn’t be more simple to use.

    • Seboss says:

      Oh, I so wish the next TW game would use the old 2D map with army movement of one province per turn…
      Word. I wish there was a little improved version of Medieval:TW and Viking Invasions that I could play on Windows 7.

      • LukeW says:

        I feel the same way. Loved the simplicity of the original M:TW map, could really focus on the battles and not worry too much about the fiddly stuff. I lost interest in the TW series once they went to 3D maps, it just feel like there was too much micromanaging involved for my tastes.

      • Dogshevik says:

        “Word. I wish there was a little improved version of Medieval:TW and Viking Invasions that I could play on Windows 7.”

        I couldn´t agree more.

        Declaring the boardgame-like aesthetics of Medieval:TW unsalvageably outdated was a grave error. The series has struggled with usability and strategic AI problems ever since.

        Seeing gameplay footage of the mess that is the UI and the strategic map confirmed my decision not to buy this one.
        ——–
        That and the incredibly annoying one-liners that every goddamn click results in.
        What kind of idiot thought it would add to the gaming experience to have to listen to the same 3 meaningless sentences OVER and OVER AGAIN? Still, you find this “feature” in countless titles released recently (Another major offender in this area were the Anno20XX games.)
        I guess it is just something developers are taught to think about as essential in a “modern” game, unquestioningly bobbing their heads to incoherent ravings about “responsiveness”.

        My apologies for the rant, but this really drives me nuts.

      • Aetylus says:

        “Oh, I so wish the next TW game would use the old 2D map with army movement of one province per turn…”
        Ditto. Especially when you consider the extra time and money that must have gone into the fancy 3D version… leading CA to ever more extreme levels of DLC to cover those costs. Save the bother and cost and make it simpler.

      • napoleonic says:

        “I wish there was a little improved version of Medieval:TW and Viking Invasions that I could play on Windows 7.”

        I have some good news for you… link to store.steampowered.com

  2. LexW1 says:

    I just want to say this article is precisely correct and really, really praying that the next TW:Warhammer game takes a different approach, map-wise. Unfortunately it’s pretty unlikely. :(

    All too many times though, especially when I was newer to the game, the real enemy was the campaign map.

  3. Retzinsky says:

    It took me a total of about five minutes of play to come to the conclusion that the campaign map was garbage. It’s a glaringly obvious problem and it does not surprise me one bit that this story exists. It’s that annoying.

    A friend of mine who is a UI designer at a major game developer grabbed TW:Warhammer recently in the Humble sale and I remember saying on Discord to somebody else “when he sees this, it’s going to kill him.” I haven’t spoken to him about it yet. Thanks for reminding me, because that is going to be a fun conversation.

  4. spec10 says:

    that’s exactly what put me off in every TW game I tried. I like the concept, I’m even fine with what they do in terms of simplifying strategic aspects compared to other titles. But the map design, the “it has to be 3d and shiny” is something that makes me quit without ever finishing a campaign every time.

  5. LewdPenguin says:

    I haven’t even played TW:Warhammer yet this article rings all too true from my time in Rome 2, in addition to the “wait, their army could cross that ridge/forest and attack me? well shit” moments I had plenty of frustration with not being able to tell shallow and deep ocean apart without hovering over everything to see where the tooltip changed.

    As for the different campaign maps I concluded they were all added to the game engine at different times by different people with little to no effort put into a unified design of the UI. A pet bugbear was that IIRC you could use keys, screen edge scrolling and click-dragging to scroll the various maps, but you couldn’t use all 3 methods in all of the map modes, because apparently that would have made far too much sense.

    If they still haven’t sorted out these sort of problems I doubt they ever will, in fact half of what we’re complaining about are probably considered features/working as intended.

  6. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Have to say I’m really confused by this article, especially the thing about losing armies on the campaign map. The actual army counter might be quite small, but every army in the game has a gigantic flag coming out of their back (as can be seen in every screenshot of the campaign map in this article). How is that difficult to spot?

    • Horg says:

      Not only that, every army you have can be found by double clicking the icons in the handy drop down menu. It is literally impossible to lose an army if you know that exists.

      • Rich says:

        And if you don’t know it exists? I confederated with another dwarf faction and inherited a massive army that was just sitting in Sylvania, suffering attrition.

        • Horg says:

          It’s mentioned in the tutorial, the manual and could be found easily by anyone doing the normal examination of the interface to find out what all the buttons are for. The Forces tab is located quite logically right next to the other 4 buttons that give you an overview of your faction. At worst you are only ever 3 clicks away from finding any unit you own. The only way CA could have made this easier would be sending the office work experience guy over to your house to click on it for you. ”I lost my army” is not a valid criticism of the TW:W UI, that’s purely user error.

    • rednettle says:

      Yeah, I don’t see the problem. I haven’t had a problem finding out anything I needed to know. I don’t agree with this article much. Armies are easy to find. Enemy heroes inside your fog of war are easy to find. Your own heroes are easy to find. Its easy to find out how much chaos/vamp corruption there is in a province. Why its going up and down. and on and on.

  7. McCool says:

    I’ve always thought that the step from Medieval to Rome in terms of the campaign map was a huge downgrade. There are few strategy games as atmospheric as the original Medieval Total War, the campaign map was a triumph. Ever since then, the campaign has been tied to this ugly 3D mess, which even back in the very first fully 3D Total War, was always a few steps down in fidelity from the battle’s graphics anyway.

    Why have an ugly, obtrusive detailed 3D map when you can have an aesthetically pleasing 2D or simplified one like CKII or Medieval?

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      I still feel that Medieval’s campaign map armies felt more real and tangible for being displayed as ornate board game pieces.

  8. Asrahn says:

    Gotta say that I’m at a complete loss, regarding this article. Barring the demo I tried as a young lad of Shogun: Total War, I got into the TW series at around Empire/Napoleon and have as such only really known this 3D style campaign map. Is it really this hard getting into it? Armies display their movement length by marking out a wide, circular, yellow field whenever you have them selected, and clicking+holding your right mouse button lets you literally scope out how far and in what manner they will walk to a certain destination. It even shows how much it’ll shave off the total amount of movement points on your left, which are ordered in blocks of 25-50-75-100%’s, which are the ones used to determine whether you can switch stances (forced march, ambush, etc). Is it really that horrible?

    Additionally, the AI seems to be using ambushes an awful lot in my campaigns. It’s definitely not uncommon for them to stage an ambush-reinforcement battle either, where they’ll hide a smaller army in an ambush stance and then have a sort-of evenly matched army compared to yours waiting for you to take the bait. You move towards them, bam, you’re ambushed by the smaller one, all your dudes start off as tired and with lowered morale, and they can roll over you if you’re not careful.

    Also, Civilization VI with its multitude of hidden hard-to-find features, which didn’t even display border growth on launch, and Paradox titles with their veritable nightmare of a spiderweb, necessitating filter upon filter to just make sense of the mess, are somehow superior to a bit of a stylized 3D map where dudes walk around?

    I’m honestly terribly confused, and I’m seriously not trying to be snide; it’s always just such as surprise when you meet someone with the completely opposite experience to yours.

    • Torgan says:

      Absolutely my thoughts as well. Although I have been playing TW for quite a while, and put 300+ hours in Total Warhammer alone so I’m probably not in the same position as the author!

      • Landiss says:

        I must have put thousands hours in total war series and I still agree with the author. The fact that it’s possible to use the map does not make it more readable, we all just learned to live with it.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Familiarity with earlier TW games does help. Also, on the previous historical TW maps, the player probably has some knowledge about choke points and travel routes based on the real-world layout. In a fantasy game it’s all new, and probably needs extra help to get the player oriented.

          That said, I don’t have TW Warhammer yet, and those maps in the screenshots do look pretty busy. It might have been better going with a more abstract and less photo-realistic 3D campaign map, like the kind used in Endless Legend. That could have looked great done up in Warhammer style, and would have been more readable for strategic positioning.

    • rednettle says:

      +1

  9. Drib says:

    I didn’t mind the map in general in TWW, but I’ll admit to the problem with not knowing which terrain was slowing me down or what. It’s easy to say “oh, rugged or foresty”, but that’s basically all the terrain in warhammer.

  10. foszae says:

    I assumed Creative Assembly was trying to make the campaigns so awful that we’d all be relieved once they finally dropped them from the franchise. The core audience loves the battle simulator and there are dozens of more compelling 4X games for the minority to go play.

    • Sian says:

      Meanwhile, every time someone asks on the Steam forums why CA isn’t doing more for the multiplayer scene, they get a chorus answering them that the majority isn’t interested in that and prefers the campaigns. Since neither you nor they have offered any sort of evidence, I’ll say both sides are pulling their statements from unspeakable places.

      Edit: I should add that TW games are not comparable to 4X games – very different genres.

    • bills6693 says:

      Do they really? I for one would not play TW if it weren’t for the campaign. The battles are good when in context of the campaign, and with all the unique changes brought on by the campaign. Only having access to certain units to recruit, the unique traits and the skills and gear you’ve chosen for your lords/heroes, banners, experience gained over previous battles etc. Plus the fact that the result of the battle actually means something for your campaign.

      For me, just throwing an ‘ideal’ army of dwarves into a meatgrinder on a set map against an equal cost army of orks does not feel particulaly compelling or fun, probably because the armies are equalised, can use whatever units they want, and are not modified in unique and powerful ways by lords/heroes’ abilities and skills.

      • Landiss says:

        Have you ever played the old Warhammer: Dark Omen or its predecessor, Shadow of the Hornet Rat?

        I would gladly exchange the campaign from TW games to something similar to those old games style. It was simply a series of battles with some minor branches and just story cutscenes in between. It was perfect. I have replayed it last year I think and it aged gracefully, it’s still very playable and it still does some things better then TW games. It’s perhaps worth mentioned that the battles were scripted though, not everyone would like that, but I did. They are very varied and thanks to the scripting, AI is not as terrible as in TW, in general.

  11. Grimjowl says:

    I whole heartedly disagree with this article!

    Firstly in 1345 hours of play accross TW:W, TW:A, TW:R2, TW:S2, TW:N, and TW:E, and god only nows how many on TW:M2, TW:R, TW:M, and TW:S, I have never ‘lost’ an army in the campaign map. They have wacking great big flags which tend to stand out quite prominently on the game map.

    Secondly, the whole moving your army to find out your just in range of an enemy army… well thats called FOG OF WAR and has been a staple of any strategy game going back to the likes of DUNEII, the Grandfather of all modern stratagy games. Use agents to SCOUT! Also armies do stop when their paths are blocked by an enemy force that would alter the original path, so your just wrong on that account.

    Thirdly, the woods. TW:W does quite clearly demonstrate what routes are passable and which are not. Is short if you can see the ground abscent foliage its passable (See your own screenshots) as apposed to the denser forests which are impassable using standard march.

    Fourth, Land Bridges. You can tell straight away playing as the Empire that there is a Land Bridge to the north of Altdorf because when you click on Franz’s army his field of movement streches around and across it as it does with any paths across difficult/impassable terrain (again look at your own screenshots).

    Fith, movement penalties/attrition. I some what agree on this, as the map doesn’t obviously say “moving through here costs 2X your movement poit”, that is unless you read the tooltip for that area. But the attrition, any TW player knows that when moving an army you never just right-click to move an army to an unfamiliar destination. You hold it down so that you can see the planed path to the destination and if the planned route passes through an area of attrition ‘skull & cross-bones’ appear over the area along the route.

    Sixth, Skirting and zone of control. See above ‘Land Bridges’ (use the field of movement to see if its a fricking choke point) or if the zone of control is circuler/rounded on one or more sides i.e. not being blocked by impassable terrain then an enemy army can skirt round you.

    In short this article screams of either the author is a complete novice of any of the Total War franchise or someone who has seen a few screenshots of the games and drawn their own conclusions without really playing the game. As an avid player of the franchise and other grand-stratagy games, like EUIV, CIV2-6, Stellaris to name a few, this article has no merit what so ever and seems like a convinient smear job just a few hours from the releasse of ‘TW:W Old World edition’.

    • Landiss says:

      And as avid player of strategy games you still think the campaign map is easily readable and clear? I’m really puzzled, I thought noone would argue this. Of course it’s playable, especially if you are used to it, but even for veteran player some things are irritating.

      • Grimjowl says:

        I’d admit, it took me a few hours of playing TW:W to get use to some of the changes and differnet features as was the same between TW:M and TW:R, but then that’s the same with any new addition in a franchise. Sometimes, I’d like more info but then thats what the tooltips, the stratigic map, and mini-map are for. The tools are there you just need to use them.

        • Landiss says:

          That’s astonishing to me. While I didn’t really have any big troubles with the map or interface, in terms of not knowing how to do some things or not being able to do some things, I really think it’s very clumsy. Every information available in other map modes, with all the filters and so on, could easily be presented on one screen, together with the main map, without making it clumsy, if only they stepped away from the nice, “realistic” graphics.

          Would it really be worse if the map looked more like this:

          link to bibliotheque-imperiale.com

      • Archonsod says:

        I too have no problem reading the TW campaign maps at a glance. Mind you, I do tend to struggle with the Crusader Kings / Europa Universalis maps at times, so I suspect it’s probably something to do with visual processing more than anything else.

    • SaintAn says:

      You are correct. I don’t know what the writer of this article was thinking when they wrote this ignorant trash, but I lost even more respect for this site because of it. Just seems like sensationalist crap that belongs on Kotaku or one of the other blogs that don’t have gamers writing and are only interested in starting controversy for ad views.

      Now I’ll be reactivating my Adblocker and NoScript here as punishment.

      Shame on RPS and the people not calling them out on this, and worse, shame on the enablers just ignorantly agreeing and defending them.

  12. Ranvork Vartec says:

    -Sooo confuse. How the hell do you lose an army in the map? They have massive flags telling you where they are.
    -There also a nice Area of movement mark in bright yellow to show where they can go and a range meter like every total war game has yellow for same turn red for next turn blue for 3rd turn.
    Also graphics with the tree and mountains they been doing that for every total war game map. of course medevil total war has less so did first total game they are older games.
    -Game also have fog of war that hide enemy forces movement that is actually realistic unless you have an all seeing oracle telling you where enemy are 100% of time. If you do that that ruin the point of making a strategy on the campaign and be nothing but a series of skirmish.
    -Also not getting ambush? are you playing the game on easy? I get ambush by beastmen and greenskins forces all the time.

    Though I have to agree medevil TW was one of the best total war games I ever played mostly because it was a lot more complex with the campaign dealing with country, pope, and your family tree where losing a Noble can rely hurt instead of just buying generals like their units.

  13. Fiatil says:

    Count me among the confused!

    There is a button on the interface that opens up a nice list on the side that shows all of your armies, with leader portraits, and you can jump straight to them.

    If you forget to move one of your generals and end your turn, the game pops up a “Hey! We think you may have meant to move this unit, are you sure?”

    The armies all have giant flags sticking out of their backs. When you click on them, it pops up a big bright green circle that shows you exactly where they can move to.

    I have absolutely no idea what you mean with crossing rivers and not being able to tell what forests are passable — it has been visually incredibly obvious for me since the day I started playing. Passable rivers have a visual effect that shows where you can cross — you don’t need to hover over anything.

    Like, you’re complaining about stuff that at worst is confusing ONCE. Are light forests passable? Well, my cursor doesn’t turn red like it does with other impassable stuff, so……

    I guess this can be neatly lumped in with the factually incorrect Wot I Think of Total Warhammer that said most of your income will come from fake “bonus income” and that there is no real economy — something that is not true past like turn 5.

    • Denis Ryan says:

      There are a lot of comments to this effect, but as I mention in the article there’s a forces list for your own armies, sure, but not for the enemies which are often hidden by dramatic terrain features.

      I’m also incredulous that you can look at the passable forest beneath Grunberg, for instance, and say it’s visually distinct from the impassable forest with a straight face.

      • Fiatil says:

        Just checked, and I will give you that it is not super clear that the forest down there is passable — where it begins or ends as far as actual movement allowed.

        The disconnect is that you’re implying that it’s some sort of herculean chore to just hover your mouse over there. Like, any time you try to move an army you are by necessity moving your mouse cursor to that point. It either has a red X next to it or it does not. It’s also not really strategically significant, as it just expands the “path” a bit wider than it may look — you can’t go through any of the forests down there to take a shortcut or anything.

        I disagree that the sum total of that is a bad interface. The aesthetics would be pretty poor if you just had a sharp divide like HUGE FOREST = impassable, and much tinier forest = passable. I would much rather have the visual gradient — the campaign map is ultimately pretty “pathey”. There are paths between settlements, and a couple of exceptions where the forest may make you think the path is more narrow than it is, but not any instances I’ve seen where there will be a path where you think there is not a path.

        I also find the campaign map flags to be more than enough for identifying your armies and enemy armies. I guess agree to disagree on that point, as I don’t think the game would be better served with a list that lets you easily find every enemy army on the map.

  14. Imperialist says:

    It sure is unreadable. If you dont have eyes.

    While the gap between campaign and battle map has increased with the newer iterations of the series, at least back in Medieval 2, the campaign map and battle map shared the same geography, which led to far more diverse tactical options for placing your armies, where to defend, etc. Could it use a visual redesign? maybe. But i honestly cant fathom anyone who says Medieval 1’s campaign map was “the best in the series”. You could either place units in a region, or not. There were no tactical options available. You could not choose where to battle. Nor was it representative of the pseudo-realism that TW embraces. But please, if anything the campaign map needs to become MORE complicated, with more variables…because the more they keep peeling off the little details, the less replayable the campaign becomes. I guess you guys cant fathom EU4’s or CKII’s interface either? When did the learning capacity of a human being amount to “wow, i saw some words and icons, but i cant be bothered to figure out what they mean”.

  15. gi_ty says:

    This article, wow I don’t even know where to begin. I cannot see how any of the attempted points made by the author are even remotely supported in reality. The total war games have many faults map readability armies and movement are certainly not among them. If anything its far easier to lose track of an army or troops in Europa Civilization or even Endless Legend.
    As other commentators have pointed out movement legibility is obvious from the first time you select an army. Not only that but you can plan your routes easily. The part about armies magically blocked by surprise enemies, that literally cant happen unless they are behind a fog of war. This is exactly as it should be unless you want to play as some kind of omnipotent seer.
    All the complaints about not being able to hold down a choke point are easily resolved by clicking on you army! I really just cannot fathom how the author cAme to these conclusions other than being willfully ignorant. I’m not a raving fan of this series but i am really left baffled by this inane piece.

  16. punkass says:

    I haven’t plaid this iteration of Total War, so obviously take what I have to say with a pinch of salt, but…

    All the problems sited above come from imagining a pure, abstract version of the game, and saying that that isn’t possible.

    Being surprised by an enemy in the mountains, being unsure of which forests are passable, losing an enemy in the trees, not realising a river was fordable until an enemy does it? Those don’t sound like faults – those sound like great surprises to me, the kind of problems generals have in real life.

    I had a friend who was always angry when games contained randomness, when the rules could not be used to play the perfect game. Personally, I like to have a little grit in my oyster. I like to understand the systems, but fall down for human reasons. Partly it helps me ‘roleplay’ it better, and partly, humans have such an advantage over the AI generally, it’s nice to be tripped up by basic human carelessness.

    Having said all that, the interface could be particularly dogshit on this release, and everything I’ve said above might be nonsense.

  17. Jekadu says:

    Started playing just two days ago and the campaign map has been my biggest issue so far with the game. It feels like the designers were unaware that the game plays like a real-time Heroes of Might and Magic game yet still managed to come close enough to the look-and-feel of one that it just leaves you frustrated.

    It’s a lovingly crafted game alright, but the UI and the way the player interfaces with the game in general leaves a lot to be desired.

  18. MarcusR says:

    I’m honestly not sure what the author is talking about in almost all of this article. The one problem I’ve had with the map so far is that the yellow/gold colouring of the movement indicator clashes somewhat with white snow on both campaign and battle map. Literally everything else he said just seems categorically wrong to me.

    When moving characters you can see the pathways they can take, it’s glaringly obvious when you hold down the move button when the large arrow demonstrates that pathway. At a half-second’s glance, no, you may not be able to tell which forest is impassable or not, but this is why they give you that power by simply holding down the right mouse button. The right click even shows which areas will give you attrition if you move there, helping you plan ahead your movements. After about ten minutes of playing the pathways become evident unless you’re not paying any attention at all.

    This is also true of the river crossings. If you move directly across it takes more movement. If you cross at a bridge it takes less. There are places to ford the river that are visually noted on the map. Yes you may not realise that until you or someone else crosses them to attack you but after the first time it happens it becomes very clear. You literally described the experience of learning how it works, how is this bizarelly cryptic. It’s part of gameplay experience to see surprising things, and in this case if you hadn’t noticed the crossings then you get an organic experience of seeing someone doing it and discovering that new element.

    I have no earthly idea how the author managed to lose track of enemy armies, let alone his own at any point that required him to search for them on the forces list. Putting aside the fact that (as many have pointed out already) the giant flags are a dead giveaway and are even colour coded for you, there’s also a big “Next” button you can click on any of your characters to help you cycle through them all. The idea of losing an army behind the terrain baffles me as well, it doesn’t seem physically possible unless you try and do it on purpose by zooming all the way in and even then it’s difficult.

    If this were a discussion of how players interact differently with certain interfaces I would have given it some credence, but the article is very badly attempting to say that the campaign map in this game is essentially unusable and/or unreadable. The author didn’t say “I cannot grasp this visual style”, they’re writing objectively about something they don’t know how to use. Mostly the author seems to dislike the idea of learning how to play a new game and retain that information. I draw this conclusion only because almost all of his complaints are negated by the basic mechanics that exist within the game, which most players learn to use within the first few turns of their first campaign, then very effectively by the end of it. Yes, CA could have signposted things even more than they already have but then they’d just be holding your hand the whole way through. The whole attitude of the article just says “Please don’t make me learn anything”.

    There’s a lot of information to take in at first with any of the Total War games but you don’t need to be a savant to work it all out. Once you get past those initial hurdles (just as with most games) it doesn’t become very complicated. It’s all there right in front of you and clearly labeled for any bits you don’t intuit.

    I’m completely open to the fact that some people can’t work with certain visual styles. I found Borderlands’ visual style difficult to look at and a little much for my eyes at times. That was my subjective experience but I’m aware other people are totally fine with it. Yet when the author says “it’s often difficult to figure out where your armies are and where they can move” I have to call that objectively untrue unless you either have your eyes closed or simply can’t fathom the art style or basic mechanics of the game.

    I’m aware I’ve been slightly passive-aggressive in this response but I cannot believe this article got past an editorial process. It either needed serious re-working as a piece or fact checking to be done in this style.

  19. broadsword050 says:

    I had to create an account with this site just to voice my opinion. No idea why this article showed up on steam, but that’s why I’m here.

    The campaign map is BEAUTIFUL and just like ANY strategy game, it can take a little getting used to. Is it perfect, no, but this entire article which basically amounts to bitching, is pretty disappointing. These opinionated articles are so very sad… That’s what comments like these are for!

    There is NO doubt that the campaign map could use some improvements, i’m not denying that fact. But it sounds to me, like the author (no offense buddy) just doesn’t have a good grasp of how the campaign mechanics work.

    Yet another highly opinionated game/news article… Kind of like this comment! This should NOT show up on the games’ steam library news section… So very disappointing. And the Title of this article is some serious bullshit.

  20. Landiss says:

    “No idea why this article showed up on steam, but that’s why I’m here.”

    Ahhh, so that’s why we have this horde of angry fans of the game… While being featured in steam is a blessing for RPS in terms of getting more readers, it’s also a curse.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      Yeah, something similar happened in the comment section of USGamer for their review of Horizon Zero Dawn because they dared to score it below the positive general consensus.

      However I kinda have to agree with some of the dissenting points, all armies have the giant flags above them, for example, unless they are in ambush stance and hidden.

      While I too, lament the simpler maps of Medieval Total War, and pray for a return to them over the 3D maps, that is more to do with the annoyance of chasing AI armies around which is simply not fun (thankfully there are mods to resolve this).

      The movement indicator around your army, when clicked on, shows exactly where and how far you can move in any given direction. Maybe I am more accepting, but I am happy to infer from this that I can’t cross an area, and if that area has woods covering it, I can make the deduction myself.

  21. Boozebeard says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever lost an enemy army or struggled to pick them out on the map, not really sure what you’re on about there (and I played the first hundred hours or so exclusively as dwarfs). In terms of movement, that can be a bit fiddly, best practice is to always hold down right click and then drag the cursor around to see exactly where you can and cant get to and what path the unit is going to take before committing to a movement. Overall though I’ve had very little trouble reading the campaign map and I’ve not really heard much complaint about it from others. I personally would be pretty sad to see the fidelity of the campaign map reduced, I think it looks great.

    Oh one thing that always gets me though is rivers. I do wish they would make rivers and bridges larger or more obvious in someway, they are incredibly impactful on your movement (taking an entire turns worth of movement to cross) and are often fairly small and not very distinctive.

  22. Gelor says:

    I have played Total War Warhammer over 200 hours and I never ever had any problems with the campaign map so this article surprises me completely. Honestly I thought that the campaign is extremely clear in presenting information. Even bit simplistic in many regards. I never had any trouble with forgetting where my armies are or how far can they move. I mean if you have trouble of knowing where your armies are then look at the armies list. You can also easily see the movement range by just simply clicking the army. Mountains were immediately obvious to me. If you don’t plays as Dwarfs or Greenskins then you move slowly in the mountains as indicated by your movement range. And if you want to know whether that forest is passable or not then select an army and move your cursor over the terrain. It will become different if it is not passable.

    I have played Total War since Rome 1 and even then I had no problems whatsoever. It’s funny because I see people complaining that the game is “too casual”. And now some people complain that is not “casual enough”. That Total war should go back to the 2d campaign map which is a ridiculous idea. I guarantee that there would be LOT of people upset about that.

  23. masterful.bilb.ono says:

    This article has been bathed in the QQ of a petulant rookie.

    Even admitting that they lose track of armies brings shame upon their family. They then outdo themselves by blaming the game for their bungling ineptitude. Shamefur dispray!

    I love the strategic map. In the year of our lord two thousand and seventeen, it is good to have a 3d map. I’m not running Windows Abacus on an Etch-A-Sketch, I don’t want to see some cheap 2d nonsense.

  24. Ivelios says:

    This kind of article is why you should have someone who actually plays the game make your review. ffs, I normally err on the side of polite, but whoever wrote this article is simply an idiot. There are additional features that he clearly had no idea about that would resolve any of the issues he had as far as being able to find armies – friendly or enemy – such as pressing Tab to bring up an overlay that gives you, guess what: an extra-simplified overview of where any agent, army, etc. is on the map. Instead of using that feature, or learning how to find extraordinarily easy to find objects, he just whined and moaned about how the game isn’t Civ VI like he wanted. I don’t know what crappy computer he must’ve had to make things blend together, as I have never had any difficulty finding *anything* in *any* total war game, and my old computer was more or less a glorified toaster.

    I hope this post is satire, or if not, that the creator gets prescription glasses. Otherwise, I fear for his inability to realize where he is in any given moment, likely resulting in a fatal accident because he couldn’t see he was walking into traffic.

  25. mariandavid says:

    As far as I am concerned this article though written with style and panache is nonsense: I have never had the slightest issue with finding either armies, or cities or lords playing any side. There are issues with the game but this one – if it exists – is eminently trivial.

  26. arnoldve11 says:

    I am going to have to disagree with this entire article. I have logged nearly 500hrs in this game playing all races excepting Empire and Orcs. I have not once come across any of the problems that have been listed in this article.

    Click on a unit and it highlights where they can move to, hover your mouse over pieces of terrain and it will show whether or not you can move there. Use the army tab to show the location of your armies, rotate the map if you need to. Simply put if you play the game the way it is supposed to be played by taking time to scout and plan, all the “issues” raised by this article are not there.

    As with any game, the more you play the easier it gets.