Revisiting and rating Total War: Warhammer and its DLC

Since launching last year, Total War: Warhammer’s [official site] digital facsimile of Games Workshop’s weird fantasy universe has grown considerably. The Old World’s become nice and fat with new factions, campaigns, units and mechanics, and now it’s finished. So this is a pretty good time to jump in, especially if you’ve been holding out for every piece of DLC. But oh no! There’s so much of it! If you get the wrong one, you might never forgive yourself. That’s why you’d best stick with me to find out which ones are crackers and which are stinkers.

Chaos Warriors

Price: £5.99/$7.99

The Chaos Warriors race pack was originally a pre-order bonus, which means that it deserves a few eyerolls and maybe a tut-tut, but it’s also quite good. Picking this up means that you get to go marauding around the Old World with a giant horde of blokes wearing spiky armour. They’re accompanied by twin-headed dragons, the line-shattering Gorebeast Chariot and the Hellcannon, which is a devastating piece of demonic artillery. There’s no dearth of fun units to play with.

Being a horde faction means that you don’t get fixed cities – everything gets packed up when you break camp – so you don’t need to worry about defending your territory, allowing you to focus entirely on fighting, raiding and spreading the corrupting influence of Chaos. If you care more about battles than you do about your economy, diplomacy or building an empire, then Chaos is for you. And you’re getting to play as the villains, the big threat that everyone else in the world is preparing for. It’s empowering and even more pronounced than it was in Total War: Attila, where the Huns filled a similar role.

However! A lot of what makes this faction great is replicated and built on by the meatier Beastmen DLC, and even if you don’t grab the Chaos Warriors, they will still be in the game as your adversaries.

Verdict: Optional

Blood for the Blood God

Price: £1.99/$2.99

No. Bad Creative Assembly. Go to your room with no dinner. This is the sort of rubbish that gives DLC its poor reputation. It’s a pack that adds blood and gore to the game. That’s it. Keeping it out of the base game is probably what allowed Warhammer to get a lower age rating, but players shouldn’t have to pay to put the gore back in again.

Verdict: Avoid

Call of the Beastmen

Price: £13.99/$18.99

Call of the Beastmen adds both the eponymous animal blokes and a diverting mini-campaign. They share traits with both Greenskins and the Chaos Warriors, with the horde and Chaos corruption mechanics of the former and the Waaagh! mechanics of the latter, but they’re more than just a hybrid. For every similarity there’s another quirk that makes them feel like a meaningful addition to the campaign.

The Beastmen boast some powerful melee units and they love nothing better than to charge into battle, horns primed, but they also get to use some Chaos units as well, making their roster quite broad. And despite their ultra-aggressive nature, they’re surprisingly sneaky. Ambush is their normal stance on the campaign map, they can move through secrets routes in the forests, and when they need to get more units or erect new buildings, they can set up temporary hidden camps.

An Eye for an Eye, the mini-campaign, pits them against the Empire in a bespoke map that’s full of forests perfect for skulking around in. The Beastmen are surrounded by the Empire and vastly outnumbered, but through guerrilla warfare and dark rites they can carve a path through their enemies. It’s battle after battle, from small skirmishes the epic clashes, blessed with an unwavering forward momentum.

Verdict: Must-buy

The Grim and the Grave

Price: £5.99/$7.99

The Grim and the Grave gives the Empire and Vampire Counts some extra love – quite a lot of extra love, in fact. With this DLC, you get two new Legendary Lords, more regular Lords, some very fancy units and even a new tier of elite warriors.

Both of the Legendary Lords can be handy, each providing a decent buff to their respective armies, though the undead Helman Ghorst’s army-wide casualty replenishment bonus feels much more effective than that of his Empire counterpart, Volkmar the Grim, who makes a specific unit, the Flagellant, cheaper and stronger. Volkmar does get to travel around on a mobile religious altar, mind you, which is sort of impressive.

There’s enough new stuff in here to warrant another playthrough as either faction, so this isn’t just for first-timers, but it’s definitely the Legendary Lords, with their new quests and abilities, who are the real draw. This is what Warhammer does really well, making heroic units the linchpin in an army, and it’s the sort of DLC that you’d never really see in another Total War. The new units are a mixed bag, however, some filling in gaps, others just taking up space, while the elites have hardly any impact at all.

Verdict: Optional

The King and the Warlord

Price: £5.99/$7.99

Despite costing the same as The Grim and the Grave and being pitched as another “Lords pack”, The King and the Warlord is so much more. Effectively, it adds two new, extremely challenging factions to the campaign, along with more units and Lords for the pre-existing factions.

Clan Angrund is a second Dwarf faction obsessed with reclaiming their ancestral fortress, Karak Eight Peaks. For good reason, too, as they suffer a major penalty when they aren’t holding it, making this objective considerably more desperate than most of Warhammer’s quests. As well as getting the units and buildings that the other Dwarves get, they can also fight alongside the spirits of their ancestors – yes, ghost Dwarves – and a selection of new ranged units.

Crooked Moon is a Greenskin faction full of Goblins, also looking to conquer the fortress of Karak Eight Peaks for similar reasons. While you can still field Orcs and Orgres, this DLC marks the first time you can also create an army full of Goblins that won’t get crushed immediately. They’re a lot more versatile, but the only thing you really need to know is that, finally, you can slaughter your enemies with Squigs, the noblest of all hideous beasties.

Verdict: Must-buy

Realm of the Wood Elves

Price: £13.99/$18.99

Realm of the Wood Elves introduces, not surprisingly, the Wood Elf faction (two of them, actually) and a solid mini-campaign, and the whole package is as odd as is it is great. See, the Elves don’t feel like your typical Total War faction, and getting to grips with them takes a lot of time and perseverance.

Elves melt in the face of a direct confrontation. Small in number and hollow of bone, they are all about hit-and-run tactics, fleeing from danger and striking from the forest. Their strength is their incredible ranged units, most of which can fire and move at the same time, making them terrifying until they run out of ammunition. But they require more micro-management than any other faction in this game and, perhaps, any in the Total War series.

Outside of battle, there’s a whole new economy system to learn, built around the acquisition of amber through diplomacy and conquest. Making alliances gets you more amber, while conquest is arguably easier but also riskier. This kind of friction is what the Elves are all about. In battle, for instance, they must be both sneaky and aggressive, but on the campaign map, they have to be incredibly defensive, protecting the Oak of Ages, which is part of their unique victory condition. They’re a strange and tricky dichotomy, but the most fascinating faction in the game.

Verdict: Must-buy

Free DLC

Price: Nothing, silly!

Creative Assembly put out quite a lot of free DLC, mostly new Lords, but this culminated in the game’s final piece of DLC: Bretonnia. They’ve been in the game since launch, but in the campaign they were only ever AI opponents until recently. And their low, low price of nothing belies the fact that they’re a very solid faction, equal to the premium ones.

Their hook, beyond the many knights in their armours, lies in the feudal and chivalry systems. The bulk of Bretonnia’s armies is made up of peasants who would mostly be farmers if they weren’t being flung into the meat grinder of war. Once your army reaches a certain size – determined by how large your empire is – your economy starts to suffer because there aren’t enough people working the fields. It’s an interesting wrinkle that forces you to make sacrifices if you want to keep a war going, and it ties empire management to warfare in an organic, logical way.

The chivalry system forces you to be less of a dick that you otherwise might in Warhammer. Be nice to the other Bretonnian kingdoms, don’t sack settlements, choose the noble options during events and win heroic battles – that’s the path of chivalry. And there are benefits, like gaining greater control over your serfs or being able to call on the Green Knight for assistance during battle. It’s all a bit novel in a game where my natural instinct is to watch the world burn.

Verdict: Free stuff is lovely

And that’s your lot! There’s very little here that isn’t worth your consideration and plenty that you really shouldn’t play without. Total War: Warhammer was good at launch, but over the last year it’s grown into one of Creative Assembly’s strongest games. £45 on top of the base game is not an insignificant cost, however, so I recommend starting with something like The King and the Warlord, which nets you the most bang for your buck, before moving on to the more expensive faction DLCs.

48 Comments

  1. Silent_Thunder says:

    From a financial standpoint, I really can’t justify reccomending TW:WH to anyone at this SPECIFIC moment. That reason being that, while a good game, the sequel is coming out soon. Which means, especially as this entry is meant to stitch together with the sequel into a mega campaign, I can’t help but feel some sort of price slash discount is on the hoirzon to help the launch hype, so really you’d be better off waiting. If there is the price drop, you just saved a bunch of money, and if not, well, now you have the option of choosing which of the 2 WH games you want to plonk your dosh on.

    • jeremyalexander says:

      Yeah, but that is only the second part of a trilogy. So if you want to play the game, but follow your advice it would be years before all the games ad DLC were out, then discounted, then a GOTY edition put together, then wait for that to be discounted, that would be quite a wait.

    • SaintAn says:

      They canceled their plans about the games fitting together. They’re now all single separate games. They’ll release another map sometime after the sequel that has these two games together, and they’ve made a bunch of promises about it, but with it releasing at an unknown time after the sequel it sounds like a lie to get people to buy the games, especially since they lied before about it when marketing the first game before launch.

      I never had a problem with the DLC because the DLC gets added to the game if you don’t own it, improving it for those that don’t buy. And yes, it really has improved the base game a ton since launch. Seriously compare the game at launch and the current state of the game and you can see a massive improvement for everyone (you can do this by switching the game to the first patch on Steam in the game options under Beta). The way they packaged their DLC in big expansion sized bundles of content that you don’t even need unless you want it for a race you’re wanting to play is wonderful, since it’s not game changing stuff that you need like Paradox’s shitty DLC policy that everyone praises. So the whining about DLC makes no sense to me. It’s high quality, high quantity, fairly priced, optional, and it gets added to the game for free to fight. That is the most fair DLC I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’m very against DLC in games, but this game actually has the best DLC model that doesn’t make me feel like I’m being scammed, but people shit all over it, and those same people then go spend hundreds of dollars on microtransactions in scam games and defending those payment models (I’ve seen this).

      The Reddit sub moderators are power abusing alt-right supporters and homophobes, and CA still uses that sub for PR and works with the mods to improve stuff, so I say fuck CA and boycott the games and DLC, but do it for the right reasons and not because of the DLC being the only good DLC model in gaming.

      • meloncrab says:

        Holy shit you’re fucking insane.

        • HoganAhoy says:

          The bitter irony is this is the same crowd the complains at the drop of a hat about politics! in their video games. Does not stop them from doing the old bait and switch and injecting crazy political comments in their game critiques.

          • HoganAhoy says:

            Oh this is where noun strings get confusing. I thought you were complaining about moderators power-abusing alt-right-supporters. Not that the moderates were power-abusing-alt-right-supporters. Well that is a different kettle of fish then and my comment makes no sense. Carry on everyone, nothing to see here.

          • Unclepauly says:

            I read it the same way. I thought the alt right was being power abused. keksimus

      • Sly-Lupin says:

        After the pile of shit that was Rome 2 I’m all for saying “fuck off” to Creative assembly and not buying any of their DLC-whoring games. But I had no idea they were chummy with the alt-right gaming crowd. Well, a “double fuck you” to them, then.

        • Dunbine says:

          You’re seriously taking some rando’s word on that?

          • Widgetmaker says:

            Spend any time there and it becomes pretty clear that the mods are fawning in their support of the bs excessive dlc model CA now have and are quite happy having (as are the vote counts) far right memes being posted.

            It used to feel like the kind of community that plays paradox games, now it feels more like the kind community which think gg is legit.

        • Unclepauly says:

          Good Lord, so quick to jump down throats there.

        • GeminiathXL says:

          Did you just flip the finger to the best Total War game in history?

          Well alright, back to your “I hate you for Rome 2” corner then. I’m sure it’s all feel-good there.

      • Vayra says:

        The hell did I just read? Your rant started off so well, and in the end it’s again just the typical Reddit/Youtube parrot that really needs to go outside for once in his life.

        Also, stop touching that copy/paste button and try making up your own mind for once instead of aping 15 year olds.

      • Floki says:

        Ummm No. They didn’t cancel the plans of the games fitting together similar to Empire. They only pushed it off from release to be an update later. Not a big deal, let it be perfected.

  2. zal says:

    Putting the politics of charging for blood DLC aside, it is a great buy at $1.99

    You might think, how important can some blood be, but when you see someone get hit by a giant boulder or grabbed and shaken by a dragon, only to fly to the side and lie still like a GI Joe trooper that missed his cue, you will realize the worth of it.

    Tastes may vary, but it makes for far more spectacular battles, which the Total War series (and this installment most of all) is about.

    • wodin says:

      I agree..not going to cut my nose of to spite my face..swallow your morals and pay up as it’s not going to break your bank really is it?

    • Unclepauly says:

      Right? I saw the price and thought, “yeah I don’t want to pay for blood, but, damn do I want blood” Just one of those things where they got me by the balls.

  3. jeremyalexander says:

    I wish people would let the Blood and Gore thing go. They have to release it that way to get the rating down to expand sales. And they have to charge for it because if it is a free official download it will not count and again they would have to ship with a mature rating. Should it be 3 dollars, I don’t know. I don’t know if it has to be a certain amount or percentage of the product, but they have to charge for it. It’s completely optional so just deal with it.

    • TimePointFive says:

      They should just donate the proceeds to the Red Cross.

    • shde2e says:

      If that’s the case, they should’ve just made it free DLC.

      And if they can’t get away with that, make it the cheapest steam allows (about 0.5 euro I think)

      • Floki says:

        That is what they are charging more or less. .5 Euro is just shy of 1.50 USD.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      If the only reason they did it is to avoid a rating, and they must charge for the DLC in order for it to not count as part of the main game, they could certainly have opted to charge less.

      I don’t care that much. I mean, with previous incarnations I just waited until it was on sale and got it for next to nothing. As I do with pretty much every visual/aesthetic DLC. But let’s not pretend like CA wasn’t perfectly happy to find a ‘safely profitable’ price point on something that really should’ve been in the game to begin with.

  4. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    For the record, the Wood Elves are almost two factions in one. Your choice of Legendary Lord determines whether you will represent the Wood Elves, squishy archers and specialists who need to deploy hit and run tactics, or Argwylen, mighty tree-men who reinforce their ranks with giant eagles and powerful dragons to go marching head-first into the fray. Each side has access to units of the other, but are restricted by the Wood Elves’ peculiar resource system.

  5. gi_ty says:

    I have been a TW fan since medieval. Even in those good old days I wished for a fantasy version with powerful hero characters and magic. TWW nails it, I love this game. The DLC is pretty solid across the board, but I only bought pieces when I felt like trying a new unique faction or lord. I have yet to buy or try beastmen chaos or elves. All the others though get a hearty recommend from me.

  6. SaintAn says:

    “Keeping it out of the base game is probably what allowed Warhammer to get a lower age rating,”

    I’ve looked at the ESRB and never saw any rules about DLC having to cost money to be considered DLC. So that’s not true for the US. Not sure why no sites have actually researched that lie and made a article about it calling out CA on their BS. DoW 2 has blood DLC that costs money and it’s already Mature rated, so it just shows how BS that lie is.

    • gi_ty says:

      Your logic doesn’t quite add up there if DoW2 is already M rated then the DLC adding blood would make no change to the ESRB rating. So that is no evidence in support of your argument. However if you open the steam page for the DLC you get the inappropriate content alert, which is not present for the game itself. So it sounds to me like your the one spreading the BS. Probably why no site bothered to mention it since it took me 2 minutes to evaluate.

      • Landiss says:

        Arguments from both of you are logically false.

        1) The fact that another game is rated for mature and has a paid blood DLC does not mean the blood DLC could be free for the game to still get lower age rating. Those facts are not connected.

        2) The fact that the DLC has alert about rating does not mean it has to be paid to not affect the rating of the game. You would need to find a case where adding a free DLC affected the game’s rating.

        I would add from myself that:

        3) remember the case in GTA where they had some naked ladies or something, available after activating some cheat in game? I think it even required some download (I’m not sure and it actually might be important). They lost in court even though that content was not available normally in the game.

        4) Even if the DLC has to be paid to not affect rating of the game, it doesn’t have to be priced like it is in this case. It could very well could be $0.5. They would do it if they really did it only because of the rating. This makes it obvious to me that they did it for money. And if they did it for money, they are not really entitled to use the rating argument, in my opinion.

        • gi_ty says:

          I agree that it is unclear about whether or not these things have to be gated by some cost. The point I was trying to make is that it certainly changes the rating. I can only recall them saying that they make them as a separate DLC for ratings purposes and didn’t say that it had to have a cost (I would be happy to be proven wrong in this case if someone wants to bother) and in addition to that $2 is a very small amount for even a small cosmetic change such as this.

          • Floki says:

            All arguments are invalid. Since the ESRB isn’t even a real regulating body. There is no requirement to hold to them or anything of the sort. It was created by businesses and ran by the same.

  7. Imperialist says:

    So…hold on a sec. Both The King and the Warlord, and Grim and the Grave are essentially DLC’s that fit the same exact role: New LLs, and buffing the rosters of two existing factions. K&W Adds two “new factions” that are really just different starting locations, but thats really it. And that is the difference between optional and must buy? Both should be optional. In fact id argue that G&G is a better piece of DLC overall, with better unit additions.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      You obviously don’t appreciate Squigs enough.

    • Landiss says:

      Different starting position makes for a completely different beginning (perhaps 1/3) of the campaign. It really mixes things up. You fight different enemies at different stages of the game (=meaning with different army compositions) compared to the original starting location. IMO it really adds variety.

    • Dunbine says:

      The King and the Warlord is the one piece of DLC I would unreservedly recommend. And the Grim and The Grave would be at (or near) the bottom of the list.

      My favourite TW campaign of all time was playing as Clan Angrund (from the King and the Warlord). An epic uphill battle, it was really dramatic at times. In fact, it was the only TW campaign that I’ve ever played to “completion”, and I’ve been play TW since Rome 1.

  8. Sardonic says:

    I still can’t shake the feeling it’s been downhill since Shogun 2. The systems just never came together for me in TW Warhammer or Rome 2.

    • shde2e says:

      I often feel like their systems are simultaneously too thin and flat, and too complex and turgid.

    • DarkFenix says:

      I’d certainly agree that Rome 2 was a big step backwards from Shogun 2, but I’d argue that for every way in which Warhammer shares that flaw, it does at least make up for it by making an improvement in another area.

      But I’d say that Shogun 2 is where the game’s systems reached their pinnacle, if they gave Medieval 2’s sieges and Warhammer’s faction variety to Shogun 2, I think we’d be looking at the perfect game.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      They seem to be like Windows versions. Every other game is good.

      Rome 2 was problematic, but Attila kinda took the scope and theme and knocked it out of the park.

      Empire, also problematic, but Napoleon, again, iterated and refined it until it was pretty great.

      Shogun 2 is a great benchmark but it’s not the most fun I’ve had playing Total War. Honestly I probably had the most fun with Attila. I haven’t tried Warhammer yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Warhammer 2 is going to be pretty great.

      • bills6693 says:

        I’d have to say it’s also a big part personal preference. For example the most fun I had in TW before Warhammer came along was in Empire. I felt like napoleon took the campaign in a direction I didn’t enjoy as much and the shogun 2 took big steps backwards across the board, removing or changing a lot of mechanics I really liked in both campaign and battles that had been in Empire. I then didn’t really like Rome 2 or Atilla but have found Warhammer has actually brought the game in a much better direction and although I still miss some of the Empire mechanics I like the additions in WH enough that it’s surpassed it overall for me in many ways.

        I know that’s just my subjective experience but I guess the games really appeal to different people in different ways, there isn’t a total consensus on what people enjoy from them, and it’s probably good that they are apparently working on both a WH2 and historical game simultaneously so more people get what they are after.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Shogun 2 is still the high point for me too. I tried to like Rome 2, even after all the fixes, but it still had too many problems on the campaign level. I bought Attila and it’s better, but it’s not a historical period I’m especially interested in, so I haven’t spent much time with it.

      And then there’s this Warhammer thing. I should give it a shot, but I’m just not sure I can get into the fantasy setting. Not that I’m against fantasy per se, but I don’t have any real history with this Warhammer stuff. A sale would help, so I’ll probably wait for that.

      • napoleonic says:

        I too thought I wouldn’t be able to get into the fantasy setting, and knew nothing of Warhammer, but I’ve enjoyed it greatly. It’s a shame you missed the £12 Humble Bundle offer a few months back.

  9. Koshelkin says:

    The problem with most Total War games is that the campaign gameplay is very shallow. It has great battles but the political/strategical play on the map is repetitive and dull for the most part.

    After so many years of progressing almost nothing in Total War they could finally take a closer look at the gameplay on the campaign map and make it more varied to play.

    • Rack says:

      Compunding this is the battle map gameplay is largely irrelevant. How badly will this army of 30,000 elites squash these 20 farmers? Does it matter enough to spend 10 minutes making sure you only lose 1 troop instead of maybe 2?

  10. Hyena Grin says:

    TW:W has been on my radar for a year. It’s always nice hearing mixed things about a game you kind of want to play, because it makes it easier to hold off.

    I think I’m gonna wait until there’s a big sale (probably the steam summer sale) and give it a shot then. I’m assuming that with TW Warhammer II announced and on the way, they’ll probably drop prices more than they have in the past. Here’s hoping, anyway.

  11. rb207 says:

    I am not sure about the DLC price model. I wasnt intially keen on TW Warhammer however having been forced to play it because its the only TW game my brother plays, I have grown to like it. The Warhammer characters and units really add something.

    Total war Attila is still better though and i am looking forward to more historical fare.

    About the DLC model, the game is massive there is enough to keep you occupied without any DLC now. This game is 2x as big as some other similarly priced games, if it is a way to finance a game as good as this perhaps it is justified.

  12. wodin says:

    The best thing for me hasn’t been some DLC but a mod. The Spectator mod has made TW Warhammer for me.

  13. naetharu says:

    If anyone is interested I’m trying to get some folks together for some multiplayer battles of this right now. I’m very new to this game (and Total War in general) but the online battles are great fun from the few I have tried.

    For more details check out the thread on the forums here: link to rockpapershotgun.com