Wot I Think: Total War – Warhammer 2

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In three more turns, the ritual will be complete, and I’ll be one step closer to controlling the Vortex that holds the forces of Chaos at bay. In two more turns, Skaven and Chaos armies will be at the gates. I’m surrounded. By land and sea they arrive, this howling mass of warped warriors and chittering rat-men. Army, after army, after army, all attempting to stop the ritual. Total War: Warhammer 2 [official site] is a race, and it’s an utterly savage one.

From the safety of the other side of that campaign I can tell you that I survived. Just. Reinforcements made it in time, slaughtering the rats and warriors by their hundreds. It was touch and go for a bit, though, which is fairly typical of Creative Assembly’s bloodthirsty sequel.

Warhammer 2 is massive but like the best Total Wars – Shogun 2, Attila and post-DLC Warhammer – it’s blessed with a focus that keeps the titanic scale of the campaign and battles from becoming too exhausting. Previous games in the series have found focus in different ways – Attila uses the devastation wrought by the Huns, while Shogun 2 uses its limited landmass – and those that haven’t directed the players’ experience at least a little have often collapsed under their own weight.

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With Warhammer 2, Creative Assembly have found a way to have their cake and eat it too. It’s one of, if not the, largest and most complex game in the series’ history, but it’s also one of the most focused.

This is largely down to the non-traditional main campaign. Typically, the launch of a new Total War is accompanied by a new grand campaign, a huge sandbox with limited direction. With Warhammer 2, we get the Vortex campaign instead. While its scale is that of a grand campaign, it’s more directed, complete with shared objectives that dramatically change the flow of the game. And most surprising, it comes with a proper story, told through lavish cutscenes.

Instead of being a straightforward domination game, Warhammer 2 has two paths to victory. The first one is closer to what you’ll probably be used to: beat the crap out of everyone and take over the world. The second objective makes things much more interesting. At the heart of the High Elf realm sits a large maelstrom, the campaign’s titular Vortex. Created by the Elves, it stops Chaos from leaking into their world. But it’s been weakened, and each of the four playable factions is in a race take control over it for their own reasons.

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To gain mastery over the Vortex, each faction must gather up Vortex currency by establishing new settlements, completing quests and constructing unique, very rare buildings in specific locations. Then, five rituals must be completed, each costing a large amount of currency. And this is where things start to get a little more complicated.

When the ritual kicks off, three settlements are selected, and they become ritual sites. For ten turns, those sites must be protected, and that’s not easy. See, everyone knows when a ritual has started, so there’s a good chance that the other factions will intervene. They might send some armies, but they might also spend gold on a one-off army that will spawn right next to one of the sites. And while this is going on, the forces of Chaos decide to pop in to say hello. And also to murder.

Performing those rituals is the most stressful situation I’ve encountered in a Total War game, and it happens at least five times a game, each attempt being more challenging than the last. There’s potential for every major and minor faction in the world to get involved, and that guarantees the absurdly huge, dramatic battles that Total War does so well, while injecting some delightfully tricky encounters into every playthrough.

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No part of Warhammer 2 has been left untouched by the Vortex. Missions, battles, conquest – they all serve to get you closer to taking its power for yourself. It’s the change in pace that feels like the most notable change, however. The first Warhammer provided plenty of missions, and the threat of the Chaos invasion, but ultimately it was still a game about gobbling up land. Not because huge, sprawling empires were better or even more fun to play, but because that was simply the end goal.

With domination now optional, so much busywork has been cut out. Take my Dark Elf campaign, for example. As the Dark Elf leader Malekith, I started in the north of a continent full of houses of my own race. In the previous game, the first order of business would probably involve uniting all of these houses before directing my anger outwards. In Warhammer 2, that’s not necessarily an efficient use of time or resources.

Sure, each additional settlement comes with benefits: more cash, faster recruitment, lots of unique buildings. Conquering cities is still very much part of the game and is generally a good idea, but a more objective-based approach is also required. So after conquering only my immediate neighbours, I used diplomacy with an eye towards seducing the other Dark Elves into a confederation, while I focused on more important matters. Like preparing for the rituals.

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With that in mind, I picked my targets carefully. Settlements with buildings that could generate Vortex currency were at the top of my list, but they were accompanied by quests that offered magical items, cash and even more Vortex currency. These RPG-flavoured missions are more frequent than in the last game, and they’ve also been given considerably more context through important characters and story beats. Warhammer 2 doubles down by introducing treasure hunting and dungeon delving, too.

Littered throughout the land and sea are wrecks, ruins and caves that can be explored in brief Choose Your Own Adventures. The results are too random and adventures too slight, but they undoubtedly encourage exploration and, more importantly, make it more likely that you’ll bump into an enemy army or one of the neutral rogue warbands that wander across the map.

It’s a lovely map to explore, full of vibrant tropical jungles, striking frigid wastes and pleasant forests. Not sure I’d recommend a visit to the Chaos corrupted lands, mind you. The campaign map’s diversity means the battle locales are more varied as well, and not just in terms of aesthetics. Battles in the last game largely took place on very simple, flat maps. These made fights a lot easier to read, but at the cost of being tactically interesting. There are still of lot of them in Warhammer 2, unfortunately, but there are also a fair number of choke points, thick forests, river crossings, cliffs and large hills. Geography plays a much greater role, adding more meaningful decisions and thrilling clashes to battles. Desperately holding the high ground or defending a causeway against a tide of foes is always going to be more entertaining than smashing armies together on a featureless plain.

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Focus is maintained, despite all of these quests, fights and treasure hunts, because the game constantly reinforces the importance of controlling the Vortex. A meter that shows every faction’s progress sits at the top of the screen, while notifications pop up whenever one of them starts or finishes a ritual. It’s a layer of pressure that never goes away.

It might be the best campaign that Creative Assembly’s ever made, but there’s something to be said for the total sandbox, set-your-own-goals approach of the typical grand campaign. I’m left wondering if this might have an impact on the Vortex’s replayable appeal, though after two playthroughs I’m certainly not sick of it yet. If that changes, then I hope it won’t be until after the launch of Mortal Empires, the mega campaign that combines both Warhammer games and their 117 factions.

None of what you’ve just read would mean anything if the Dark Elves, High Elves, Skaven and Lizardmen weren’t up to snuff, but no need to fret – Warhammer 2 boasts some of the series’ most impressive faction design to date. There’s also a great deal to unpack.

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The original factions in the first Warhammer all felt like they were built around one unique hook: the Dwarven Book of Grudges, the Orcs’ WAAAGH! mechanic, the Chaos Warriors’ nomadic shtick. Warhammer 2’s factions, on the other hand, are not defined by one single thing. Instead, they’re multifaceted, each containing numerous unique mechanics and twists inspired by specific racial traits.

So the Skaven are meant to be these infinitely hungry creatures, greedy and ravenous, and this is translated into a food system. When the Skaven are well-fed they are braver, better at fighting and more content. Their food stores can also be used to immediately upgrade settlements when they’re conquered or colonised. But that food can vanish quickly, and with hunger comes cowardice, rebellion and starvation. They’re driven to be more aggressive so they can feast on captives and steal food from their enemies.

They’re all about self-interest, however, so on top of the food system is a loyalty mechanic. Giving lords more troops to command, keeping them busy and fed, offering them new gear and winning battles with them keeps them loyal. Ignore them, and they’ll eventually revolt, creating a schism in the empire. And they’re sneaky, so all of their settlements appear to other factions as empty ruins, and they favour stealthy units in battle. But they’re also engineers, so they can field flamethrowers and explosives, or use an earthquake machine to level a city.

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My point is that they don’t fit inside a single box. But what’s more important than the breadth of these faction-specific mechanics is their impact on the battle and campaign layers, and it’s often pretty dramatic. The Skaven are messy. In battle, they’re a constantly moving tide, retreating and returning, and they can push that chaos onto their foes by using green warpfire that panics and giant mutants that terrify. During the campaign, they teeter on a knife’s edge, never too far away from that gnawing hunger. So they have to keep killing. Keep eating.

I had a harder time with them than I did the Dark Elves. These witchy Elves are a lot better organised, largely thanks to their grim slave-based economy. Slaves captured in battle can be put to work in settlements, making the Elves wealthier. But the more there are, the lower public order gets. If it drops to -100, then rebels show up and start throwing shade. As a cash-rich Dark Elf, it’s not too hard to maintain huge armies full of dinosaur cavalry and crossbow-wielding warriors.

The Dark Elves are also uniquely suited to invasions. So, every faction has access to a series of rites, not to be confused with the Vortex rituals. These rites require some kind of sacrifice – it’s slaves for the Dark Elves – and performing them confers everything from faction-wide bonuses to special units. They represent the most powerful abilities in the game, and include that aforementioned Skaven earthquake device. The Dark Elves also get something a bit special: Black Arks.

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These are ominous floating vessels that hug the coast and have some limited building options. Their main purpose, though, is to assist in invasions by offering magical support with long-range bombardments and providing reinforcements. They’re a weapon and a floating city all rolled into one big ol’ boat, and they’ve saved my hide countless times, halting enemy rituals and reinforcing beleaguered troops at my own sites. I’ve picked a couple of the better rites to discuss here, but they’re not all game-changers. For every Black Ark there’s a boring +8 to public order.

Given that this is a direct sequel, I wasn’t sure if Warhammer 2 would feel like a new Total War or a very large expansion. It seems like using the same engine and a similar setting has freed Creative Assembly to go down paths they’ve never explored before, though. To experiment. It might also be the reason that the level of polish and user-friendliness has seen a jump, and that includes the UI. It’s smoother, clearer and customisable. But lest the past be entirely forgotten, plenty of old issues reappear.

Diplomacy – one day I’ll get tired of saying this – still doesn’t feel like an organic extension of the other game systems, and is generally lacking in consequences. Want to declare war on your allies? It just takes a click of the button and barely anyone cares. Want a quick buck? Get in a war, demand cash for peace, do it again five turns later. Only the High Elves, with their ability to influence other factions, get to do anything remotely interesting with diplomacy.

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Similarly, the economic and trade side of things continues to be woefully underdeveloped, despite being around forever, and doesn’t get much more complex than erecting money and resource generating buildings. They exist simply so you can make the gold that you need to create your armies. None of this comes as a shock, of course. These issues have existed for most of Total War’s history, but it’s important to note that these systems still aren’t particularly engaging.

When Warhammer 2 disappoints, it’s almost always when it shies away from change, letting some of Total War’s weaker limbs languish in mediocrity. There’s surprisingly little that hasn’t been reconsidered, however, and what isn’t entirely new has, more often than not, been expanded or tweaked, usually with positive results.

There’s a confidence to this game. It doesn’t need a comfortingly familiar grand campaign or a traditional structure because it has an identity separate from that of Total War; an identity where a scripted narrative can work, or where starkly different factions are more important than balance. It’s an exceedingly strong beginning to this chapter of the Warhammer trilogy and is a strong contender for the best game in the series.

Total War: Warhammer 2 is out this Thursday, the 28th of September, and will be available on Windows via Steam for £39.99.

62 Comments

  1. Kreeth says:

    can everyone please just stop releasing amazing games for like a year please? I haven’t slept in weeks, have no money left and am meant to be working, looking after children etc. Have mercy!

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      Drib says:

      If it wasn’t for those labor laws, you could send those children to work and solve all your problems at once!

      • Wednesday says:

        You are despicable.

        Also, this is the best suggestion ever.

  2. Silent_Thunder says:

    Mortal Empires is why I can’t get more than 10 turns into a Wh1 campaign right now. I just know a few weeks from now I can be playing that same faction, with the same mechanics, in a much better overworld and battlemap.

  3. Cousken says:

    The 28th of September this year falls on a Thursday, unless we live in *drastically* different places.

    • Heavenfall says:

      Reality distortion detected. Humes level variance exceeded consensus normality. Remain where you are, “citizen”.

      • Fnord73 says:

        After Donald Trump immanentized the eschaton, these things have become fluid. Fun with the antichrist!

  4. mariandavid says:

    Excellent – for once my decision to pre-order seems justified.

  5. Walsh says:

    How does it combine with the old game? I thought I read something about this.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      Owners of the first game will unlock a mega-campaign mode in Warhammer 2, featuring a slightly shrunken WH2 map added on to the original map, with all factions playable. It sounds very exciting to mess around with but I’m personally a little skeptical that sort of thing will stand up on repeated play. The scale is a little too bonkers.

      • SaintAn says:

        ” I’m personally a little skeptical that sort of thing will stand up on repeated play”

        It’s a massive Warhammer Fantasy sandbox with all the races added so far. I think replayability will be very high. Just hope they touch up the old world starting locations for Skaven. I want Skavenblight active so I can mess with the Empire as Skaven.

        • Vermintide says:

          Yes yes! And when mighty and most excellent Thanquol is added (as DLC for a measly 10 warpstone tokens), the foolish manthings will crumble to the glory of Skavendom!

  6. latedave says:

    He does mention it briefly, they will combine into a Grand Campaign although TW haven’t really explained too much about it. Really looking forward to this!

  7. Maxheadroom says:

    I really need to stop buying these. My experience with every Total War game has been the same: I’ll play it for like an hour and think “Yeah this is cool, I must set aside some time to play it properly”

    At which point I put it on the shelf (Or these days the depths of my Steam list) never to look at again

    I’m thinking maybe I should only buy games I can bash out and finish in a couple of hours

    • jozinho says:

      I came to the same conclusion. These enormous games just don’t make sense when you can only play an hour or two every few days. I find myself gravitating to shorter, focused, story-driven linear games. Ironic given how much I loved game vastness in my youth.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I have hundreds of hours on TW:WH1.

    So, looking forward to this.

    Good thing it’s already reviewed so a pre-order is justified amirite.

    Though I did that ages ago so I could play with Norsca. Which has been damn fun.

    I really love the warhammer portion of the TW series. It’s been better than any of the mainlines in quite a while.

    • stringerdell says:

      I loved the old TW games and am not even a warhammer fan but combining the two has proved to be a stroke of genius, and easily the most fun I ever had with the series.

      Instead of ‘these guys have cheap cavalry’ or ‘this army has great archers’ You get factions that are completely different to fight as and against which gives a real incentive to play the game again as each faction.

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        Drib says:

        I know, they all feel and play so radically differently that I can’t get over how well it all fits together.

        Sure there’s flaws in the game, plenty of them. But man is it ever fun to play.

      • Morat Gurgeh says:

        Have to agree wholeheartedly with both comments. The factions play and, moreover, feel very different unlike the historical versions (of which I’m a big fan). So when I’m done with my Dwarf campaign, I’ll definitely pick this up. Love me some Skaven! Not that I have time to play it. First world problems eh?

  9. Archonsod says:

    “None of this comes as a shock, of course. These issues have existed for most of Total War’s history, but it’s important to note that these systems still aren’t particularly engaging.”

    I’m not sure it’s really an issue as such, the game is Total War, not Total Administrator :P. The last time they tried doing something more detailed with the economy (Empire IIRC) it exacerbated the problem you allude to in your opening – the game became too unfocused and sprawling. I think the better entries in the series are those where they’ve focused primarily on their strengths (the ‘war’ part) rather than trying to switch into some kind of grand strategy hybrid (although funnily enough Empire is still my favourite TW game, I just wouldn’t say it’s a good TW game).

    • Fraser Brown says:

      The name has nothing to do with anything. It’s an empire management game, not just a game about fighting. Either the systems aren’t important, and shouldn’t be in the game at all, or they are important, and should be engaging.

      • pentraksil says:

        It is still and arcade that mostly focuses on battles and not on management. According to you, if onepart of the game is not as complex as the other, it shouldn’t even exist? Goodbye to every video game genre ever….Sorry, but that logic is terrible IMO.

        • Fraser Brown says:

          I’m not sure where you’re getting that from, but it certainly isn’t from anything I’ve said. Diplomacy and trade don’t need to be complex. But they do do need to be engaging and meaningful. They aren’t. And if Total War was really just about the battles, then CA wouldn’t invest so much time and effort into creating this elaborate campaign. I spent more time on the campaign map than in any battles.

          • Hyena Grin says:

            The ‘building things’ side of TW Warhammer is basically just a built-in delay. You spend money to build things that give you more money so that you can host larger and better armies; rinse and repeat. It slows you down.

            The game would not work at all without it, but it’s still not engaging, I agree. Attila was a bit better in that you had to make a number of meaningful choices about what to build and where – something which is largely lacking in TW Warhammer, where apart from deciding where your unit production takes place, it’s just ‘build whatever you clearly and obviously need.’

            The closest they came to interesting administration is buildings which give economic bonuses to adjacent territories which build a related building (like the winery). But this is all just in the service of producing more money. It doesn’t really provide any meaningful feedback or sense that anything has changed. Beyond your treasury.

            That said, if they’re going to dumb down administration in a TW game, Warhammer is the place to do it. Doesn’t mean I agree though, I’d like more engaging administration, more interesting choices to make that have short and longterm consequences.

    • dashausdiefrau says:

      A well made economy should be a focus of the Total War games. It does not need to be complex, the focus should be on battles, but a well made economy is the key to make battles necessary. That creates the purpose of the battle map, that it is possible to move armies around, unlike in the early titles, where there was a simplified overworld map only. It was especially good with Barbarian Invasion, where one of the first steps were to stabilize the western roman economy: all those shiny Roman armies just took away the money, and it was necessary to disband, destroy and retreat, while making sure that the loss of cities and armies made the player actually stronger than it was before. To decide if a land trade route or a sea one was more precious, to decide which cities were too expensive to defeat, to decide how many armies to upkeep made the game really exciting and engaging.

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    Earl-Grey says:

    Seeing as this is a PC games site first and foremost, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you spare a patagraph to how the game runs.
    -Ideally compared to the first game.

    • GurtTractor says:

      Yeah I would also like to know about this, even if it’s just a quick and dirty like for like comparison on whater rig your running this on.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      When I don’t mention performance, that’s usually because it’s fine. No bugs, FPS comparable to TWH (though the properly huge fights with several armies do reduce it considerably), and turn times that won’t force you to start reading a book between them. If you have an SSD, absolutely install TWH2 on it, however, because its load times are quite long.

      • stringerdell says:

        The load times were already pretty brutal in the first one.

        My SSD is pretty full up so Im now faced with the choice of moving overwatch to a normal drive and not being able to instalock my favourite characters or literally stopping to read a book whenever i want to load on total warhammer 2…

        I shouldnt grumble at the prospect of another great game coming out to be fair

        • pipja says:

          Buy a bigger, better, more omega, SSD and install more games?

        • Mostquito says:

          Maybe there should be some option to read warhammer novels during loadtimes. After the loading finished, the player could mark the sentence he is reading, and after the battle the book could pop up again.
          Even better: player could customize the reading material, so one could get to the end of “War and Peace” during a legendary campaign…
          Please, let CA know this idea via ESP.

      • GurtTractor says:

        So performance is 20-30% worse than the first game for me (R9 390 and 1700x), same for many other people it seems. This is why it’s important to report these things……

    • SaintAn says:

      Well if it has that crappy DRM the first game had, then poorly. The cracked version that will come out a few days after release might run better though.

  11. zuzzurellus says:

    Fraser, in your review you forgot to mention the AI.
    Total War Warhammer II is a complex game, and I understand that building a great AI is not easy. However, any gamer with some experience will tell you that the AI is possibly the most disappointing aspect of the game.

  12. TotallyUseless says:

    Thanks for the WoT!

    But best Total War along with Warhammer were Shogun 2 and Attila? Now that’s something I can agree on!

    Shogun 2 was the most balanced, most engaging, most fun and best looking pre-Warhammer TW game. Attila was devastatingly good, made the fights longer and was the cure for the cancer called TW Rome 2.

  13. Spacewalk says:

    How can a bird made of fire cast a shadow on the ground?

    • Warduke says:

      This is why I read RPS

    • Bullfrog says:

      By believing in itself.

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      phuzz says:

      Because the sun is much brighter than its flames, and presumably there’s some kind of physical structure inside, not just fire.

    • Jakkar says:

      … clearly you people do not go outside and burn things often enough. Fire itself casts a faint shadow, varying depending upon what is burning and the intensity of the light-source shining upon/through it.

      … besides which, it’s a phoenix, which in this case is an actual bird-thing that happens to be emitting heat and flame. It’s a solid object, not a puff of gas, smoke, plasma or vapour.

      The internet has been set to rights. Now I can go home.

    • Mostquito says:

      How can it cast a shadow?
      Maybe with a spell using the lore of shadows. :)
      link to reddit.com

  14. Time4Pizza says:

    Professional gaming writers, take notes. THIS is how you write a review. Jesus I swear, these days every review I read is some bizarre exercise in creative writing or metaphysical musing.

    Do what this review does: outline the features of the game, point out where it works and where it doesn’t, and if the game is fun.

    • AutonomyLost says:

      I quite liked this review as well, and read the entire thing while knowing I have zero intention of ever purchasing the game. Some of that speaks to the consistent quality of RPS reviews and features, however some of it is due directly to the quality and encompassment of this review.

      Like a couple other commenters, I would greatly appreciate technical aspects/issues/anomalies(Good or Bad) being mentioned, which is something RPS consistently fails to do in any meaningful capacity for some reason. Other than that, good WIT and thanks!

  15. SaintAn says:

    So are the choose your own story quests deep? And are they frequent? I love those in King Arthur: The Role Playing Wargame and that’s one of the things I wanted in TW Warhammer.

    And I really really hope they do a DLC soon that adds Alith Anar and Malus. Alith is my favorite character so I’m very disappointed he’s not in this game from the start.

  16. Tarzawa says:

    Disclaimer: fan of the historical games, and still can’t get into Warhammer. Anyway, IIRC the rap on TW: Warhammer 1 was its simplification of the campaign and how the battles were very short and arcadey, i.e. fast and twitchy. Now Fraser Brown trots out the notion that TW: Warhammer 2 is possibly the most complex Total War game of all time. I find this very difficult to get my head around. Fraser, are you saying it’s possibly the most complex because each faction has a unique “mechanic” or two? I wouldn’t think the difference between a Skaven or Elf campaign makes the game more complex. Do you mean most replayable?

    Attila had many more mechanics going on than Warhammer 1, although they weren’t all about unique faction attributes or mechanics. And when I consider that for Warhammer 1, CA removed features like family tree, administration, food/squalor, naval/amphibious battles, complex city sieges, battle formations, and weather/seasons, it begs the question about complexity.

    I appreciate the work put into this review, it is thoughtful and a good read, but still huge gaps remain. As Total War veterans like you, we want to know, how is the Campaign AI? How is the battle AI? What happens if I encounter an enemy stack while at sea? Sure battles with dragons and dinosaurs in choke points can be “thrilling,” but are they slower and more tactical or the same as before…? How about sieges? Is the end of the game reminiscent of realm divide in Shogun 2 or the Civil War in Rome II? Thinking this over, I can’t help but recall your positive comments about Rome II at release and whether you’ve recanted or not.

    Finally, am I the only one saddened by sentences like: “It’s an exceedingly strong beginning to this chapter of the Warhammer trilogy…” So we have at last reached the moment when a game is released for $60 and all it can amount to is a “strong beginning.” Well glad you enjoyed, I’m going to sit on my wallet for at least nine months. Then I’ll consider playing the game, as intended, with Araby, tomb kings and amazons added and balanced in..

    • Imperialist says:

      While Attila is by far my favorite of the historical series, i think the expectations of a historical TW gamer are a bit skewed when considering the differences between TWW and the previous titles.
      The argument could be made, that like the newest edition of 40k, that they trimmed alot of the bloat out to make the game more enjoyable. If you have been playing a TW game from the beginning, none of the campaigns have been anything any seasoned Grand Strategos would call “complex”. Even Attila, with all its bells and whistles is still infantile compared to, say, Europa Universalis. Is it more fun? Probably. But The Grand Campaign merely serves as context for your battles. Sure, more moving parts can lead to a greater field of options in the long run, but it still boils down to ramming stacks of units down your enemies throats.
      All that extra stuff does not fit the context of the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Family trees? Doesnt make sense…you have a list of essentially undying tabletop lords to choose from, who wont die of old age because that doesnt MATTER here.
      What i found refreshing is that none of my old TW strategies worked when faced with the far-more-diverse unit rosters of TWW. Magic and air units definitely made me devise new strategies, and general assassinations became a whole different ball game. Considering Attila sold only a portion of what R2 did, the fact that they shook up the formula just enough is a fortunate thing indeed. I DO wish they kept Civil Wars, or something akin to it for the Empire, as confederating feels like a cop-out when you could be gaining favor with the various elector counts, but at the same time, the campaign doesnt really NEED that. Food and Squalor were tedious mechanics, that were barely fleshed out. Complexity does not alone make a good game, but taking something simple and giving it a bit of a jolt is also worthy of merit.
      My biggest gripe of all the Warscape TW games though is victory conditions. In the end, no matter how simple or complex, the end game is always a slog through a mire of battles, and nothing else. Age of Charlemagne was fantastic, if short, and was a step in the right direction. But worry not, another historical game is on the way…

    • stringerdell says:

      There is always a lot of very expensive DLC but the base games have a staggering amount of content and replay value

      • Tarzawa says:

        No doubt. But it’s also fair to say that the game is incomplete. Judging from the campaign map, there is a ton of empty space that remains to be filled in by forthcoming factions sold separately as pricey DLC. Besides taking up map space, those factions will enter the power balance, compete for the vortex, etc.

        I’m also astounded that the combined grand campaign map hasn’t even been revealed yet, but they want you to pay upfront for it, on a promise that it will be “free LC” in the near future (and that it will work and be fun).

        I get that for the hardcore fan, buying Warhammer 2 at release makes sense, but only in an “early access” kind of way.

        For the rest of us, it absolutely makes sense to wait 9 months or so and pick up the game at a discount, with all the factions that were designed for the game and knowing whether the combined campaign is any good.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          I don’t see why ‘complete’ really matters. If you can play the game now and have fun and it’s balanced, all this ‘incomplete’ stuff means is that there’s replay value later since if you play again with the original factions, if you so choose, they will have added new stuff.

          It’s actually a bit of a shame in the case of Warhammer 1, in that the Empire, which was a reasonable and straightforward beginner choice at release, is now basically Hard Mode, surrounded by enemies with their own complicated mechanics that is hard to get a handle on. It makes it interesting for people who played from the beginning but it’s a tough, tough experience for newbies.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          I think this ‘incomplete’ stuff is a bit like ‘pfft, XCOM2? I’ll wait for War of the Chosen’. Except CA is giving you parts of War of the Chosen for free.

        • SaintAn says:

          Pretty sure they’re not revealing the mega campaign because it’s a lie or shitty. They’ve been very careful with their wording, not communicating about it when questions are asked, and are releasing it until around a month after the game comes out.

          Something is definitely up with it. If it was what everyone expects it to be they’d be marketing it with the game, because that would be a game selling feature (like how they marketed that the sequels would combine into one big map, went quiet about it after the game came out, and then went back on that promise and said they would do a separate mega map).

          Personally, if they fuck me over it will be the last thing I ever buy from Sega and it will be added to my pirate list along side Bethesda/Zenimax.

          • HexagonalBolts says:

            CA do discuss it quite a bit on the forums – it is clearly a lot of work and it is still a work in progress. The two maps don’t fit together: in the world of warhammer the first game’s map is about a third of the size of the second game’s map. They have said that turn times are an issue (which is inevitable) so they will probably have to take out some of the minor AI-controlled factions. I think it will be a month or more before they release it.

        • Pilgore says:

          The problem is, is that you’re not gonna pick up the game 9 months from now at a discount.
          Instead You’re gonna pay for the game and the huge amount of DLC all at once, which will be 100+. The DLC is the game for all intents and purposes. The game will get cut in price, but the DLC will keep it’s price.
          Tricking new players into forking up cash for the DLC for a game that’s only 20 bucks (for instance). Buying Total War Warhammer 1 now I could get it for a discount of 20 bucks. But the DLC ALONE is 69,93.

          The choice is to pay for it waves, or all at once. But one thing is for sure, that DLC is not going to get discounted by much.

      • HexagonalBolts says:

        I was lambasted on the Total War forums for saying this but I think the DLC is worth the money – the larger ones have a mini campaign that I play through a couple of times and the extra race on the main campaign map. Each one gives me about 15-20 hours of enjoyment of the game. They contain complex custom-animated units. I’ve spent £15 on countless games / early-access projects (or even just one and a half cocktails in London that I can’t remember the next day) and just spent a couple of hours in them so I feel like this is good value for money.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Prior Total Wars had more mechanics but those mechanics generally didn’t amount to much. Once you know the optimal way to build a province economically you just repeat that throughout all your provinces. Weather/seasons exist but in most cases you will only ever fight in clear weather. Complex city sieges are easily cheesed by artillery or phalanx units. And so on.

      I’d generally say that Warhammer is more streamlined and yet more complex because the streamlining exposes decisions that actually are difficult and important. For example when building up a settlement you have to pick between economic buildings, buildings that help public order, buildings that provide defensive garrisons, and military garrisons, and potentially buildings that give unique benefits to that territory… and what makes that hard is that you only have 2 or 3 slots. But those are all viable choices. Do you forgo defensive garrisons and hope never to be attacked? Do you sacrifice income buildings to free up a slot from your province capital? Do you remove public order and just deal with rebellions.

      In contrast in Shogun 2 farms and unique province upgrades don’t take a slot so it’s a total no-brainer to build them. In Atilla you need to deal with squalor and provide food and deal with public order, so there are so many buildings you *must build* in a province that your building plan is essentially already defined.

      • Tarzawa says:

        Having been through both Rome 2* and Attila recently, I’d have to say, while both games are flawed, and some of their mechanics are stupid and/or dull, your points aren’t correct. In Attila and Rome II, optimizing buildings requires a flexible approach across different regions and a city specialization approach necessary on higher difficulties. This involves constructing buildings like barracks or churches early that are replaced later, and so on. All of the building examples you present for TW:Warhammer are present in Rome II and Attila, but the need to plan and balance them is more demanding than in TW:Warhammer.

        Playing Attila on very hard difficulty I’m hardly ever permitted to defend in clear weather (which is annoying!). In both games (as Rome) I must use naval power to defend trade and discourage invasions; sieges have their issues but I’ve never been “cheesed” by a phalanx or artillery if I brought enough of the right units to the fight and deployed them well.
        *modded

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          The point I was making about city development though, is that in earlier games, development is an optimisation problem. There’s an *answer*, it might involve tearing down buildings and so on, but there’s a right thing to do and there’s a wrong thing to do. The design in Warhammer is that there is a choice. It’s specifically the reduction of the ‘need to plan and balance’ them – which I will rephrase as the removal of various punishment mechanics that hurt certain decisions in ways that are in the moment vague to the player – that allows that aspect of the strategy to come to the forefront. In the older games, it’s something you learn and get better at so you can eventually avoid the newbie traps, but it’s never anything that you at some point think ‘I’m really clever with what I did there’, or ‘I took a real risk but it paid off’.

          What I mean by ‘doesn’t amount to much’ is not that the elements are not exposed to the player, but rather that they do not significantly make your decisions more interesting – like you said, they add annoyance, not depth. Random weather for example encourages ‘safer’, more boring builds on the defence. Naval combat is tedious and naval expansion is mainly a money-sink that you pay into to have bad things *not* happen. (Contrast Black Arks in WH2 where you are buying a new set of options.) By cheesing sieges I mean the way they encourage using cheesy tactics, for example emptying out garrisons with artillery in FotS, or phalanx street fighting in Rome. Not that the AI is clever enough to cheese them against you.

          Compare the food mechanic in the earlier total wars with the skaven food mechanic. The Skaven food mechanic is a rush build option that opens a risky but powerful measure on the strategy map. The food mechanic in earlier total war means you have to build food buildings to avoid starvation. In other words food with the Skaven is a whole new edge the smart player can deploy to do powerful things at great risk, that encourages them to seek out battles. Food in earlier total wars is a ultimately yet another building slot/money tax. Not everything in Warhammer is that good, but I think there’s an interesting point in contrast here.

  17. Longestsprout says:

    The mortal empires is probably designed to take the role of the usual grand campaign land grab gameplay while the vortex campaign is more objective focused. Not a bad idea imo.

  18. Somerandombloke says:

    So, lets summarize what every reviewer failed to notice during their short hours of play:

    1. The Vortex race can be skipped entirely by just waiting and allowing another race to complete all rituals and then fight a very easy final battle to knock them out of the race. Rinse and repeat. It’s a hastily and clumsily implemented marketing gimmick with no longevity.

    2. The AI is still GARBAGE. Siege battles vs AI are unplayable. Even in regular battles they blob up and make easy pickings. Add a bridge to navigate and the AI goes to pieces. What is a total war game without good AI… why do we accept this?

    3. No races from the 1st game implemented at launch (even in custom battles), whether planned or not, is just a disgrace. I feel like I have to wait another month or more just to get the game I paid for, the game that matters, which is having all races fighting it out on a combined map. Seriously, everything else (ie: vortex campaign) is just a stop-gap while they continue working on finishing the full game..

    But hey sure, you give the game a glowing rating if you think that a rushed and buggy, unfinished game is worth that. It just goes to show how useless professional reviews really are.