Total War’s free Mortal Empires DLC merges Warhammer 1 and 2

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Total War: Warhammer is a big game, and the recently released Total War: Warhammer II [official site] is even bigger. But in the eyes of the Creative Assembly, that still isn’t big enough. To remedy this, they’ve come up with the Mortal Empires DLC, a free download that will essentially merge the two games’ campaigns together in one huge map, letting players assume command of any of the eight races available in the series so far.

To find out why this is happening and how the Creative Assembly are going about it, we spoke to Game Director Ian Roxburgh and Lead Designer Jim Whitson.

RPS: My first question is: why do this? Why did you decide to take the two games you’ve made, smash them together as one huge game, and then release it for free?

Ian: Well, very very early on when we first decided to do the deal with Games Workshop, and you look at the massive, massive amount of content there is in the Warhammer Fantasy IP, we knew that we ultimately wanted to do all of it, and make a game with all of it in. But that’s just far too vast a task to do in one game, there’s just so much there, that we thought the only way we could ever achieve that ultimately is by breaking it down into a trilogy, make three full-sized games just ram-packed with content themselves, and then as a free offering for our fans, we can merge them all together and put them all together and create what we ultimately want and what we believe our fans would ultimately want, which is this massive, Warhammer universe, but with everything in it.

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RPS: Is the idea to combine it all again after releasing a third game in the series?

Ian: Yeah. So what will happen is when we release Warhammer 3 eventually, we will actually combine all three games into a bigger map from all three games. So this is like a halfway stage if you like, where we are taking the first two and combining them into the biggest map we’ve ever done. Then by the time we’ve finished 3 we’ll do the same after that as well so and again that will be free to our fans.

RPS: Why did you decide to release the Mortal Empires campaign now rather than when the third game came out?

Ian: In a nutshell, because we could.

RPS: Fair enough.

Ian: Because whatever way you look at it, this game, the Mortal Empires campaign now, is a magnificent, huge game in its own right, it’s by far and away the biggest and most content-rich campaign map we’ve ever done, and so there’s no reason to wait until the end of the third, because we’ve already got two games plus DLC’s worth of content in a free campaign, and we wanted to be able to give that to our fans to play and enjoy sooner rather than later. There’s no reason not to do that if you can and we have the desire to do it, because our fans get the benefit of playing the Mortal Empires campaign sooner than they otherwise would.

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RPS: Were you ever concerned that releasing it in this manner would lead people to believe that these were two halves of a game that were originally intended to be one?

Ian: We’ve tried our best to make it clear, because I think people who have played Total War: Warhammer II will realise that’s a massive game in its own right. It’s huge, I mean it was a massive undertaking for us to do, and you know, and the Mortal Empires campaign is something on top of that as well. So I don’t think anyone would feel like we’ve sold them short on what Warhammer II was.

The idea is that actually they’re just getting even more really cool stuff, thousands of hours of gameplay in the Mortal Empires campaign for free, and that is really about the policy from the beginning with this trilogy, [which] was to be able to give loads of stuff free as we go along, as we refine and evolve the game through DLC. Yes there has to be some paid DLC obviously to generate the revenue to be able to make the future games.

But at the same time, we’re giving away a load free, so everyone can get the benefit of it, and feel that we’re giving something back. And like we said that’s hugely gratifying for us as developers and hopefully it’s really gratifying for our fans as well. Because they get the benefit of the game getting continually better and better and better for free, even once they’ve bought the first game. So that was the plan.

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RPS: How exactly does the combined campaign work? I’ve played both games and they’re quite different in terms of the victory conditions and how the different races function. So how are you merging those two campaigns together in terms of how they play?

Jim: In terms of the victory conditions we’re not going with the Vortex narrative on this one. It’s more focussing on the sandbox aspect of Total War, which was still there in Total War: Warhammer II, but obviously because of the huge breadth and depth of content we’ve got by mashing the two games together, that in itself provides a constantly changing gameplay experience.

So each of the races has got individual victory conditions that are tailored to the flavour of that race which again keys back into the lore, and amongst those victory conditions there are ones that will encourage the player not to turtle in their starting area but to go out and experience the world so they go out into contact with all those many many races there. I mean in turn one of the campaign there’s something like 117 factions present on the map.

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RPS: One of the things I recall from the first Total War: Warhammer is that the races were quite different in terms of who they could ally with and where they could place settlements. With this Mortal Empires campaign seems to be more focussed on conquest. How are you going to facilitate that through the game systems?

Jim: Well, we haven’t got the mechanic we had in Warhammer 1 where, for instance, Dwarves could only capture territory off of Greenskins. We’ve included the mechanic we had in Total War: Warhammer II with climates and universal territory capture, so you can legitimately go over to Ulthwan as Karl Franz and actually capture territory over there. It’s not necessarily always going to work out for you particularly well because there’s a place that’s got a climate that doesn’t really suit your race then you’re going to make slower progress there. But that’s all part of the strategic thinking.

We’ve got much more sea hexes as well. That adds a whole new dynamic and the AI’s been beefed up to handle intercontinental invasions across seas. So you can’t just capture an entire continent and then sit there with it lightly defended. You’re gonna get the AI turning up on your shore and attacking you. So all of those things are new, strategic things that players need to be thinking about, and that keeps it fresh. At the same time we’ve still got Diplomacy. That’s all perfectly legitimate. It’s a sandbox game, we don’t lock of diplomatic options particualrly between factions. So if you want to as Karl Franz make an alliance with the Vampire Counts, if you work hard at that and make the right moves that’s perfectly possible.

Ian: I’ve just been doing that in my campaign [laughs].

Jim: So it’s all about providing players with that toolbox of toys and features to you know, go about things in the way that they want to.

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RPS: How have you merged the two maps? What changes have you needed to make in order to make the setting as a whole functional?

Ian: Well first and foremost, the gameplay and the design is the priority in this. So we did look long and hard about how we’d go about doing it, and very early on came to the conclusion that just a simple adding of both maps together wasn’t going to be the right gameplay choice. Because even in the Vortex campaign, if you’ve played that you’ll realise there’s four separate continents and you’ll spend a lot of the game just building up on one of those continents in relative isolation. If you just bolt that onto another massive map on the other side of the world, again it would be so long before you broke out of that and actually engaged with others.

So largely from that point of view, and also the more technical restrictions or considerations, like for example, the end-turn times. There’s so many new factions in this new game, and the end turn goes through all these factions. We don’t want you to be waiting much longer than previously for each end turn.

So what we’ve done is we’ve reduced the actual scales and size of the map for the New World part of the map, but it’s still as rich in content, it’s still got loads and loads of regions to capture. But it’s not as vast as the Vortex map was itself if you follow me. So it’s designed to bring the Lizardmen and the High Elves into a bigger world more in terms of gameplay and to keep the whole thing under control. But the whole map is still way bigger than anything we’ve done and it’s cram-packed full of everything. All the DLC we’ve done, for one. And there’s 35 starting position, so you can play 35 different campaigns and when you consider how massive an investment a time each individual one of those is.

Jim: Yeah it’s about bringing this scale, but without allowing the gameplay to become baggy in any way. It has to remain tight.

Ian: That was far more succinctly put than my waffle.

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RPS: Alongside the map, you’ve got all the different races squaring off, and all playable. So when you were thinking ahead to the Mortal Empries campaign, did you need to make a plan so they would be balanced equally?

Ian: We knew full well from the beginning for each individual game and for the Mortal Empires campaign that balancing was going to be a big issue, because one of the fundamental design tenets of the whole trilogy is this asymmetry of races. And so balancing was always gonna be a tougher task than it was before, and let’s face it balancing a game the size of Total War is always a tough task.

So very early on as part of this plan, because we knew what we were going to be doing, we built in new systems and put aside the time needed to be able to properly test the balancing. So we have put a lot more time than we would have in previous products into that whole balancing and new systems in order to do that, and of course we use a lot of internal feedback and feedback from our fans in pre and post-release as well. We’ll always keep refining and evolving and responding to feedback and tidying up the edges where fans report that something might be a bit OP here and there.

And again, the plan beyond the Mortal Empries release is, as we release DLC for Warhammer II and ‘free-LC’ for Warhammer II, again we’ll be patching in refinements to the balancing as well. So the whole trilogy is an ongoing refinement and balancing as well as having a lot more time put into the initial working game.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

Mortal Empires is due to launch on October 26th and is free to owners of Warhammer 1 and 2.

25 Comments

  1. wombat191 says:

    Son of a .. Sigh.. I thought for a second it had been released

    • Bull0 says:

      Yeah, that’ll be because of the title. The present tense suggests that the merging is going on now e.g. the DLC is out. It isn’t news that this DLC is coming and will merge the games together, but that’s all that the title was intended to say. =(

  2. MrEvilGuy says:

    Warhammer 2 is one of the most enjoyable strategy games I’ve played in years. I am head over heels about this.

  3. Catsplosion says:

    Won’t be long. They said in a prior interview to expect it very soon. Not year or months soon.

    • wombat191 says:

      I hope so. The vortex campaign feels a bit rushed for me and I like to take my time

      • shde2e says:

        I didn’t find dthe Vortex campaign to be all that rushed. You still get 100-150 turns before people start reaching the end, and by that point you probably have so much money and territory that you can start screwing with them to actively stop them from winning.

        • wombat191 says:

          I’ve been known to spend a couple hundred turns maxing out start provinces :D

    • Solidstate89 says:

      End of the article says October 26th.

      • ElementalAlchemist says:

        Grace (CA’s community manager) said on the Total War subreddit that is a soft date – i.e. it’s not guaranteed they will hit that mark. It could be pushed back.

  4. napoleonic says:

    It makes me so sad when writers put no effort into their tooltips. Alice and Brendan do such good work that I want to read their articles just to see what tooltips were used, and then there are articles like this.

    • Horg says:

      I am irrationally irritated that ‘mortalempires1’ is out of sequence.

  5. 2lab says:

    Overall I’d say that while Ian would be a decent guy to have a pint and a chat with, it’s Jim you’d want at your side if things got tricky.

    What were we talking about again…

    • alexheretic says:

      Soon you’ll be able to have both Ian and Jim merged together as one big companion. As long as you’re friends with both of them.

      • 2lab says:

        That makes sense. Don’t worry about it.

        “Call the witch finder general, alexheretic has exposed himself”

  6. Bobtree says:

    Small caveat: it’s free to owners of both games.

    Also, “Empries” is misspelled twice.

  7. bambusek says:

    VC – Empire alliance is easy to achieve in game one: just wait till Chaos invades, during my SFO Empire campaign vamps were very eager to ally once Chaos armies started wrecking them.

  8. TekDragon says:

    Those were some quality answers. Ian and Jim clearly have respect for RPS and its readers. I appreciated that.

    TWW2 is more Total War goodness than I ever remember getting from Medieval II on (as far back as I go). Each army is ridiculously unique. I wish the AI was a little better in combat, but that’s probably my fault for having the difficulty at normal.

    I appreciated the value of the game, and the prospect of a free DLC of this size and quality is blowing my mind. I can’t wait to see what you guys do with TWW3, but I’ll be Day 1 purchasing every DLC you guys put out for TWW2.

  9. SaintAn says:

    They need to quit talking about it and show it off instead. They’re acting like they’re afraid for people to see it in action or see a complete faction map of it.

  10. racccoon says:

    This game seems interesting, it’s grabbing me a little.
    The word Warhammer of course grabs firstly & holds me tight, the “total” bit, lets the grip loose. So I’ll need to see a few more videos before I plunder into it.

  11. zombiewarrior07 says:

    If anyone from Creative Assembly is reading this, please do a Total War: Middle Earth game. That would be the bee’s knees, imho.
    (Fingers crossed). 😀

  12. ArchRylen says:

    They’re doing a map for 1-2 and later for 1-2-3. Does anyone know if they’re also thinking about 1-3 and 2-3 as campaigns? Also, how much updating does a map take when they release new content?

  13. Lord of Beer says:

    Fill you armies full of spearmen. Get all the Tech and Lord buffs for them. Autoresolve all battles. If the odds are not in your favour, position more armies as reinforcements until they are.

    I became tired of the game after about 12 hours. Give us Shogun 3 and Empire 2 without the dumbed-down mechanics of Warhammer.

    • GreatWolfFenris says:

      So, while I’m sure the point will be lost on someone of the disposition that you seem to reflect, that begs the question of, if you don’t find exploiting game mechanics for easy victories fun….why not simply play without exploiting mechanics?

      • oluap says:

        For a lot of people including me, what is fun in a game is to “exploit” mechanics as much as you can in order to win.

        What you call “exploiting mechanichs” can basically be translated into “trying to win”.

        That’s why playing a win/lose game without exploiting mechanics is not fun : doing that means trying to win the game while at the same time not really trying to win it.

        Which is why balance is important.

        If the broken mechanic can easily be isolated, it’s not such a big deal since you can just set a rule to yourself to not use it. But if it is a core mechanic, or if they are too many of them, you can’t really have fun anymore by trying to win the game.
        You still can have fun by watching the scenery, or doing stupid things, but not when you really try to play and win the game.