More beasties, less mini-campaigns. In response to fan feedback and to avoid some of the criticism that the Chaos Warriors stirred up, Creative Assembly have outlined some changes to their pre- and post-release plans for Total War: Warhammer 2 [official site]. Brand director Rob Bartholomew has written a blog post explaining all (except what the actual preorder bonus will be, natch). Acknowledging the negative response that the Chaos Warriors DLC stirred up in some quarters, Bartholomew goes into detail about the reasoning behind "Early Adopter Bonuses", both in terms of delivery and content. He also says that there are "more historical releases planned in the next twelve months than fantasy".
The exact nature of the pre-order content hasn't been revealed yet but Bartholomew says it'll be more like the Bretonnia release than the Chaos Warriors.
"What we've done is take on board the criticism of our earlier DLCs, and Chaos Warriors in particular. The early-adopter Race Pack that we'll reveal this week will be more along the lines of the content in Bretonnia than Chaos Warriors. So, legendary lords with unique start positions/factions, lots of new units, plus unique, flavourful and strongly differentiated Race mechanics. All of which is designed to increase the replayability and distinctiveness of the new Race.
That probably means we can expect a faction that isn't essential to the core narrative of the game. In Warhammer 1, the Chaos incursion was the central event driving the action, whereas Warhammer 2 focuses on a magical Vortex, which punctuates the campaign in unique ways for each faction. The bonus race will most probably slot into the game alongside the others, with a similar end-goal, rather than being differentiated to the extent the Chaos Warriors were in the first game. And the new race will, like Chaos, exist as an AI-controlled faction whether you pay for them or not.
"Don't forget that this Race will be added to the game as AI-controlled opposition and there's free-LC alongside this release, so expect the Old World to be pretty refreshed even if you don't get the new DLC."
When the game's actually out, there will be free DLC as well as paid content, but it'll focus on beefy new rosters rather than mini campaigns, as we saw for Warhammer 1.
"...the biggest change we'll be making with the first large DLC for Warhammer II is to swap out the mini campaign for two more additional Legendary Lords, for a total of 4 playable Lords in the pack. These four will each have their own factions, unique start positions, quests-chains, epic gear, benefits and playstyle... the whole nine yards. They'll be playable in both the Eye of the Vortex campaign and the forthcoming combined campaign map, if you also own Warhammer 1. So twice as many play-through opportunities than before. We'll be watching closely to see if players think this is a good trade."
We looked back at all of the DLC for Warhammer 1, including those mini campaigns, and found most of the additions to be worthwhile. Personally, I only touched the Chaos Warriors and never found the game lacking. I always want more but I'm still not tired of playing with my dwarves so I'm reasonably happy to pace myself and wait for a complete edition, perhaps even when the entire trilogy has been released and I can play the grand campaign that unifies all three games.
Much as I loved Warhammer 1, which I reckon was the best Total War game since Shogun 2, I'm more excited to see what's in store on the historical side. If some of the asymmetrical faction design of Warhammer can be applied in a real world context, we could see a different take on familiar periods, and maybe even coverage of previously untouched wars. I'm still holding out hope for a Creative Assembly take on the American Civil War at some point. First, we're likely to see one of the new Saga games though, covering a pivotal moment in an era the series has already covered. Much as I enjoy the epic, I think Total War is at its best when the stage isn't quite as grand, so this could be a very good thing indeed.