I’ve been a fan of the Total War series since Medieval 2 came out in 2006, and since then I played countless hours from the original Rome Total War to the newest installment, Warhammer 2. Creative Assembly’s decision to move from historic to fantasy has been something long awaited by some members of the community. I know I did, especially after playing the Lord of the Rings mod for Medieval 2.
The notable difference between the first Warhammer and its sequel is an emphasis on narrative. All the major factions are competing to gain access and control of the Vortex, a maelstrom that absorbs all excess magic in the world and acts as a barrier to keep the forces of Chaos from entering this plain of existence. Each faction has its own motivation for gaining access to this huge conduit of magic, and the means of winning it over vary. This new feature is important to the campaign, because it is nothing we are used to in this franchise. Despite conquering most of the world, you can still lose the campaign. It’s also really hard to conquer the entirety of the world given its epic size and terrain modifiers.
By changing the main focus of the game, Creative Assembly forces us to learn more about the world created by Games Workshop. It is otherwise hard to care about the lore if you don’t need to know why you need to fight for control of a giant blue tornado. I personally think it’s really cool, and I want to know more about the Warhammer universe. The faction selection screen is also more character driven, which is interesting because you can roleplay to an extent. One of my favorite mechanics that is introduced with the Dark Elves and the Skaven is a loyalty system. I almost wish there was a type of loyalty score for the elector counts in the Empire, not because they’re particularly evil but more so out of the interesting inner politics of your faction. The adviser openly tells you that certain factions of your race will plot against you. If you confederate, what is to stop them from halting their own agenda? It’s just an extra layer of immersion to the world, and I love it (except when my best general quits).
The gameplay is very close to its predecessor’s, but differs when it comes to unit variety. I still love the collision systems put in place, and plenty of units have their own animations. The Elves have a finesse build, the Lizards have a brute strength on par with a tyrannosaurus rex, and the Skaven are toxic and numerous (They even have a corruption to spread across regions). Magic and special units are awesome. Sometimes I feel like the game is really unbalanced, especially when magic is put in play, but then when you are met with the same opposition it makes more sense. Sometimes the procedurally generated battleground becomes more adaptable, in that you get more chokepoints to lure the enemy into. Other times you may be positioned between a rock and a hard place (more like a mountain slope). Aerial units are all the more important when it comes to maneuvering in such difficult terrain.
Another cool (but sometimes irrating) new feature is the roaming free armies. They consist of various races and act like nomadic factions. Dark Elves can use them as a source of target practice and slaves while the Skaven can eat them. Speaking of slaves, there are certain opportunities given to factions that use slavery. Building Black Archs, mobile fortresses on the seas, performing rites/rituals for empire modifiers, and even making money are equally successful strategies. There may be times when the enemy becomes the leader in the race for the Vortex, so deploying an arch for an overseas campaign may come in handy. You are also able to hire an intervention force to disrupt their rituals. They act like bray herds to an extent, but mainly exist to bring the enemy down a peg.
The soundtrack is also really good. I was already a fan of the playlist in the game’s predecessor’s music, and I think this sequel holds up to expectations. You can also hear your soldiers’ banter as you hover over them. It just feels good seeing your forces battle it out over city walls and on cobbled streets with an epic orchestra blasting over the cacophony of battle. The best thing I can compare it to is having a battle for Helms Deep. You don’t get a full fortress, but you get a good view and an epic symphony.
Warhammer 2 feels like a huge expansion upon first sight, but it really is more in terms of content. I’d say this is the Napoleon to Empire, or the Attila to Rome 2. This title builds off of its predecessor and provides more content in terms of statecraft and warfare. I really like the new factions, all offering a new and entertaining narrative. I would really like to see the old and new worlds combine for an epic campaign, but I would also like to see more of the story elements besides famous battles. Having alternative ways to win the campaign has opened up new challenges that are pretty fun. I think this game deserves a 9.5 out of 10. There’s a massive amount of replayability, a ton of content to enjoy, and a story to be told.
Check Out the Total War: WARHAMMER II Dark Elves Beastmaster Video:
Total War: Warhammer II is available for PC via Steam for $59.99.