We’ve consistently struggled with Total War games. We love the history, the scope is staggering, and real time strategy is one of our favourite genres, alongside turn-based 4X games, which also happens to be a staple of the series. Unfortunately, the games are just too hard. We always run out of money, forgetting to disband armies, we overestimate our strength, we move entire armies as one unit in the RTS battles and get roundly slaughtered by spearmen and cavalry. It comes as no small surprise then that we’re thoroughly enjoying Total War: Warhammer. Yes we still make dumb decisions and can only win battles by overwhelming numbers, but now there’s a race for that. They’re called Orks.
In many ways Total War: Warhammer is everything a PC game should be. It has not one, but four fully fleshed-out campaigns with interesting characters and intrigue. It has co-op modes and multiplayer campaigns, it has a huge amount of customisable multiplayer battle options. It has Steam Workshop support for thousands of excellent mods, it has more graphical settings than we could ever hope to understand. If at any point in your life you’ve thought ‘oh man I’d love a good Warhammer RTS’ then stop thinking and get playing. You’ve had Dawn of War II for years, and now you’ve got this for your classic Warhammer action.
If you’re familiar with the Total War games, you’ll be at home immediately. You control an empire on a turn-based strategy map and manage diplomacy, civil unrest, resources, gold, and armies in a bid to make your empire stronger than others. Whenever you encounter an enemy force, be it at a castle siege or on the open fields of battle, you get the choice to either play the battle yourself or to let the computer auto-resolve. Should you take it on yourself you’re treated to the spectacle of hundreds of individual units following your command in ballets of strategy and tactics until they realise they’re flanked and run for their lives, leaving you to command a single unit of spearmen while cursing under your breath. Or in this game’s case, you watch as winged demons fly down to attack your giant spider while your goblins throw themselves ineffectually against the spears of knights and occasionally vampires.
Adding fantasy into Total War has worked remarkably well. Spells are costly and can only be used occasionally but pound holes in enemy forces and shake them up enough for a weaker force to dominate them, beasts are used as powerful units with completely different types of movement and tactics required to control them well. It’s so satisfying to sideswipe a seemingly impenetrable cavalry charge with a hundred wolves leaping out of the forest, only for them to turn tail and disappear again, ready to strike. You now occasionally fight in caves and it just feels right to have small formations of dwarves fighting off waves of undead beings as they struggle to hold cities against the oncoming hordes. Even if you’re not really into Warhammer, many fantasy tropes are present and correct here and it wouldn’t be hard to squint a bit and see this as a Lord of the Rings RTS.
The difficulty is still an issue, but thankfully the battles are fun enough that we don’t really mind. Keeping your cities under control is a constant issue and raising enough armies to defend your lands after a sizeable invasion feels almost impossible at times. There are plenty of in-game videos and tips to try and explain the inner working of the game to you, but we still found it fairly opaque and at times impenetrable. We still don’t really understand why we need to elect Lords into certain government positions or why there’s so many different types of treaty and when we should enter into which.
If you can look past the slightly intimidating 4X facade and are willing to lose more than a few battles as you learn which strategies work, there’s a huge amount of content and fun to be had with Total War: Warhammer. As with most games, the multiplayer is much better with someone you really know, and Warhammer fans are going to get even more out of this. But we’d say whether you’re a fan or not, this is an RTS game that is definitely worth the money.