Total War brings an enormous amount of realism to it’s strategic battles. The accuracy and detail that goes into each unit is really incredible. From individually rendered projectiles that affect units made up of 100’s of on screen troops to the single sword swipes of each soldier. That kind of realism is something Total War has come to own really and historical accuracy works very neatly alongside. But if I’m honest this is the most excited I’ve been about Total War in a long time. A finely detailed trebuchet is cool but it’s just not the same as a zombie dragon at the end of the day.
Historical accuracy is cool but is very easy to forget once said bone dragon starts flying around destroying foes with ease. And when a hero wades into the middle of a thousand unit brawl slamming the ground, sending his enemies flying my thoughts are not of historical accuracy. Total War has finally made the giant leap into fantasy and forgone some of its unrelenting realism.
I have absolutely no doubt there will be those who are not keen on the idea but really it has done the franchise an immense amount of good. Total War is a serious game but it has a tendency to come of a little dry. It does what it does very well which is why I love it but there’s nothing wrong with the occasional magical explosion or giant monster.
Battles are the usual Total War affair with deployment zones and strategic possibilities like choke points and high ground. There’s still the unit weaknesses you would expect, such as cavalry are weak to pole arms and archers to just about everything. All your strategy knowledge is not wasted, it’s just everything is Warhammer which is, frankly, cooler than real stuff.
Heroes and leaders are one of the biggest changes to the way battles are fought. They are now immensely powerful units that can quite happily wade into tides of enemies and stand there slaughtering away as apposed to someone for you to protect and never use. You get a much closer, personal feel to your leaders this way that allows you to feel more directly in control of the battle than in most previous Total Wars titles. Plus it looks awesome when your hero slams the ground and 10’s of units fall to the ground. Never gets boring. Never will.
It also brings a neat RPG element forward that hasn’t ever really been fully realised in Total War. There have been plenty of instances when we could upgrade leaders and mould their stats and abilities but without that personal connection it has always been all too easy just to select passives and leave your general at the back. Besides who would have risked a general going down before? Well you will now because chances are they won’t die unless in a duel with another hero but then that’s just cool as hell so well worth the risk.
Skills include spells, passives, mounts and just about any effect you can think of. The RPG elements are surprisingly fleshed out and as time goes on you will create a real bond with your leaders. The more intimate approach is definitely a winner which is a little surprising given Total War’s love of scale. But in this case you can have your cake and eat it. The solution was to have an epic duel going on whilst thousands of units fight around you. Seems so obvious really.
The biggest difference from previous titles lies within the factions themselves. It’s OK having 10s of factions in a game but really how different are England, France and Germany for example? Different special units and outfits, maybe even different stats but fundamentally the same. Two legs, a head etc. TW:Warhammer goes a different way and only provides 4 playable factions but each one has nothing in common with any of the other 3 at all even down to the anatomy of units. They all play very differently. For example the Vampire Counts have no archers at all but can resurrect units after a battle even in defeat. They also never retreat and units will fight to the death. Real game changing stuff.
In an attempt to make the campaign map something more than just arbitrary tiles for you to take over you can only take residence in certain areas now. Vampire Counts and The Empire can take each other’s land as can the Dwarfs and the Orks. But there is no cross over. You can attack anywhere but you can no longer control the entire map which is so refreshing and infinity more strategic.
Adding the fantasy of Warhammer into Total War was a brilliant move that has been almost perfectly executed. The biggest fault with TW:W is the graphical performance. It’s nowhere even close to as demanding as previous titles which is nice but screen tairing is a constant eyesore particularly on the world map.
Aside from that this is a triumph of a game and hopefully the start of Total War branching out. There’s so many fantasy worlds that would work beautifully like this. How is there not a ‘Total War: Middle Earth’? Creative Assembly have shown a keen eye for timing releasing this before the historical titles became stale and have made sure Total War is still the best strategy war game there is.