total war warhammer 3

Preview

Total War: Warhammer III is the Biggest, Best Total War Yet

January 19, 2022

By: Andrew Otton

 
 
More Info About This Game
Developer
Creative Assembly
Publisher
Feral Interactive
Platforms
Windows
Release Date
February 17,2022 (Calendar)
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)

I recently had the opportunity to get hands-on with Total War: Warhammer III and play 50 turns of both Grand Cathay and the newly announced Daemons of Chaos (Chaos Undivided) - you can find my impressions of both here and here. In every respect, Warhammer III is way bigger, has more going on to the point of almost being overwhelming (in a good way), and satisfyingly integrates story and lore better than ever before.

It feels banal to describe Total War: Warhammer III as chaotic (tumultuous maybe, Mr. Thesaurus says), but that is the overall feel of playing the game. Your attention is going to be constantly pulled every which way, straining resources you’ve built and forcing you to change your plans on the fly.

 

Chaos is everywhere and gives you little to no rest. Just as you start to get a little comfortable with a province or two under your control, rifts appear on the map. They instantly spread a ton of corruption that physically changes the look of the map before your eyes depending on which Chaos God the rift is attributed to. 

These rifts show up everywhere and immediately should take priority when they appear, as time is limited. With these rifts, you have the choice to just close them to stop their corruption, travel into the realms of chaos to try to steal a Daemon Prince soul, or the ultimate chaos move: use the rift to teleport your army to another rift on the world and wreak havoc among your normal enemies. These rifts are everywhere, meaning you can travel an incredible distance in no time at all.

 
 
total war warhammer 3 realm of chaos slaanesh
The realm of chaos for Slaanesh. A series of circles with portals you enter as you make your way to the center to challenge the Daemon Prince.

Assuming you want to engage with the goal of the campaign, you go into these rifts to collect four souls, one for each Chaos God - Khorne, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, and Nurgle. Once done, you get the opportunity to face the ultimate big bad that’s keeping the Bear-God Ursun shackled (whose cries of pain are causing these rifts in the first place).

Each of the four realms are entirely unique and requires very different approaches to succeed. You can only travel there with your main lord’s army and face a series of challenges that go beyond simply duking it out with enemy armies. For example, in the realm for Tzeentch, you have to take the correct series of warp points until you can face the Daemon Prince of that realm to fight for the soul. In that realm, you get an additional choice of award for defeating an army: information of a correct warp point.

 
 

To add to the tension and chaos, everyone else is attempting to do the same thing. If another army beats you to the soul, that realm closes and you’re kicked out and it is no longer accessible until the rifts open again. 

The sense of urgency is intense and every turn feels equally important. When speaking to game director Ian Roxburgh and Principle Writer Andy Hall, I asked about that feeling and if that is what they intended. Here's what Ian had to say about how they approached the overall feel of the game:

We kind of want to feel there is a constant threat. There's something you have to be thinking about or worrying about everywhere. If it gets quiet and you're just picking fights on people for the sake of it and the threats aren't appearing naturally, then it starts to feel a bit stale. It's a strategy game, and you want to be constantly dealing with decisions about how you deal with certain problems. We always found that the game is always at the most exciting when you've got a few different things on the go that you're having to decide priorities between. 

They nailed that exciting feeling, that urgency, from what I played in the game. For what can be, at times, a slower-paced game taking place turn by turn on a big map, Creative Assembly did an incredible job of making it feel frantic and having plenty to engage with every turn, avoiding the feared doldrums of just going through the motions one turn to the next.

In terms of the meat and potatoes of the game, the mechanics are largely the same with some interesting new additions. Of course, each new faction is going to have something weird and new attached to it, but we also are getting reworked sieges, new and larger battle maps, and more settlement battles.

 
 

My time with the game was limited, and no matter how hard I tried to bait an enemy into attacking me, I wasn’t able to experience the new siege gameplay as a defender. That’s a shame, as most of the siege rework really affects the defender, but the new changes did make it somewhat more interesting for an attacker.

There are now more capture points around a city that are actually worth going after, and the maps are much larger as well. These capture points give defenders supplies, which allow them to build certain defenses, like walls, towers, etc, so capturing points limits what a defender can do. It’s hard to say how engaging sieges will feel as an attacker in a longer playthrough, but the large maps with multiple avenues of attack offer a lot to strategize with. It's just unfortunate there's not really anything to grab onto as feeling all that new unless you're defending.

It’s certainly hard not to shake the feeling that it made sieges that much more of a hurdle for attackers, which might end up not being all that popular. Considering most players will be attacking a walled city or settlement rather than defending it, I wonder if the bigger maps and more capture points will be enough. Regardless, the maps are certainly more dynamic than in the past.

In a similar vein, settlements without walls now have unique battle maps. Like sieging a walled city, defenders can build up defenses with supplies, but this is all obviously on a smaller scale. The maps aren’t nearly as complex as a walled city, but there’s nice verticality and multiple entrances points to most. 

total war warhammer 3 minor settlement battle
If you look at the minimap in the top right, you can see that the settlement is circular in shape. You can deploy units anywhere around that circle, and there are a lot of entrance points. All that I encountered had quite a bit of variety.

Map variety is certainly one of the bigger criticisms with the Total War: Warhammer series, as an open field with some hills and maybe some trees can only be so interesting for so long. Considering the frequency of settlement battles happening, the new maps are a very welcome addition. It’s also nice to have a bit of an edge fighting in the streets when defending, instead of taking your paltry garrison to get absolutely wrecked in the open field.

There are a lot of smaller changes and additions to the game as well. Diplomacy works more or less the same but the UI and the way you interact with it is way better. Making quick deals and knowing whether a deal will be accepted, how things affect the deal, etc. have been added. A much better experience for sure that includes the addition of outposts. You can build outposts in an allied faction’s settlement, strengthening your relationship and allowing you to recruit a unit from their faction. 

While I wasn’t able to try them out in this demo, multiplayer has a lot of new features and updates as well. Read more about them here. The big news is that you can now play with up to eight people in a given game - a big increase from two.

Overall, I loved my relatively short (5-6 hours) time with Total War: Warhammer III. Everything’s bigger and better, with plenty of new things to engage with, but its most significant feat is making the campaign map the most fun yet. The vortex rituals in II could feel like window dressing at times, but everything here in III is in your face and, more importantly, fun to get mixed up in. 

I can’t wait to see a campaign through to the end.

Total War: Warhammer III releases February 17th on PC. It will be available on PC Game Pass day one as well.


TechRaptor's Total War: Warhammer III preview was conducted on PC through Steam at an online press event.