The Total War franchise has been continuing onward for close to two decades, and as a result, things have gotten a little too safe and comfortable. Players knew what to expect from a Total War launch: a grand strategy game that is set in a historical setting and filled to the brim with bugs. At least until Total War: Warhammer that is.
So far, playing Total War: Warhammer has been a pleasant surprise. Combining Warhammer and Total War together is one of those ideas that just makes sense, and you can tell how much love and attention has been put in the game.
Out of the five races available with the game (six if you buy it launch week) I chose to start my Warhammer journey with the Dwarfs because Dwarfs are cool.
As a Dwarf, you are tasked with rebuilding the Dwarven Empire, an empire that at its height had complete control over their ancestral mountain homeland. So far, I’ve captured three or four different territories in a manner that is very familiar to any Total War fan, which is essentially building an army and marching to… total war.
However, the Warhammer IP is making all the difference in staying most of the boredom so far. Building and maintaining the armies in this series is something that I have always found tedious, with the battles alleviating the tedium. This game I’ve found to be no exception, but with the addition of fantasy combat, Warhammer is rapidly becoming my favorite in the series. The visual and mechanical difference between the armies is startling, and the Legendary Lord characters that have been introduced are intriguing. Having someone to lead the charge instead of protecting the back changes the flow of battles drastically, and sort of adds an ‘ace-up-one’s-sleeve’ that brings another layer of depth to the title. Having the ability to level up your Legendary Lord with attributes that can help the nations’ economics or military is a great idea as well.
Another cool thing to see was the cinematic at the beginning of the game, which helps set up the reasoning behind your chosen race’s actions. Instead of being a random color-coded/reskinned nation that wants land, the Dwarfs want to reclaim their ancestral homelands that have been taken from them. Granted it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s something that adds needed agency to the game. I’m doing these things for a reason instead of an atypical ‘gimme your land and women’ vibe that echoes through history and subsequently the Total War franchise as a result. Essentially, the point is that Total War: Warhammer is not bound by real-life history, and is instead bound by a fictional world that allows a lot more leeway.
Speaking of leeway, I’ve only seen one minor (and easily fixed) bug in my few hours of play, which is something that Sega and Creative Assembly have struggled with for a very long time. This is something that both companies should be commended for.
What Creative Assembly should also be commended for is its visual and audio. As expected of a Total War title, Total War: Warhammer is gorgeous, and does its very best to make my PC sweat. You can see it on the map, where so much detail is placed whether it’s from the sacred Dwarven halls of Karaz-a-Karak to the fiery mountain of the Black Crag. It’s ridiculous to see how much detail is placed on, well, everything, and as a result, there is no doubt that Warhammer will be a title to test computer rigs for years to come.
The audio could very well be the best part of the game. Rarely have I seen anything in any medium have such a polished sound design that fits the game perfectly. It ebbs and flows, from the cries of the Orks to the slamming of shield upon shield, while the soundtrack is perfectly inserted at the proper points as audio cues or to just pump the player up as they destroy yet another foe. There are no complaints at all in regards to the sound design, and the sound designers at Creative Assembly have done a magnificent job and should be applauded for their efforts.
It’s not all sunshine and decapitated Orks though. As previously mentioned, Warhammer is a doozy for graphical performance, and after the latest patch, my rig has gone down from a solid 45-50 frames on ultra-settings to around 15-20 after the most recent patch on Windowed mode. Once I set it to fullscreen, it works just fine, but I shouldn't have to play fullscreen if I have to. Another thing that's odd is how long it takes to load on my computer: upwards of 40 to 60 seconds. It takes you out of the game entirely, and this is another issue that Creative Assembly can hopefully look at in the future.
Another negative are my thoughts on the empire building, which I’ve always found to be dull. It works, and it does its job, but it always seems perfunctory, like yes, you have to manage your empire, and yes, you should do it before every turn. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not something that I relish either. I build a few buildings, I upgrade a few others, and I create an army to wipe the Orks off the face of the continent. All in a day’s work.
Total War: Warhammer seems like the type of game that can reinvigorate a franchise on the cusp of decline, and so far it certainly feels as though it is. The addition of fantasy combat and things such as Legendary Lords help to provide a depth that makes combat more enjoyable and strategic, which in of itself is a splendid thing. While there are things that do need work, it is such a minor amount compared to what players usually face for the usual Total War launch that this title is the most polished Total War release seen in quite some time. If you like Total War or Warhammer, this title is a no-brainer.
Total War: Warhammer is being reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.