The Total War: Warhammer series has been steadily building towards a game that is truly epic on any scale, from the map, to the content, to the sheer number of unique mechanics on display. Total War: Warhammer III had the benefit of proven success from the previous two entries in the series to increase the game's budget and team size, which paid off in spades. This is the biggest game in any Total War yet and features some of the most engaging and unique factions to date.
As I described in my preview, the campaign map itself is the real star of Warhammer 3. Not only is it vast and beautiful to look at, the intricacies of surrounding factions and the geography of where settlements actually are play bigger roles than ever before. Add on the intentionally overwhelming campaign objectives, which will dominate and disrupt pretty much all plans you have, and you're left with a map that's not just a simple sandbox but a machine constantly churning out scenarios that force you into making strategic decisions.
On top of just the normal faction hatred and attempts to conquer an enemy, Chaos is literally spilling out all over the world, too. The four Chaos gods all have their own faction moving about the world, and they obviously don't really fit in with the rest of the factions out there (good luck negotiating) and are extremely disruptive to everyone around them. More Chaos comes eventually, with rifts opening up to the Realms of Chaos all over the world, spreading corruption and generating armies with no other objective than to cause mayhem to whatever is closest.
While the motivations are different, every faction has the same goal: capturing the four souls of chaos to enter the forge of souls. Simply put, but difficult to accomplish. Because everyone has the same set of goals, Warhammer 3 lends itself to some interesting scenarios you wouldn't ever find yourself in normally.
Let's say you're playing Kislev and you're really close to entering the final battle in a realm of chaos, but then you see Cathay is just a step ahead of you. If Cathay gets the soul before you, you will be kicked out of the realm and have to wait until the rifts open up again to try for the soul, which will really feel like 20 turns of prep wasted. So, if you want, you definitely can just straight-up attack Cathay and go to war in hopes to stop them, which is never something that would easily or realistically happen over the course of a campaign, as the two factions are in complete opposite corners of the map.
That is just one example of many that the campaign map and objectives offer you. There's so much to engage with and so much to do at any one time, you'll never feel like you're just waiting around for something to happen. As described in that Cathay example, the "normal" rules or way you would play the game are thrown out the window as well. As Kislev, unless you were going for a domination victory, you would never touch Cathay or really interact beyond trading. The campaign objectives are more important than anything else, and I love the out-of-the-box decisions you have to make to win.
There's a bit of a downside to the campaign map for some, however. Because the campaign objectives are so present, deciding to go for some sort of domination victory or something aside from the map objectives is made extremely difficult. No matter what you do, Chaos will get in your way and be a hindrance in some way or another. Since Mortal Empires (Immortal Empires for 3) is not in Warhammer 3 yet, you may find that somewhat limiting. The mega map combining all three games into one will be coming at some point in the future, however.
Beyond the campaign map, there's nothing that really shakes up the formula of the game in Warhammer 3, but there are some new systems, quality of life improvements, and reworking of old mechanics that almost all hit the mark.
Diplomacy has seen a ton of quality of life improvements, such as the ability to make quick deals for something specific, like quickly displaying all factions agreeable to a trade route at that given moment. Just as the overall hostility/friendliness you have with any one faction is given a number, each demand or offer when you're making some kind of diplomatic deal has its own numerical value now. It's much easier to tell whether a deal is worth pursuing or just how close you are to closing it.
Allegiance is the new addition to diplomacy, and it is awesome. With allegiance, you interact with other factions more than ever before. You gain allegiance as a currency you can use with allies in interesting ways. For example, you can use some allegiance to tell allies to target a specific army to help out in war and actually try to coordinate with the AI. There's also the option to spend allegiance to raise an army under your temporary control from your ally as well, which can be the deciding factor in a pinch when extra help is desperately needed.
The most common way you'll likely engage with these new diplomacy mechanics is through the building of outposts. When you gather allies, you'll be given the opportunity to build an outpost in one of their settlements. Over time, you can upgrade the outpost there as well. Outposts provide more units to an ally's garrison, but more interestingly, outposts give you access to units from your allies in allied recruitment.
You can now easily end up with hybrid armies that take full advantage of the various strengths of different factions. I imagine in more complex games, and especially those you're actually playing with other people, everyone's army can be a bit of a wild card. Of course, there's a trade-off in that you won't be getting upgrades for those units when leveling up your lord or through research.
All the diplomacy changes are great and make for a much more engaging campaign. Where allies and enemies were just faces and obstacles before, there's more to engage with now. More tools at your disposal that are useful and interesting will always make a game like this better.
The siege rework is a double-edged sword. There was no other mechanic in the game that people criticized as needing a retool than sieging or defending a city. With Warhammer 3, sieges are definitely more dynamic and bigger; however, where they make defending a siege much more engaging and strategically interesting, sieges as an attacker are almost more frustrating.
On the defensive side, you gain resources that allow you to build things like towers and barricades to give the battle map some dynamic variety. The towers can be devastating and barricades can offer a platform for range units or create a choke point. There's no doubt the additions make for a far more interesting battle than what was there before, which more or less was just running back from the walls and turtling up.
For attackers, there's nothing really new. However, just as there is dynamism in the mechanics for defenders, the battle maps have been made much larger and more open to give attackers more avenues to make their way in. So, defenders do have to make some choices on where to defend and whether or not certain capture points that provide them supplies are worth protecting.
On paper, it sounds great. In practice, attacking can feel like more of a slog. Sure, there's not as much waiting around for walls to fall as before, but the new additions to siege defenders are a real pain. Now, maybe I haven't spent enough time with them to figure it out, but I definitely hoped for easy auto-resolve victories to avoid the frustration.
The Warhammer lore is deep and each faction has incredible character and theming to them, which Creative Assembly has always done a great job of translating to Total War. With Warhammer 3, they've upped their game yet again. While the jump between how much each faction has going for them mechanically and thematically is not nearly as big as 1 to 2, the factions of 3 are just bigger and have more going on.
I'm not going to go into all eight of the factions here, but they all have a bevy of wonderfully thematic mechanics, flavor, and motivations making for extremely different experiences between them. There will certainly be some that suit you best; maybe you're interested in something that's magic crazy like Tzeentch or just want to leave destruction in your wake with no ranged or magic with Khorne.
Obviously, each faction is wildly different mechanically, but they shine just as brightly thematically as well. Khorne is very 80s metal -- fans of Khorne probably shout "Slayer" with devil horns out frequently -- but maybe you just want to get into the ridiculousness that is the Ogre Kingdoms who are all about meat and gold, gluttony and greed. You can totally have just as much fun playing what appeals to you, as there's plenty for both hardcore and more casual fans to enjoy.
When it comes to combat, it is still the very recognizable Total War style, with no foundational changes. There are some quality-of-life additions, like quick formations and the like, but most of what's new in combat come in the form of all the new units added to the game with the new factions.
Where you will find something new, however, are the survival battles. These are more or less the big story battles made in a more refined and climactic way. These happen for all the biggest, most epic moments of the game, like stealing a soul for one of your objectives.
Survival battles combine the new mechanics we see in sieges and add them to humongous maps you slowly make your way across as you defeat wave after wave of enemies. Allies and reinforcements arrive at times as well to swell the scale even more, which creates an intense atmosphere and feels like you're actually in a huge battle. Unless you somehow luck into a few 20 stacks all colliding at once into one crazy battle on the campaign map somewhere, nothing tops the epic march you make as you carve your way through Chaos. I hope to see survival battles crop up more in interesting ways in the future. They are wonderfully crafted blockbuster moments that really take everything over the edge.
Total War: Warhammer III Review | Final Thoughts
Total War: Warhammer III is the best Total War has ever been, period. The sheer scale of it all is truly awe-inspiring, which makes the attention every little detail receives all the more astounding. This is what happens when a fantastic series in a niche genre is given the resources to really pursue what they want. Maybe it won't appeal to everyone, but Warhammer 3 is definitely going to be one of the crown jewels for strategy/RTS fans out there.
Plenty of games and niche genres deserve the big-budget treatment but are never given the chance, and Creative Assembly didn't let their opportunity go to waste by crafting one of the best strategy games ever to grace our screens.
TechRaptor's Total War: Warhammer III review was conducted on PC via a copy provided by the publisher. It is available via Steam and will be available on PC Game Pass at launch.
- Easily the Best Campaign Map Yet
- Reworked diplomacy adds a ton of depth
- Factions are intricate and thematically fun
- Survival battles make for epic moments
- Siege rework makes attacking more of a slog