Total War: Warhammer represents a new era for developer Creative Assembly. The 16 year old Total War series usually deals with historical settings, like Feudal Japan, Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe and the American Colonial times. But with Warhammer, Creative Assembly is spreading its creative wings to expand into a fantasy setting. The company says the idea of going into the fantasy realm has been in discussions for ten years, but this is the first time they’ve decided to take it in the new direction.
Warhammer is the tenth game in the series and is the first of a planned trilogy. The first game will be released on May 24, 2016. As usual with Total War, the game is split into two different parts. The first is a turn-based strategy, where you need to raise an army, engage in diplomacy and work to build better cities. The second part are the real-time battles where you use the armies you recruited to engage in war. The characters include monsters, warriors, and heroes, plus four playable factions: the Empire, the Greenskins, the Dwarfs and the Vampire Counts.
The fantasy setting allows for some unique experiences. The Empire is a human faction, with typical weaponry units like Team Tanks. But the Greenskins faction has units like spiders, giants and trolls. There was less of a tutorial than would be ideal for those of you who are not familiar with the other Total War game mythology. However, unlike many fantasy/strategy games, it is not too difficult for new players to get accustomed to the game.
In the beginning you fight a dwarf citadel, plus you have to work through some dissension in your own ranks. This means your top advisor will be help you figure out how to defeat your rival while keeping track of the dwarf situation. This blends gradually into the other tasks needed to raise an army and consolidate power, like recruiting new troops, fortifying your castle and fighting some stray fighters in the area. This process is fun and gets you in the mindset for the second part of the game.
Some of the story aspects of the game are intriguing, like the ability of the Vampire Counts to turn newly dead people into soldiers. The Necromancers are also exciting to play with, since they have but one objective: immorality. Something about the Necromancer feels tragically evil. The development team described them this way:
“The Master Necromancer is amongst the most cursed of all those who practice the magical arts, having exchanged his humanity for the ability to raise the dead and command them to wage war upon the living. Strange as it may seem, this depraved madman made this dread pact willingly. At the heart of the Master Necromancer’s morbid obsession is the need to subjugate and punish those who have persecuted him in the past, regardless of the cost. Drifting between the living and the dead, a Master Necromancer summons undead minions to fight enemies on his behalf.”
If that doesn’t excite you, perhaps you’ll be more motivated by the stoic Dwarfs. The Dwarf High King Thorgrim leads his brethren from their mountain strongholds, marching to right the serious injustices wrought upon them over the millennia. In this respect the world of Warhammer feels a bit like Lord of the Rings.
Overall, the game does a good job of blending strategy gaming with traditional fantasy. The true mark of its success, however, will be what happens in the second part of the trilogy.