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05/21/2020 13:50:31 •••

War Squared

I have to start with a couple of disclaimers for this one. Firstly, Iím only thirty or so hours into Warhammer: Total War - monster of a game - having tried out only two of the factions so far. That's nowhere near enough time. Secondly, my knowledge of Warhammer is twenty years out of date. People tell me that Games Workshop has done some funny things with their toy line since then, but from what I can gather the Total War version is fortunately a bit old fashioned.

I`ve played most of the Total War games, and Warhammer is a perfect fit into the core premise of the series, where in every iteration, the player steps into the shoes of an obsessively expansionist Emperor whoís just been handed an atlas to colour in. Warhammer expands on this by introducing a ton of new ideas to freshen things up.

Chief of these is the fantasy setting`s diverse races and armies. The Napoleon or Shogun Total War games essentially offer identical factions, and youíre basically just picking between a couple of buffs and the colours of the soldierís uniforms. In Warhammer, you can end up with an army of monster bats fighting Arthurian Knights, steampunk dwarven aircraft, and comedy illiterate orcs. On top of that, your tactical approach to fighting is heavily dictated by the faction you pick; maybe you hit and run with your army of fragile elven archers, or hold the line with heavily armoured dwarves, or simply send wave after wave of trashy zombies. There is something to appeal to everyone. For me, I fell in love with the Vampire Counts; a faction of Hammer Horror style villains who slowly coat the landscape with dead trees and spooky castles as their corruption spreads. Their gimmick is that they can instantly bring an undead army out of the ground, but also if their leader falls in battle, so too will the whole horde.

The other big addition is magical heroes. In principle they serve in battle by raining spells down on your enemies. In practise, itís a pig to micromanage these guys, and in the crucial few seconds youíre trying to figure out which spell is which, your hero is getting torn through like toilet paper. In fact, this is the big flaw with Warhammer; battles happen way too fast. They are over in a couple of minutes, with both sides slamming everything theyíve got into one another. You only have moments to make a few frantic decisions before the whole thing is over, which isn`t very satisfying for creaky old armchair generals like me. Fortunately, it is simplicity itself to install a mod from the steam workshop to slow down the pace of battle, which is what I went and did. There sadly isn`t a mod to remove the rubbish game title, or some of the weakly written humour the game works in, but I guess that is integral to the setting and tone.

I donít hesitate recommending Total War: Warhammer to anyone. These two franchises are a match made in heaven.

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