Total War: Warhammer Review
Throwing off the shackles of history and boldly going where no Roman general has gone before, Total War: Warhammer somehow manages to reinvent the bloody wheel of human conflict. Remaining faithful to both loyal Total War fans and Warhammer aficionados, what emerges is the most compelling Total War game of all time.
It's no easy feat, when you consider it's a series with so many dizzying high points. Its biggest achievement is letting you ignore these past glories and go into the game fresh, after a decent tutorial and some very user-friendly tooltips. I've always been a Total War recruit, despite trying to get to grips with every game in the series. This is the first to make me really feel like I "get it" and that's to be applauded. Everything around you is carnage, but the well-written tooltips and decent UI help even the greenest of players to make sense of it all.
You'll want to get into this one too, with the fantasy stylings of Warhammer blending perfectly with Total War's gameplay, to honestly just turn the game a little on its head. Napoleon never needed to fight off a giant troll, or a spider with goblins hanging off it. He never needed to skirmish with a banshee, or resist the sway of vampire sorcerers. He never had to survive a Greenskin Waaagh. Don't know what any of these are? That's okay, I didn't get it either when I started, and now I've experienced it all. It's the finest Fantasy RTS of its kind, and most of this comes from the love and care they've used to adapt the Warhammer lore.
For those of you not familiar with Total War's particular brand of, well, war - play is split across two main parts, where you'll be spending all of your time.
The overview stage is a turn-based segment for you to maintain your empire and make broad strategic decisions, like settlement upgrades, moving your armies and improving and outfitting your heroes.
This benefits from a healthy dose of Warhammer flavour: as Chaos corrupts your lands they'll start to crack and crumble, Vampiric corruption will make the ground dark and desolate - but when the humans are scrapping it's all verdant grasslands and pretty mountain vistas.
The second stage of the real-time battle system is the real gem here though, as it has always been. The fighting is as complex and challenging as ever, with masses of soldiers brawling in a variety of maps, from the aforementioned grasslands to more esoteric maps from the Warhammer lore: underground passages or mountain ranges carved to look like grinning skulls.
For the first time, giant fantastical beasts are alongside the armies, and flying units fight for control of the skies. Extra care to the animation means that when a Troll swings a mighty haymaker at a poor horse below, you can really see the crunch. It's hard to overstate quite how much of an impact these beasts have on combat, because they can achieve truly remarkable things. One monstrous Vargheist can take out an entire squadron of infantry, a single Dwarfen lord can hold his own in combat against the teeming tides. The creatures brought to life here are truly the stuff of myths, and they can do legendary things.