Review: Total War: Warhammer II


The Old World, and the New, come to life.

The other week video gamers everywhere were greeted with the release of the new Total War: WArhammer II. Since getting my hands on it I’ve put about 36 hours into the game (yeah I obviously hated it). Warhammer II makers a significant advancement over its predecessor and is a worthy addition to the Total War line. It remains not only faithful to Total War games, but to the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. So lets dig in a bit more and see just why I think this is an amazing game.

(N.B. For this review I will just be covering the base game and the Vortex Campaign, not Mortal Empires or Multiplayer)

A Game Made Just For Me

They really netted me with this one

Before we get in depth into the game, a quick caveat. This game is pretty much tailor made to appeal to me, I’ve played ever Total War game since Shogun I, and spent a good 15 years players Warhammer Fantasy Battles. This is a game that really hits my buttons and combines two of my favorite franchises into one. That’s not to say it was an automatic win, it had a really high bar to meet. I’m glad to say it did. So far I’ve played through a full campaign as the High Elves and also messed around with the Lizardmen a bit. Lets look at what I love about this game.

A New Campaign

The heart of the High Elf lands

Warhammer II focuses on 4 new races, Lizardmen, Skaven and High and Dark Elves, to the game. The game is set in the western part of the WFB setting, in Lustria, Naggaroth, Ulthuan and the Southlands. The single player campaign focuses on the these four races struggling to control the magic vortex of power located in the center of Ulthuan. While the campagin is more focused than the semi-sandbox of most Total Wargames I felt it was a huge improvement over the Chaos invasion “plot” of the first game. The Vortex story helped keep the game focused and made sure all the factions were competing of the same goal. In Warhammer I it sometimes felt like there were two games, Dwarfs vs Orks, and everyone else vs Chaos. In Warhammer II everyone is engaged in the same struggle and it helps keep the game moving forward.

A More Active Focus

You can literally leap into battle! 

In Warhammer I the focus of defending against the Chaos invasion often forced the player in to a passive/reactionary stance, defending against a tide of Chaos. Warhammer II puts the player in a much more active position. The impetus of the game is to first unify your starting location, and then to venture forth, across the high seas often, to find to adventure and treasure. Unlike Warhammer I, I never felt I was just sitting around waiting for a new attack, I always had things to do.

A Fuller Map

 

Full of my armies! 

One of the major improvements of Warhammer II is to add a lot more stuff to do on the campaign map. Now in addition to moving and fighting battles, characters can sail the seas searching for lost islands and magic treasure. On land they can explore sacked cities and have mini adventures against other looters. Storms, magic and natural poses their own dangers to moving armies. There always seems to be something else to do, some new reward lying just a turn away.

Same Great Battles

My massive High Elf battle line under bombardment by Skaven. 

One of the big draws, maybe the biggest, to a Total War game is the battles. Happily I can say the battles in Warhammer II deliver. While these remain largely the same as the first game, there has been some streamlining and improvement. Most noticeably is the inclusion of the 4 new factions and their wonderfully rendered units. Each faction adds some new and interesting twist in battles. And never fear, all the factions of the prior game are still in the Vortex campaign, as minor factions you can fight against  or ally with. So many factions give the battles a huge amount of diversity.

Amazing Maps

Just look at this insanity! 

One thing I can’t rave about enough is how great the maps, both battle and campaign look. Though Warhammer I had some great looking maps, they tend to focus on the dark and gritty setting of the Old World. In Warhammer Two the settings are much more fantastical, from the deep jungles of Lustria to the magic soaked earth of the High Eleven Kingdoms. While their are still plenty of skull mountains, those are now joined by rainbow clad peaks and soaring spires. From the blood pits of the Dark Elves to the Temple Cities of the Lizardmen, and beyond the maps are vibrant, details and magical.

The Flaws Are Minor

This is about the only flak the game deserves. 

No game is without flaws, and Total War: Warhammer II does some have. Most of the issues I do have with the game, are the same ones I had with Warhammer I. Perhaps my biggest peeve is still that units don’t have Champions, Standard Bearers , or Musicians modeled in them. These are such a major part of how a Warhammer army looks. In addition previous Total War games had them, so I can’t understand how they were left out. However you can see that that complaint is pretty minor at best. Luckily many the issues that had troubled by in the original game were addressed.

A Whole New World

The new world is actually full of evil elves trying to kill you. 

Total War: Warhammer II takes the solid game play foundation of its predecessor and with the additional of new factions and a more focused campaigns improves on it in just about every way. This is a game that will wow with you visual spectacles and pull you in fast paced tactical battles. From exploring jungle ruins to fighting climatic battles there are few dull moments. By introducing new concepts and more RPG elements the game sets itself apart from its precursor and carves out its own space.

If you are a fan of Total War games, of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, or simple of massed fantasy combat, I cannot recommend this game enough.

 

Well that’s all for today folks. Have you played Total War:Warhammer II? Let us know what you think, down in the comments! 

  • dave long island

    I’ll get this one. In a few months. Got too many games to get atm. Budgetary restraints must be exerted at some point. But I will definitely get this one, too.

  • Txabi Etxebarrieta

    I’m wondering at what point they’ll decide to license video games with Age of Sigmar stuff. It still seems weird that these licenses are still being used while there’s no Age of Sigmar stuff at least paired with it.

    • marlowc

      I don’t think the Realms setting is good enough yet for anyone else to pay money to make a game in it.

      • YetAnotherFacelessMan

        It depends on the genre and price-point. I’d play a $5 galaga-style game where you play as an airship of dwarves and you shoot down all the flying deamons.

    • EnTyme

      They’re still fleshing out the setting for the Mortal Realms. It’s starting to get there, but I don’t really expect many VGs for AoS for another 2-3 years.

      • Txabi Etxebarrieta

        What is it missing? It makes sense to me not to do something like Total War, which requires detailed geography and the likes…but Shadespire is pretty self-contained and could be a pretty easy action game.

        • EnTyme

          I don’t know that I would say anything in particular is “missing”, but I would definitely say that the world is only partially established so far. We’re stilling waiting to see what a lot of factions (like Aelves) are doing since the End Times. Right now, it’s important for GW to control the narrative of Age of Sigmar as the setting develops, and that’s harder to do once you start licensing the setting out. I could see some more . . . arcade-y(?) . . . games being made shortly to help bring attention to the setting.

          • Rob brown

            The reality is we won’t see a quality AOS game partly because the setting isn’t qulaity and partly because the general public arent interested in transparent BS like Aelves, Duelves, Gelfs or Oroks.

          • benn grimm

            I’d definitely play a game with Gelfs…. 😉

        • Vicent Martín Bonet

          I’d say not as much as “missing” as ·”expanded upon”. You kind of don’t want to cause early installment business and you want to build the fanbase so it looks like a better trade-off to the reduction of creative freedom and the extra costs from licensing and royalties..

    • benn grimm

      Give it twenty years. If AoS is still around then I’m sure there’ll be a video game or two out for it. Assuming video games are still a thing in twenty years and we haven’t been over run by giant ants, mutants or talking apes…

      • EnTyme

        Random thought/video game pitch: How awesome would it be to get a Rogue-like based on Silver Tower?

        • benn grimm

          I dunno really, haven’t played much Silver Tower, warhammer quest on iPad was pretty fun but kind of limited, apparently the new one is better. There’s definitely scope there for a good rpg.

  • YetAnotherFacelessMan

    I’ve be preferring Mortal Empires because the ticking clock race-to-the-vortex mechanic never really did it for me. Now that they’ve got a hotfix out for the chaos invasions, Mortal Empires is really just what I was after. ^_^

    • EnTyme

      Loving the Mortal Empires campaign so far. Can’t wait for Norsca to get added! Also anxious to see what other races are going to be added (other than Tomb Kings, because we all know Tomb Kings are coming).

  • benn grimm

    Finished the vortex campaign, bout 120 turns into a Naggarothi Mortal Empires campaign, pretty much (single player) game of the year as far as I’m concerned. Just imagine how much money, time and room you’d have to have to paint up, play with and store all the 8th ed WFB armies (10,000 pts worth). Yup. Now you get all that for less than the cost of one unit of witch elves, stored in a space smaller than your phone and you can get in, play a game and watch it back in less time than it takes to watch a bugs bunny cartoon. Truly technology has become a fifth (or sixth) chaos god.

    Multiplayer on the other hand could do with improvements, the lobby system is kinda bad and there are some issues with balance, the newer races seem a lot more powerful, Skaven in particular, though funnily enough one of the generally weaker races from the first game (Beastmen) seem like a hard counter. It’s a bit rock, paper, shotgun atm, though I have no doubt they’ll fix them (like they did with the first game) and a lot quicker than gw ever did.

    • Rob brown

      I agree with all this. Completed Dark Elves and Skaven both. Now I’m about to give the High Elves a crack on Mortal Empires.

      Awesome game and well worth a play. It will just take a few goes for anyone not familiar with the total war series to get to grips with it… but well worth the effort.

  • Robomummy

    Honestly it’s a bit disappointing. Gameplay-wise it’s a huge step down from past total war games.

  • crimsonsun

    Got to say I’ve been fairly unimpressed by TWW2 thus far, its got the same glaring flaws as the first one, which while fun just didn’t have enough strategy to keep me playing constantly. There’s just not enough depth in the campaign mechanics and the Vortex campaign is massively hindered by the large provinces combined with increased capital build slots making development of regions boring and utterly repetitive, there’s literally no reason not to just build everything everywhere making all choices irrelevant. Additionally the game was no where near as optimised on release as the previous title which there’s really no excuse for. There has been no changes to sieges which is possibly the biggest travesty overall, they are just boring, lacking in options and tactics, the AI also leaves a lot to be desired.

    On the other hand when fully optimised it looks fantastic and while it sounds like I’m ranting in a negative fashion I love the game as I did its predecessor but as a long term total war player (16 years) and a even longer term WFB player (25+ years) that’s a forgone conclusion. My issue with the 2nd game is that there hasn’t been enough gameplay improvements over the first one to keep my experiences fresh. New races are well and good as is the Mortal empires map but the Vortex campaign was a poor and just lacks in variation and actual decision making. The 2nd game needed more than a UI update and 4 new races to make it a worthy game in its own right in my opinion, as a expansion bringing 4 new races, a UI upgrade, a new bigger map (mortal empires) its ok but CA are charging over the odds for it atm.

    CA really took there time with the first game and it showed, however the 2nd one feels more like it was released way too soon with a shoe in Vortex campaign to enable them to market it as an independent title. Mortal Empires is really what the release was about and that’s currently not really past beta hence why the foundation update to TWW1 factions and Norsica aren’t in the game yet. The other issue I have is that while 4 DLC worth of factions have essentially been added in Warhammer 2 they aren’t finished rosters so there will be DLC adding units and Characters required to flesh them out still (likely 2 DLC’s each with content for two races, my guess is High Elves & Dark Elves, then Lizards and Skaven).

    Warhammer 2 has I believe a much lighter DLC schedule than the previous title with Tomb Kings and Araby being the only additional factions I’d personally bet on coming prior to the third title, I just hope they don’t break up the additional content for the other races or the Warhammer 1 races too much.

    I’m 99% positive there’s going to be a multi year gap now before the 3rd title and I really hope they use that time to fix the issues with the series, especially AI, sieges, diplomacy and rather underwhelming regional development. I’m likely to buy the title regardless and I will without any doubt pick up all the DLC’s as they come out and I will enjoy Warhammer 2 but I don’t think it adds enough to the experience especially when you can pick up the first title for less than half the cost.