The Total War series is something I was a fan of, while not every era interested me, I have fond memories of slowly, surely, dominating Japan, becoming Shogan. The intrigue, strategy, construction, upgrading, all of which was at my command. Warhammer II brings back this joy, with an obvious story, campaign. There’s so much to do, so much to learn and so much to conquer.
This game has two distinct modes, the battlefield and the strategic map. Both offer very different challenges and trying to balance them out takers time, practise and if you’re anything like me, more than a few restarts.
The battlefield is the easiest one to start with, but there’s still so much to talk about. Positioning, is important, so that units are supporting each other. As well, ranges and abilities change, the Lothern Sea Guard easily one of my favourite units has to be managed carefully, advancing with shields and spears, archers firing over them, weakening the enemy. Cavalry to come in from the flanks, phoenixes, eagles attacking with them, hunting siege engines. If I were to play any of the other races, I would need to learn, use different tactics, different combinations.
The other part that takes time to master, to work in at the right moment are the various abilities you can unlock for your heroes and Lords. These can have powerful, scary and massively destructive abilities. Some spells can decimate your enemies’ lines, breaking formations for your cavalry to ride through. Others boost your soldier’s abilities, rate of fire, more. All of which, at the right time, on the right unit, can turn a defeat to a victory. Instead of your units routed, it’s the enemy.
As with all previous Total War games, the strategic map is here. Full of provinces, regions, it’s how you keep your income up. Some of them become very important in the campaign, giving you parts you need for your rituals, resources to trade with. These can help, hinder, the diplomacy system one that I’m still learning. However, the slow, but sure progress I’ve made claiming Ulthuan for the Asur, High Elves, has been equally diplomatic and by the sword.
However, that’s not the only think you will see or do. As you build your armies, your Lords and Heroes can gain traits. Traits which mean that one who has faced the Dark Elves many times, earns bonuses, boosts, that help when fighting the Dark Elves. You can become known for showing mercy or executing the enemy. My current playthrough, Tyrion is a bane of the Dark Elves, countless battles against them have honed his skills against them. They’ve learned to fear him and have good reason to do so.
Region control is quite easy and deeper than I expected. I found the ability to set Commandments takes time to learn and master. Once you’re there, it’s how you boost your income, defeat the traces of Chaos, left in their wake. The system of building structures is quite intuitive and easy to use. Working through the tiers, you unlock better units, going from Silverhelms, to Silverhelms with Shields, Lothern Sea Guard also gaining shields. Others give you more income, help your Public Order. Public Order is your morale, for your population, regions. Falls too low, you will face a rebellion. Not only do enemy armies cause problems, but so too does Chaos corruption, the auras of the undead and more. It’s something you need to manage. Even more so than your income.
Audio and Visuals
Visually this game just has nothing to complain about and plenty to admire. The world map is vibrant, full of little details. The island of Ulthuan is easily a gem in the world and it’s only a tiny part of. Especially if you play the massive campaign to conquer the known world. Not only is this overworld so detailed, but so are the battlefields. I’ve seen so much it can be hard to focus on what to talk about. From the individual soldiers fighting, to clouds of smoke and noxious fumes from creatures. The creatures themselves are just as detailed. Skin, claw, tooth, feather, all are so life like.
Just as the visuals are so top notch, so is the sound. I remember in one battle, as the forces of the Druchii, the Dark elves, approached. There was the beat of hundreds of feet, the screech of creatures, the whining of horses and other sounds. I was entranced by it, then I heard the swarms of arrows falling towards the approaching enemy, the kick, rush from the bolt throwers. I also want to credit the voice actors, they’re all in character, in spirit. To hear them speak, it’s what you expect. It keeps you involved in the world. Especially the Skaven and greenskins.
Multiplayer is so very easily one of the best parts of this game. With so many different factions, so many different Lords to choose from, you can truly make your army. Combined with Steam to co-ordinate, that only makes it easier to get games in. Much more so than the tabletop game.
It’s hard to find fault with this title. The overarching strategy required, to manage your kingdom and your forces, to keep them in the field are only half of it. The battles and the many different maps you fight on bring the action, makes it front and centre. The roars, screeches, the pounding bass of battle is something that this game really brings up. The unit variety makes this even better, working out what works best takes time and practise. Learning your army is the key to victory.