Total War: Warhammer 2 – Review

Last year Creative Assembly (CA) released part 1 of their Warhammer trilogy, keeping support and extra content flowing post launch. Total War: Warhammer 2 (TW:W2) has just been unleashed giving more of what fans love, but can CA keep the momentum going or have they finally begun to lose steam?

Being a direct sequel TW: W2 obviously has a lot of similarities to its predecessor. In fact if you’re a gamer who hasn’t played the first in the series since its release, you could be forgiven for not noticing the subtle changes. The game contains a sprawling world map, four distinct starting factions, and the general flow of the game remains the same (check out our review of TW: W1 for a full breakdown on how the basic game functions here). As someone who has sunk a fair amount of time into the first game, the changes implemented in TW: W2 are just magic. Before I go into full detail, let us discuss what TW: W2 is all about…

Within the main campaign, each faction is attempting to gather enough power to influence a massive swirly vortex. Why? Well the vortex is essentially a giant drain, siphoning the world of chaotic magical energy. The creation of the vortex wasn’t top notch though, so the good guys need to continuously try and stabilise the thing. Flip the coin and the bad guys are trying to do the opposite. If the evil jerks succeed, then daemons of chaos will pour forth and everyone is going to have a bad time.

How this plays out mechanically is that each faction needs to gather a specific resource and then perform five “rituals”, one at a time. The amount of resource needed increases after each success. The first to complete said rituals wins. This is a big departure from the grand campaign of TW: W1 which has players attempt to achieve a couple of faction specific goals. How long that took was completely up to the player. When each of the factions are essentially after the same thing, it creates a race to the finish line. If you dilly-dally for too long, the enemy could beat you to it.

The giant lizards ready an assault against a tiny castle. Doesn’t seem fair really…

To assist you on your quest is the ability to purchase “intervention armies” of varying quality. An uncontrollable A.I army with a singular purpose: harass your opponents’ ritual attempt.
You see, completing a ritual isn’t as simple as accumulating resource and pressing a button. Rituals take time to cast: 10 in game turns to be exact. As soon as you begin one, the vortex freaks out that someone is touching it, releasing chaotic energy. This in turn produces a handful of Chaos Warrior armies near your settlements aimed to thwart said ritual. As you’d expect, the further along the game you are, the more difficult defending your ritual sites become.

As it stands, I think the campaign is fantastic. The ritual race is a brilliant motivator and it’s nice to be able to see the finish line from the offset. The length is decent too, taking between 15 – 20 hours on average per faction to complete.

Visually, troop numbers have nearly doubled since Total War: Warhammer

Let’s have a chat about the available factions. Like the previous game TW: W2 starts out with only four playable races:

  • The Lizardmen. Aztec inspired, bipedal reptile dudes who also bring dinosaurs to the fight. They attempt to follow the Great Plans of “The Old Ones”… except those plans weren’t exactly specific or easy to interpret.
  • The High Elves. Your usual snooty, “we’re better than you” kind of elf. Deadly efficient but oh so snooty. Both the Lizards and High Elves are classed as “good”.
  • The Dark Elves. High elves that weren’t invited to a party. Spurned, they turned to blood orgies, slave driving, and harbour an unreasonable grudge against everything. Their leader wears a sweet looking mask.
  • The Skaven. Ratmen born of evil and mysterious circumstances. Like regular rats, the Skaven are everywhere, usually underground though. The most numerous of species with an appetite to match. The Dark Elves and Skaven sit under the “bad” grouping.

As a fan of both Lizardmen and Skaven when they came to the Warhammer Tabletop game, I was over the moon to learn of their inclusion.

The Geomantic Web is really the Final Fantasy 10 sphere grid in disguise

As you’d expect, and following the trend set by TW: W1, each faction has a different style of play. The lizards need to re-capture their temple cities and gather ancient plaques to conduct their rituals. They also have a “geomantic web” system which requires certain cities to be in your control. The web can be visible on the campaign map and gives you something to work towards when you’re not defending yourself. The web can be strengthened by a particular building tree and as it improves, regional benefits also increase.

 

The High elves collect a resource “intrigue” which allows the player to influence other factions’ diplomacy. They can use espionage to gain line-of-sight to their trade partners’ assets and also gain a boost to combat if entered into at high strength.

The Dark elves can gather slaves to boost regional economy at the cost of public order (very in theme). If they kill enough units in battle they gain even more combat bonuses. They also gain access to “Black Arks”; massive ships that are essentially moving cities. They allow the player to recruit new units and also gain the ability to bombard land battles.

Each faction has access to four unique rites

Lastly, the Skaven player needs to maintain a strong food supply to grow or else face starvation penalties. All the Skaven cities look like ruins to other players, who need to scout the area to reveal the Skaven. Similar to the undead and chaos corruption, Skaven have their own version. High corruption levels are a detriment to public order but let the player spawn units of the basic clanrats during a fight.

 

Apart from the obvious changes in campaign format and faction availability, there are a host of smaller quality-of-life improvements over TW: W1. These include new camera options, more subtle “end of turn” reminders, more visible markers for battle effects, as well as UI and map control updates.

Moving on, CA have introduced a couple of other fun little tid-bits.

  • You can now explore ruined cities, shipwrecks and small islands for treasure.
  • You can find Rogue armies made up of unusual builds roaming the map.
  • Factions can use one of four different, race specific “Rites” which can be summarised as super expensive spells. They can summon armies, provide a massive boost to economy or provide combat bonuses for a short while.
  • Lords gain new traits for doing… stuff. E.g. if one spends enough time boating about they can gain a seafaring trait increasing the distance they can travel over water. A lord spending too much time on corrupted grounds? They may gain a trait that reduces their ability to control the public but boosts their combat strength.
  • All settlements can now be captured… but not all locations are suitable for each faction. The jungle loving lizards aren’t fond of the cold so any city they capture on a hill or anywhere up north will be harder to grow, and more expensive to develop. There’s a nifty little icon beside each settlement advising on the climate and how it’ll affect you.

While the game is an improvement over the first in the series, there are still some issues present. The worst offence is still the long load times. In my experience they have been reduced somewhat, but it’s still long enough for you to start a fight, go and boil the kettle, make a cup of tea, and come back in time for troop deployment. This is especially noticeable during the late game where armies are large and the world map mostly uncovered.

I’m also a little miffed at the absence of certain army units that are probably being held back to be released as DLC. Having learned the pattern of CA’s content release after the TW: W1, seeing these holes gives me the same icky feeling as what on-disc DLC does.

Once all said and done, Total War: Warhammer 2 is an excellent game and is the perfect entry point for those who may have missed the original (or ANY Total War game). The tutorial does a stellar job of introducing controls and mechanics. The language used is crystal clear and does well to not overload the player with info.

I can’t recommend this enough!

Review score: 92%

-Bensome

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