If you're any kind of RPG player,
or even a seasoned gamer who's walked into a game shop more than once a month, chances are you've taken a crack at Warhammer
. The series lasted 32 years until it was canceled by Workshop Games in 2015, helping spin off numerous expansions (like the 40,000
series) and dozens of knockoffs or similar games that pay homage or utilize the same mechanics. It was never my personal cup of tea, as I have little patience for a tabletop that takes more than an hour to setup and the occasional use of a tape measure. But I have many friends who claim it to be a superior strategy game that incorporates war tactics and advanced thinking—which is the same argument people have as to whether Risk
or Axis & Allies
is the better game,
but let's table that for now.
Sega, in partnership with Creative Assembly, has taken the Total War
series and married it with the old-school franchise for a real-time tactics system. For those unfamiliar with Total War
, they've produced a new game every couple of years since 2000 for PC and Mac gamers, their most successful being 2004's Rome: Total War
. Essentially, if a real war involved horses, swords, and catapults, they've made a game for it. And they've been pretty successful at it. But now the series takes a turn into a world
that only exists on paper, and has no real-world implications. That makes things a little more interesting, as in previous games you had a sense of what you were supposed to do. A good example would be that in Napoleon: Total War
, it's pretty clear that I'll be playing Napoleon in the famous battles where he became the leader of France, and that I'll conquer all until I'm deposed to Elba. But in Warhammer
, there is no history to follow history, so the battles you end up fighting are most likely set to a script that flows in a few different directions, which provides variety.
I personally started out playing the Vampires—because if you're going to Warhammer
, you don't start with lame human characters. After a short introduction to the leader that I am, I'm given a tutorial to reclaim my former kingdom after being raised from the dead. (Because... vampires.) The tutorial battle itself is easily won, and after you claim your kingdom, it's your call as to where to go. Every campaign (whether you choose the Empire, Greenskins, Dwarfs, Vampires, Chaos, etc.) gives you different options, handicaps and abilities in order for you to do what needs to be done, along with an advisor (in my case, a blind human willing to serve his dark master), who will attempt to give you the best advice possible. They may not be giving you tactical advice, or holding your hand on where to go, but their judgment is sound—which is what you sometimes need when trying to conquer everything
Making an army isn't hard for the Vampire side, as I can raise the dead and have hundreds of skeletons fighting for me, but the price within battle becomes hefty very quickly, and can often be taxing if you want to win a battle. You're often forced to think outside the box of "the numbers game" and actually ponder whether or not a certain attack is actually a good strategy or a waste of time and resources. It's cool to have a game like this kick you in the ass and remind you that just because you build a wall, that doesn't mean people can't climb over it. The game proceeds like any strategy game would, conquering everything in your path by any means necessary until you rule everything in sight. The only caveat is that you have some say in where you go, so the decision making, brave or poor, is in your hands and not forced upon you.
The downsides to the game are based more on the mechanics. Moving around and finding the best camera angles can be a chore. I found myself fighting more with the map than I did with enemies. How hard would it have been to make the mouse edges turn into a U-shaped arrow to spin? Controlling your armies can also be daunting as you command legions to go in a certain direction, only to watch them take forever getting there, or seeing their directional arrows bounce around in tight areas and not go where you need them to. There are times where you end up having to be pretty damn precise as to where you want to direct people. I also noticed—and maybe it's just my experience alone—that armies who are favored suffer greater casualties. For example, if 100 men take on 10, logic dictates I'd most likely lose 8-12 in the battle as a sort of odds-evener. What I don't expect is 10 to take out 47 and leave me with 53, which is a scenario that played out more than once with greater numbers. That can be disheartening as a player, and make you want to quit in sadness right away.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun; anyone who really digs RTS games will have fun playing in a world they haven't before. Warhammer
fans will get a slight rise out of it because their favorite game is getting a proper treatment. But your average gamer is going to look at this with one of two thoughts: Either this is an awesome challenge that they will eventually conquer, or it's a frustrating chore that shouldn't take so long to master. I recommend giving it at least one shot (maybe with a friend who really loves the game and can explain some of the nuances), just to see if it's your kind of game.
As far as Warhammer
the series itself goes, this is a fine addition for what it is, but don't go charging in thinking you're playing a hyped-up version of your favorite game. You're not. You're setting yourself up for disappointment if you do. You have to go in with the open mind that Sega took a cool franchise and paired it with a familiar setting for gamers to latch on to, and to get the best out of your experience, you'll have to play it for a bit. And hey, maybe it isn't your cup of tea, but it may get others who never liked Warhammer
interested in the series, and that can't be too bad.