It’s been a while hasn’t it? But sometimes life comes and kicks you in the knackers and you just need to take a break from everything to try to regain the passion back for something you love. Something that can seep out when you set yourself arbitrary deadlines. Thankfully with a global lockdown (Yes I started this in March 2020) I finally find myself with some spare time.
And here we are with Total Warhammer 2.
It’s a Total War game, so those that have experience of the series will know exactly what to expect. For those that have never played the game then what you get is a turnbased game where you issue commands to your armies on a world map, moving armies around strategically, fortifying passes, building cities and managing trade, income, and diplomacy among the many races and sub-factions. Depending on your preferences this can take up almost all your game time.
The second part of the game is a real-time battle where your army(ies) clash in a micromanagers wet dream. I like to think I am a strategy veteran, particularly with my love of RTS games such as the Command and Conquer series, but this is actual strategy. Some battles will be won with a tank spam, but most games will need balanced armies and the right tools for the right job. It doesn’t matter how hard your Chaos Knights are, if they are charging bunkered up spearmen (Halberders) they will more than likely lose. Those archers might be ok on a hill but if the enemy has fast cavalry they will get picked off. And to be honest, I’m shit at this. I amused to games where you select unit A and tell it to do B. With that unit following the order precisely. In Total War games various stats come into play and those unrurely Goblins will ignore you and run the opposite direction. Which isn’t helped by my military tactics consisting of deep and profound strategies such as as “put the horseys on the wing, and hard lads up front” it’s a good basic starter, but even on an easy difficulty the enemy will pick you apart if you aren’t micromanaging the movement, or paying attention to your flanks which are now brutally exposed due to the horseys and big lads marauding up field to take out the enemy general.
Depending on your preference though these are either a distraction from the Machiavellian scheming on the overworld map or the bulk of your game as these battles really can be a time sink. Depending on the faction you choose, but endless fighting will often be your victory condition. Early on in the game you’ll have a battle every 3-4 turns, once you hit turn 100 expect to find yourself in multiple wars on multiple fronts and expect 4-5 battles a turn.
This is why the Auto-Resolve battle is my go to tactic. Personally I standby it for 75% of my battles. I honestly can’t be arsed waiting 5 minutes for my 2 legged hamster of a laptop to load a battle for my 20 Doom Stack army to battle it out with 5 level 1 archers. Hell, if I have more than a 55% chance of victory I will always auto-resolve.
This endless war is the biggest issue in terms of flow to the game.
Turn 75 slump
This appears to be around the time all my aborted campaigns have ended either through my own incompetence or the sheer attrition of some games. For example, in my latest playthrough as Sigvald the Magnificent in the Mortal Empires campaign on turn 1 to 20 it would take 1 minute 4 seconds to do the enemy turns, by 75 it is a full 5 minutes of you sitting there waiting while the opponent moves take place. This is after a patch was released to fix it, so I have now idea how bad it was pre-patch, but it was a chore waiting.
But it isn’t just the waiting that can get boring. It is how the whole campaign grinds to a halt. A pro won’t have issues, but as you’re learning the game you will make mistakes and they will be punished severely.
For example, I did a High Elves campaign on the regular Vortex Campaign. You overall objective is to channel a spell 5 times to access the final battle where you can win the game. Each time you make a channel attempt, 3 hard Chaos stacks will auto spawn near your base and proceed to rampage through your cities. You have to drop everything and make sure your armies are ready. One Chaos stack will kill your best army, one Chaos stack will probably kill your 2 hardest army. The only way I could find early was having three hard armies waiting in ambush to pick off a lone Chaos stack. This is the only way I could beat off Chaos. Problem is. in the first 70 turns you’d be lucky to afford 4 armies so having one army holding off the invading Dark Elves isn’t going to go well for you in that theatre of conflict.
The Dark Elves win condition is the same, channel 5 times and win final battle. But in my campaigns nobody attacks them when they channel. So they get a free pass and you have 2 fronts of war to defend while your economy tries to hold out. In the end around turn 120 I lost as the Dark Elves finished their 5th channel while I was halfway through my 4th. The final battle forced me to send my weakest general into the fight and wouldn’t let me use my best army resulting in a crushing defeat and a failed campaign.
I don’t know the reason, but I can trace the whole loss back to turn 15. This is where I started my first channel and Chaos managed to take out a settlement that was channelling. It meant I had to restart the whole channeling attempt again. A better player, well certainly a more experienced player wold have known how to turn it around, but my goose was cooked and I should have save scummed or ended it there and then. It is deeply frustrating to find out 10 or so hours later that one early mistake borked the entire game for me.
To give it it’s credit, Total Warhammer 2 isn’t a lazy sequel. It actively builds on the first incarnation. Firstly, the base game is totally different armies. Rather than focusing on The Empire, Orcs, and Dwarves in the “old” world this campaign focuses on the High Elves and Dark Elves around the new world of Warhammer with Skaven and Lizardmen pottering around.
However if you bought the first game you have access to the Mortal Empires game mode. This is a huge game taking place in both the New and Old World. combining the map of both games and all the factions and DLCs you may have bought. It is a massive game and adds endless replayability (unless your shitty laptop chugs too much). Here I tried a battle as the Tomb Kings (£15 EXTRA FOR THESE AS DLC!! [still cheaper than a real Tomb King Army]). Your mission here is to acquire the Book(s) of Nagash (he’s the big bad in Warhammer). The Tomb Kings are a neutral faction so they aren’t inherently good or bad, they just want to fuck up the super evil dude because, well to simplify, he turned you to skeletons. If you know what you’re doing you can win this game in less than 50 turns, as all you need to do is send your armies to the books one-by-one and beat the army holding it. Get 5 books and win the narrative battle final battle. Jobs a good ‘un.
These narrative battles act as interludes as you progress your campaign keeping things fresh and moving the story of your campaign along. It will also add background to the character(s) you are playing as (and some of the generals you unlock).
There is still no overall map that easily shows you your armies, but before you end a turn the game will tell you if you missed an army out making it easier to not forget that one bloke you sent to scout an area 15 turns ago that was a major bugbear in the first.
The main difference though is in the build queues in settlements, it is a little bit easier to track what is built, and what is needed to be built to hit a certain tech level and to churn out the powerful units than in the previous game. Until you know the game in the first one you won’t know you need building A,B,C in the same province to get a unit. Having a top tier barracks and an engineers guild only provides that unit if the buildings are linked. Sure it is something you learn eventually, but in TW1 it is never really explained or demonstrated. In TW2 the settlements expand a little easier and there are fewer building options but more tiers to the build.
OK, this is a problem. At the moment, Total Warhammer 2 is £35 for the base game, but all the DLC will put this up to £70. None of it is essential to none Warhammer fans, but you’ll find most Warhammer players will want to control their favourite heroes. £15 for the whole Tomb King faction plus the 4 main characters isn’t too bad, but £6 for Ikit Claw for one Skaven dude? I know at least one person that would play as him, but not pay a. £6 for some French lass (i don’t like Bretonnians, so ignored them). It is great that any purchases such as Sigvald and Skarsnik in Total Warhammer 1 carry over for the Mortal Empires DLC (free)Campaign but you will have most likely dropped well over £100 to buy up the base games and some of the DLC if you want to play this campaign to it’s fullest.
Joe Public probably doesn’t care about all the DLC, and if you’re only playing as you want to try a new Total War game these DLC characters are not essential, but to fans of the setting then most you probably will be, in which case it gets very pricey.
Total Warhammer 2 is a better game than the first, the changes are small but those minor refinements make it a much better game. The fan service is turned up a notch and the expansion into a different theater of war in the base game will give you a reason to visit.
The Mortal Empires campaign can be a slog especially with long wait times, but is essential for fans of Warhammer.
But overall it is hard to not recommend but be prepared for a lot of grind especially if you make a tactical blunder.
Pros: Fan service up the wazoo, deep battle mechanics, lots of DLC
Cons: Very grind heavy even using the auto-resolve, pricey with all the DLC
Back in the Day:
Coming in the Top 10 of Eurogamers Games of 2017 Total Warhammer 2 was met with generally positive reviews. It scored high 80s low 90s across the board.