by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
THE PROPHET AND THE WARLOCK
It’s been a long time coming, so long in fact, that none of us in the Total War community had any doubt in regards to what this DLC would be. Just as last year the High Elves and Dark Elves got some love in The Queen and the Crone, so too this year is it the turn of the Lizardmen and the Skaven. In The Prophet and the Warlock, we see Ikit Claw, chief warlock engineer of Clan Skryre, and Tehenhauin, Prophet of Sotek, face off against each other in another classic head-butting contest.
The overall context of the lord pack is the ever-raging conflict and ancient hatred between Lizardmen and Skaven, as they battle over the jungle continent of Lustria. While Clan Pestilens try to infect Lustria in the south, Clan Skryre are devising more explosive methods. Using the all new workshop mechanics, forging war machines and absurd weapons of mass destruction, Ikit looks to wipe every lizard-thing from the face of the New World. Enter Tehenhauin, Prophet of the Cult of Sotek, who loves nothing more killing Skaven for the approval of his god. Tehenhauin believes that if he bloods enough rats upon his altar, the great serpent will wake and drive the Skaven back into the sea. Ready? Fight!
The Skaven don’t have a good history with sanity. Queek Headtaker, considered to be a prominent member of their society, imagines that the heads he collects talk to him. Lord Skrolk, another upstanding rat, pulled out his own eyes after gazing upon Arch Plague-Lord Nurglitch, wishing nothing to spoil such a perfect vision of pestilence. But even among Skaven, Ikit Claw is mad. On at least one occasion, he almost destroyed the world with a warpstone-fuelled nuke he called ‘The Doomsphere’ and so his wish for increasingly destructive inventions is reflected in his faction.
Fielding Ratling Guns (rats with mini-guns) Warplock Jezzails (Skaven snipers), buffs to other units, such as Poison Wind Globadiers and Warp-Fire Throwers, the faction focuses on range. They play similar to the Vampire Coast, using weak units to slow the enemy while obliterating them with overwhelming ranged fire. This is also where the Doomrocket comes in — a missile you can build in the Forbidden Workshop, and deploy in battle, capable of eliminating multiple units at once. The Forbidden Workshop also allows you to buff the doom-machines of Clan Skryre, using a new currency, warp-fuel, as well as food. Sending thousands of Skavenslaves to slow the enemy and then burning them all in warp-fire, is a play-style that really makes you feel like a mad warlock engineer.
On top of this, using the new Under-City mechanic, which functions like a less passive Pirate Cove from Curse of the Vampire Coast, you can actually construct a Doomsphere. As long as you build the right buildings to keep your under-city from being discovered, the turn the sphere is complete, it will level the settlement in a giant explosion of warp-hell. What’s better is that you don’t have to be at war with the faction either, so you can even nuke your friends and no one will ever know.
THE CULT OF SOTEK
But the Skaven weren’t the only ones who got some new toys. There are plenty of fun new Lizardmen units, such as the Red Crested Skinks — damage dealers with great weapons, who actually make an entire Skink army a viable option now. There are the Salamanders, fire-spitting lizards, or the Ripperdactyls, an armour-piercing, flying unit. The new centrepieces are quite special too — the Engine of the Gods summoning the Beam of Sotek from the sky to incinerate ratmen is a heart-warming sight. Their new mechanics focus around Tehenhauin’s love for sacrificing Skaven, introducing a new Sacrifice resource, gained by winning battles and completing objectives. I found it strange that the Sacrifice resource didn’t work the same way as the Dark Elf Slave resource, so no matter how many you’d kill in battle, you’d only ever gain increments of 50, which seemed unusual.
These sacrifices can be used to unlock new units, temporary buffs for your troops, as well as followers and banners. They also help progress the Prophecy of Sotek. There are three sections to the prophecy, each conferring certain effects when the conditions are met. The second part of the prophecy for example, means all Lizardmen go to war with all Skaven, with causes a wild time let me tell ya! But these effects do help contextualize the overarching conflict between the Skaven and the Lizardmen, especially now Lustria is mainly a battleground between those two factions.
The new mechanics are somewhat similar to Hellebron’s death night, and Alarielle’s corruption of Ulthuan, but there are no real downsides to the Forbidden Workshop or the Sacrifices to Sotek. While both of their campaigns are initially hard (Tehenhauin has an especially tricky start) their mechanics don’t have a negative aspect in the same way The Queen and the Crone’s did. The campaign also lacks a focal point over which the head-to-head is occurring. The King and the Warlord had Karak Eight Peaks, The Queen and the Crone had the Shrine (and the sword) of Khaine, even The Grim and the Grave had the Warpstone crater.
The Prophet and the Warlock does a fantastic job of contextualizing the whole conflict between Lizardmen and Skaven, but that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. There’s no obvious connection between Tehenhauin and Ikit Claw, other than that one of them is Skaven and the other is Lizardmen — there is no race towards anything. It almost feels like this DLC missed an opportunity in not centering itself around Ikit trying to build a Doomsphere under Lustria, and Tehenhauin trying to wake Sotek before he did. But at the same time I understand this is not a Race pack, so expecting a whole new campaign would be unreasonable for the price point. But at the same time, the Vortex Campaign is feeling increasingly strained for new lords — it doesn’t fit for Fellhart, Alith Anar, Hellebron, and it doesn’t fit for Ikit or Tehenhauin either.
The Prophet and the Warlock is a stellar piece of content, with wonderful new units and plenty to wrap your teeth around mechanically — it’ll bring joy to any Total War: Warhammer fan. But at the same time, I wish the factions could have had their own campaign goals, and considering this is a rivalry focused DLC, a focal point around which to centre their head-to-head. Ikit and Tehenhauin are both unique legendary lords, but in the end there’s no real reason it’s them and not any other of the Skaven or Lizardmen waging their eternal war.
Cool new units, Doomrockets and Doomspheres, a good background for Skaven vs. Lizardmen in Lustria
No focal point around which the rivalry is centered, missed opportunity for unique campaign goals.