by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Battle for supremacy
The first Total War: Warhammer was my most played PC game of 2016 by a very wide margin, as I fell in love with the fantastic take on the tried and true mechanics of the Total War series. With the addition of numerous factions that both looked and played drastically different from one another, Total War: Warhammer was a delight for anyone who wanted to explore and conquer the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy. And in Total War: Warhammer II, Creative Assembly looks to repeat that success with a new map and new races to battle for supremacy with.
Set across four continents in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, Warhammer II lets you play as either the High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen or Skaven as they seek to gain control over the Vortex, a massive magical typhoon that is tenuously keeping the forces of Chaos at bay. During my time with the demo, I played two quests battles as the Skaven and the Dark Elves. While I did not have the chance to test out the campaign, we do know that the different factions will fight to complete various rituals that will, over time, allow them to achieve their ultimate goal of reclaiming or destroying the Vortex.
No matter the faction you choose, Warhammer II’s battles play out in much the same way as other titles in the series, though there are a handful of notable improvements from its immediate predecessor. For one, you can now change the trajectory of a spell so that you do not have to be perfectly lined up with the target before casting it - no more careful positioning of your mage to cast Winds of Death on a regiment of swordsmen. I also noticed that the UI was much cleaner than the first Warhammer, and the battles themselves were in maps.
My first battle put me in control of the Skaven, the universe’s army of rat men who were about to engage the Lizardmen in pitched combat. Much like their tabletop version, Skaven excel at throwing numerous bodies into combat, even if most of their units lack the armor or power of other factions, though they make up for this both in sheer numbers and in their specialized units that can turn the tide if used appropriately. They lose morale quickly, but can just as easily come back to the battle if not pursued further.
The Skaven battle also introduced two new units that are now my personal favorite across any Total War game: the Hell Pit Abomination and the Doomwheel. The Hell Pit Abomination is an unholy amalgamation of several corpses of various species sewn together and brought to life with dark magic, serving as a monstrous unit that can go toe-to-toe with other large units while causing plenty of terror on the battlefield. It’s a sight to behold in action, and the designers who animated and created the Hell Pit Abomination deserve praise for how great it looks in action.
But it was the Doomwheel that really captured my attention. In short, the Doomwheel is a giant hamster wheel loaded with spikes and lightning guns that serves as a highly dangerous chariot. It, more than any other unit, is emblematic of the Skaven themselves - ridiculous and terrifying in appearance, and capable of wrecking plenty of havoc if underestimated and left alone.
While the Skaven were an interesting faction to play as in battle, they did not suit my particular playstyle, which typically involves a more defensive army with plenty of utility through a few key units. In that regard, I found my true calling in playing as the Dark Elves, who were busy invading the High Elf homeland of Ulthuan in their quest battle. They have a much more traditional army at first glance - spearmen, high tier swordsmen, crossbows as ranged units - but have the added bonus of being supremely skilled at killing. If a certain number of enemies dies in battle, the Dark Elves gain the Murderous Prowess ability that is tracked by a bar at the top of the screen, which results in massive stat boosts for every unit in the army to ensure that they can kill their enemies even quicker.
The result is an absolute bloodbath, as my units tore through their goody two-shoes brothers with ease. Coupled with the monstrous Hydra at their disposal, which is one hell of a terrifying unit to go toe-to-toe with, and the supreme magical power of the Witch King Malekith, the High Elves were defeated without much difficulty.
Better than the first
For fans of the first game, Warhammer II looks to be just as great, if not better, than the first after my limited time with it. The battles look beautiful in motion, and the factions feel much stronger in concept and play than the original factions did in the base game. You can look forward to Total War: Warhammer II when it launches on Sept. 28.