by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
AN IMPROVED SEQUEL
So I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting a while for this. Total War: Warhammer was my most played game of 2016 by quite a significant margin (and of 2017 so far). It revolutionized the Total War franchise with its introduction of magic and flying units and with a variety of lore focused DLC and FreeLC that offered hundreds of hours of playability. As the news began to roll in, I waited with bated breath. There are so many potential issues with this kind of sequel: a lack of graphical improvement, re-used assets or similar mechanics. But I’ve got to say, on the whole Creative Assembly have not disappointed. This feels like a fresh game, and the flip-side of it being an instalment built upon the first is that they’ve been able to improve upon the original. The game is better graphically, the map is far bigger, races can now occupy every settlement and siege battles now feature destroyable structures. Even minor improvements such as battlefield foliage automatically disappearing when the camera is close, make the game in general feel far more streamlined than the first.
So the main campaign focuses around The Great Vortex, a magical maelstrom siphoning the winds of magic and keeping the forces of Chaos (evil mutated guys) from entering the world and trashing everything. Your main objective is to capture specific settlements to collect your factions ‘ritual resource’, which you then use to perform rituals, each of which brings you closer to gaining dominion over the vortexes power (or you can just kill everyone). You play as one of four factions: High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen or Skaven. The game does an excellent job of distinguishing each of these factions through their mechanics. The High Elves for example, arrogant bureaucrats, traders and general world police, have a resource called ‘influence’, which you gain through campaign events and can then use to manipulate relationships between factions. They can also see the lands of whoever they trade with and have a tech tree with improvements based on access to specific resources. The Dark Elves (think of them as the murderous elves) love murdering so much that they in fact have a battle buff that triggers after they’ve reached a kill threshold. They also have an economy built on slaves. Each of the four factions has these unique mechanics, which can act as both bonuses and penalties, giving each of them a distinctive play-style.
WE’VE GOT TO TALK ABOUT THE RATMEN
So there’s this race called the Skaven, you may have heard of them? They’re a verminous horde of mini-gun toting, monstrosity-making, warp-stone snorting ratmen. They’re perhaps one of the most joked about fantasy races of all time, but more importantly, they are the most beloved of Warhammer fantasy. Say what you will about orcs, elves and dwarves, but despite the variations, we have seen them before. The Skaven are Warhammer Fantasy’s ace in the hole, their most unique race, so when they were teased, a lot of people were understandably nervous about how they would play. But fortunately Creative Assembly has done a fantastic job.
For me, the Skaven make Total War: Warhammer 2. They have a crazy roster, with units like The Hellpit Abomination (a brilliantly animated hulking amalgamation of rat bodies), The Doomwheel (imagine a deadly hamster wheel) and Rat-Ogres (it’s in the name really). They have unique battle abilities, such as The Menace Below, allowing you to summon a unit of rats anywhere on the map, as well as Warpstone Bombs, which allow you to detonate a unit below half health. It’s a lot of fun summoning a swarm of rats into the centre of a group of enemies before detonating them to cause maximum damage. Their campaign also features hilarious voice acting, brilliant cut-scenes and a variety of opponents. I cannot quite describe how wonderful it is, seeing the madness of the Skaven done justice.
The wonderful madness of Skaven.
Underwhelming treasure hunts.