by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Since the release of Total War: Warhammer 2, we have all been waiting with bated breath for the first new DLC pack and race expansion to the original campaigns. This has come in the form of the Tomb Kings, an Egyptian-like race of death obsessed undead, who bring a whole host of statuesque monsters, sun-bleached skeletons and a new array of campaign mechanics to the game. So the first thing to understand about the Tomb Kings is that they are cursed to eternal unlife of the worst kind (basically imagine a soul driving around a corpse) and being subsequently unable to enjoy all mortal pleasures, are also a bit pissed. But the irony is that before they were cursed, their culture of Nehekara was obsessed with death and prolonging life, which was the responsibility of their most powerful institution, The Mortuary Cult. This obsession with death is reflected heavily in their campaign mechanics.
The most significant introduction is that the Tomb Kings don’t pay upkeep for armies Instead they can recruit an infinite amount of meat-shield units (Skeleton Spearmen and Skeleton Warriors) but have certain allowances on the number of better units they build (dependent on the number of military buildings they own). Also the Tomb Kings are limited in the amount of armies they can field; initially you can only field one, but you can research technologies that allow you to field more. This means that The Tomb Kings are generally late-game bloomers, as they take a while to develop an economy and army numbers, but as soon as they field an army, they can immediately fill it with free units. Similar to the High Elves with their ‘Influence’ resource, the Tombs Kings also have a resource known as ‘Jars of Hekarti’. These are used (alongside other tradable resources) to craft items for your lords in ‘The Mortuary cult’, to research specific technologies, or to unlock ‘Legions of Legend’ (basically super-powered regular units.)
NEW LEGENDARY LORDS
In a positive move, CA has decided to cut mini-campaigns out of DLC race packs and instead offer two extra legendary lords and more units. So in brief, the Tomb Kings have four playable lords: Settra the Imperishable (Chariot-loving king of Khemri), High Queen Khalida (She likes snakes), Arkhan the Black (Skeletal spell-caster) and Grand Hierophant Khatep (Mummified magician). With the exception of Arkhan and Settra, they all start very far away from each other, with different favourable climate types to conquer. All Lords also receive a variety of buffs, such as Settra’s improved replenishment rate for Chariots, or Arkhan’s ability to recruit some vampire units. The main mission for the Tomb Kings in the Great Vortex campaign is to retrieve five of the nine books of Nagash (the pesky necromancer who cursed them). With these they hope to steal his Black Pyramid and with it, reverse their curse. The books of Nagash are scattered across the map, some requiring you to take settlements, others to defeat rogue armies, but either way, getting your hands on one generally necessitates a tough fight. This all culminates in the dramatic Battle of the Black Pyramid.
The Tomb Kings field the usual host of undead Skele’s of varying power, but unlike other undead factions, they have ranged units. These come in the form of Skeleton Archers or the far more impressive Ushabti with great bows. The Ushabti are basically funerary statues like the ones placed in crypts with Egyptian Pharaohs, with the exception that these ones are alive. All the Tomb King monsters are constructs filled with the souls of their dead, which basically means the sky’s the limit. They field monsters like the Warsphinx (a giant, deadly, yet playful dog) the Necrosphinx (kind of a dog-man, but with blades for arms) or the Hierotitan (not really a dog at all, more a giant who fires lasers from his eyes). The monsters are the area where the Tomb Kings really shine; it’s hard to express how powerful you feel, watching your Hierotitan wade into infantry, incinerating them with his gaze. There also new hero units, including spell-casters with a new lore of magic. On top of all this you have chariots, horsemen, stone snakes, giant vultures and basically any other Egyptian iconography you can think of, pumped full of steroids and handed a weapon. But in summation they form a well rounded/varied unit roster.
A GOOD OMEN
I think the Rise of the Tomb Kings DLC is as successful as Norsca; it gives us a race who not only add re-playability to the original campaign, but bring their own flavour. The race-specific mechanics make their campaign feel unique, especially the lack of army upkeep, which pushes the boat out and will necessitate most Total War players rethinking their strategy. This is a good omen for the future of Total War: Warhammer 2. It shows us that even though the Mortal Empires campaign still needs work, that even though Norsca won’t be added till May, CA is still keeping what’s important in sight. They are sticking to their formula of race-specific mechanics, based on lore, to create a distinct playable experience. And I think Rise of the Tomb Kings is another example of that successful formula.
Egypt on crack
Non-legendary lords a bit samey