by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
THE FINAL DLC
It’s been a long year for us Total War: Warhammer players; we started the game with 4 playable factions, now there are 15. We started the game with 8 Legendary Lords; now there are 29. There has been a wealth of content for the first game, but the new Norsca DLC represents the final major content the Old World is likely to receive for quite a while, as we move onto the greener pastures of Total War: Warhammer 2. Norsca comprises the northernmost reaches of the campaign map and while they play a reasonably significant part (especially as the Chaos invasion looms closer) their roster was fairly generic and in much need of love. Also as few of the races start/play around Norsca, there’s a whole tract of the map that is barely ever used in campaign. The new Norsca consists of 2 playable factions and 6 npc factions. The first faction is Norsca (appropriately named) headed by Wulfrik the Wanderer, a Tormund Giantsbane look-a-like, cursed by the Chaos gods for being a bit cocky and forced to eternally roam the world on his longship Seafang, hunting champions. The second is Wintertooth, headed by Throgg, King of the Trolls, an especially cunning monster who wants to bring about a new ice age.
The main goal of the campaign is to raze settlements in favour of either The Hound, The Crow, The Eagle or The Serpent (or Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and Slaanesh for you lore fans). In doing this you pledge allegiance to a god and receive a special prize, which ranges from a plague that affects all factions but yours, to a mega piece of artillery. You can play the field, receiving minor benefits from multiple gods, but sooner or later, you’ve got to choose one and this will trigger a series of end-game events. There are also plenty of mechanics that set Norsca apart from other factions. Norscans are basically the Vikings of the Warhammer Fantasy world (if the name wasn’t enough of a clue) and to reflect this, your main source of campaign income is raiding and sacking. Norscans also pride themselves on their strength and so when confederating another faction, you don’t have to go through the finicky process of diplomacy, simply waste their leader in battle and they’ll join you. While both Norsca and Wintertooth share these mechanics and a unit roster (of monsters and men) they receive buffs that differentiate their play style. Throgg receives a lower upkeep for Trolls and other monstrous units, whereas Wulfric receives bonuses to Berserkers and his whole army causes fear in battle.
WE CHASE THE NIGHTMARES
First and foremost, Norscans are hunters; they live in a harsh land filled with Giants, Frost Wyrms, Chaos Mammoths and lots of other horrific mutated creatures. They track and capture them for use in battle or hunt them for the favour of their gods, so in the campaign there is a mechanic reflecting this. ‘The Monstrous Arcanum’ is a book of legendary monsters that allows you to initiate monster hunts. These monster hunts work in a similar way to quest battles for lords; you complete a series of tasks on the campaign map and then have to fight a challenging battle. There are a variety of monsters to choose from; whether that’s ‘The Brood Queens of Karak Azul’ (a nest of giant spiders called Arachnaroks) or my favourite, ‘The Great Mawherd of Blood-Fjord’ (a herd of giant Chaos Mammoths). For me this is what really sets the DLC apart from others. Total War: Warhammers DLC strength lies in its ability to build mechanics that reflect the rich lore of each race; these then give you a real insight into what makes that race unique. When battling a monster hunt you really get an impression of the sheer insanity of Norscan culture; a load of guys in fur and some hunting wolves fighting a dozen giant spiders, or a pack of Dragons. When you complete a monster hunt you receive a special item (often with an ability linked to it), a lump sum of gold and you can often recruit the monster that you defeated into your army. You can also pledge your kill to one of the four gods, further increasing your favour with them and giving you just another reason to get hunting.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Norsca isn’t a race that was ever especially well covered by Games Workshop; it kind fell by the wayside in earlier editions of Warhammer Fantasy. In making this DLC, Creative Assembly has done something we haven’t seen in Total War: Warhammer yet; they have gone a step further than Games Workshop. Units like the Fimir haven’t been seen since the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy in the 1980s, other units like the Frost Wyrms have only ever been mentioned in passing and never even had a model. The fact that Creative Assembly has brought these back and added to them tells us a great deal about the creative license they are allowed to take with the source material. We might start seeing races that were never given full unit rosters or complete lore, suddenly given entire campaigns and story-arcs. This only fills me with anticipation for what rarely seen races and rosters the future DLCs might cover. But on the whole, as we move towards the second game and its combined campaign, this is the perfect swan-song for the first game and all those campaign memories.
Excellent mechanics building on lore; hopeful statement for future DLC
Monster hunts can be very difficult