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Finally started playing Total War: Warhammer 2, I’m having a blast and it’s not what I was expecting at all!

Content of the article: "Finally started playing Total War: Warhammer 2, I’m having a blast and it’s not what I was expecting at all!"

I waited two years to get that game, and nearly another year before I mustered up the courage to install it an play: from gameplay videos and beginner guides it seemed overly complicated and overwhelming. Now, I'm in a situation (job and kid) where I can't play a lot, but still managed to find 60 hours in the last month. Who needs sleep when you can command armies of dragons, sphinxes, war machines, and laser dinosaurs, right? So as you can see I really ended up loving the game, which is very different form what I expected, so I wanted to make this post to tell you what really surprised me about it:


It's much closer to a 4X game than a RTS

It's much closer to a 4X game, where dozens of factions develop their cities, explore the map, make alliances, gather resources and trade them, wage wars. Now there are a few things that set TW:WH apart from a classic 4X game:

  1. The map isn't random. So there's no real surprise as to what lies beyond the fog of war. It's the official map of the Warhammer universe, but only part of it as the world is huge.

  2. Usually in a 4X game, you choose which factions (or at least, the number of factions) that will populate the map. Not here, ALL factions are included in the map, ALL the time, at the SAME starting position every time. But it really doesn't limit replayability because…

  3. …There are DOZENS of factions and the map is HUGE. Each of the playable races has in fact several playable factions, and a few other minor, non-playable ones. Some begin as rivals, others as friends. This is where the replayability lies: each faction has their own leader, with their own goal, and their own starting position….

  4. …And each one has a story to tell. This asymmetry makes for very different gaming experiences. For exemple, Tyrion the High Elf starts in an area with only a few mortal enemies, his neighbours are essentially other High Elves but they're fragmented and need to be united again, so his start has a very puzzle-like feel to it: "Saphery, another high elf faction, doesn't like me much but if I conquer their territory, their allies Avelorn will like distrust me more and won't accept my Confederation offer, what should I do?". On the other hand, Belegar the dwarf wants to regain his ancestral home and throne, and until he does so he suffers from a huge penalty. His campaign start is much more railroaded but really picks up steam once you accomplish that goal.


The combat is much easier to grasp and much more interesting than what I was led to believe

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First and foremost, it's NOT real-time. While you're learning, or if you want a stress-free experience like me, you can just pause the fight at any time and still gives orders during that time, much like in a cRPG. So you have all the time in the world to consider your choices, to browse the wiki to confirm what kind of enemy units you're facing, etc.

Also, I initially thought that each faction would play roughly the same in battle, except a few stat points and the skin. Well, it's not entirely totally wrong during the first few battles: there are basic infantry units in each faction and there's not much diversity among these tier 1 units.

But very quickly in a campaign, things start to branch out as you unlock new, more interesting units that really give your armies a special flavor. This is reinforced by the army leader's build (which can strenghten specific types of units) and technological research (where you will have to choose which units to buff).

For exemple, all factions have siege units. But the High Elves have only a pretty cheap bolt thrower which is barely serviceable, while the Tomb Kings (think The Mummy) have this badass warlock on a tomb propped up by a whirlwind of bones that bombards the enemy with the soul of the dead, while the Empire (humans with a Nilfgaard/Roman-military vibe) has a whole assortment of war machines from steam tanks to catapults to heavy machine guns. Also, some factions have very specialized units (the High Elf fire phoenix which can drop fire bombs on the enemy) while others completely lack a certain type of unit (the Vampire Counts don't have archers and instead have to rely on a very mobile set of flying units).

Lastly, every faction leader offers their own sets of bonuses, which means every race plays differently. The Skaven (ratmen) have underground, hidden cities. The Tomb Kings don't have to pay to recruit units: they're undeads and vowed unconditional service to their King. The Empire has appointed officials in all their provinces and you have to secure their fealty or risk uprisings. The Vampire Counts raise their army from the dead, if their leader dies the whole army crumbles away. Some races can recruit cheap units very fast and will be able to expand quickly because of it. Others can, but shouldn't as that would expose them to a dangerous opponent. Others have expensive units and as a result will expand more slowly. Etc, etc.

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I really dig how they handle the concept of DLC and sequel

If I waited so long to get the game, it's because I found it too expensive and because the sheer number of DLC was really confusing. But really it's brilliant how they designed it: TW:WH 1 (and it's DLC's) isn't obsolete because a sequel was released. Owning the 1st game lets you play its playable races in the sequel (AND it unlocks a large campaign that more or less merges the maps of the two games together). And when TW:WH 3 is released it's gonna be the same thing, TW:WH1 AND 2 will unlock their playable races in the third game, plus an additional campaign with an even larger map.

Another thing that I find brilliant is that each DLC came with a free patch that includes balance fixes, and let the AI use the new content. Why I think it's brilliant: of course for the devs it's free advertising, but if they belong to a faction you have no intention of playing, you can pass on that DLC with absolutely no consequences to your gaming experience.

However there are a couple of things that could have been better:

  1. You can confederate (in other words, absorb through diplomacy the cities and armies of another faction) with allies, except if their leader belongs to a DLC, which isn't mentioned in-game. I mean I understand why (otherwise this process would let players use units and leaders without paying for the DLC) but I don't understand why they're not more transparent about it in-game.

  2. It's difficult to identify which units belong to a DLC or not, so you could be reading a post about army composition for the Lizardmen, or see an AI use a great unit, and not know if it's in the base game or not.


Its scope is so ambitious I'm surprised it even exists

By that I mean, it allows fans of Warhammer an incredible level of immersion and battles with thousands of soldiers. Also, it is much cheaper than purchasing miniature armies of each faction you want to try out. Because of that, I am pretty sure that on some level it really competes with the tabletop game, and I'm surprised Games Workshop is okay with that.

I already mentioned the number of factions, leaders and units, but in a campaign you'll see that some cities let you build unique buildings. You will sometimes be rewarded by unique loot (in fact, all leaders have a quest line for unique weapon and armor). These quests and the main quest also include semi-scripted battles. Many events and battles will reward you with items, or even followers. Your lord can recruit heroes (which act as governors to your cities, support to your armies, or spies beyond the enemy lines), which all come with traits specific to your race.

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Yet, my sole criticism on that aspect is that there's very little lore told in-game. For example, there's no unit description. You can find their detailed stats in the help menu, but not their story. Same for the factions, when you start a new campaign there's a nice video showcasing the faction, there are lots of technical informations about their in-game perks and abilities, but nothing about what they're about. For example, the Vampire Counts have three factions led by Von Carstein. Two have a shared ability that makes me think they're undead lovers ("Undying Love bonus: stat bonus when fighting together") but what's their story? Don't know. Why is the third Von Carstein lord hostile from the 1st turn? Don't know. I'm sure there are lots of information on that from the general Warhammer lore, including the answers to these 2 questions, but there's not a single hint about this in-game.

So there you go, that was a bit longer than expected, English isn't my native language so I'm not used to writing such long texts and I'm a bit out of my comfort zone here, gonna send it before I change my mind!


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