Total War: Warhammer III has finally been revealed and Sega partly opened the gate by letting Twinfinite go hands-on with a preview build featuring a new battle mode coming in the third chapter of the saga.
I’ve always been a massive fan of Total War: Warhammer since the release of the original game. The franchise marries my love for Total War games with that for Warhammer, which has been blazing in my aging heart since the late eighties when I was only ten years old.
Creative Assembly’s effort to bring a massive portrayal of the Warhammer World to our PCs came at a peculiar and painful time when its creators at Games Workshop basically discarded the classic setting in favor of the controversial (and I’m being charitable here) Age of Sigmar.
I remember like it was yesterday the feelings sparked by that change when it was introduced. Like many fans, I felt betrayed. I locked my beloved Bretonnian and High Elven armies of miniatures which cost me hundreds of hours of painstaking painting in the basement alongside the game’s many rulebooks, and they have not seen the light since. From that day, Games Workshop has not received a single dollar from me, at least directly.
And yet, in that dark moment came a ray of light for the many who felt abandoned by Games Workshop, and it was Total War: Warhammer. A path for the Old World to live on had been opened by video games, and while our beloved miniatures would be replaced by digital armies, it was much better than nothing.
Throughout the years, TW: Warhammer and its sequel, even more so thanks to their merging via the Mortal Empires campaign, became much more than a replacement for my discarded hobby.
Total War: Warhammer III promises to be the crowning jewel of the series, adding more to the setting and even pulling Games Workshop itself back into the fold to flesh out the factions of Kislev and Cathay, which were pretty much confined to the sidelines (or much beyond the sidelines in Cathay’s case) even in the old tabletop game, unless you went fishing into the ancient depths of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
Below you can check out 15 minutes of gameplay from the demo battle, as a video is more effective than a thousand words. Do keep in mind that the footage and the screenshots were captured via streaming technology since in-person preview events are still very much non a thing, so they may not be representative of the quality of the final product. This is also an excerpt, as the whole battle lasted about 46 minutes.
The battle you see in the video, which was the only one available in the demo, focused on the brand new “survival” mode which will serve as the “boss battle” archetype in the game’s dedicated single-player campaign.
The player is tasked with assaulting a chaos stronghold in stages, taking and holding multiple capture points against wave upon wave of demonic fiends. In this case, we captained Kislev’s forces led by the Ice Queen Tzarina Katarin Bokha herself, defying the evil demons of Khorne.
The structure of the battle introduces some elements familiar to those who enjoy “Horde” mode challenges and tower defense games.
By thoroughly kicking demonic butt, you accrue supplies that can be spent in a variety of ways once you hold a capture point. You can build defense towers and barricades to slow down the enemy’s advance, you can improve your troops’ attack and defense, and you can summon new units of increasing power to the battlefield (or heal those that have been partly depleted).
This is where the tower defense elements come on the table, and they integrate very well with the hordes of enemies charging at you until you clear each area. Things are made a bit more complex by the fact that even after moving on, you still have to hold the first objective with a small contingent of your army, just to cover your rear.
Things are spiced up by the novelty of the Kislevite army, which is an effective and brutal mix of attack and defense with several troop types that can hold their own both in melee and in ranged combat, and by the new Lore of Ice magic.
A small complaint I have is that Katarin’s spoken lines come dangerously close to breaking the fourth wall. She sounds a bit too much like a tutorial explaining the mechanics of a game, and not enough like an epic queen standing alongside her troops on the front lines of a world-shattering conflict.
While the mode and the army are new, the game still absolutely feels like Total War: Warhammer on the battlefield. If there are going to be actual radical twists of the formula, they have not been revealed yet.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a complaint. The recipe is awesome as it is, at least on the real-time battlefield. I wouldn’t change a winning horse and I don’t believe that Creative Assembly should either.
If anything, shaking things up too much would make integrating the title with the previous two in the new Mortal Empires (or whatever it’ll be called) campaign more challenging, and I’m pretty positive many feel as I do that this is the true endgame and where most of the real value of the Total War: Warhammer series lays.
My (small) gripes with the previous games were on the campaign map, within the limiting diplomatic options and the inevitable snowball effect that made the end of the campaign less exciting. We haven’t yet seen anything of this, and the Total War series has made great progress in newer games after Warhammer II. Hopefully, the folks at CA will loop those changes back into Warhammer III.
What I have seen in my limited time with Total War: Warhammer III is very promising. Creative Assembly’s main mission objective (at least in my view) is certainly to expand organically on what is already there to create the ultimate Warhammer experience on PC. So far, so good.