Total War: Warhammer II – A Kind of First Impression

The Total War strategy game Warhammer II was on sale on Steam for Really Cheap.

I’d looked at it before, and thought it’d be interesting to try it out. The Total War franchise has established itself over years for a series of detailed and comprehensive strategy titles based in various different regions and time periods on real-life Earth. Starting with the original Shogun way back in 2000 (though honestly I thought it was earlier than that), the initial selling point was that it was based heavily in Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War — at least the bits that actually dealt with fighting, rather than winning without fighting which was for the most part the entire point of The Art of War but never mind.

That was followed up with Medieval, and then — finally — came Rome. Medieval II was then followed by Empire, which gave the action a much broader scope, starting in the 1700s and covering the peak of European empire-building, Empire was enhanced — kind of — by the Warpath expansion which centred on the Americas and let the player control various Native factions.

Numerous titles since have explored various different strategy models, from the early roshambo setup of Cavalry-Melee-Missile to later, post-gunpowder settings where the strategy shifts to the manoeuvring of line infantry units and maximising volley damage across intersecting fields of fire. In Empire, naval combat was also introduced, with a modelling of small- to mid-scale battles between ships of the line. Later games revisiting earlier settings retained the naval element, so Shogun II and Rome II both present ship battles in styles consistent with their respective periods.

And then the Total War series went fantastical.

Every culture has its own rich mythology, so there’s wonderful scope for introducing magical and legendary settings, characters, peoples, skills, and so on. I’m British — at least, I live in Britain — so I’ve grown up in a culture that’s steeped in stories of King Arthur and all the mysticism that surrounds him. Wizardry, prophecy, magic… The clash of old gods and new God; the rising Church, the old religion withdrawing into the forests and wilderness… There’s a deep Faerie undertow in Arthurian legend that would make for an excellent strategy game OH WAIT THOUGH.

There was, in fact, a somewhat Total War-esque game called King Arthur — and its sequel King Arthur II — which encapsulated all of the above and frankly wasn’t half bad. But still, I’d love to have seen it given the full Creative Assembly treatment. But the studio decided not to explore the rich vein of real-world mystical magical myth and legend.

Or they could’ve done Tolkien!

Instead, though, Creative Assembly opted to adapt Games Workshop’s eternal and undying Warhammer property which…

Well, I’ll be honest I’ve never really got into it. When I was at school there were basically two strands of Warhammer being played by the good folk of the gaming clubs: there was Warhammer 40,000, an epic Gothic sci-fi setting involving a Templar-like order of Space Marines fighting space orks and incomprehensible Lovecraftian wossnames from the Chaos dimensions; and there was Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which was basically all that but without spaceships and lasers pewpewpew. Both involved much tweaking and nudging of lead soldier figures, many of whom, at least at our school, were beautifully painted by my friend Pete who has a gift for that kind of thing and understood drybrushing and washes and things of that artichoke.

Anyway Total War: Warhammer II is based on Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and offers the player two campaigns that I already can’t remember the names of but they basically look the same. It’s set on a world called… um… Warhammeria? I don’t bloody know. But there’s something about a portal, there are three or is it four factions to choose from each of which has two Lords (capital on Lord, please). Some of them are Elves — High Elves, specifically — while others are the rat-like Skaven. Others still are… well they’re other people. Probably memorable to people who play Warhammer.

Am example of one of the Lords would be this illustrious fellow here:

He drinks and he knows things. Just keep the privy door locked.

Or, if you’re feeling a little more monster-y:

A bad egg, horny-hatted Malekith wants to claim the Aether and use it to subject the world to primordial darkness.
Morathi is seen here wearing the traditional protective body armour of the Lady Warrior in fantasy settings. And a ridiculous headdress I mean how does she even get through doors?

And this is all just first impressions because, if I’m honest, I haven’t really got round to actually starting a game yet. I suppose it’s what you’d call an impulse buy — a £30-40 game on sale for a single-figure sum, I thought “Why Not?” And then when it came to actually run it the answer elbowed its way into my head, saying “Well, because you’re not all that interested because you’re all about Elite Dangerous still, so that’s why.”

Which honestly I’m struggling to argue with.

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