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Total War: Warhammer 2 review

Charlie: What a coincidence. Total War: Warhammer II comes out, and I go suspiciously quiet for a month.

When the first Total Warhammer came out it re-lit my enthusiasm for Fantasy Battle and made me paint more Empire soldiers, which was no mean feat given the funk Age of Squigmar left me in. Total Warhammer II has done it again; it even made me get out my dusty case of dark elves and think seriously about renovating them.

Despite there having been more than enough reviews of the game by now, I feel compelled to throw my own hat in the ring, even though the fine folk at Creative Assembly will almost certainly never read this. Since the main thing I have to offer as a reviewer is being a long-time Fantasy Battle player, I'm going to answer these basic questions:

Is it a faithful recreation of the Old World?
What have they changed/added compared to Total Warhammer 1?
Is it worth buying, given how recently we had the first game?

Faithfulness to the setting

So, firstly, its faithfulness to the Warhammer Fantasy setting. If you've played the first game, it will come as no surprise to hear that this one is bang on, and it's nerdgasm-inducing to see some parts of the setting brought to life. Allow me to illustrate my point with pictures.

The Anvil of Vaul

The docks at Lothern
As with the first game, though, scenery is often my main bone of contention. Just as often as the scenery is excellent, with crazy attention to detail (right down to little alchemist's bottles on a side table outside an elven tent in the corner of a massive battlefield) it can also be preposterous (the giant skull-shaped mountains are back!). It also often looks too big relative to the people on the battlefield, with many of the trees looking... surprisingly large.

Whining about scenery notwithstanding, the tone of the world is spot on. The dark elves are vicious, kin-slaying bastards, the high elves are duplicitous, haughty bastards, the skaven are underhanded unpredictable sneaky bastards, and the lizardmen are hard bastards who don't speak English.

A lone skink foolishly gets in the way of the pain train.
Creative Assembly have come up with some nice gameplay mechanics to represent the vibe of each faction, which mean that, for example, the high elves are constantly nancying about with court intrigues and manipulating the other races through diplomacy and espionage.

In short, Total Warhammer 2 does very well with the setting.

If you think these hell pit abominations look grim, wait until you see their animation.
Really rather unsettling.

What's changed since the first game?

Naturally, this game is very similar to the first in most ways. It would be better to describe it as a refinement, and I'll try and outline the changes that come to mind (beyond the obvious 'four new races and bajillions of new maps'):

  • The new Vortex campaign adds real pace, structure and closure above and beyond that of the first game.
  • The Mortal Empires DLC (free for owners of the first game) is commendably ambitious, since it combines almost every Warhammer race on four different continents. I'm playing it in co-op with a friend at the moment, and the sheer scope of it is enjoyably dizzying.
  • Races can now inhabit any kind of location, but if it's not suited to their race they'll find it more expensive and tougher to maintain public order. This really opens things up, and means you often end up being torn between razing things to the ground and garrisoning it to prevent goblins/skaven/undead skulking back to the ruins later.
  • It's a small touch, but sea travel no longer causes attrition unless there's a storm in the area, which makes sea travel feel more real.
  • The game does a much better job of explaining its mechanics and interface than the first one did when playing the single-player campaign.
  • To my surprise, loading times are markedly faster in this game than the first; presumably they've somehow made things more efficient? Witchcraft, I'm sure.
There are other changes, including rites that races can perform for long-lasting campaign buffs, but those were the changes that had the biggest impact on me.

Malekith: so badass he slouches in his  dragon saddle as though posing for a sculptor.

Is it worth buying?

Obviously that's up to you; video games aren't cheap, but they're far cheaper than wargaming. If you enjoyed the first one and wanted more, this will continue to please you. The game's animators deserve a particular shout-out; I'm consistently amazed by the way things move in the game, even if people do get flung cartoonishly far when hit by monsters/chariots/artillery.

I've played the vortex campaign, had a great time, and am now fifty turns into a co-op Mortal Empires campaign. It's like playing the epic Warhammer Fantasy Battle campaign I always wanted to GM, and continues to bring a nostalgic tear to me ol' eyes given the baffling popularity of Age of Plonkmar. I shall leave you with a few more sexy images, and if you have any questions prior to buying it, I shall gladly answer in the comments.


Kroq'Gar goes hydra hunting.

Lothern Sea Guard watch as Malekith and his army approach in the distance.

Malekith screens his approach with some sacrificial harpies, who end up falling
out of the sky like hairy flappy raindrops.