This really was a rare perfect match. On the one side you have the minds behind Total War, and on the other a fantasy world of ratmen, elves and humanoid dinosaurs.
Sticking to the same engine as its predecessor, Total War: Warhammer II switches the action over to Lustria and Ulthuan. Along with opening the floodgates for new stories, this change completely reworks the nature of the map, often making you more reliant upon ports and sea trade. While the game itself lacks basic oceanic combat, it allows one region to more actively resupply another, while a wealth of encounters from Dead Sea Dragons to lost islands provides plenty of oceanic action. Better yet, the Chaos invasion of the previous game has been replaced by a race to control the great magical vortex. You’re always on a timer to reach the end, but it provides more structure to games and a much more direct end-game objective to focus upon.
The blending of RTS combat alongside turn based map management is as strong as ever. While at first each new army might seem like the same two with a different coat of paint (two animal hordes, two elf races) each quickly displays their differences on and off of the battlefield. High Elves in particular prove to be fun thanks to their mastery of diplomacy and their spy network, breaking up alliances or keep an eye on every port. Even without this, the wealth of unique units and monsters on every side makes them distinct from one another, with each forcing you to completely rethink your tactics to take advantage of their quirks.
Ironically, many of the game’s major faults stem from something its table top inspiration only recently shed: Obtuse systems and the sheer length of battles.
The ability to carefully manoeuvre troops and control their formations is detailed, but much of it is hidden away behind keyboard and mouse shortcuts the tutorials never bother to cover. This can make the act of controlling your armies annoying. Furthermore, there are a few too many ways battles can devolve into a war of sheer attrition once heavy infantry or shield walls show up. Moreover, while the user interface is a brilliant improvement over its predecessors, trying to keep track of every sub-objective and status update can be a chore. It’s easy to lose track of something essential and can leave you making otherwise obvious mistakes in the late game.
Total War: Warhammer 2 is problematic but it’s nevertheless another success story for Creative Assembly. It requires multiple replays to truly get used to it, but even without that the choice of armies, excellent lore and game-changing tactics are nevertheless successful additions. So, fans of the Old World, be sure to give this one a look.
TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER 2 / DEVELOPER: CREATIVE ASSEMBLY / PUBLISHER: SEGA / PLATFORM: PC, / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW