Let's keep it simple: Total War: Warhammer was a very good strategy game. Total War: Warhammer 2 is better.
The game continues the creative assembly tradition of building on the release of a new Total War with a semi-sequel. In the past, we've seen a number of releases, from Napoleon (after Empire) to Attila (after Rome 2), listed as full sequels, but players can quickly say they still have a lot in common with the game They follow from the duty rosters to the menus.
Only this time TWW2 feels almost like a brand new game. There's just so much going on here, so much to separate it from its predecessor, from some enjoyable new races to a map that is already one of the best in Total War.
Where the first game takes place in the Old World dominated by The Empire, TWW2 takes place in Warhammer & # 39; s New World, an entirely new area in which human presence is limited to a few pirates and colonists. Instead, the focus here is on four new races: the high elves, dark elves, lizard people and skaven.
Every single one of them is cool. The elves are somewhat conventional, but expensive and hellishly strong. The lizard people are wild and funny. And the Skaven are an explosion capable of rushing underground and hiding their settlements.
The goal of the first Warhammer Total War was to ward off a massive chaos invasion that would penetrate from the north of the map. It was a novel idea, and sometimes it worked for some factions (like my own review game as The Empire)! At other times and elsewhere on the map, however, it was less effective. I once played a dwarf game where the AI stopped the chaos before it even reached my country.
In TWW2 that's gone and we have a new endgame. This is also the beginning and the middle of the game. How? The map (and the story itself) is dominated by the opening of a giant magical vortex. Each faction tries to interact with this vortex in some way, and this is done through a series of rituals throughout the campaign.
To start one, you need to accumulate a certain type of currency from the areas you hold. Then, in order to actually execute a currency, you have to protect a selection of your cities from enemy attacks for a certain number of rounds, while magic swirls from their buildings into the buildings. When you complete one ritual, you can move on to the next. Unless otherwise used, they serve as a practical measure of the progress of the game (so you can easily see who is "winning" at any time).
While you're trying to perform rituals, it's the other big factions too, and here TWW2's strategy is being turned upside down. The campaign here doesn't care how many territories you own or how many armies you've killed. It only cares about the rituals.
The old Steamroller approach to Total War games, which is all about taking over more and more of the map, was thrown out the window. Instead, here we see the crusade / raid influence of the first Warhammer races (Bretonnia and Norscaa) as players are now encouraged to give up massive invasions in favor of surgical strikes.
If another faction starts a ritual and you want to stop it – something that will happen in a close game so that the AI doesn't come in front of you – you have two options: you could spend a lot of money and basically summon an army directly their door stops (there is a whole button that is only there), or you could send a precision strike with your own units. Each ritual only lasts a handful of rounds, so you probably won't have time to completely invade a rival's entire territory. Instead, you have to get in, hit hard, smash the square, and then get out.
This throws a lot of established Total War strategies in the trash, and I love it. The challenge also runs in both directions: you have to take care to defend your own rituals as they take place. These sometimes take place in cities scattered around the map, forcing you to think a lot more about placing your armies than just moving everyone forward.
The rituals definitely help alleviate one of Total War's longest-running issues, which has accelerated as older games tend to start well enough, lead to epic confrontations, and then become a boring slogan in the second half of the game. Here, the game feels more like a race than a fight, with the factions constantly fighting for leadership to perform their rituals first.
The new world map, which is not only huge, but also very interesting to browse, helps both with the feeling of freshness and with the support of the new crusade strategy. It is divided into continents that are separated by large oceans. For example, if you play in the middle as a high elf, you may never encounter the vampires or dwarves, and the great distances between countries really add to the feeling of adventure (and seclusion) that you feel across the seas Attack enemy.
As for the rest of the game, for all the new stuff that's shown, it's still technically a quasi-sequel to Total War. So you will find many of the same races and units on the edge of the map, the same user interface, the same hero RPG focus, even the same narrator.
Of course, this means that there are up to some of the same old total war issues. Diplomatic AI is still drunk, and a quirk of the first war hammer – where enemies would bambooze by declaring war on me, never attacking, and then offering me thousands in gold to sign a peace treaty – was still very present in TWW2 .
Worst of all, loading the first war hammer's load when switching between strategic and tactical cards is still a problem. If you don't have an SSD, they're unbearable, measured in minutes. They are so bad that I simulated more and more battles over the course of my campaign just to avoid the delays.
In my review of the first Warhammer, I mentioned that Creative Assembly not only managed to release a fantastic strategy game, but was somehow interested in Warhamme lore. You did it again here. I had no knowledge of any of these factions that went into this game, but in the end I liked my very serious but deadly high elves so much that I had trouble saying goodbye to them and their nice little dot on the map ( Which, as you can see above, is just great, although this time the entire map is much prettier than the muted tones of the first game.
In this way I am also convinced of the idea of these semi-sequences. Warhammer 2 may have a lot in common with the first game, but everything it has done to stand out from others is big and fresh and daring, making this game a game that deserves its own spotlight spot.
Total War: Warhammer 2 on Steam, Amazon