With the realms of Chaos finally bearing down upon the world of Warhammer Fantasy it seems as though the end of days really is coming, and for this game franchise that is indeed the case with this being the final entry in the hugely successful Total War: Warhammer series. These games have been a huge boost to the popularity of Warhammer Fantasy and are quite possibly some of the best games in the setting out there. So does this finale help cap off a successful return to the old days of the Warhammer world or will this be the nail in the coffin to move onto other things? Let’s find out!
The story of the third entry, as alluded to earlier, takes place during the full on Chaos invasion of the mortal world. The bear-god of Kislev, Warhammer’s version of Slavic countries, known as Ursun has been captured by the Chaos Daemon known as Be’lakor and is on the verge of death. Various different factions are all interested in getting access to the Ursun in order to take his power or save him. It’s up to you then to take control of one of the new factions in play and see what the destiny of both the Bear-God and Be’lakor will be. This is of course just the main ‘Chaos Realms’ campaign and as such is just a bare-bones story to frame the gameplay around but I actually enjoyed hearing about all the lore and the interesting characters that were at play during my time playing. The tutorial campaign, a short story that teaches you how to play, was also great and I would go so far as to say it had a better story than the main campaign itself which was a huge surprise. The new factions introduced; the 4 Chaos Gods of Nurgle, Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeentch and of course Undivided, the Slavic realms of Kislev, The Chinese inspired Cathay and finally if you pre-ordered the large Ogre Kingdoms are all very interesting additions to the world and help to provide a balance of evil Chaos-aligned groups and those fighting to beat back the demonic forces. My main issue with the campaign story is really just how it is structured as it feels almost like you are constantly at a rush to collect the souls required to access the final battle and so you are unable to experience the story at your own pace. Still I suppose it does grant a feeling of urgency to the matter and so can be commended on that.
Presentation-wise this game is great. The visuals have had an upgrade over the previous titles and while it may look a bit more cartooney and saturated compared to the other games I feel it helps to make the colours pop and models seem more expressive. This is especially true for the forces of Chaos as their colour-coded demons look extremely unique and grotesque and the unique corruption-aesthetics they bring to the world when they start invading make the game world seem far more colourful and vibrant. I also love the new battlefield visuals this game brings as not only do settlement battles look far more detailed and visually impressive but I have to mention just how good the Realms of Chaos look. From the disgusting but life-filled gardens of Nurgle to the magical and bizarre aesthetics of Tzeentch’s realm everything looks incredible and this makes it by far the most colourful and visually diverse entry in the series. This of course does come at the cost of some performance issues on lower-end PC’s but after the initial patches I didn’t have too many issues with this. I also really liked the soundtrack choices this time as it really fit the whole ‘end of the world’ vibe the game was aiming for by making everything feel like a final hurrah into battlefields. The voice acting too is very well done and while I didn’t care much for the human factions the Chaos-led ones all had greatly performed voices that helped to make each of the characters you play as sound otherworldy and ultimately corrupting. My favourite had to be Kairos Fateweaver of the Tzeentch faction which just sounded like every word spoken was part of a forbidden tome of knowledge that scratched at the back of your brain and caused you to go ever so slightly mad. Overall this game was a bit step up in the presentation department and I was very happy at the direction this took.
In terms of gameplay if you’ve played any of the Total War: Warhammer games before this one then you will feel right at home. If this is your first time trying it out then to briefly summarise this is a pure strategy game that swaps between two different styles of gameplay. The campaign map in which you move armies around, build settlements, engage in diplomacy, conduct research and of course make war with other groups around the world and the Battle mode where as soon as you engage in a battle with your armies it transitions to a real-time RTS battle where you move troops around, engage in combat and activate abilities. This style of game has worked extremely well in previous titles and that is no exception here as the core gameplay is still essentially the same system we grew to love and is still in my opinion the most fitting gameplay style for a Warhammer game to date. The main differences in this title are the addition of new factions, the new campaign mode which sees you having to go into timed portals to enter the Realms of Chaos and capture four Demon Prince souls in order to complete your personal mission and a few tweaks and changes to core gameplay systems such as an overhaul of how sieges and minor-settlement battles work. Each faction too has their own unique elements to both the campaign map and battle mode meaning that any faction you play as will be drastically different from all the others from unit selections to personal powers to even if some have access to magic or not. This diversity is what makes these games so beloved as if you don’t enjoy playing as one faction you can just try out another and see if their gameplay style vibes better with you. This will only get better a few months down the line as the Immortal Empires game-mode will be added which will allow you to play on a map that spans the entirety of the Warhammer world and will let you play as any faction of any previous game too as long as you have purchased it beforehand. All of this makes the game very replayable and you will certainly be getting your money’s worth with the amount of content on display here. I also feel this is one of the best games to start off with in the series as I mentioned earlier the tutorial campaign was excellent in explaining how most of the systems work and did it in such a way that the story being told also felt very compelling and fun to try out. Surprising nobody then if you enjoyed the previous games in this series then this will fit right up your alley, though you may not enjoy the new campaign as much as previous ones no doubt the free Immortal Empires update will solve that issue for you entirely.
There are some issue with this title however. First as already mentioned this game does feel as though you are going through the same things if you have already played any other entry in the series as while the new factions and campaign mechanics are nice they don’t change the formula up too much to be a drastic change. Due to this the game can feel a bit repetitive and this is compounded by the fact that it’s much harder to auto-resolve smaller battles that you would much rather ignore and get on with the main campaign moments. This can lead to it feeling a bit like a slog and personally I felt this way entirely while playing with the new campaign mechanics. I’m not a fan of the soul-collecting system as it incentivises staying in one location and always keeping an eye out for new portals rather than expanding out and actually conquering the world which is entirely antithetical to how Chaos forces should play. This is just a personal gripe though and if you’re new to the series this will of course not be an issue for you. What may be an issue however, and what may be the biggest fault this game has, is just how buggy and unpolished it feels. There are lots of incorrect descriptions, dialogue boxes, UI errors and many more things which makes me feel as though the game could have used a few more months of polish. Alongside this the actual gameplay itself suffers from bugs and problems that make the combat scenarios incredibly frustrating at times. This is most apparent in combat when some ranged units refuse to fire on enemies or when your melee attackers don’t follow the rest of your army into battle and just sit there doing nothing. This can also lead to animation issues making bigger units less effective in combat, spells and abilities sometimes just completely failing to do what they say and in the worst case can lead to battle losses purely because your army stops responding to you. This is incredibly frustrating and whilst this was the extent of my woes I have heard from others that there are even serious gamebreaking bugs that can threaten to end an entire campaign or just corrupt your save files. Stuff like this will of course be fixed over time with patches and people were almost expecting the game to be released in a buggy state due to the previous entries also being like this but it’s still no excuse. I feel the game should have had more time to cook in the game-making oven as how it stands now it ultimately feels a bit like an early access title.
Overall then whilst I enjoyed my time with the game and see it as a successful end to the Total War: Warhammer series I do feel as though the bugs and lack of polish let it down from being a perfect finale to a collection of great strategy games. As mentioned before no doubt the biggest problems will disappear over time due to patches and the game will only continue to get bigger and better with new content and old factions becoming playable again. With all three games combined together in this new title it may very well be one of the best strategy games of all time with such an incredible amount of content to play, factions to try out and unique gameplay styles that you will not grow bored for a long time. The games are indeed quite complex and difficult to get into if you’re new but if you stick at it and give the game a chance you may very well find one of your new favourite games. As it stands now whilst I do recommend the game to all strategy fans I would go in with the knowledge that you are playing a lesser game at the start but after a few months this will be a fantastic addition to the series and indeed one of the best strategy games available on PC.