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Game Review: Total War: Warhammer II – Fantasy Warfare Expands into New Territory

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In 2016 developer Creative Assembly’s Total War series merged with the tabletop wargame, Warhammer to release its first game in a planned trilogy of Total War: Warhammer games. The Total War series was always known for battles featuring massive armies, but they were usually based on real-world historical events. The merging of Total War’s massive battles and expansive campaign turned out to be the perfect match for Warhammer’s fantasy setting of Orcs, Dwarves, Elves and more battling it out for control of the world. Total War: Warhammer II refines on the previous installment and introduces four new races and a new more story-driven narrative campaign as well as a few other refinements.

Photo courtesy of Sega

The previous game had a playable roster of, among others, dwarves, orcs and men to battle in a high fantasy setting. Total War: Warhammer II opted for more “deep tracks” with Warhammer races that aren’t usually at the forefront – the ancient dinosaur riding Lizardmen, the rat-like Skaven, the righteous High Elves, and the chaos sowing Dark Elves. Each of these races are unique, fielding armies of different strengths and compositions, and each have their own motivations. The Lizardmen are the most ancient race of the Warhammer world, created by a celestial being to enact “The Great Plan” – the elimination of Chaos forces from the world. The Skaven’s goal is to ultimately reduce the world to rubble so they can infest the remains of civilization. The High Elves and Dark Elves, once a single people, are each beholden to the Chaos banishing Great Vortex – one to protect it, the other to usurp its power. While there are only four playable races at launch they are each unique not only to each other, but from the previous installation’s selection of races, making each one extremely interesting and fun to play.  There are also many minor factions that can be encountered during Total War: Warhammer II’s story campaign.

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The Great Vortex was created by the High Elves many millennia ago to banish the forces of Chaos from the world. A celestial event has recently weakened the Great Vortex, and the four playable races of Total War: Warhammer II each sense this weakness – the Lizardmen and High Elves seek to stabilize the vortex, while the Skaven and Dark Elves wish to take that power for themselves. This is a much more narratively driven story campaign than the previous game. Each faction must work towards their ultimate goal in an epic campaign that spans continents.

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The Total War series has always been a mixture of country building, diplomacy, and resource management in turn-based campaign play. Each turn gives you the ability to declare war, ask for peace, broker trade deals and more. The AI in these campaign modes has been steadily improving with each Total War release, and Total War: Warhammer II continues the trend. Sometimes the AI still makes some baffling decisions, but it seems overall more capable and aggressive than before.

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If your goal is total domination, it is achievable. When your armies battle with an opposing faction, you can choose to have a battle resolved automatically based on the strength of that army or you can control your army in large-scale battles with thousands of combatants on screen at once. These real-time battles are what Total War is known for. The AI has improved here, too, with enemy units attempting flanking maneuvers or probing for your forces if they know you have them hidden nearby. Creative Assembly has also managed to improve the graphical fidelity while making these large battles slightly less taxing on your computer hardware, with many reporting better performance than the previous installment.

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The same multiplayer modes from the previous game return for this one. You can play a full campaign cooperatively or in a head-to-head mode. There are also custom battles vs AI, or multiplayer head-to-head versus battles to partake in. The custom battles can be great to practice or just fight if you don’t like the turn-based campaign portion of Total War.

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Total War: Warhammer II is the second of a planned trilogy. Creative Assembly’s ultimate goal is to merge the campaign map of these three games to make one massive map encompassing the entire Age of Sigmar Warhammer world. This is a fantasy war gamer’s dream, but unless Creative Assembly plans on releasing a reduced price definitive edition, the dream would be pricey to achieve. 2016’s Total War: Warhammer had over $70 dollars’ worth of paid downloadable content in addition to its base price tag (which is still $60, though it has been on sale for as cheap as $12). Creative Assembly has been slammed for their DLC practices in the past. They’ve heard the feedback from their fans, and have released several free content packs for the first game, but paid downloadable content seems inevitable for Total War: Warhammer II.

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Total War: Warhammer II is a slight improvement in every way. Creative Assembly has seemed to be listening to the feedback from its fan base not only when it comes to gameplay, but also DLC practices. Whether this trend continues has yet to be seen, but the Total War: Warhammer trilogy looks to be shaping up well and I’m excited to put together all of the pieces when the third installment eventually arrives. Total War: Warhammer II is out now for Windows.

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