• Total War: Warhammer III - A First Look Review

    Total War: Warhammer III Ė A First Look Review
    By Alwyn


    Kislevís expedition has taken Prince Yuri of Kislev and his small force of infantry far from home, into a long valley, marching through snow and facing attack from raiding bands. In Warhammer IIIís tutorial campaign, you take command of Prince Yuriís forces as he marches to help defend a remote settlement and search for someone who has been lost. The tutorial campaign does a good job of introducing the gameís mechanics for players unfamiliar with Total War, showing you how the game works one step at a time while providing enjoyable battles and an engaging story. Even for experienced players, itís worth experiencing Yuriís journey, since this acts as a prologue, introducing you to the background of the events in the main campaign.

    Warhammer IIIís tutorial drew me in with an engaging narrative, enjoyable battles and atmospheric music and sound effects. The game runs smoothly even with the release version, I experienced no crashes or obvious bugs. After the prologue, I was excited to start my first Warhammer III main campaign.

    The Ice Court

    After playing as Kislevís Prince Yuri in the tutorial, it seemed natural to select Kislev for my first campaign. When choosing a faction, Warhammer III offers you the chance to see your factionís complete roster Ė a nice addition. Playing as Kislev, you have the choice of Tzarina Katarin, Queen of the Ice Court, or Supreme Patriarch Kostaltyn, head of the Great Orthodoxy. Tzarina Katarin, the character I choose for my first campaign, is a practitioner of Ice Magic. Katarinís magic allows her to tilt the balance of an engagement in favour of her army. For a wizard she is above average in melee, but she is lightly armoured. Katarina starts the campaign with a single settlement, so I sent her east to capture a second city. When I ended the turn, I was impressed by how swiftly the AI factions took their turns Ė faster than Iím used to in Warhammer II.

    Tzarina Katarin starts at the River Urskoy, facing potential threats from the east and the west

    Katarinís campaign is recommended for beginners; even so, she has an interesting starting position, facing a war with the Roppsmenn Clan to the east (in Eastern Oblast) and the threat of war from Supreme Patriarch Kostaltyn, her rival for the leadership of Kislev, to the west. To the south of Kislevís starting position are provinces of the Empire, which are relatively friendly towards Kislev. This provides Katarin with an opportunity for diplomacy.

    The balance offer option allows Katarin to secure her southern border, by establishing friendly relations with provinces of the Empire

    In Warhammer III, a numerical score shows you how close you are to a deal, so you wonít be making a series of doomed offers in an attempt to secure a trade agreement, as happens to me in Warhammer II.

    Katarin marched north-east to take another minor settlement from the Roppsmenn Clan. Minor settlement battles in Warhammer II take place on open fields, unless the settlement has walls; Warhammer III's minor settlement battles take place around settlements. Like the settlements in Total War Attila, some of the new gameís minor settlements make good use of height, offering challenges and opportunities for both attackers and defenders.

    A minor settlement

    Even compared to Warhammer II, the third game offers improved quality of life in battle. A row of Zzzzs appears on a unit which is inactive, showing you who needs new orders. Reinforcements now arrive after a delay, and when your commander has the Lightning Strike ability, this increases the delay for the enemy's reinforcements. As I see it, this works better than in Warhammer II, when reinforcements start arriving immediately and the Lightning Strike ability allows a commander to attack an army without any chance it being reinforced by a nearby force (even after the battle continues for a long time), which seems unrealistic.

    While Katarin was travelling through friendly territory, I took the opportunity to recruit more units for her army. Kislev's roster includes a great selection of hybrid melee/ranged infantry - equipped with bow and axe, sword or spear - as well as effective shock cavalry such as the winged lancers below. Kislev's economy seems relatively profitable compared to Warhammer II factions and the 'supply lines' penalty for additional armies has been reduced. Kislev can afford a small second army almost immediately.

    Kislev's Winged Lancers

    After a battle, you are offered the opportunity of a rematch (even if you won) without needing to load a saved game. This is a nice addition, encouraging the player to experiment with different tactics. After a victory, itís time to level up your characters and assign any new magic items. The management of commanders and heroes in Total War Warhammer games increasingly resembles managing characters in a role-playing game, as you choose your characterís skills and equip them with magic items.

    On this screen, you can assign magic items to your characters, such as this Frost Maiden (a Kislev wizard)

    The management of characters, magic items and ancillaries has been improved. In the previous game, you might choose to assign a magic item from a list, only to be told that this item is already being used by another character. In Warhammer III, the character management screen shows you whether a magic item is already being used by another of your characters (and it tells you which character), which is a useful addition.

    A tour of unit types, useful for players who are new to Total War

    During an early battle in this campaign, the game offers a tour of unit types, which could be helpful for new players who are unfamiliar with Total War (or used to Total War but not familiar with Warhammer).

    After my initial expansion to the east, Katarin aims to continue her conquest of the Roppsmenn Clan, to eliminate them before they can organise an effective counter-attack. However, events on the campaign map may disrupt this plan, as a band of raiders has arrived in the region which Katarin recently captured.

    Overall first impressions

    Warhammer III comes across as a game which works hard to support players who are new to Total War, with an engaging tutorial campaign and pop-up advice early in a campaign (such as the tour of unit types), when the advice level is set to high. For experienced players, the new game offers a large campaign map, a set of new factions with different styles of game-play and useful quality of life improvements, which improve on the already very enjoyable game-play in Warhammer II.

    The new game is visually impressive; Kislev has well done minor settlements and unit cards which are attractive and effective, allowing the player to see immediately which type of unit they are looking at. The narrative, the music and the sound effects build atmosphere well. This is simply a first look - I have just begun to experience the game-play which the new game offers. I'm really enjoying my first campaign and I'm excited to see more of the game's factions, provinces and features.

    If you found this article interesting, you might like to read some of the Eagle Standard's previous articles. A full list of these can be found here.