Total War: Warhammer review: meticulous attention to detail

total war warhammer

To start off, I think it’s important to mention that I’ve never been a great fan of strategy games. That’s probably because I’ve always severely sucked at them. Now take that into consideration coupled with my head-over-heels love for this title, and I would say that’s a fair reflection of its brilliance.

The aptly named Total War: Warhammer was born out of the alliance of two legendary strategy franchises, Total War and (you guessed it) Warhammer.

The Total War games are known for historically-based famous war campaigns such as the exploits of Napoleon or Attila the Hun. So you can imagine after fifteen years and nine titles later, turning to the world of fantasy came as quite a surprise. I, for one, give this unexpected union my absolute blessing.

But let me warn you: do not enter this game unless you’re willing to fully commit, or you will find yourself indescribably overwhelmed. I’ve put in over fifty hours of gameplay into a single campaign (ten of those forming part of my first failed attempt) and I’m only just now starting to see the end draw near.

Total War: Warhammer (TWW) is not the kind of game you just jump into. To really experience its defining characteristics and witness all it has to offer will take a lot of time and patience.

But don’t let that scare you.

Let’s get started

When starting your TWW campaign you can choose between four factions, The Empire (humans), Dwarfs, Vampire Counts and Greenskins (Orcs). If you have some cash to spare you can purchase “The Chaos Warriors” DLC, which will allow you to play as the campaign’s main enemy, the Chaos Faction.

total war warhammer

I chose to go with the Vampire Counts because, well, I don’t know of any other games where you’re able to take control of a colossal army of bloodthirsty night dwellers.

Each faction has its own distinct characteristics, units, heroes and lords (leaders), each tailored to fit a specific play style. Here’s a brief summary:

  • The Empire will provide you with the most balanced gameplay experience, and is the closest fit to previous Total War titles. If you’re looking for a similar experience to the predecessors while enjoying the new mechanics, this is the faction for you.
  • The Dwarfs are the best choice for those who are new to the world of Total War — they are the simplest to play. Their units are sturdy with large health pools and don’t have many abilities to note. Although they don’t dabble in magic, the Dwarfs make use of devastating artillery to blow their foe’s infantry lines apart.
  • The Greenskins are the best faction to choose if you play aggressively and want to spend most of you time on the battlefield. Their units have relatively low upkeep and thrive when regularly engaging in combat, spawning extra armies and quickly gaining leadership. Not fighting will have the opposite effect, meaning the morale of your armies will drop quickly.
  • The Vampire Counts are by far the most unique of the lot and present you with the greatest departure from previous Total War games. Their frontline units are relatively weak but attack in great masses and will never retreat from battle. They also have no ranged units but make up for it with a plethora of terrifying beasts and flying monsters.

The narrative is yours

Although TTW provides you with a decent yet basic plot, in the end the story will be yours. It has masterfully perfected the balance between guidance and player freedom, planting just enough narrative elements to allow you to carve your own legend. Each player and play through will have its own unique experience and own memorable moments, one of the main aspects I totally love about this game.

Each faction will have their own story. As the Vampire Counts you will be playing with Mannefred Von Carstein (if you chose him as your starting lord). Mannefred has woken of from his eternal slumber to find that his ancestral home, Castle Drakenhoff, has been taken over by a Master Necromancer. Naturally, this pisses him off and he decides to banish the necromancer from his territory and reinstate the ancient glory of the Von Carstein bloodline.

What would seem like undeniable loss could be your greatest victory

After this battle, which serves as a tutorial, the main game starts and the long struggle for dominance between the factions begin. To only other constant element, which all factions face, is the impending arrival of the “Warriors of Chaos”, the main enemy of the campaign.  Beyond that, the story is yours.


To truly excel in TWW you will have to take a meticulous approach, especially in the early game. There’s a number of facets to keep in mind and, if you’re a newcomer like me, it can seem extremely overwhelming. However, once you come to terms with the game’s various elements you will be conducting a symphony of strategy and tactics.

total war warhammer

One of the first things I noticed when jumping into TTW was the immense scale of the endeavour I was about to undertake. Although there are four main factions, there is an abundance of sub-factions that are littered throughout the map.

Most of them are quite weak and will seem insignificant compared to the primary factions. But once they start swearing their fealty to the greater nations and large alliances start to form, their threat will increase tenfold.

It’s important to always be prepared and overzealous. When I took my first attempt at the campaign I aimed to conquer as much of the map as fast as I possibly could with the biggest army I could muster. The bigger my empire the stronger I am, right?

I built myself a string of armies and immediately set out to expand my empire. Beating my weaker neighbours gave me confidence and I quickly sat with a large chuck of the map. But my armies (mostly made up of weaker infantry units) were spread thin and far apart, and soon I was struggling to keep a hold over my kingdom as other factions started to invade from every corner of the map.

This might sound ridiculous, but conquering the world should be one of your lowest priorities. Rather focus on building a smaller but stronger army than a large but weak one. Keep your empire small but impregnable and gradually expand this strength over time.

But don’t put all your attention in armies. Upgrading your settlements’ buildings ASAP is one of your main goals. Each building will have its use that will play a significant part in your success.

The four things you should concentrate on, in order of significance is the growth of your province (which will allow you to build higher tier buildings), generating money, building and upgrading unit production buildings and, finally, setting up defensive structures.

total war warhammer

If you keep these things in mind while raising a small but resilient force, you’ll be ready to go to war.

Tactical warfare

Warfare in Total War: Warhammer has both turn-based and real time factors.

In the turn-based sections you deal with the positioning and movement of your armies across the map. An army will, preferably, consist from a lord (army leader), heroes (powerful single unit) and your bulk force (various divisions of foot soldiers, cavalry, etc.).

Make sure to always move your armies in pairs as they will always stand as a united force when entering a battle. You can present your foes with no better opportunity than allowing them to pick off your forces one by one. No matter how strong you think your army is, there’s always a stronger one waiting to gift you your annihilation. Take the same approach when attacking settlements, especially if they have a garrisoned army.

Heroes are not to be underestimated and, in some ways, can become a greater asset than your lords. Except for being ferocious and skilled soldiers on the battlefield, they can obtain special abilities that are extremely useful when preparing for battle. They can infiltrate armies to assault units and even assassinate heroes and lords. You can also send them into settlements where they can damage buildings and hinder the progress of your foes.

The bigger my empire the stronger I am, right?

And now this is where the fun really starts: shedding the blood of your enemies.

When engaging an enemy, you will enter the main battle mode, which takes place in real time. Fortunately, you will have the option to change the speed of, and even pause, the gameplay so that you are able to constantly and meticulously consider your options and strategy.

total war warhammer

When an engagement starts, you will first be presented with a comparison screen, which will show you the general strength and numbers of each army. There will also be a bar that will show your chances of victory against you enemy.

You will then have to option to manually battle, auto-resolve or retreat. If your chances of success are lower than 50%, I’d advise you to enter battle mode. But don’t let that deter you. You will be amazed what can be accomplished if you use the right tactics at the right time.

Make use of the terrain. Charging downhill will increase your units’ charge bonus. Hiding your units can conceal them, providing you with the opportunity for surprise attack on your enemy’s flanks. Learn the weaknesses of you opponents and use it against them.

What would seem like undeniable loss could be your greatest victory.

Game information

Release Date: 24 May 2016
Developer: Creative Assembly
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Turn-based, Real-time strategy
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows (review platform)
Launch Price (RRP): R599
Industry average score: 87/100

Verdict: If you’re looking for a game that oozes magical lore and thrives on meticulous strategy and tactics, then Total War: Warhammer is the title for you. Be ready to take on a hefty endeavour though, as this game will require a lot of attention from you to really show its worth. That being said, for someone that’s not the greatest fan of strategy titles, TWW absolutely captivated me.

Score: 9/10

Wiehahn Diederichs


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