At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, appointments behind-closed-doors are the only place where you can really get a feel for a certain game, away from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit halls.
In this edition of our hands-on and impressions articles, Nick and I had an appointment at the Deep Silver meeting area to see a demo of Total War: Warhammer. The brain-child of Games Workshop and Creative Assembly, Total War: Warhammer aims to be a top contender in the battle of fantasy RTS games.
We were treated to a hands-off demo of Total War: Warhammer. First, here’s a story and gameplay primer: There are four groups vying for control of the world of Warhammer: the men of the Empire led by Karl Franz, the Greenskins led by Grimgor Ironhide, the Dwarves led by High King Thorgrim, and the Vampire Counts led by Mannfred von Carstien.
Total War can be divided into two main avenues of hours of gameplay: first is what we were shown, which was RTS battles. The second is what we weren’t shown during the demo: a sandbox campaign game of statecraft, politics, and empire-building.
Taking all possibilities available in the game, Total War should give avid users hundreds of hours of gameplay. And that’s not even including the two planned future stand-alone titles and other content packs. When combined, they form an epic trilogy of titles that will bring players the deepest and richest Total War experience yet.
In the demo we were shown, the live-playing developer took us through The Battle of Black Fire Pass, a location called the gateway between the Empire and The Border Princes. The pass is also feared because just to the south lies the Greenskin’s domain, The Badlands. Because of the strategic importance of such a central crossroads area, the human Empire troops and the invading Greenskins each lay claim to it and end up battling it out.
With the massive number of units present simultaneously in the single battle we were shown, it was clear that was one of the more impressive parts of the demo meant to be highlighted. How all the individual units came together, however, in a certain order and for a specific strategy is the true diamond in the rough of Total War. The following paragraphs talk about what came into play in the demo in order as far as I can remember.
A minor sidebar before continuing: during the demo, the developer emphasized how you can go from a wide-angle view of the battlefield teeming with units, to down to a single unit, and all the details along with it and in between. This zoom ability enables players to take control of a single unit, or to view finer details up close.
The “grunt”-like units of each of the two factions shown were the first deployed and first units of the Empire humans to be demolished by the superior strength of the Greenskins. I admit that I thought the developer messed up at this point in the demo. But I was wrong…
Enter the cavalry and long-range weapons experts units. These units added strength to the human Empire forces, but still lacked enough “uumph” factor to stand a chance against the Greenskins, who easily matched the Empire units with their own catapult-thrown units (called Goblin Doom Divers). I especially loved this dimension of gameplay, both for its novelty and for its explosive effect.
Don’t forget the fleshed-out vertical elements of the battle. Riders of flying beasts and creatures also make a difference. Soaring above the enemy and raining down death, or sweeping and picking up enemies and throwing or breaking them, are also viable and effective.
For brute force, the game developer called in the Trolls and Giants, as well as heavy-armored and heavy-weapon units. The Troll and Giant units can smash, squeeze and throw enemies to death, and they did so with extreme prejudice in the demo shown. Not gonna lie, loved that bit too.
As for heavy-armored and heavy-weapon-wielding units, you can imagine how that benefited both the humans and the Greenskins. they both had units matching those descriptions (and I haven’t mentioned them at all yet, mind you).
I almost forgot to mention the larger vehicles and creatures in the demo. The Empire, by virtue of relying on technology, brought out many guns, batteries, a Tank and a Great Cannon. All of these had different advantages at ranges and on certain enemies, but we weren’t told why.
As for the Greenskins, giant Spiders and wolves make ideal mounts and stand-alone defense companions. They’re also good for taking care of themselves in battle: set them to fight on, and they will on the battlefield until players command otherwise.
Finally, the shamans and wizards of the demo also delivered great help against the bigger and stronger units of both sides. The Empire humans had one wizard in the pass, and he cast a spell bringing down The Comet of Casandora to wreak havoc on the Greenskins. Meanwhile, the shaman of the Greenskins casts Curse of Da Bad Moon, which has similar effects as the one from the Empire.
Long story short: Total War: Warhammer far exceeded my expectations, and has immense potential to be a big RTS hit once it comes out. We have no estimated release window right now from Creative Assembly.
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