Total War: Warhammer 3 Review

Alex Przyborowski

There are lots of games that fit into the fantasy genre. There are also many games that fit into the strategy genre. However, the market for fantasy themed strategy games has a few entries, but their quality suffers from poor funding and low interest. It is because of this stagnant market that the few good products that end up shining through glow even brighter, and one of these franchises is the Total War: Warhammer series. The Total War franchise is one that strategy gamers are more than familiar with, between their games set in the Napoleonic era to medieval strategy and even the Lord of the Rings. However, something that sets apart their Warhammer series is the sheer amount of depth and detail set into the gameplay and stories they build.

The Warhammer franchise is made up of multiple smaller franchises built by a parent company, Games Workshop, to sell plastic models in a strategic tabletop wargame. During the early days of this franchise, the fantasy world they had built exploded in popularity, but since the early 2000’s, their science-fiction properties have taken center stage, resulting in the fantasy being rebooted into an all too unpopular new form: Age of Sigmar. However, while Games Workshop may be moving on from their fantasy roots, their video game market is not, and that’s where the Total War franchise comes into play. 

Total War: Warhammer is a real-time strategy series, with the ability to command troop units, heroes, and armies on a large, story-driven  campaign map or in player vs. player games. The factions of which you can choose to take command are many and varied, and each faction has access to unique weaponry, spells, heroes, and play styles, resulting in an experience that can last months depending on the length of your playthrough. With groups such as the Skaven Clans, Ogre Kingdoms, the Empire and the Gods of Chaos, the Warhammer Fantasy world has themes varying from magic and fantasy to horror and madness. Now, a year after the release of both the third and final installment of this strategy gaming franchise, how does this finale hold up?

First comes the discussion of the quality of the game’s graphics. This game does lack in this department somewhat, with flat textures on character’s faces and models. The environment does look a little monotone in places, and sometimes it is difficult to tell units apart from their surroundings due to the flat textures, resulting in massive strategic mistakes. However, what this game doesn’t lack in graphically is detail. Each set that is built, each map you play on, and each and every single unit in the game is designed beautifully. The factions all have unique looks and styles, which mesh well with their heroes and the setting from which they come, resulting in an easy mesh of detail and visual storytelling.

Second comes the story. The tale of Total War: Warhammer 3 is one of betrayal, murder, armies clashing and rival factions vying for control over the power of a dying god. Ursun, the bear god of the Kislevites, has been imprisoned in the forge of souls by Be’lakor, the fallen chosen of Chaos, who seeks to leech the god’s lifeblood and ascend to godhood himself to challenge his former masters. Each faction has their own well thought out reason for seeking out Ursun, such as the Kislevites who seek to free him and the dragons of Cathay, who seek his knowledge on their missing family members. The tale woven through the gameplay and visual worldbuilding is one of a world beset by demons and monsters, of harsh winters and cruel magic, forcing humans, elves and then like to fight for survival against the forces that would bring them down and destroy them.

Another factor is, of course, gameplay itself. The mechanics through which you play the game and explore its world are not immediately intuitive. Many different values for each unit in your army make them well equipped for different situations, and balancing the power of your forces to stand strong in different scenarios is a must, no matter how difficult it is in the beginning. Not only do you have to balance creating your army and characters. You also must have a grasp on how to use them properly on a battlefield to achieve victory over your foes. Judging the proper moments to send in cavalry, to send another unit forward into a melee to support a buckling battle line, and knowing when to retreat your archers and artillery are essential skills that have to be learned through time and experience. As well as physically commanding your troops actions, one must use their heroes and leaders well, and must also master the magic system to support their units.

To further complicate gameplay, you must also learn to dominate and lead your faction, balancing income, cost, trade, alliances, and global politics. Each mistake you make in the governing and bureaucratic portions of the game reflects in your ability to respond to threats militarily, and pushing too far into pacifism or aggression can ruin your runthrough within several meager turns. Furthermore, balancing the relations of rival factions and coordinating war efforts with your allies proves to be a difficult point in the game. You must pick your friends carefully and ensure their strength grows as yours does, lest both of you be overwhelmed by the hordes of Orks and the insidious cults of Chaos.

Overall, Total War: Warhammer 3 is not without its faults. While it suffers globally from the flat textures and simple graphics, this is not a crippling loss, and it makes it more accessible to people with lower-quality computers. The balancing of combat is done masterfully and the spell systems work well, mixing the risk of friendly fire and buffing your units into a perfect concoction of fun battles and high-risk, high-reward gameplay. The story itself, while not the most driving factor of the game, is fun and endearing, featuring the vocal talents of such individuals as Richard Armitage. In summary, Total War: Warhammer 3 is a game that benefits from its mastery of real-time strategy, but suffers from its bugs and low quality graphics.