Pyramids immersed in the greenery of an apparently uncontaminated forest. This is the simple and veiled image that Creative Assembly published on social networks as an anticipation to the new chapter of the glorious saga. Thousands of fans immediately went wild, what would be the new reference title, Empire 2 or Medieval 3? But here's what many never wanted to see: more Warhammer, more dragons and magic. The social networks arise, the players are divided between those who would have wanted the return to historicity against those who appreciated the first chapter. Today Total War: Warhammer 2 is finally available, find out by reading this review if the English developers have moved their pieces well.
Conquering the vortex
Like any self-respecting Total War, even in Warhammer 2 we have the opportunity to take possession of a faction and accompany it to glory or defeat. Characteristic of this fantasy chapter is the narrative history, which accompanies us during practically the entire game. The main objective of the player is to lead his people not only to total conquest, as has almost always happened in the historical titles of the saga, but mainly we will have to control or stabilize a great vortex of pure energy, present on the strategic map.
Four races compete for the so-called Maelstrom, which allows the containment of the forces of chaos and therefore prevents a sort of apocalypse. Each of these aims to possess the power: Lizardmen, Dark Elves, High Elves and Skaven, divided in turn into two clans for each, each with extremely unique and detailed characteristics not only for the type of units. To be successful in the enterprise they must influence the Great Vortex with a ritual, which can only be performed by collecting a sufficient amount of "ritual currency", different for each race.
We took the first steps with the Mors clan, Skaven (huge underground rats) led by Queek Mozzateste. These creatures, always in strong competition with others, already differ from the attributes listed before starting the campaign. In fact, we are told that this breed has an incredible need for food, forcing us to consider elf or lizard meat, essential for the survival of our colonies. They also control a real underground empire and this allows us to hide the settlements in our possession from the enemies, or to prepare unpredictable ambushes for anyone who dares to approach.
Started the tutorial we arrive on the campaign map, the main game theater divided into provinces and each of which contains different settlements. It is a map full of different ecosystems, places to discover, treasures, ruins and pitfalls such as storms, winds of magic and volcanoes. A feast for the eyes compared to the historical titles of the series, which is very reminiscent of those of Heroes Of Might & Magic.
An elderly man acting as an adviser, welcomes us informing us that the elves have invaded the neighboring lands and invites us to face them. Before doing so we look around. The main features of the strategic Creative Assemblies are not lacking. On screen we observe the presence of the usual data that inform us about the state of our kingdom: the treasury with the funds currently available, the expected revenues, the settlements and the armies in our possession. For each province you can have access to a panel that informs us about its status and that of the population: Growth, very important for improving settlements; Income generated by cities or won as a result of battles; Public order, measurable by the happiness or repression of the population; Corruption. The latter is a very delicate data, variable according to the events of the game and a measure of the influence of Chaos, vampires or Skaven. Excessive level leads to attrition and unrest.
We need reinforcements
By accessing the settlements in our possession and clicking on the construction panel it is possible, with the right funds, to enlist the units, the heroes who can accompany us in battle and the construction of various buildings, divided into five categories: Resources , able to exploit to our advantage what the region gives us; Basic and Advanced Armed Forces and Defense and Infrastructure. It goes without saying that even in this case each individual race possesses unique military and civilian recruitments, buildings.
We do not forget the management panels. They allow us to interact with other factions through diplomacy and thrive with technology. The first, decidedly improved and open to many more possibilities than in the past, allows us to maintain solid alliances with races equal to ours, to declare war on those opposed to us or vice versa. The second, as always, brings a series of military and civilian advantages, allowing the creation of increasingly powerful troops capable of devastating the battlefield and the construction of incredibly majestic buildings.
Last panel, but not least and indeed of extreme interest, is the one relating to the rites. Different for each race allow us during the games, at the cost of sonorous coins or slaves to have great bonuses for a few turns, such as a powerful hero at our side, upgrades for armies or improved income. These are just a few examples of the many possibilities they offer.
Even our generals and heroes, such as settlements and technologies, are able to grow over time by completing actions on the campaign map. I can improve in three different fields: Character stats, with upgrades ranging from increasing life points to acquiring a mount, to upgrading weapons; Effects on battle, allows you to improve the effects of the presence of the general on the battlefield with the skills acquired, such as the increase in morale or damage of the troops; Effects on the campaign, help in the management of the kingdom, thanks to the increase of these skills we are helped in the management of settlements.
Not just skills, an additional detail sheet is available for the characters. Indicates the armor, weapons, items and followers that are found and worn by lords and heroes during the campaign. Without forgetting information and traits acquired during the trip. This integrates RPG components that are not at all annoying.
On the battlefield
Now let's go back to the elves who, as the Skaven, we left on the loose. By interacting with the enemy army, we are catapulted onto the battlefield. Here, as usual, the magic of Total War transports us from the turn-based strategy of the campaign map to the real-time one. Obviously we are not surrounded simply by woods, rivers and trees admirable looking out the window. They are dominated by brightly colored fantasy settings, castles worthy of fairy tales and ruins worthy of Mordor. Inevitably, I admire my army, made up of hundreds of slaves armed with spears, swords and slingers. Beautiful in their ugliness, beautifully represented in detail, even if not very different from each other.
The "little" slaves are not alone, however, with them is our hero Queek Mozzateste, ready to use his magic, and the Rattogri. The latter are part of the so-called "Monstrous Infantry". Usually large units, they are the Skaven example of elite units. On the side of the lizardmen it is possible to find, in addition to the simple and heavy infantry, the Ferocious Stegadonti, huge pachyderms that resemble the triceratops. Accompanying the High Elves are the Flaming Phoenicians, among others.
Dragons, harpies, cannons, giant amphibians, skeletons, satyrs, hydras and minotaurs are just some of the enlistable species. Undeniable from the undersigned the concern of seeing these beings face each other on the battlefield, after the excellent work that has been done with the historical chapters. Instead I had to change my mind. Each unit is well placed in its battle formations, giving even the most bizarre units a military aspect, without losing the spectacularity. Explosions, flames, thunder and acid jets only surround the battle, without upsetting it. Strategy is always the master, it is therefore essential to position your army in the best possible way, studying the terrain, exploiting hills and woods. A good attack on the flank of the enemy always makes the opponent falter, even if this time maybe in place of the cavalry there could be huge crocodiles.
The balance of the units appears to be on a good level. A few hundred lizardmen or well-absorbed high elves can counteract thousands of small, lightly armored rats. While the combat animations, at first glance, leave something to be desired: it is difficult to see two opponents facing each other in a duel to the death, as could happen in Empire Total War or Shogun. In fact, the individual units, after coming into contact, tend to suddenly fall to the ground, without perhaps having been touched. Different speech for the projectiles and the visually impressive explosions, and the charges, especially of the larger creatures, able to overwhelm the soldiers with a cry of satisfaction ... or despair if enemies.
Having won our battle against the elves, the campaign continues between secondary missions, events and assignments, which are periodically assigned to us at the beginning of the turns, unfortunately not too randomly. To extend the longevity of a game that already has high replayability in its contents, there are Hero Battles, single-player battles that recall historical battles and can also be played from the main menu and multiplayer battles. The workshop support also adds and will add factions and units by the hundreds, we have no doubts.
We used a 1050GB GeForce GTX 4 Ti card to play and the game performed very well even at ultra settings and multiple onscreen units. As already mentioned, the animations are effective, even if slightly confusing on the battlefield. Fantastic customizations of the various races and the various lords / heroes, beautiful designs of the unit cards (make you forget the horrors of Rome 2). Speaking of the sound it is inevitable to mention the speech of the various races, such as the stuttering of the skaven and the hissing of the Lizardman. The whole is dubbed in English in an excellent way. The soundtrack is enjoyable, and the battle sounds engaging.
At first glance, the game may seem decidedly complicated, even for veterans of the genre and Total War. Certainly more attempts must be made before understanding the new mechanics, both on the turn-based strategy map and in real time.
Total War: Warhammer 2 it's something you don't expect, a game that makes you turn up your nose until you try it with your hand. For myself, a 17-year player of Total War titles, it was like this. But once you understand the game mechanics it becomes clear that it is simply a different experience, in a different world, able to bring to life the same emotions of a charge of gothic knights of Medieval Total War 2 or the satisfaction of the conquest of Rome in Total War: Rome 2. Graphically spectacular, we must unfortunately consider that it has the flaw, with the many scripted events, of taking the player on a well-defined path, without leaving complete freedom of choice. However, longevity is not lacking, thanks to the different breeds - to which others will be added - and their uniqueness.