Total War: Warhammer 3 Review: "A Friendly Pathway Into A Whole New World Of Fantasy"
The Total War series is once filled with prestige and when a new game is on the horizon, its core fanbase has enough faith to sit back and let the magic happen. With the release of Total War: Warhammer 3, we’re diving into the Realm of Chaos and Lands of the East. It’s a perfect balance between the hellscape home of Daemons and a more Earth-like location that draws on Russian and Asian culture for inspiration.
Over the course of your adventures, you’ll encounter all sorts of fantasy beasts, landscapes and dramas. If you’re familiar with the two previous games in the series, there will be no major surprises in what is a strong third instalment. However, can Total War: Warhammer 3 live up to the strong legacy left for it by its predecessors?
Cards On The Table
Total War: Warhammer 3 is, first and foremost, a turn-based strategy game with real-time battle mechanics. It’s in these core gameplay mechanics that Total War games have built their reputation and where expectations are highest, regardless of which historical or fantasy topic the game looks at.
Once again, Creative Assembly absolutely nails these aspects of Warhammer 3 and the general gameplay loop is as satisfying as it ever has been. There is a big advantage this offers in that players who may have familiarity with the core Total War games can transfer their knowledge into Warhammer 3 with zero effort required. Just like with any other Total War game, there is an extensive tutorial campaign included to help new players get to grips with mechanics in a simple but inoffensive manner.
While other Total War games draw on historical events, the Warhammer series takes a popular fantasy setting and looks to do it justice. Anyone who has spent time in or around the Warhammer community knows that lore is a huge part of the experience and storytelling can make or break how new products and armies are perceived.
As you would expect with a game reaching its third instalment, Total War: Warhammer continues to nail every aspect of that universe. Fans of the Warhammer brand will be pleased with the final product but this should not be viewed as a niche title. Creative Assembly has done incredibly well to take a property like Warhammer and dilute it just enough for newcomers not to be put off or intimidated. It’s a perfect marriage of gameplay and storytelling with few weaknesses.
Judging A Book By Its Cover
Before going into detail on the bulk of the game, it’s upsetting to report that Total War: Warhammer 3 may be the worst looking game in the entire Total War series. It's unclear what the reason for this may be, but there are multiple performance issues in play here and each one has a minor knock-on effect on the overall experience.
The game runs best in fullscreen windowed mode, because switching the game to fullscreen caused massive issues with the texture quality and game performance. During simple actions, the game would slow down massively to less than 15fps, something that didn’t happen at all in windowed mode. Parts of battlefields would be completely missing when fullscreen also, not just a simple texture pop in, but completely missing.
While the game performed much better in the windowed mode, it didn't look much better. From a distance, it appears to be just another Total War game, which is passable. Get in close and you’ll struggle to pick out any particular character model or environment that could be considered ‘pretty’.
Bang For Your Buck
Anyone who has encountered a Total War experience before knows that when it comes to content, these games can’t be beaten. You’ll start with the prologue campaign (it’s highly recommended even for experienced players) and that alone can take hours to complete. Imagine having a tutorial that’s longer than most single-player campaigns were 10+ years ago. Madness.
Once you’re up to speed on how the game works and with the story of the Kislev tribe, you can head into another campaign as one of the eight factions or races on offer. One of these is only available as DLC, the Ogre Kingdoms. More are expected to be added over the lifetime of the game.
Each faction has its goal which is revealed fairly early on through a cutscene and initial in-game chat with its leader. From there, it’s all over to you. Want to absolutely power through and complete all of the main objectives? Go for it. Want to take the scenic route and dominate the AI players to make your end goal easier? Sure thing. It's the freedom that makes the Total War games untouchable in the strategy genre.
The Total War games have never singled out any particular playstyle as ‘wrong’. You may find yourself with objectives that have time restraints on them but it all fits into the context of the story and it’s pretty rare that this happens on main game objectives. Usually, the timed objectives are side missions that will grant you bonuses if you complete them but are not a requirement.
Naturally, if you’re playing on a higher difficulty and want to take a more relaxed approach to the game, the AI will make you think twice and you’ll fall behind the curve very quickly.
Managing resources is always a major aspect of any Total War game and Warhammer 3 is no different. It’s all well and good wanting to build a massive army but if it’s costing too much to maintain and you’re not bringing enough resources in, trouble will be right around the corner. This is another reason to always play the tutorial, even experienced players can get lost in the sheer volume of micromanagement that’s required to succeed in a Total War campaign.
If you are after a more gentle experience - and there's no shame in that - then difficulties can be amended for both the battle and diplomatic sides of the game. There have been times in certain campaigns where the difficulty has spiked rather unnaturally as you get into the later turns but it’s nothing unmanageable and as long as you’ve kept on top of your armies and maintenance but if you have fallen behind, it can seem like a mountain to overcome.
As much as I adore Total War: Warhammer 3, the graphical and performance issues I faced took the shine off what was a near-perfect experience otherwise. The difficulty spikes also seemed a little unfair and could lead to a campaign being sent back two or three saves to correct the smallest issue.
Despite this, Total War: Warhammer 3 is a fantastic overall package that rounds out a trilogy in an honourable fashion. Fans of the source material will have plenty to sink their teeth into and new players will find themselves with a friendly pathway into a whole new world of fantasy.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.