Total War: Warhammer III: The Kotaku Review

Total War: Warhammer III: The Kotaku Review

I remember record in 2016 how I thought Creative Assembly’s pivot to Warhammer games was a bad idea. How “to see the series deviate from the real world was a blow”, and that “it’s not even the right Warhammer. It’s the medieval jerk”.

Time and a succession of good video games have proven me very, very wrong. On the first point, at least. The first Total War: Warhammer came out in 2016 and was pretty gReat, though it’s also a little odd, as it was the studio’s first real foray into non-historical Total War settings. The second, however, was a revelation, as big, fresh and fun as a Total War game had ever been, or really has been since.

Note: This review only covers the game’s single-player campaign, not its multiplayer.

This third entry not only builds on the legacy of those first two games, but also Three Kingdoms, the major “historic” release breaking Warhammer games that was also Creative Assembly’s last major Total War effort, and which at the time felt like a near-perfect marriage of the series’ more serious strengths and its more recent, RPG-like eccentricities. (I’ve since soured it a bit on its tedious map and limited unit list).

In many ways, Warhammer III does this effortlessly, in such a clean and successful way that I didn’t even notice them at first. Of course, in the most immediate sense, it’s the biggest and baddest Total War: Warhammer to date: it’s gorgeous, it’s explosive, and it’s packed with love (and lore). of Warhammer, to the point where its tutorial also serves as a narrative prequel to the events of the main game, making it a must-play regardless of your skill level.

Spend a few hours with the game, though, and you’ll notice that beyond the things that look good in the trailers, some real improvements have been made here to the foundation of the franchise itself. Like, this is the easiest Total War game I’ve played. I don’t mean how difficult the AI ​​is – even in normal times it will kick your ass if you get sloppy even for a moment – but how easily this game has streamlined its incredibly annoying admin, who despite being The worst thing about a Total War game is also quietly the part you spend the most time doing, and it’s also where any sort of improvement is most appreciated.

From building outposts in friendly territory to all sorts of options regarding notifications, improving diplomacy and even automating certain building chains and skill tree upgrades, the Managing your empire in Warhammer III is quick and painless, and I love it. You spend a lot less time looking at registers and more time fighting battles.

Another very cool thing that you might not realize until your second or third playthrough is that Total War’s underlying systems are pushed to their absolute limits with faction-specific weird and wonderful mechanics. I played my second and most successful game as Cathay, for example, which had access to a caravan system that moved an autonomous army around a map transporting goods and fighting battles (which you can control) . And a whole Ying/Yang balance to maintain that was literally threatened every time I built or researched something. Then there was a four-channel power meter that I could adjust every few turns to deliver power-ups. And that’s just one of the playable factions. There are seven more, each with their own twists, which makes replaying the game and other parts much more interesting than the usual stuff like unit differentiation and variety of starting locations.

Also great: it does the expected thing where everything looks amazing. The map explodes with vibrant colors, jagged cliffs and verdant mountains, there are towering units, towering bosses and hero characters who can conjure screen-filling spells. If Warhammer III doesn’t do anything else right, it wears its love of source material on its graphics-intensive cover art, and it marries it into the smoothest, most enjoyable Total War experience in years.

For over a decade now, Creative Assembly has been obsessed with Total War’s endgame campaign, relentlessly making tweaks to the storytelling and gameplay tricks that, when triggered, are meant to make their games feel better. interesting than “whoever takes the most wins” from RISK. It’s happened with every game in the series since Shogun 2 in 2011, and sometimes it’s been OK, while other times, like Warhammer II, a masterstroke. Here, however, I hated it.

The endgame of Warhammer III works like this: at regular intervals in the game, even at the beginning, portals to the Realm of Chaos open up all over the map, and you must send your best army through another dimension, where reinforcements and resupply are difficult, you’ll face rudimentary puzzles and/or boss fights, then hopefully return about ten turns later with a demon soul. While you’re doing this, all the other factions are also rushing to the portals to get one, and the armies of Chaos are pouring through the rifts on your side of the map, corrupting the landscape and charging you to defeat them, even if your best army is now otherwise engaged.

If you played/suffered the Oblivion Gates in Elder Scrolls IV, it’s a very similar premise, and it’s just as annoying. To start, you have to do it five times to win the game, but it gets tedious after the first 1-2 tries, and it assumes you finish each on the first try (if you fail, sorry, you have to wait and try again next time they open). Worst and most important, however, is that it undermines everything else in the game. Everything that makes Total War what it is – that balance between combat, expansion, building and diplomacy – is reduced to a spectacle secondary in the name of completing those portal quests, essentially taking all the best parts of the series and abandoning their importance to abstract grinding.

In all of my games, for example, after an early-game expansion, I quickly found myself settling in and ignoring almost everyone around me, from alliances to enemies, because what’s the point? The game was structured around sending a really good army through certain portals, so it didn’t matter if I conquered 3 regions or 30, or made friends (or enemies) in the world around me. .

Warhammer II’s endgame was the opposite. He forced you to travel to remote corners of the map, encounter continents and factions you might have otherwise missed, and in doing so he made his world one of the most enjoyable and memorable in the history of the series. Players here are almost encouraged to be locked in, and it sucks that in a game where almost everything else is an improvement over what came before, Creative Assembly took a huge step backwards with something that had it so well succeeded last time.

Total War: Warhammer 3


warhammer warhammer warhammer


Tactical RTS/turn-based hybrid


This is a big, slick Total War that’s improved on previous games in almost every way…


…almost! Endgame structure sucks


creative assembly


February 17, 2022


Completed the prologue and a full campaign with Cathay, also touched other factions

It’s worth noting that there are two ways to win here, as there have been in other games over the past decade: one involves a very old-fashioned “conquer this number of/these certain territories” which is so boring that it’s the more fanciful reason the endgames were invented in the first place, while the other has the game’s entire narrative structure and cinematic sequences built around it. Both are bad, but the game obviously defaults to the latter entirely unless you really want to avoid it.

It’s a huge disappointment, because everything else about this game is so good! In many ways it’s the best Total War game ever made, the latest example of a series that has spent the last 3-4 major releases (we’re not talking Saga games here) successfully refining an old formula. decades to keep it fresh and interesting. It’s a shame, then, that having gone so far in so many ways this time around, Warhammer III stumbles where it matters most: at the end.


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