Total War: Warhammer 3 Review – Bed Of Chaos

Large-scale strategy games tend to struggle with their own endgames. Turning decisions made over hundreds of moves into a satisfying state of victory is no easy task. The victory conditions often seem arbitrary, even unrelated, as if the competing factions are not just pursuing different strategies but also playing different games. Even if it isn’t, winning a game usually happens hours before the game recognizes it, and everything else is just a matter of your path to an inevitable conclusion. Total War: Warhammer 3 is no exception. It may be the most exciting, varied, and tactically rich installment in the series, but its endgame issues reverberate throughout the campaign, undermining a strategic layer that deserves better.

Warhammer 3 makes a great first impression. The prologue is a mini-campaign that feels like an RPG in how it brings one main character closer and offers a strong throughline as you gradually explore the map. Short cinematic scenes present the strategic decisions of your army in a way that gives narrative meaning to your choices. Ultimately, it serves as a terrific introduction to the core mechanics of the game and also draws you into its world. However, after all this setting, much of that flavor and character-driven purpose is lost.

Developer Creative Assembly has reimagined the series’ traditional approach to winning a Total War campaign in a completely unsatisfactory way. Coloring the map – a common euphemism for how conquering territories change them to the color of your faction – is not the end goal here, although it can serve as the basis for the journey. Instead, no matter which faction you choose, your goal is to send an army into the Realm of Chaos, a dimension of pure magic in Warhammer lore, presented here as a separate section of the map and captured a set of MacGuffins. Collect all four, and you will unlock the final battle. You’re still marching armies around the big map, besieging cities and taking over provinces as you would in any other Total War, but your success in the campaign is only measured by how quickly you can collect those MacGuffins.
The structural problem here is that the two aspects of the campaign – the regular campaign map and the brief excursions to the Realm of Chaos – don’t really talk to each other or interact in any particularly interesting way. In fact, since the latter is supposed to be superior (because it’s the way to win the game), a lot of what you do on a normal map seems redundant. Conquering neighboring cities, making deals with allies, and building your infrastructure is just as satisfying as ever, but it often feels disconnected from your primary goal of equipping one army, led by one lord, for its excursions into the Realm of Chaos.
Every few dozen turns, portals open on the map leading to the Kingdom of Chaos. You can send an army through the portal – just one army, and must be led by your faction’s Lord Leader – and enter one of the four Realm of Chaos locations, each unimpressive with a little trick on how to do it. Completed. One is an annoying maze of connected portals where you end up playing an awkward game of “Concentration” to figure out which portals lead you where. The other is a series of gates, each offering good gear in exchange for leaving the world and not doing what you came there to do. This should be a temptation—an offer you can’t refuse—but it actually shows that accepting a gift is a waste of time.
Of course, there are battles here, and they are just as good in the Realm of Chaos as they are anywhere else. Few strategy games can rival Total War on a grand scale spectacle, and Warhammer 3’s battles benefit from the over-the-top fantasy nature of it, with demons flying over incredibly uneven terrain while firing and ice flooding the field as you send your ravenous war beasts into battle. . bypass enemy poisonous snakes. But aside from a few battles, the Realm of Chaos doesn’t offer anything you’ll want to partake in after seeing it once, and even that first encounter will leave you wondering, “Is that it?” The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the game worlds are the same every time you play, and completing them is mandatory.Title not specified

By separating the Realm of Chaos from the regular campaign map and allowing only one army to enter it, you end up favoring one large, a well-equipped army commanded by your faction leader over all other forces. This is a solo war machine that will win you the game, and maybe you have a few other lesser lords leading some scattered divisions that you probably don’t need to worry too much about. It’s true that portals to the Realm of Chaos shake up regular gameplay by allowing Chaos armies to raid and pillage your territories, but you can easily send a lord or hero to shut them down for a fairly small price. And you’ll need some kind of standing army to defend your homeland if another faction decides to invade while your main army hunts down the next MacGuffin. But once you have this main army and can recruit all the most powerful military units, you will have little incentive to continue expanding your territory. Indeed, contrary to Total War tradition, I found it beneficial to simply raise my head and wait for the next opportunity to visit the Realm of Chaos. Smaller territory meant fewer portals to close, which meant fewer unexpected guests running free and fewer positions I had to defend. I focused all my attention on this one army, and that was enough.

That is, this was enough to win the campaign. But this is not enough to make this experience more than a formal and even boring tedious job. It’s a shame because Total War: Warhammer 3 actually offers a lot of strategic depth and some nice extras that make for a much more enjoyable experience if you’re not trying to achieve campaign goals at all costs.

To start with, each faction feels incredibly different. From each of them’s fixed starting positions and their broader abilities that affect how they use strategies on the campaign map, to the unique composition of their armies and individual lords and heroes, there’s significant incentive to replay the campaign as each of the eight factions. -and presumably more to come with post-launch support. They’re also filled with personality that somehow manages to be outrageously campy while taking themselves incredibly seriously. “Bandage will become legendary!” yelled one of my lords, the flawless kiss of chef Weatherslash Douche, every time I ordered them to do something. I’m not in the least obsessed with Warhammer, so it all seems incredibly stupid. But when you hire a demonic hero named Eddie, you can’t help but agree with the ridiculousness of it all.

Elsewhere there are some great additions to an already very solid strategic base. Diplomacy has been greatly improved with new features that let you see at a glance which of the hundreds or so factions are interested in trading resources or forming an alliance. The ability to build outposts in allied settlements and then recruit their unique units into your army provides even more flexibility in your force composition and allows you to further refine specific tactics in battle. Sieges have been redesigned to embellish strategic considerations, with each turn you spend hoping to wait out the enemy or strike before reinforcements arrive. Even the terrain itself comes into play, as the local winds of magic blow one way or another, while Chaos itself can spread across the lands if left unchecked. These and many other minor changes combine to create a campaign map that, apart from the end objectives, is the best we’ve ever seen in the series.

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Overall, the combat isn’t much different from what we’ve seen in recent Total War games, which isn’t meant to be a criticism. There is enough variety in units and heroes, each with a range of abilities, that finding the best tactical approaches takes time and lots of experimentation, adding opportunities for strategizing and seeing how your efforts pay off. Of the new combat features, I particularly liked the implementation of deployable structures such as barricades and towers during settlement battles. Combined with the neat layout of these maps, with a healthy eye for varying terrain heights, the new structures make settlements very interesting to defend and quite challenging to attack. Generally speaking, when it comes to tactical combat in Warhammer 3, it’s very much like if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Warhammer 3 opens strongly. The narrative hook of the prologue dives deep, and plenty of strategic level settings and tactical battles are welcome. But he can’t sustain early momentum. The endgame objectives seem like a distraction, although they are the highlight and only serve to detract from the entire campaign. All factions have different reasons for wanting a MacGuffin endgame, but none of these motivations affect the course of the campaign. They were all stuck in the same Chaos Realm, making the same moves, pursuing the same unsatisfactory victory conditions. In the end, Total War: Warhammer 3 is a good game, there’s just no good reason to see it through to the end.

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