Archaon the Everchosen from Total War: Warhammer

"You Should Try" is a series of articles where I'll showcase you a game I really enjoy while explaining what exactly makes it fun. This can be any game: new or old, action or strategy, indie or AAA. The only requirement is that it has to be something I've found myself greatly enjoying and in need of sharing with the world.

Today I think you should try Total War: Warhammer - a remarkably good strategy game that also manages to fully capture the insane brilliance of the Warhammer universe. Like any Total War game it features a variety of different factions, each with their own unique units and gameplay styles, as well as an enormous campaign map full of enemies to conquer and allies to befriend... at least for time time being! So whether you're a fan of the Warhammer universe or strategy games in general, allow me to show you why you should give Total War: Warhammer a try. 

[Update]: Since Total War: Warhammer 2 features all of Total War: Warhammer 1's content, and is simply more polished across the board, I'd highly recommend trying Total War: Warhammer 2 instead.

Video version of this article (~10 minutes)

As I've mentioned earlier, the Total War series has always had a variety of factions. However, given that all of the previous games were based on real events from history the differences between each of the factions were not as large as one might hope for. A certain faction might be better at utilizing cavalry, a different one might specialize in machines of war and prolonged sieges, while another faction entirely might prefer close-quarters combat with tight infantry formations. Each of these factions offers a different playstyle, that much is obvious, but at the end of the day they are still using the same types of units which makes everything feel just a bit 'samey'. 

In Total War: Warhammer this is not the case. There are still factions that specialize in certain kinds of warfare, for example the Dwarfs prefer a defensive playstyle, but each one brings with it a whole bunch of unique and interesting units as well! The Dwarfs can field mighty siege engines and steampunk gyrocopters to smash the enemy into a pulp, Greenskins have giant spiders that can send entire regiments fleeing for their lives, Bretonnia has nearly-invincible knights hocked up on ancient magic, the Wood Elves have the best archers the world has ever seen, and the list goes on for quite a while. What this means is that no matter what faction you choose you're going to have a a diverse and intriguing batch of units to play around with, and that is something that goes a long way when it comes to replayability! 

Total War: Warhammer screenshot of the Greenskin faction giant unit

The addition of gigantic monsters and weapons of war has definitely helped this as well

Another benefit of this system is that its very easy for new players to get an understanding of how units measure up against each other. The enormous chaos giants are obviously stronger than puny infantry, hordes of war-hounds are obviously going to get decimated by charging into an entrenched row of pikemen, and Dwarven quarrelers are obviously going to annihilate a swarm of monstrous bats before it even reaches them. This might not sound like a big deal now, but when you're still learning Total War: Warhammer subtle hints like these are exactly the type of knowledge you need in order to create a powerful and balanced army. 

It also helps that Total War: Warhammer has nearly perfectly adapted the Warhammer lore, so as you learn more about the story it'll become easier and easier to understand what each of the factions is all about. The Dwarfs for example are a very proud and sturdy race that is great to ally with, but should you ever cross them you are going to end up in a world of trouble. Not only will this sour your relationship with the Dwarf kingdom, but they will also write your name in the blood of their High King into the Great Book of Grudges where it will remain until they deliver righteous vengeance upon you. Since Dwarf players have to respond to every single slight with bloody violence lest they risk public outrage and even rebellion, it is easy to see why the faction as a whole plays defensively. It isn't something that's forced upon you, but rather its a byproduct of the faction's unique mechanics and lore, which makes it all the more exciting! 

Total War: Warhammer's Dwarf High King screenshot on the campaign map

The High King never goes anywhere without his favorite Book of Grudges

All of this does not apply to the Dwarfs alone, it applies to every single one of the factions! While Dwarfs may be defensive the brutish Greenskins must constantly be aggressive or their armies will turn on each other, which consequently means that their campaign is going to have a vastly different flow from the Dwarf one. These changes are not so outlandish that you're going to have to re-learn the game every single time you swap a faction, but they are significant enough that there are always new tricks to learn. Besides making each faction more entertaining to play, this sort of design makes multiple playthroughs a lot more enticing because you're not playing with a slight modification of the same race you already know - you're playing as someone new! 

The combination of all of these 'features' is exactly why I consider Total War: Warhammer to be the best Total War game to start the series with. It has all of the depth and complexity Total War games are famous for, but it tempers all of that with smart design choices that gently push you towards the right direction without ever going overboard. Combine this with a variety of factions that each appeal to a different type of player and you've got yourself a strategy game that is hard to master, but not so hard to just have fun with!

Total War: Warhammer screenshot of a battle between Vampire Counts and the Empire

Its also worth mentioning how awesome each faction looks

However, none of this would be of any relevance if the actual battles, the reason you would even play a Total War game, were not up to snuff. As such, I am very glad to say that Total War: Warhammer has some of the most enjoyable battles the series has ever seen. Due to all of the unit variety and the presence of magic there is a lot more you can accomplish through pure strategy and trickery, which means that previously unwinnable battles are suddenly difficult puzzles that can be cracked through sufficient effort and skill. The role unit variety plays in Total War: Warhammer cannot be overstated either, because each of the factions requires different types of tactics and compositions to adequately beat. For example, the Beastmen will charge you head on which means you need a solid line of melee units to protect your artillery, while on the opposite side of the coin the Wood Elves will rain so many arrows upon you the ground will turn practically black. You can obviously create armies that are almost as good against any sort of enemy composition, but the unit variety goes a long way towards keeping the battles fresh and interesting. 

Naturally, every game has its flaws and Total War: Warhammer is no exception. While most of the maps are great to mess around with, the sieges are absolutely dreadful and always play out in exactly the same way. All of this comes down to the poorly planned city layouts, but we'll come back to this topic in a little bit. The second major problem I have is the downright braindead enemy AI on the campaign map. When it comes to combat the AI is fully capable of using some decently advanced tactics to defeat you, but when its time to build up a proper base and field a balanced army its completely and utterly clueless. It often builds multiple buildings that do the same thing, ignores any sort of technology that prevents Chaos corruption from sweeping through their lands, and best of all, doesn't demolish useless structures in order to recruit the highest tier of units! Things aren't as bad as they sound because the AI on harder difficulties tends to cheat a bit, but its still not something I'm entirely pleased with. 

Total War: Warhammer screenshot of the Beastmen against the Empire

When the Beastmen charge you better hope your front lines don't crumble

I mentioned earlier that some of the maps are just a chore to play, and if this was any random AAA game chances are that would be the end of the story, but thankfully Total War: Warhammer has mod support! So if you're like me and you dislike a decent chunk of the vanilla maps, worry not as there is absolutely nothing preventing you from either editing/replacing them yourself, or just going to the Steam Workshop and downloading versions other people have created. And just like that one of Total War: Warhammer's biggest problems has been fixed! 

Mod support doesn't just apply to maps, however, it applies to pretty much everything. Do you hate it how enemies seem to confederate every few turns? There is a mod to either disable or tone down the frequency of confederations. Do you feel like the overall balance is out of whack, or that there just aren't enough armies marching across the campaign map? Again, there are multiple mods that do just that! It might sound silly to focus this much on mod support in what is essentially a recommendation for a strategy game, but the ability to fix potential flaws and personalize the whole experience simply cannot be understated. Much like Skyrim I have had a great deal of fun with the vanilla version of Total War: Warhammer, but it is the creativity of the modding community that will keep me coming back for more, over and over again!

Grand Campaign Custom Maps mod artwork for Total War: Warhammer

The Grand Campaign Custom Maps mod is highly recommended if you're looking for more map diversity

Closing Thoughts

Total War: Warhammer represents a crossover between two franchises I have enjoyed for many years now, and I am absolutely delighted to say that it manages to be faithful to both sides, while also being a damn good game on its own! So if you're up for an absolutely massive strategy game that sports a wide variety of unique factions with their own units and playstyles, then I can heartily recommend you give Total War: Warhammer a try.

Total War: Warhammer screenshot of flaming Chaos horses

Flaming horses might be highly impractical, but they sure are cool to look at!

[Note]: To help set you on the right path with Total War: Warhammer, and the rest of the series for that matter, I've now also created a simple-to-follow beginner's guide highlighting some of the most important things to know before starting your adventure.