Over the past few months, even dating back to E3, Creative Assembly slowly teased the playable races of Total War: Warhammer. Fans saw the human Empire, the Greenskins (made up of goblins and orcs) and the dwarves. At GDC, the developers introduced yet another race, the Vampire Counts, and granted us some hands-on time with the fantasy-based strategy game.
The land of the Vampire Counts is a terrifying place. Amidst the rocks and trees are large spider webs, swamps and looming castles. The units vary from towering dragons to your frontline zombie soldiers (vampires love undead units). One of its leaders, or so-called Legendary Lords, is Mannfried von Carstein, a being that deals both physical and magic attacks.
Researching technology could take some time for the undead race. You’ll have to choose between four branches of research. If you want to increase your dark magic powers, you might want to go through the “Liber Necronomica” path. However, researching the tech tree of “De Noirot’s Blasphemous Bestiary” could provide new opportunities with your terrifying beasts.
Like with any Grand Campaign in the Total War series, the objective is to conquer a significant number of provinces throughout the game world in order to dominate the other races. Along the way, you’ll receive numerous quests that could grant extra resources or other rewards if completed.
However, it’s not always as simple as it sounds. When the campaign starts, you’ll have to deal with some internal problems with your group by eliminating a rival Vampire leader and his army. By uniting your factions, you can focus on eliminating other races to secure a strong foothold in the area.
Raise The Dead
The vampires’ war chest runs on necromancy, a form of dark magic. This is especially useful when invading an enemy territory. If you are low on units, you can use dark magic to raise certain units from the dead, such as Skeleton Warriors, Zombies and flying Fell Bats. Your commanding units can use a variety of dark magic spells, as well. You can cast a seal that delivers a significant amount of damage to a charging enemy, or if the battle isn’t going your way, you can heal units to provide a small boost in health.
Just like in past titles, it’s always entertaining to see your units in formation on the battlefield. With the Vampire Counts, it’s also more intimidating. The Zombies loudly moan while they march forward, and the Fell Bats hover over the army like a dark and ominous cloud.
However, none of these are more terrifying than the Varghulf monster. This massive beast can easily cause havoc on the battlefield by itself. At one point, a skeletal unit attempted to gain the upper hand against a legion of knights. Once I directed the Varghulf to reinforce the losing unit, the tide turned in my favor. The monster leaped and smashed a small group of humans. Its claws lashed out, taking more knights from the formation while the skeletons picked off stragglers.
In some ways, the Varghulf might be too powerful. There were a few battles where most of my forces were decimated, and my general and a single Varghulf were the only units left. Somehow, the monster was able to kill several enemy units before they retreated. I eventually won the fight, even though most of my army was wiped out.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
For newcomers, Total War: Warhammer provides an exciting, strategical challenge. If you’re a Total War veteran, chances are that this latest installment will provide a similar gameplay experience when compared to previous games, but it's not just some rehash.
Its fantasy setting differs significantly from the franchise’s historical-based titles, at least in a favorable way. Creative Assembly took the time to carefully craft its strategy mechanics into this fantasy world. The variety of races, units, technology, and even the environment can really draw you into a prolonged session of battles, city management and politics.
In the past, Total War games pitted humans against humans, with varying degrees of technological advancements. With Total War: Warhammer, you’ll have to contend not only with humans, but dwarves, orcs and the undead. Your strategy will change depending on the opposing race, and the right tactics can mean the birth of a new empire or the beginning of the end.