Longtime video game strategy geeks are likely familiar with the Total War series. Debuting more than two decades ago with the acclaimed Shogun: Total War, the series established its own hybrid genre of real-time strategic battles and epic turn-based campaigns. With each release, new historical eras and conflicts received the Total War treatment, with developer Creative Assembly expanding and refining the original formula.
After nearly two decades spent crossing the history books and the globe in service of bringing real-life conflict to the virtual battlefield, Creative Assembly announced in 2015 that they made a deal with Games Workshop to marry the Warhammer license to the Total War formula. Even better, the studio explained that there would be three major releases as a part of the deal, with the ultimate goal of offering an extensive world in which Warhammer fans could campaign and fight to their heart’s content.
We now find ourselves a few days away from the release of Total War: Warhammer 3 and Creative Assembly is getting close to realizing the pledge they made to fans back in 2015. The third entry in the series promises the largest and most dynamic Total War: Warhammer experience, building on the foundation of the previous two releases. It features new races and Lords, each with their own unique abilities and units, along with a fresh campaign by the name Realm of Chaos.
Embrace the Plague Lord
Total War: Warhammer 3 will be easy to pick up for returning series fans as it retains the classic presentation and interface of the prior games while expanding deeper into the lore and offering a campaign that will see players warping back and forth between the Old World and Chaos Realm.
Campaign play is focused around a turn-based system where players work to establish settlements and amass units. Building structures and protecting infrastructure allow for the collection of resources that are in turn spent on further fortifications, troops, and upgrades. The amount of distance traveled on the overworld map and how much progress can be made in settlements are limited within each turn. Your power and influence in a given area of the map are tied to your record in battle, conditions of your bases, and political power. While the Total War setting may have jumped from ancient Rome to the Old World, many of the same systems and rules apply.
While it is still a Total War game at heart, the Warhammer license also gave Creative Assembly the freedom to design campaign maps and battlefields that are more colorful, dynamic, and striking than what we’ve been seeing in their historically-focused releases over the years. Sure, the fights are still happening on mounds of rock and dirt, but now we get color palettes that fit right in with the fantasy aesthetic, not to mention the otherworldly beauty of the Chaos Lord domains.
The variety offered by the Warhammer license also extends to the designs and abilities of the various races and their units. While it was always fun to see Bronze Age archers firing shots across a field of golden wheat, it’s hard to deny how much cooler it is having real-time strategy battles where it's not uncommon to see a 150-foot flying bearded dragon having a duel with turkey leg-wielding ogres.
Returning Total War: Warhammer players will already be familiar with the aesthetic bonuses and goofy fun the Warhammer license brings. The third entry in the series adds new wrinkles in the form of the previously mentioned new races, new diplomacy options, and Daemon Lord customization. The included races are Kislev, Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, Cathay, Legion of Chaos, and Ogre Kingdom (for pre-orders for first-week purchases). New diplomatic options include the ability to recruit units from allied armies through the use of outposts, the option to threaten weaker allies or enemies into deals, and an option to have the opposing party in a deal simply tell you how much they need to be compensated to play ball.
Possibly the coolest new addition to Total War: Warhammer 3 is the Daemon Prince customization. Unlike the other races, the Chaos Legion Lord has a special skill and ability tree. As you work through a campaign, conquests and interactions will offer the ability to build your Lord exactly as you wish. Body parts can be swapped out to gain buffs and abilities as all the progression that would be tied to both lords and units in other races are all on the table for the Daemon Prince.
You can opt to fall in with one specific Chaos God (you guys already know I went full Nurgle) or pick and choose to build a Prince that gives honor to multiple Gods. Crushing enemies and dedicating victories and settlements to these Gods earns favor, which can be redeemed on new body parts to make your Prince even more powerful. They even let you name your Lord so the pitiful townsfolk will shake in their pants when they hear Donkeytron: Prince of Burro-town is on his way to spread some Nurgle plague.
Graphically, not much has changed as the third entry mostly builds on the foundations laid prior. It is easily the best-looking Total War game to date, especially with the inventive environments and special effects tied to unit/Lord special abilities. It certainly benefits from 4K resolution, even if existing GPUs aren’t really up to the task of pushing that sort of load at 60fps. Yes, we do get a resolution scale slider, but it would have been nice to see NVIDIA DLSS or AMD FSR support. I found load times to be a bit better than my last Total War experience (Three Kingdoms), but I'm not sure if things got more optimized or my SSD is just faster. Those with platter drives should expect some excruciating waits, though.
While the amount of content on offer here is more than enough to satisfy newcomers and returning players alike, much of the appeal here will be when Creative Assembly integrates Total War: Warhammer 3 into the previous two games. After the release of Total War: Warhammer 2, work was done to combine the content of the first two games so that one mega-campaign could be enjoyed with all races and units. Known as Mortal Empires, it became the de facto mode of play for die-hards.
Mortal Empires (or whatever name it will be given) will also be coming soon for those who own all three titles. Fans should be able to look forward to the largest and most impressive Total War campaign experience ever made. Exactly how all the races will fit into the map and the logistics around getting factions on opposite sides of the map to interact without needing to use 140 turns just to get in the same neighborhood are yet to be seen. That said, the previous track record of Creative Assembly and post-launch support for Total War games is beyond impressive.
Lots of Khorne left on this cob
Total War: Warhammer 3 is a big game by nearly every measure. It hosts big battles across enormous campaign maps, contains multiple armies with unique units, and effortlessly shifts between the Old World and Chaos Realms. It will get even bigger post-launch. It features absolutely gorgeous art in its many cutscenes that marry lush animation with the classic fantasy oil painting style and often hilarious voiceovers. It represents a giant bow on a gift Creative Assembly has been working on for years and is sure to be a can’t miss for Total War and Warhammer buffs alike. Will it change minds for those who bounced off the series in the past? Not really, but this one is for the fans, and I’d wager most folks would be delighted to receive this kind of attention for their favorite IP. Total War: Warhammer 3 will also be launching on Game Pass alongside other digital storefronts, further cementing it as one of the premier values in PC gaming in early 2022. 9/10 Calvary polar bears
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Total War: Warhammer 3 launches on February 17 for Steam, Epic Games Store, and Game Pass.
Total War: Warhammer 3
- New campaign with new races and Lords
- Daemon Prince customization is fun and engaging
- Fantastic art and presentation in cutscenes
- The promise of an even bigger campaign for trilogy owners
- Warhammer setting continues to add spice to the Total War formula
- Lacks DLSS or FSR for smoother high-resolution play
- Fully combined campaign not ready for launch
- Load times for platter drive users
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Total War: Warhammer 3 review: Blood for the Blood God!
TommyW is SUPER excited for this one. I hope the Game Pass and Steam versions can connect for multiplayer, though I won't have access to my Steam purchases of the first two games. :/
Oh crap I didn't realize it was going to be on Gamepass. I don't think you will have a problem matchmaking between the Gamepass and Steam versions of Warhammer 3.
I know they said in the future that they wanted to bring in the armies from 1 and 2, but it was a post release thing. But yeah I would expect you will need to have all three owned on Steam to be able to do that.
Skulls for the Skull Throne!
Papa Nurgle here we goooooooo
So psyched. Still trying to figure out who I want to play first. Torn between Cathay or Nurgle. Or maybe Tzeentch.
If I'm playing this coop with some friends are we better off waiting for more races? I'm not sure they are going to be excited about playing chaos races