Total War: Warhammer is, IMO, simply the best version of Total War yet, and by a considerable margin at that. It’s an excellent strategy game, its an incredible use of the Warhammer IP, and it fixes so many of the issues that normally plague a Total War game.
The biggest change to the formula are the factions and how that impacts gameplay. No longer is everyone a human, with small boosts to one of the three types of units (melee, ranged, mounted) typically found in a TW game; now all of the current factions are very, very different. The Undead don’t have ranged units, can raise armies quickly, and slowly spread corruption as they expand. The dwarves are hyper-defensive, use a lot of firepower, and are extremely tough. The Empire (humans) are stuck in the middle of it all, are balanced, and fear everything. The Greenskins are more of a rolling snowball of death that must keep rolling. Chaos doesn’t settle cities, it just wants everything to burn.
Not only do you get factions that play differently, you also have a map that reflects this. Empire/Undead can’t take over and control Dwarf/Greenskin cities, and vice versa. You can only raze them, which is still helpful at times, but means you can’t literally control the entire map, or even specific parts of it. That makes things more interesting, and fixes the common problem of Total War games become a huge slog of trying to control and maintain everything.
Speaking of the map, its gorgeous, and each ‘region’ has a very distinct look to it that can also change depending on what faction is in control. The map, unchained by the burden of historical accuracy, also has a lot of interesting choke points and winding paths, so again instead of simply crossing one similar region to another like in the older games, here every area feels unique.
Additionally, the setting being one of fantasy rather than history means the addition of units such as giants, flying bats, dragons, and far more. The result is not just that the factions look significantly different, but that the RTS battles are more interesting tactically. Fighting the dwarves isn’t like fighting the undead, and the difference now isn’t just a minor boost to one stat or another. This is really important IMO, because for me too often in a Total War game, I’d get bored of the combat and its repetition rather quickly, but with Warhammer the increased variety really helps.
Another big change is how characters work. Again because historical accuracy is gone, the game plays out over turns instead of years, so characters don’t age and die. This means you get attached to them, especially here as their importance is increased. Each faction has a leader (one of two options currently), and that leader will get specific quests to gain legendary items of rather significant power. You don’t have to complete these (they are often out of the way, can sometimes feature a difficult battle), but it feels very rewarding when you do, and works perfectly with the Warhammer lore.
In battle, characters are far stronger than in previous TW games, especially leaders. Seeing your lord cut apart an entire unit is awesome, and their impact on a battle is again another major twist to strategy. Magic is also here, and can make quite the impact, though not to the point of feeling overpower or an ‘I win’ button. Visually it also looks cool and lighting up the battlefield. More than any other TW game, I’m often zoomed all the way in and watching the brutal action.
The DLC options for TW: Warhammer are almost limitless, and I can’t wait. I NEED to play the Skaven, Elves, and the undead under Nagash. The number of new units to add is huge, and there are so many key lore characters and items yet to add. I actually wish they had a season pass, because something tells me I’ll be picking these up quickly, and that might get a little pricey (hey, its just like real Warhammer!).
Obviously I highly recommend the game for anyone who is a Warhammer fan or looking for a great strategy game. Even if you have tried Total War games in the past and found them lacking, this one feels so different, and fixes so many of the core problems, that it really is a very different, much better, experience.