Total War: Warhammer 2 Interview: Hands-On Time With The Skaven

The backstabbing Skaven join the fray in Creative Assembly's sequel to their fantasy Total War Franchise.

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After many months of teasing, Creative Assembly has finally unveiled the fourth and final release race for Total War: Warhammer’s long awaited sequel. The ratmen of legend, Skaven scamper onto the battlefield, bringing with them destructive toys of warpstone power and monstrous units unlike any seen thus far in the Total War series.

We had a chance to sit down and talk with Al Bickham, Creative Assembly’s Development Communications Manager and discuss what we can expect from this new army, which you can see in the video above.

Skaven Highlights

  • All of the new races will be lead by two legendary lords. The Skaven’s are Queek Headtaker, who specializes in melee, and Lord Skrolk. the Skaven’s caster leader.
  • In the Grand Campaign, Skaven will make use of unique resources, like food, to maintain their army. Fall too short on supply and they’ll turn on each other for sustenance.
  • When Skaven take a city, they build under, instead of on top of it. Other players will only see ruins until they foolishly investigate and end up swarmed by your rat kingdom.
  • Skaven have a unique college of magic, making use of disease and their ability to quickly breed and unleash sudden swarms.
  • They are ruthlessly self-serving, if you do not appease your lords, they will rebel and turn on you.
  • Skaven have rites (more below) that allow them to exploit their sciences to demolish enemy fortresses, or spread their plague among your foes.
  • Skaven start with a unique ability The Menace Below, which allows them to spawn a group of clan rats (army size permitting) anywhere on the field instantly at the cost of food.

They have a variety of different units. Here are some of our favorites.

Skaven Clanrats: The fodder of the army, they still play an invaluable role. While their only trait is “meat shield”, they work well with other groups; tying down enemy archers and cavalry while you can position your heavy hitters for deadly strikes.

Gutter Runners: “More stab-stab yes?” Gutter runners are the sneakiest, backstabbing rats available to you. They’re quick, ruthless, and squishy. Sneak them around your enemies while the clan rats hold them down and watch your gutter runners tear into your foes soft, squishy man-flesh.

Warpstone Throwers: The mad scientists of Clan Skyre enjoy fielding whatever mixtures of magic and engineering they can. Warpstone throwers are one such example, carrying mixtures of chemicals and warpstone flame, these units will easily eat away at even the most stout of units, burning them to a shrieking crisp.

Doomwheel: Living up to its name quite well, Doomwheels roll across the battlefield, running down enemy units and emitting sparks of warp energy. This unit is absolutely chaotic when rolling through infantry lines, and makes for an experience unlike any other unit type in Warhammer: Total War.

Hell-Pit Abomination: The nastiest of the nasties. This hulking behemoth is nearly unstoppable, plowing through enemy lines as though they weren’t even there. It emits poisonous clouds, dealing damage to enemies in a wide area, and swings it’s multiple limbs with reckless abandon, breaking apart enemy lines easily. Even death is not an escape since they have a chance to release even more Skaven from their bowels when killed.

Queek Headhunter: Queek was the legendary Lord we had the most time to play with, and his focus was on brutal melee combat. He was especially good at killing orcs and dwarves, which is good, considering those are the two races he starts near. He’s a mad butcher who constantly is twitching and looking for the next head to add to his collection.

Race Highlights:

While the Skaven certainly stole the show, we also had a chance to learn more about the currently known races for Warhammer: Total War 2, including The High Elves, Dark Elves, and Lizardmen.

The High Elves:

High Elves will have a unique mechanic revolving around their courts and royal intrigue. You will gain political favor through your actions and will be able to expend that favor in order to recruit lords with INCREDIBLE benefits. These include high-quality boons granted to their armies, better fighting abilities, magical prowess, and above all being a better unit. You will not be able to recruit them at the start, however, since you’ll need to earn the favor of the courts before these lords even deem you worthy of their potential.

They also make use of diplomats to subtly shift the tides of war in their favor. Are those two armies coming uncomfortably close to your capital? Why not send a diplomat to ferment war between the two factions, letting them take care of each other before they focus on you, buying yourself valuable time. You will also have access to unique battlefields called, “Gates”, such as the legendary Phoenix Gate. These structures allow only the user to pass through unscathed, giving you much more freedom to maneuver the isle of Ulthuan, the High Elvan Capital.

Finally, they will make use of a heroic intent meter, which builds in combat and grants boons to your army once you’ve satisfied the conditions.

The Dark Elves:

As the name suggests, Dark Elves are the wicked mirror to their High Elf cousins. Their army makes use of slaves, capturing them in battle and expending them in order to further their production or satisfy build conditions. They also get the anti-thesis to the High Elves’ mirror mechanic called, “Murderous Intent”. As your army slays in battle, the bar grows, eventually granting a map wide bonus to your units, making them stronger, faster, and more bloodthirsty.

Perhaps most exciting of all is their inclusion of Black Arks, literal floating cities that dominate the seas and help maintain the Dark Elvan slave trade. These massive ships can be used to ferry units and reinforce along the coast as you see fit, but they’re not just glorified transports. They also bring with them massive artillery that can be brought to bear in battle, making the Dark Elves perhaps the most fearsome raiders in Total War yet. While these armaments start off small, they can be grown through the Black Ark’s own unique building chains.

The Lizardmen:

Finally, we have the Lizardmen, the first of Warhammer: Total War’s revealed races. These monstrous beings make use of dinosaurs to tear through and disrupt enemy lines while fielding both the beefy and hard to kill Saurus, as well as their weaker, yet faster and more cunning kin Skinks. Supplement these with some of the nastiest monstrous units in the game and the all powerful Slann magical casters and you get an army that seems to have strengths in every potential area.

Their unique mechanic will revolve around the Geometric Web, a vast network that only the Lizardmen will be sensitive to that fluctuates in power based on how much of the web you control. Each temple becomes a major objective to the Lizardmen, that you will either seek to control as you play them or deny if you play against them.

Other Features:

Finally, we touched on some other features that many players will be sure to enjoy coming to Total War: Warhammer. Some of them include the updated UI, as well as expanded building slots allowing for up to ten different structures on a single site, and the new comic style cinematics that will occur as your story progresses. As shown above, all of the new races will be integrated with the original Total War: Warhammer’s Grand Campaign mode, with 21 major factions now vying for control of the world. Note that the ??? race is the now revealed Skaven armies, with Queek Headhunter starting in the Southern Badlands, and Lord Skrolk beginning in the jungles of Lustria on the western continent.

Rites will also be introduced for each of the four new races, with potential addition for the classic ones as well in the future. These rites are powerful boons that will help change the flow of combat for your army, or simply take the stress off your resource management in a major way. One such example spawns a unique hero for the Skaven called the “DoOOom Engineer”. This rat sneaks his way underneath enemy cities and sets off an explosion that will damage both structures and walls, clearing a path for the vermin tide. Another is a Clan Pestilence priest who can enter an enemy city and explode, spreading his plague among enemy armies, which can then be spread to nearby armies and villages. This mechanic is reminiscent of Total War: Atilla’s disease mechanic.

DLC will also follow the model set by the original game, which has mostly been met with positive feedback from the community. There is a total of thirteen official DLC patches available for the first game, ranging in price from 3 – 19 USD. Of those thirteen, roughly half were free, as well as other minor inclusions here and there such as new units or heroes. We tried to get more information, such as the inclusion of such well-known characters as Gray Seer Thanquol and his abomination pets often named “Boneripper, but were met with the placeholder, “We have a lot of things we plan to do going forward”. It seems likely we’ll be seeing this character in the future, as well as perhaps other well-known characters like Malus Darkblade or Gotrek and Felix.

The keen eyed among you may also notice the map passes over the kingdoms of Araby and the Land of the Dead, home to the Egyptian themed Khemri. We asked about this as well and were met with coy looks. It seems that fans of these factions will most likely have something to look forward to with this installment of the game.

Total War: Warhammer 3 also had an honorable mention near the end of the presentation, with a nod to the lands beyond the far Eastern mountain range of the World’s Edge Mountains. It would seem that the next installment will be adding the Dark Lands to the campaign, which would likely include the new factions of Hobgoblins, Chaos Dwarves, the Ogre Kingdoms, and Daemons.

With the release slated for September 28th. 2017, we only have a little over a month to wait for all these new and exciting inclusions. Let us know in the comments what you’re most excited for, and we look forward to being able to share more with you soon!

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