Total War: Warhammer III is the latest installment to the long-running series developed by Creative Assembly. Is this a good game? The short answer is, it’s complicated. While this is a stand-alone game with multiple full campaigns, it’s also somewhat of an expansion of the first two.
Unfortunately, the grand campaign including the previous two games’ armies hasn’t been implemented into Total War: Warhammer III. What we were given is a story-based campaign that restricts the player’s options to progress the way that they want.
Before diving into the campaign mechanics, I wanted to throw a bone to the tutorial. It’s quite long and serves as an introduction to the main campaign. If you’re playing this for the story, make sure to check it out before starting a new campaign. New players will also benefit from checking this out since some mechanics can be kind of heavy.
The main campaign features 8 unique campaigns. Five of which are demon-based factions, two human and one ogre. I’m not going to go in-depth into every faction’s unique characteristics, because frankly there’s too much there to cover. I will say that each race feels unique with both faction flavor and game mechanics. There are some really cool (possibly overpowered) faction mechanics such as Khorne’s ability to spawn an army from razing a settlement, or Nurgle’s ability to engineer specific plagues to spread on their foes. They all have special mechanics that make sense within their faction.
The campaign is definitely a new design that we haven’t seen before, but the implementation doesn’t quite hit the mark. The main goal of Total War games has always been to spread and grow your empire. However, every 30 turns or so there will be demonic invasion portals all over the map at random locations. At first, this seems exciting, but it quickly becomes annoying. Most of the time you’re interrupted with what you were trying to accomplish, and the more land you take, the more this demonic invasion will cripple your lands. Claiming territory almost feels like a punishment after a while.
During these invasions, you’re required to take your main army into each of the 4 demonic realms to claim its respective demonic doohickey to trigger the final sequence. Again, pretty cool idea, but this takes your most powerful force away from protecting your lands. As an added bonus, once the demon invasion ends, your army is booted from whichever demon realm they’re in. This can be pretty frustrating if you were close to the precious doohickey.
There’s a fairly substantial change to minor settlement battles. Instead of field battles, there are now scattered ruins and choke points that make webbed paths around capture points. The defenders can spawn towers or other defensive structures around the capture points, which can be placed or upgraded based on a new battle resource. This is a love it, or hate it kind of thing. Either way, it will make minor settlement battles take longer than they did in the previous titles.
Co-op players can rejoice. The main campaign supports up to 8 player co-op. Previously a pipe dream amongst Total War: Warhammer players, I can happily report it runs great. Each player can now take their turns simultaneously, which is needed to improve turn speed with so many players. The one caveat here is whenever a battle is started by one player, it essentially pauses the game for every other player. This interrupt can be kind of annoying, but I see it as the price to pay for a stable 8 player co-op implementation.
Let’s talk about performance for a bit. In battles, I had no issues and actually had a great framerate. The campaign optimization is not quite there yet. The campaign map is pretty demanding, and will often struggle when issuing movement commands. I’ve had 3 crashes that were due to alt-tabbing. This is mostly fixed by making sure to play in windowed mode.
All of that said, there’s a lot of good bones here. This is definitely not Creative Assembly’s first rodeo. They’ve been making these games for over 30 years. I fully believe most of the issues will be addressed, and the release of mortal empires will greatly improve the overall experience. Sadly, that likely won’t be for some months to come.
So what’s the overall verdict? If you want to play it for the story, then there’s a decent game here, but it will restrict your playstyle to what it wants you to do. If you want the sandbox, build your own empire experience, then probably wait for mortal empires to release, and stick with Total War: Warhammer II for now.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Total War: Warhammer III for PC provided by Creative Assembly and Sega.