Total War: Warhammer 3 hoists a new standard of brilliance – Review

The Total War franchise takes a massive stride forwards with Creative Assembly’s conclusion to the Warhammer trilogy .

Screenshot by Gamepur

Creative Assembly has arrived with the capstone of the Total War: Warhammer trilogy, Total War: Warhammer 3. Focusing on the Gods of Chaos and the northern reaches of The Old World, the title brings forth the final part of the trilogy by rounding out the world of bloodshed and fantasy that has enraptured players since 2016.

Of Mice and Men (and Gods)

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There are a total of eight playable factions in Total War: Warhammer 3, if you include the Ogre Kingdoms (a pre-order DLC). Every faction has its own unique balancing act that must be considered, and each faction shifts how the game is played through. The core of the Total War franchise is still there: build-up territories to feed your ever-growing armies, and defeat anyone foolish enough to cross your path. How you achieve this, however, is unique for many factions.

For example, playing as the followers of Slaanesh, the Chaos God of eroticism and pleasures, opens unique paths to tempt and seduce others to join your faction. Setting up cults of pleasure in opposing cities can weaken enemies, and outright seducing enemies before battle can offer a nasty surprise for an enemy general. Of course, outright combat is still a viable option as well, and the absurd graphical detail on every unit, for every faction, makes unlocking new units a worthwhile and enjoyable endeavor.

Clashing into other factions with massive armies remains the most enjoyable aspect; seeing your units rendered in excruciating detail as they clash into a horde of archers, sending them flailing through the air,  is some of the most fun you can have on the PC. As strange and grotesque as many of the factions within Total War: Warhammer 3 are, watching them sprint across the battlefield and decimate foes is a primal joy that rarely disappoints. The high is even better after you’ve spent the better part of the past four hours building up for your end-game units, and you begin removing enemies from history books as they crumple to your unparalleled might.

While there are eight factions in play, other factions take a smaller role in the campaigns. The Skaven skitter across provinces, the Wood Elves seek to restore a balance long lost, and the Empire and Dwarves constantly reach north to stymie the forces of Chaos. These unplayable factions take part in the ebb-and-flow of provinces and territories, threatening players at unsecured borders and enacting dastardly plans while filling provinces with lesser threats.

On the campaign trail

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Total War: Warhammer 3 offers three individual campaigns for play: The Realm of Chaos is the single-player campaign, while the other two are multiplayer campaigns. The primary campaign offers a wonderfully narrated storyline for each of the factions in play, a rarity within the Total War franchise, that offers players a purpose for continuing to move forward, to care about their factions beyond what units and buffs.

Concise storytelling, in a Total War title — be still our beating hearts. 

What’s more, the narrative continues without shoehorning players into mandatory losses and unwinnable boss fights. As long as players continue to chase the campaign objective, to find the God-bear Ursun on his deathbed, a delightful story takes place with impressive narrative battles, unique twists, and an ending that triumphs over any Total War that has been released to date.

Ushered in with beautiful art, I never found myself caring more about whatever faction I was playing as than I did with Total War: Warhammer 3. Whether I was slaughtering foes as the damned Prince of Daemons or desperately trying to hold the lands of Kislev together, there was an actual sense of purpose beyond just enjoying the seemingly endless, edge-of-your-seat battles that Total War typically offers forth.

The maps and subsequent warfare takes place on a massive scale, and players will lose entire days while attempting to piece together fragments of The Old World. Total War: Warhammer 3 is immersive, bloody fun that can be fully realized in fantasy form without drawing too close to the woes of actual warfare.

Everything’s better with friends

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While new mechanics have been introduced to alter both the main campaign and how battles play out, it’s the multiplayer aspects that elevate this iteration of the Total War: Warhammer trilogy into greatness, and offer a massive step forward for the Total War franchise as a whole.

Players can now take turns simultaneously. No more waiting while your partner hems and haws over their sprawling empire at turn 150+, trying to ensure every province is reinforced and properly growing. 

Another new feature is the ability to place, and subsequently upgrade, outposts in the held regions of allies. This outpost allows your allies to recruit your faction-specific units to bolster their own armies, shoring up natural weaknesses or decimated armies quickly for last-minute holds.

These changes make playing multiplayer more enjoyable than ever , as you build up your empire with, or against, your partners. The other two game campaigns are multiplayer: a blisteringly fast 15-turn-campaign for up to three players called ‘Something Rotten in Kislev’ and a more PvP-focused campaign for up to eight players called ‘Darkness and Disharmony,’ which focuses on the struggles of Grand Cathay in the throes of civil unrest.

The ire of Gods

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Whether you find yourself playing with friends, or by yourself, you will need to face the AI. The AI in the Total War franchise has been a point of contention: there are dozens of variables that players need to take into account to make their next move, and Total War AI tends to tweak the rules slightly so they can offer up a decent fight to humans. On harder difficulties, this tweaking can become outright cheating. This continues in Total War: Warhammer 3, although I never found this to directly hinder enjoyment of the title in any way.

Secondly, players will find themselves spending hundreds of hours on the campaign map, poring over their next move, and the audio can work on the nerves. A consistent soundtrack of horns and drums plays to the point of causing a headache.For the Chaos factions, their guttural dialogue can become exhausting through extended play sessions. I completely disabled the music within twenty hours of playing.

I get it: it’s Total War in a fantasy setting, there are enemies on the border, and this is a desperate last stand for my capital. But it’s been like this for the last twenty turns, and I don’t see me solving this anytime soon since my main General can’t lead their way out of a wet paper bag. I don’t need ten hours of a cacophonic drumline on repeat to nail the pressure home.

It should also be noted that there have been occasional instances where a unit seems slow to respond to commands. When a battle is no longer in my favor, a withdrawal seems to be a crapshoot of which units are ultimately going to heed the sounds of retreat, and which units are going to wantonly dive headlong into the thick of the enemy. Other times, a unit will begin to withdraw, only to apparently change their mind to dive into a melee they have no chance of winning. These seem to be more bugs than intentional features, however, so it’s a minor concern for me at the moment given the track record of Creative Assembly patching these frustrations.

Speaking of bugs, they are present within the version of Total War: Warhammer 3 that I tested and completed prior to the official release. Frames would drop to zero at the beginning of a turn for roughly ten seconds, rendering myself unable to play until the system caught up. Occasionally, textures would appear during Daemon Rift challenges that would block the camera until I selected different units. Creative Assembly has a patch that is being deployed prior to release, which should fix some of these issues, but we were able to complete the primary campaign and a cooperative campaign in spite of these problems.

The verdict

The Total War franchise is one steeped in complex mechanics that can entertain players for hundreds of hours, enraptured in a world of history, fantasy, and strategy. Developer Creative Assembly has delivered the finale of the trilogy with a deft flourish, advancing the Total War franchise as a whole while once again breathing life into the Warhammer fantasy universe.

Final Score:

9 / 10

+Brilliantly detailed units bring new life to the Warhammer universe
+Concise storytelling brings purpose to war with brilliant narration
+Multiplayer far more compelling with synchronous turns and outpost mechanic
+Campaigns features like Daemonic Rifts bring unique strategies
The audio readily becomes grating, depending on which faction you are playing
Disclosure: Gamepur was provided with a game code for review purposes.