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The long-awaited conclusion to Total War’s fantasy arc is upon us. Fans have been waiting to get their hands on Total War: Warhammer III ever since its announcement last year, and they’re in for a treat! Whether you are a seasoned Total War: Warhammer player or a complete newcomer to the series, this review will hopefully help the last few days until the game’s launch go a bit quicker and give you a taste of what to expect as you step foot into Total War: Warhammer III’s Realms of Chaos.
The lovely Julian Benson previewed Total War: Warhammer III for us earlier this year, and I can only echo his impression that this could be the best outing in the series. Unlike Jules, however, I’m coming into the Total War: Warhammer series with fresh eyes, as I’ve not played either of the previous entries. I do love a good strategy game, though, and was eager to take Warhammer III for a spin - so treat this review more as the assessment of someone without that previous experience, intended to help other beginners know if this is the game for them.
Just as it’s so easy to get buried in Warhammer lore when playing the tabletop epic, it’s the same with Total War: Warhammer III. There’s so much depth within the game from the offset. Don’t get me wrong, depth is good, but it’s also daunting for a newcomer. But persevere and you’ll soon find yourself at the heart of a cataclysmic storyline.
For Warhammer rookies, there’s a handy prologue which will bring you right up to speed with all the Total War mechanics. This section is relatively lengthy and almost begins to feel neverending, but for a turn-based game it teaches you all you need to know and gives you enough room to try out some strats of your own in a relatively unchallenging realm.
For Total War: Warhammer veterans, you can jump straight into the action and embark on the campaign without hesitation. You get a hefty choice of races to pick from, too, from the wolf-tough and ice-loving Kislev to the plague-ridden Nurgle. There’s eight races to pick from in total, with two suggested as good picks for your first campaign run through. Total War: Warhammer III is built with newcomers and veterans in mind, with plenty of difficulty options to ease you into the chaos.
There’s tonnes of new features included in Total War: Warhammer III, such as the ability to play multiplayer campaign with eight players instead of two. There’s also a multitude of campaign scenarios in varying sizes and scope, such as ‘The Realm of Chaos’, ‘Something Rotten In Kislev’ and ‘Darkness & Disharmony’, each of which present their own challenges and rewards, depending on the player’s mood.
Diplomacy is a feature which has existed throughout the Total War: Warhammer series, but developers Creative Assembly have made further improvements to the system, making it the best yet. As a newcomer, it's the feature you’ve always dreamed of in a strategy game. Players can establish military or trade alliances to further aid their Realm of Chaos conquest. The game also auto balances trades to help you find the lowest amount they’d likely accept at, too!
Visually, Creative Assembly have managed to bring an iconic tabletop game to life yet again, as Warhammer III features some truly stunning graphics. I was often blown away with the colour palette and the number of mythical locales crammed into one map. The multitude of map types during the battle phase also keeps you on your toes, and teaches you how to manage your army the hard way.
From time to time Total War: Warhammer III does hit you with some hefty load times, so I would fully recommend installing the game on an SSD. The game’s performance can struggle during the campaign, especially when there’s upwards of 90-plus factions on the battlefield, compared to just a handful in the prologue. However, as you gradually form alliances and take control of more settlements, the game does start to perform better and pick up pace.
As a strategy fan who loves coordinating armies of all sizes, I thoroughly enjoyed the battle phase, and strategically placing my troops on the battlefield. That said, after a while I did find myself rushing through battle after battle, opting to let the game play out the conflicts on my behalf using the auto-resolve option. Some engagements are unavoidable though, like when there’s a key objective or settlement at stake, and here the game forces you to play it out for yourself. Which is totally fine, as these are usually the best battles anyway.
Depending on your own background and experience in the genre, a turn-based strategy game like Total War: Warhammer III can take some getting used to, especially if you are new to the Total War series. The game can be a complete change of pace from what you might be used to playing in titles like Age of Empires or Starcraft 2 - but don’t let that put you off, as there’s hours of endless strategy fun to be had here, if you allow yourself to appreciate Creative Assembly’s craft.
Just like any top-tier strategy game, it’s easy to get lost in Total War: Warhammer III, losing hours, days and weekends to waging war on settlements in The Old World. It really feels like an epic conclusion to a storyline which has been many years in the making, and that resolution alone will be a powerful selling point for series fans. For someone who’s coming into the series at the endgame, I still felt very involved in the storyline and enjoyed where it took me - and now I’m very tempted to go back and fill in the gaps, experiencing the twists and turns of the first two Total War: Warhammer games first hand. That way I know I’d further appreciate how far Creative Assembly has taken the series in Total War: Warhammer III - but in and of itself, this remains a sensational strategy experience, worthy of investigating even if you’ve never faced down a Bone Giant on the battlefield before.
Pros: beautiful mythical locations and an epic storyline; mechanics are clearly explained for beginners; the game rarely looks less than stunning
Cons: some brutal loading times; the lore dumps make for a lot of information to take in at times
For fans of: Total War: Warhammer II, Age of Empires IV, Crusader Kings III
Total War: Warhammer III was reviewed on PC with code provided by the publisher. Total War: Warhammer III releases February 17th on PC (Steam, Xbox Game Pass (Day One) & Epic Games Store). Read a guide to our review scores here.
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