It’s been out for a few weeks now, so It’s finally time to take a look at the second installment in my most played (and written about) game of last year, Total War: Warhammer II! If you want to catch up with how we left off the first game prior to this launch, check out THIS post.
This second game has come out only about a year and a half after the release of the first, so as expected, you’re mostly getting more of the same thing here. There are however plenty of improvements to be found, and more importantly awesome new factions. There are 4 to start with in this game, and they are two flavours of Elves (High and Dark), the Lizardmen, and the Skaven. Just like the first game, this is a fairly small amount when compared to historical Total War games, but yet again the variation you get with just 4 factions is considerable.
Beginning with the High Elves, the first campaign faction I tried. In campaign their unique mechanic revolves around the political intrigue of the noble courts, allowing you to influence other High Elf factions, which can be very useful. They are a very organized and powerful army in battle, with powerful archers, solid lines of infantry, and various options for powerful shock cavalry or skirmishing light cavalry, as well as some devastating flying units. Most units tend to have good stats in attack, defense, armour, and leadership. The downside is that they can be very expensive, so in a campaign you may need to rely on smaller armies, or go for the basic units until you can afford more. In multiplayer you need to be careful that you don’t get surrounded by armies that can afford to be far bigger than you for the same funds. They are a very fun faction to play, especially if you like to play in a more standard way, in way similar to the Empire faction from the first game. My favourite army composition early in the game is to focus on massed archers as much as possible, similar to how I would play Wood Elves. However, the High Elves are able to use a viable army with every Elf using a bow. This is thanks to my new favourite unit; the Lothern Sea Guard, who are equipped with both bow and spear, allowing your frontline infantry and regular archers to rain arrows upon the enemy before they reach your lines. This is very effective against large amounts of infantry, or even focusing all your shots on one target to remove the quickly. This approach is even enhanced by the artillery unit you can get, the Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower, which is able to switch between a single bolt or scattershot, making it as versatile as the rest of your army.
Over to the edgier variety of Elf, you have the Dark Elves. Despite being another Elf faction, they play very differently to the others. In campaign they have slaves as a special resource, which can affect your income positively and public order negatively, as well as be used for other campaign effects. In battle they can be compared to other elves in some ways, as they generally have decent, expensive, well equipped infantry. However, they have crossbows instead of archers, as well as some more light infantry which are better for stealth and surprise attacks or flanking. In addition to regular cavalry, you can also get cold one chariots and knights, which are the raptor dinosaur mounts that the Lizardmen also use. These are a lot slower than most other cavalry, but can deal a lot of damage. Dark elves also get a Dragon unit similar to the High Elves, but also get harpies, which allow them to exploit the air earlier in the game. They also get another monstrous unit in the form of the War Hydra, a very powerful beast. One of my favourite parts of the Dark Elf roster is actually their hero unit the Khainite Assassin, which as you can imagine specializes in taking down single targets. It is mostly useless in a big fight, but if you can sneak up on the enemy lord then you can use different abilities to greatly debuff them and buff your own damage to kill them quickly.
Next are the Lizardmen. I haven’t personally played them as much as the other races yet, so I don’t have too much to say about them in terms of campaign. I do know that their settlements are linked by some sort of network of magical energy called the Geomantic Web. Certain Lizardmen buildings can strengthen this connection, which provides bonuses to Commandments issued by the Lizardmen in their provinces. In battle they can be very formidable. They combine lines of slow but tough Saurus heavy infantry, backed up by more skittish weaker and faster Skinks in both melee and javelin skirmisher variant. Their spellcasters are also some of the game’s most powerful. But for me it really goes down to their monsters. Other factions have their big monsters for the endgame, but the Lizardmen just have so many more big dinosaurs to deal with them. I’ve already mentioned the Cold Ones, and they have those, but they also have Terradon riders which are flying units, Bastiladons and Stegadons, which are the large and tanky herbivore type dinos, some of which come with variants for being mounted or having artillery on their backs. But really its all about the Carnosaur (T-Rex), which despite being a little smaller than dragons, Hydras, and Hell-Pit Abominations, seems to be able to take them out in a duel. It also devastates Infantry, seeming to be able to chase down most of them, and breaking enemy lines with ease.
Finally I bring you the Skaven! The crazy evil ratmen that consume all in their path. This is surprisingly my favourite new faction to play as, which was totally unexpected. In campaign, they are one of the more interesting, as you start off fairly weak in comparison to other enemy armies, but you can grow in numbers very quickly. Also you are able to hide on the map and ambush easier, as well as all your settlements being disguised as uninhabited ruins. The Skaven have an additional food resource that they need to manage, as they are ravenous rats, and you need more food to grow spread the vermintide! In battle is where they really shine, and I have played a ton of multiplayer battles with them already. The unit roster is one of the more extensive, giving you plenty of options. For the most part you have a lot of cheap and expendable infantry, including skavenslaves, which are the cheapest and most populous unit unit in the game, but can’t beat anything in combat, it’s quite common for them to come away with less than 10 kills in a battle. So what is the point of such a seemingly useless unit? They are actually a key part of the army, as you use them to surround and tie down the enemy with their vast numbers while your damage dealers have free reign. For these damage dealers you have some surprisingly beefy infantry in the Plague Monks and Stormvermin, as well as some devestating ranged units and skirmishers, some of which can do tons of armour-piercing damage, or endlessly outrun enemies while shooting them with slowing debuffs. For me my go-to damage comes from a combination of Warpfire Throwers, which are flamethrower infantry, and a combination of Skaven artillery, which is some of the best in the game thanks to damage bonuses and huge damage to enemy morale, like many Skaven units in general. There’s really room to play the Skaven in many ways, thanks to their selection of units, from cheap to elite in infantry and ranged, as well as having monstrous units like rat-ogres, or the huge Hell-Pit Abomination, their amazing artillery, and even some great hero and lord units. The Legendary Lord Queek Headtaker is one of the best duellists in the game, able to focus a ton of damage on a single target, as well as survive really well. You can get some devastating casters, as well as an assassin similar to the Dark Elf type, which combines nicely with Queek’s one-on-one ability to take out targets ultra fast while your horde of rats keep them from escaping.
In addition to the great units that the Skaven have, it is their general play style that makes them my favourite, and so effective. I seem to win very often with them in online battles, as opponents seem to struggle to deal with their unique methods of attack. The Skaven are more than your usual horde faction that relies on the cheap masses. Your cheap units are very quick to lose morale and die, but that really doesn’t matter. The way to victory is mostly by managing your routing units, and the Skaven are really good at routing. Skaven units are already quite fast moving normally, but they get faster when they take losses, and speed up even more when routing, making them very hard to chase down with anything but cavalry. Furthermore, they are quite quick to rally most of the time, allowing you to get back into the fray quicker than most, so a Skaven battle ends up with you recycling your basic units, making it seem like there is an endless tide of rats for the enemy to chew on while your other units deal the damage. An easy way to break this cycle would be to chase down the routing Skaven with cavalry if you wish to see them off for good, but most people don’t bother with that when there are bigger threats to take care of. In the end of a battle it may be very confusing for the enemy, as the stats will show the Skaven player having taken huge losses, and the vast majority of units getting less than 10 kills, but as long as you have those few units that can easily kill hundreds of enemies each, that’s perfectly fine.
I’ll finish off here talking about the two campaigns that are now in the game. The first is the Vortex Campaign. This is a fairly short and quick campaign in the New World, featuring two playable factions for each of the 4 races in the game. Instead of being like a standard Total War campaign with the main objective of conquest, the campaign now revolves around the vortex at the center of the High Elves’ homeland, Ulthuan. This Vortex is what keeps the influence of Chaos at bay from the world, and each faction has plans to either uphold or destroy it. Prince Tyrion, Defender of Ulthuan, guides the High Elves in their desperate efforts to stabilise the vortex as it roils above their home continent. The Slann Mage-Priest Mazdamundi directs his Lizardmen war-hosts as they surge northward from Lustria. He, too, is intent on preventing cataclysm, though the methods of The Old Ones must prevail. The Witch King Malekith and his sadistic Dark Elf hordes spew forth from Naggaroth. He tastes great weakness in the vortex, and great opportunity in its demise. Meanwhile the Skaven, stir in their foetid subterranean tunnels. There they multiply unchecked and look hungrily towards the surface, their motives obscured. This campaign end up being fairly quick and action filled when compared to the usual type, with more narrative moments, and battles to decide vital outcomes. There are many improvements to the campaign world in general too, with each faction playing in vastly different lands, there are places to explore, shipwrecks and ruins to loot, and unusual hybrid factions to fight or befriend.
The second campaign is one that was added to the game recently, about a month after initial release, and that is the Mortal Empires campaign. This campaign basically smashes the first and second game together, meaning the two world maps are combined (with a little trimming), and all the factions are playable in a huge campaign that plays more like the usual Total War experience. It still has some issues, such as the Chaos invasion swarming the player regardless of their location or faction, and the Norsca faction is still yet to be made playable, as it was the last faction added to the first game. Overall it is what Total War should be; huge and epic, and with all the Warhammer factions fighting each other in various interesting match-ups and combinations. I still need to get into a long Mortal Empires campaign yet, but I’m loving it so far, and the ability to use all the factions in multiplayer has been awesome.
Now, I need to get back to the game. You’ll be sure to see another post from me as soon as I have something else to talk about in my most blogged game series, be it a new DLC faction, or some interesting mods.