Need to know
What is it? Big fantasy armies racing to reach an imprisoned god.
Expect to pay $60/£50
Release date February 17
Developer: Creative Assembly
Reviewed on: GTX 1080 Ti, Intel i7-8086K, 16GB RAM
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
It would have been very hard to predict the trajectory Total War has taken. It’s grown from feudal Japanese battles and a simple board game-style campaign to this, Warhammer 3 (opens in new tab), where armies can hop between realities, where daemons and ogres clash, and where troops are led by flying monstrosities—including one that’s as customisable as an RPG protagonist.
Creative Assembly has crammed plenty of surprises and oddities into this final act, clearly saving up its strangest experiments for the cataclysmic confrontation between mortals and Chaos. It goes in some strange directions, but always goes big, fully committing to Warhammer’s wonderfully over-the-top brand of fantasy.
The impetus for the conflict is a bearnapping. Ursun, Kislev’s hairiest deity, has been imprisoned by the daemon Be’lakor. To make matters worse for the furball, he’s also been shot with a cursed bullet by a corrupted Kislev prince. His roars of anguish open up rifts between realities, letting armies cross over to the Realm of Chaos, where they can fight to reach Ursun—some to free him, some to request a boon and others to steal his power.
It’s a setup that leads to a very different style of Total War campaign, where conquering the map is still encouraged but isn’t quite as important as reaching Ursun’s prison. Every 30 or so turns, rifts open up all over the map, spewing out daemonic armies and inviting mortals to enter Total War’s weirdest locations, culminating in massive survival battles against a daemon prince. The reward? The prince’s soul. Collect four and you can unlock the way to the big bear.
Each section of the Realm of Chaos reflects the personality of its patron god. Nurgle’s realm is a pestilent, toxic nightmare where armies suffer constant attrition. Slaanesh’s ream is a purple-tinged series of rings connected by portals, and every time you walk through one the dark deity will try to seduce you with incredible gifts—but only if you leave without your prize. Tzeentch’s realm is a maze of floating islands connected by magic, where the route to the final battle is randomised. Khorne’s realm is the most straightforward: a hellscape where you simply beat up a lot of daemons and rogue armies until you’ve earned enough bloody glory.
You’ll likely spend around 10 turns in each, but they loom over the whole campaign. You know you’re going to need to be ready to jump into the next one, so you need to prepare by rapidly expanding and building the toughest army that you can. But since your best army is going to be in a different reality once the rifts open, you need to make sure your territory is still protected from daemonic invasions and mortal enemies.
Things can get extremely hairy, especially when the finish line is in sight. If it looks like another faction is going to get their fourth soul before you, you’ll need to act quickly, wiping them out before they get it. If that plan fails, though, you’ve still got a chance to claw back victory from the jaws of defeat. You need to immediately drop what you’re doing and wait for them outside Ursun’s prison. Defeat the army, and then you’ll have another 15 turns to catch up.
(Image credit: Sega)
I’ve already sunk nearly 100 hours into Warhammer 3, which should give you an inkling of how much I’m digging it. And while I’m no longer as eager to go through the Realm of Chaos campaign again, that’s only a slice of what Warhammer 3 is. There’s a whole other domination campaign after you defeat Be’lakor, where you get to swallow up the rest of the world, helped by some special post-campaign rewards. And though I might bristle at the idea of sending my leader off to his second job at inconvenient moments before that point, it’s honestly just so much fun to play with these factions and create dream armies that I can put up with the hurdle.
While this would have been a fitting conclusion to what’s been a wildly ambitious trilogy, it’s not done yet. There will be more factions, expansions and another mega-campaign, combining the trilogy, nicknamed ‘Immortal Empires’. Total War: Warhammer 3 is already brilliant regardless of what comes next, but the prospect of six years worth of factions fighting over one map has me more excited than an ogre in an abattoir. The future looks bloody.