Total War Warhammer 3 review - Polar bears and plagues in the Chaos realm - Dexerto
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Total War Warhammer 3 review – Polar bears and plagues in the Chaos realm

Published: 14/Feb/2022 15:00

by Lloyd Coombes

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Total War: Warhammer 3 is an excellent strategy title that takes the franchise in surprising new directions.

Total War has long been one of the finest military strategy sim franchises, offering turn-based diplomacy and real-time clashes between thousands of individual soldiers.

The first two Warhammer crossovers added fantasy elements and a wider array of units, but in Total War: Warhammer 3 it really feels as though developer Creative Assembly is planting its banner in the rotting plains of Chaos and saying “is that all you’ve got?”

Total War: Warhammer 3 is a strategy developer at the top of its game, elevating the franchise’s more basic mechanics in surprising new ways, while also adding fresh elements to keep veterans on their toes.

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Total War: Warhammer III – Key details

  • Price: £49.99 / $59.99
  • Developer: Creative Assembly
  • Release date: 17/2/2022
  • Platforms: PC & Mac

Total War: Warhammer III trailer


Finding order in Chaos

Total War Warhammer 3 Chaos Wastes
Creative Assembly
Heading to the realm of Chaos makes Total War: Warhammer 3 the most visually interesting entry yet.

If you’re new to the Total War franchise, then Warhammer 3 follows much of the template of prior games. You’ll pick a faction, and roam around a huge, expansive campaign map scouting other races, building up your settlements, and researching new ways with which to eke out more supplies, or new techniques to cave in a demon’s skull.

As the name may suggest, though, Total War: Warhammer 3 is all about conflict, and battles are huge in scale and full of thousands of moving parts — literally, with every soldier animated individually.

While you can build up a huge army and charge straight into a battle, smart tactics and preparation will always sway the outcome. See those trees? Why not hide a few dozen cavalrymen inside so that they can surprise an enemy when they wander too close. That hill looks like a perfect archer spot, does it not?

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Total War: Warhammer 3 knows what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing, and to that end, you’ll see a lot of the “golden rules” of prior games cropping up. Cavalry units are fast, but don’t do well against spear-wielders, spear-wielders aren’t ideal against swordsmen, archers can tear through swordsmen, and archers are only ever a surprise attack away from being run down by cavalry.

Things get a little tricky when you’re managing dozens of units, each with hundreds of troops within them, but taking some time to learn unit grouping is a must.

Much of Total War Warhammer 3’s campaign takes place in the realm of Chaos, and that has two huge advantages for playing a campaign. For one, there’s a new Storm of Magic system that provides buffs and debuffs depending on how strong magic is in a given region. The Slaanesh region, for example, can see buffed speed, allowing them to surge through the wastes to engage another target, while the heavy-metal-looking Khorne can increase their spell resistance. It’s another layer of tactical consideration that never feels unfair but can swing a battle in your favor when used correctly or with the right preparation.

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The other big boon of having such a fantastical locale is in its visual variety. Sure, Cathay has its mountains and there are plenty of snowy brooks in Kislev, but the realm of Chaos has huge worm monsters that pop up on the battlefield every now and again, floating islands, and a unique color palette that makes the verdant pastures of the last two games in the series feel a little pedestrian in comparison.

New ways to play

Total War Warhammer 3 Kislev forces
Creative Assembly
Kislev is a nation built off of devotion to its bear god, and makes an ideal tutorial faction.

As is often the case, though, how you play Total War: Warhammer 3 will be dictated by the faction you select. The Chinese-inspired Cathay nation has flashy dragons, sure, but they’re also always well-funded by sending caravans to deliver shipments. That means it’s an army that can grow, but they’re also fairly slow-moving which can make countering flanking enemies a problem.

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The other human faction, Kislev, fight in servitude of the Bear God, Ursun. These hardy warriors build statues to their deity, while also riding huge Polar Bears into battle. It’s the basis of the game’s excellent tutorial, too, which teaches much of the basics as well as an impressive amount of more advanced techniques.

Much of the rest of the roster is made up of various factions of Chaos, and it feels as though this opportunity has given Creative Assembly ample chance to flex its creative muscle. The Khorne faction, for example, just love ripping apart enemies, to the point where they’re strengthened by every battle, eschewing the need for diplomacy almost entirely.

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Then there’s Nurgle, a pestilence-based faction that lets players customize their own plagues with which to sweep through the world, while the Daemons of Chaos let you create your very own monster, sending your own horrific beast into battle as your Legendary Lord. It’s exceptionally well-designed and means that playing as every faction is a treat.

Each has its own named characters, too, and their abilities can be used both actively and as buffs for those around them. Yuri Barkov, the main character of the tutorial is a fine example; he can improve the combat ability of those around him, or summon a lightning bolt from the sky to decimate enemy units, while other spellcasters can slow enemy units or simply blow them away through elemental spells.

Losing its way

Total War Warhammer 3 Cathay dragon
Creative Assembly
Total War Warhammer 3 is full of constant spectacle.

Siege’s have been reworked in Total War: Warhammer 3, and that proves to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the closest the franchise has come to allowing players to recreate the Battle of Helm’s Deep, with more complex structures and streets allowing for urban flanking opportunities, while bridges overlook the battle and make for perfect archer spots.

Careful resource management allows players to construct defensive structures to funnel opponents into kill boxes, and it all feels wonderfully fluid — at least on defense. Diverting a tide of angry Slaanesh warriors into a town square where your archers are ready and waiting, and your swordsmen can close in, is a hell of a rush.

Sadly, when on offense some iffy pathfinding can make things a little trickier than we’d have liked. In one earlier attack on a ruined settlement with four different entryways, we funneled melee forces into one entry with the intention of circling around with cavalry. Sadly, the cavalry units were determined to push through the existing swordsmen, sending themselves barrelling into enemy forces.

It’s not a dealbreaker, though, but when you’ve got a full list of units it’s a little annoying to have to keep setting mini-checkpoints to make sure they don’t end up getting themselves killed.

8.5/10

Total War: Warhammer 3 is everything you could possibly have wanted from a sequel to the prior two games. The game’s selection of factions flips many of its core mechanics on its head, and each is fun to play in its own right.

Sieges are tense and exciting in equal measure, and while they can lead to some tactical blunders, it feels like the best version of the system yet.

If you’re yet to jump into a Total War: Warhammer title, this is the one to try, and if you have, you’ll want to stay in the Realms of Chaos indefinitely.

Reviewed on PC