Right off the heels of Total War: Rome REMASTERED’s release, Sega and Creative Assembly gave us the chance to take a sneak peek at another Total War game–Total War: Warhammer 3 for the PC. The preview build provided to us was an overwhelming sight, coming from a non-Total War player to say the least. While our initial assumptions about a Total War: Warhammer game were present in this Warhammer 3 demo we played, it still shocked us at the daunting, yet challenging, gameplay that Creative Assembly was brewing in this game.
New to Warhammer 3 is the Survival Battle mode, a narrative battle unique to this game alone. Survival battles are rare encounters in the game, which specifically point to boss battles that are triggered at set points in the story. The scale of survival battles are definitely larger, but the scale has been balanced out so it doesn’t look or feel overly drawn out. To achieve that effect, many of the opposing units in this mode have lowered hitpoints, which also opens up larger legions of assaults against your faction. Survival battle maps are also expectedly more over-the-top than usual, with unique challenges and control points littered around.
The survival battle demo we came across featured our first look at Creative Assembly’s interpretation of the Realms of Chaos, in particular the domain called The Brass Citadel where Khorne the Blood God resides. As we mentioned before, the hellish landscape is over the top, with burning lavas, pits, volcanoes, and a scorched earth that screams nothing but rage and hostility all over. The faction opposing Khorne’s forces are the Kislev, a Russian-inspired aesthetic with bears as beast of burden and as elemental summons. Katarin the Ice Queen is also introduced as a playable unit and part of the Legendary Lords of Kislev. Might we add that Katarin looks like a punk rock Elsa mixed with Maleficent’s demeanor (and pretty sure the other media groups are assuming the same as well).
Escape From Hell
Survivor battles, like in the demo, starts off with a small force with a balanced number of infantry, ranged, and cavalry units together with a “general,” who in this demo is Katarin. Much of the gameplay focuses on Victory Points in certain parts of the map and capturing them. Having to capture a point opens up opportunities for the faction to beef up the units, build defensive strongholds, and gather supplies. Tower defense mechanics also come into play. All victory points have a chance to be taken away by the opposing faction, which in turn, significantly hinders the development of more units and the gathering of more supplies. Controlled points have slots for larger stronghold structures, while some areas can be built with towers and barricades depending on your strategy, whether to funnel down a rushing horde, or barraging the opposing faction with ranged attacks to soften them up before making an attack.
Supplies micromanagement influence the overall gameplay in survivor battles, making the faction reliant to it for unit upgrades in weapons or armor, or improve the skills/magic of the leader, in this case Katarin’s spellcasting. While the Kislev are taking over victory points across this Realm of Chaos, legions of daemons constantly trickle out to the map at specific spawn points, making the experience truly a fight for survival. But the development of units and stronghold are equally as swift, spawning at victory points in mere seconds through a portal. The number and type of units accessible to your faction unlocks and expands with each victory point taken over. Higher-tiered units are unlocked after taking over the last victory point before triggering the boss spawn.
Despite being clearly amateur at Total War games, the daunting gameplay of a survivor battle still proved to be manageable. This could be chalked up to the basic AI of the opposing legions, compounded with their scaled down hitpoints. Thankfully, the intensity really ramps up at the latter part of the survivor mode when almost all corners of the map are filled up with skirmishes. It is during this time that allows you to learn and master all of the units at your disposal. It requires a bit of quick thinking though, since Khorne’s appearance will be triggered after capturing the last point. Survivor battles feel really intense, but at the end of it all, it still follows the basic tenets of a Total War game, with unit micromanagement, planning and forward thinking.
Escape to the Legion
The survival battle demo of Warhammer 3 feel like a great addition to an otherwise-polished series. The mix of RTS and tower defense gameplay add a new layer of challenge and narrative in the lore of Warhammer. But most of the key Total War elements now come into question. If survivor battles are the means to advance the campaign, how will Creative Assembly now handle the more diplomatic and politico-economic side of the game? This is highlighted more by the fact that the factions seem to be hostile to each other from the get go. Nonetheless, it’s up to Creative Assembly on how to explain these moving forward, and we can’t wait for Warhammer 3 to get released.
Demo access of Total War: Warhammer 3 provided by Sega. Our sincerest gratitude!