Windows Central Verdict
Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs is a must-buy DLC for any fans of strategy games looking to challenge themselves, but the difficulty and higher price tag should be noted.
Powerful new faction with solid unit roster
Gorgeous visual and audio design
Complex game mechanics is rewarding for long-time players
New experience for Realms of Chaos campaign and Immortal Empires
Not newcomer friendly
Most expensive DLC for the series so far
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While Creative Assembly's fantasy strategy take on the Warhammer Fantasy realm was fully unified months ago, it's still expanding in exciting ways.
In Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs, players get an entirely new race for the first time since Total War: Warhammer 3 was first released over a year ago. With three new leaders, this faction provides a new campaign and a great new way to experience the Brobdingnagian fantasy free-for-all of Immortal Empires.
The roster of units and heroes is strong, and the sheer breadth of gameplay mechanics can challenge even an experienced player looking for fresh content in one of the best PC games available. If you're a veteran of the series so far, these sorcerous distant relations of the non-Chaotic Dwarfs are well worth checking out, though the price tag is a fair bit steeper than past DLC for the franchise and may give some pause.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Sega. The company did not see the contents of this article before publishing.
Total War: Warhammer 3 - Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs — What I liked
Creative Assembly has been working on this franchise for over nine years now, and that experience is fully brought to bear with this DLC pack. The Chaos Dwarfs pack in a dizzying number of systems, with ideas pulled from across other factions like the Dark Elves and Cathay, while mixed with some new malicious concepts.
This cruel race is a dark mirror to everything the regular Dwarfs offer. They still bring heavy infantry and powerful war machines, but instead of honor and tradition, they innovate in horrifying ways, fusing daemons into suits of armor to power infernal hellcraft.
In the Realms of Chaos campaign, the Chaos Dwarfs are focused on recovering the Blood of Hashut, constructing a powerful drill to acquire this godly resource, which will require a scavenger hunt of legendary Dwarf relics. These relics can be used to power the drill but alternatively can be used to massively boost your characters, meaning you'll have to weigh the earliest possible construction of the drill against ridiculous levels of power.
In order to get these relics (or to just wreak havoc if you're playing in Immortal Empires instead) you'll need to get the Chaos Dwarf economy kickstarted. This means balancing the number of slav—er, laborers around your empire. Instead of using population, playing the Chaos Dwarfs is a precarious balancing act between Money, Laborers, Armaments, Resources (for buildings), Conclave Favor, and total workload.
The more mines you have extracting resources, the higher the total workload, which means more laborers. These can be traded for through caravans or captured in battle. Producing money, most buildings, and Armaments all take resources. Armaments can be sold for money, but can also be used in the Hell-Forge to empower your troops and increase the unit cap on the non-cannon fodder troops. A K'daai Destroyer is powerful, but if you've got the Armaments, you can buff it with a barrier, missile resistance, and more. Last of all, Conclave favor is spent on political machinations with or against other factions of Chaos Dwarfs.
There's a lot to take in and manage here (more on that below) but once you get things rolling, your economy can churn things out at a truly terrifying rate. As someone with around a thousand hours in this trilogy so far, I appreciated the challenge this faction provided.
Creative Assembly's care with unit details is established at this point, but it bears repeated emphasis that everything here looks and sounds great. The Chaos Dwarfs, never a huge or well-supported faction on the tabletop, have been translated to this game with ruthless beauty. Daemonic war machines lumber and grind while rockets screech and butcher enemies with ease. Across countless battles, I never got tired of watching the different animations play out, especially the chaos that's unleashed as flame cannons and blunderbuss units shred oncoming foes.
Total War: Warhammer 3 - Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs — What I disliked
This isn't a real negative per se, but the Chaos Dwarfs are decidedly not newcomer friendly. Even if you have general experience with the Total War franchise, there's a steep learning curve to making everything work here, and that's not even getting started on the challenges you'll face from your neighbors in the early game.
Even on normal difficulty, I had to restart a few campaigns that were clearly a lost cause because I was a hair too slow in stopping a Greenskin or Skaven tide from wiping out my fledgling empire. A word of advice to any players: Prioritize getting rid of Grimgor Ironhide, or you'll be sorry.
Outside of that, I experienced one hard crash and a couple of visual glitches, like a unit appearing strangely flickering in battle and some notifications on the campaign map not popping at the correct time on a turn. The developers are aware of some visual bugs in the DLC's pre-release state. So, hopefully, all should be fixed at or shortly after launch.
I also have to bring up the fact that Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs is $25 in the U.S., which is more than any previous DLC produced for this trilogy. I understand the realities of inflation, and there's absolutely no denying the quality of the content in this pack, but it's still worth mentioning.
Total War: Warhammer 3 - Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs — Should you buy it?
Ultimately, Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs is a great excuse to jump back into Total War: Warhammer 3. It's difficult and definitely geared around experienced players, but I've spent well over 30 hours with this new faction so far, and I'm sure that's just the beginning.
If you're a newcomer curious about the game, it's worth keeping in mind that the base experience is currently available on PC Game Pass, meaning you can play the game that way and then pick up this DLC with ease.
Total War: Warhammer 3 — Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs is set to launch on April 13, 2023 across Steam, the Microsoft Store, and the Epic Games Store.
Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.