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Total War: Warhammer 3 review — A strategy epic that shouldn't be missed

Creative Assembly caps off its trilogy with a war in the dark north that's perfect for new and returning fans.

Total War Warhammer 3 Nurgle
(Image: © Sega)

In 2016, Creative Assembly took its first steps out of historical fiction by taking the Total War franchise away from real-world events and into the then-discontinued Warhammer Fantasy universe. Two games and six years later, Creative Assembly has breathed new life into Warhammer Fantasy, and exposed it to a completely new audience. All of that has culminated in Total War: Warhammer 3.

With the third and final mainline game in the series, there's simply more of everything. There's more factions than ever to choose from at launch; more ways to customize your playstyle; and more options for siege battles. There's even more story, with an original tale around the dying god Ursun that feels as epic in consequence as the game's scale is significant in scope.

Building on everything the developers learned over the last few years and addressing player feedback in a couple of critical areas, Total War: Warhammer 3 is an excellent conclusion to the trilogy, with only a few small shortcomings.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Sega. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

Total War: Warhammer 3 — What I liked

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

With Total War: Warhammer 3, Creative Assembly is bringing years of experience and refinements to bear, pun intended. In crafting this new chapter, the developers have worked directly with Warhammer parent company Games Workshop to flesh out the regions of Kislev and Cathay, which were poorly-explored and borderline nonexistent beforehand. The result is the most ambitious game the company has ever attempted, in practically every way.

CategoryGameNameXXX
TitleTotal War: Warhammer 3
DeveloperCreative Assembly
PublisherSega
GenreReal-time/turn-based strategy
Minimum RequirementsWindows 7/Nvidia GTX 900
Game Size112.59 GB
PC Game PassYes
Play Time~25 hours
PlayersSingle-player, 8-player multiplayer
Launch Price$60

If you're new to the Total War games, it's right there in the name. While the seven factions — eight with the Ogre Kingdoms DLC — all play fairly differently, there's going to be some strong overlap. The campaign map is turn-based, as you muster armies, improve your Lords, construct buildings in provinces, engage in diplomacy, and more. When battle occurs, the game switches to a real time perspective, as Daemons and twisted monsters clash with bears, Elves, Ogres, Dwarfs, and men.

The story of Total War: Warhammer 3 revolves around the wounding of the Bear God, Ursun. This imbalance in the world's power warps reality, as every faction races to either save and restore Ursun from the Daemon Prince Be'lakor, or finish off the injured god and take his power.

It's by far the best story in any of the games so far, bringing the narrative structure of Total War: Warhammer 2's Eye of the Vortex campaign but without the tedium that came with actually playing it. Whether you're trying to preserve order as the chilly Ice Queen Katarin or end the world as your custom Daemon Prince, you can feel the weight of every faction's goals, hopes, and nightmares, with cutscenes that dole out twists and reveals with sparse but crucial timing.

The performances are all believable, but special mention must go to the antagonist, Be'lakor, voiced by Richard Armitage of The Hobbit and Castlevania fame. He doesn't have a particularly complex narrative, but one that feels appropriate to the tone of the game at hand.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Despite this being the finale, it's actually a fantastic starting point for beginners, with a lengthy tutorial campaign that goes over the game's core points in detail. Then you can hop into the game itself, which is familar to fans, but introduces impressive changes to clean everything up.

Despite this being the finale, it's actually a fantastic starting point for beginners.

Back when I got to play an extensive preview of Total War: Warhammer 3, I was fairly happy with the changes being introduced. None of that has changed here, as the diplomacy and siege reworks have provided much-needed fresh material to work with, both on the campaign map and locked in battle. Being able to recruit a limited number of allied units changes how you think about forging alliances, while siege battles are no longer limited to stacking units on or against a long wall.

When these battles actually occur, the animation work shines in spades. Elemental bears made of ice lumber and smack warriors aside with ease, while gross Nurglings tumble and climb each other to reach the enemy's frontlines. The models in past Total War: Warhammer games always looked great, but it's been taken to a new level entirely here.

The art direction is no slouch either, with sweeping landscapes from the snows of Kislev to the twisted Realms of Chaos. It feels surreal and alien, detailed but uncanny; it's a game world that looks great while still making it clear the very fabric of reality is being torn apart.

It's all tied together by the sound design. Another aspect the prior games handled with ease, Total War: Warhammer 3 delivers great music and unit chatter alike. On the campaign, you'll hear the peaceful tunes of Cathay or the war drums of chaos warbands. Zooming into real-time battles, things get frenetic but never overwhelming, with roaring cannons and Daemonic howls layered so you can still understand everything that's going on without having to check on a particular unit.

Total War: Warhammer 3 — What I didn't like

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While most of my gameplay experience was fairly smooth, I did notice some stutters and fairly major framerate drops whenever a notification for another application came up, like a Steam message or tabbing out to check some captures on my computer. Fortunately, Creative Assembly is aware of this particular issue, and there's a day one patch that's supposed to fix it up, so new players shouldn't run into it once the game is widely available.

Outside of those hitches, my only real complaint is how the addition of blood and gore options are once again being gated off as post-launch paid DLC. This was announced well ahead of launch and isn't anything new, as previous games ostensibly launched without the option in order to attain a T rating. Past games also required a post-launch DLC to enable realistic bloodshed and gore on the battlefield.

Like with Total War: Warhammer 2, you don't have to buy the blood DLC if you bought it for a past game, so any returning players are more than likely covered. Still, it's never been a great thing to see and it just feels especially wrong in a game that so heavily features the Daemons of Chaos, a quarter of whom serve the literal Blood God.

Total War: Warhammer 3 — Should you play it?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you've played the past two games and enjoyed them, grabbing this is the easiest choice ever. If you're new but find yourself intrigued by what's on offer, I still recommend jumping in. All these improvements add up to what is already one of the best PC games for strategy fans right now. It's a phenomenal experience for Warhammer veterans and newcomers alike.

With a proven track record of support and new DLC in the pipeline, it's only going to get better over time, with an update coming sometime in the future that'll allow owners of all three games to combine them into one massive experience. If you're still uncertain about buying it at launch, you can try it out with PC Game Pass, as it's included day one with the subscription at no extra cost.

Total War: Warhammer 3 launches for PC on Feb. 17, 2022.

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.