As many PC gamers know, finding a solid, recently released real-time strategy (RTS) title can be difficult. Many of them in the genre are rather underwhelming, and if you're looking for serious tactical depth, your best bet would normally be older games like StarCraft II or Command & Conquer.
Thankfully, last year's Total War: Warhammer II was a breath of fresh air in this regard, offering players a deep experience comparable to the usual RTS favorites. Especially when paired with the new DLC, The Queen and The Crone, Total War: Warhammer II is a game that you don't want to miss.
Gameplay: Vie for control of the world
Firstly, a little backstory on the main game. In Total War: Warhammer II, you can play as one of four different races that are trying to control the lands. The High Elves are extremely well-disciplined soldiers who are few in battle, but each individual is incredibly powerful. Their direct rivals, the Dark Elves, are more plentiful and gain bonuses from eliminating units, but each unit is weaker overall. The Skaven are a rat-like race that relies on overwhelming numbers to hide their poor combat abilities. Lastly, the Lizardmen bring barbaric brawn to the battlefield — and with it, a tendency to disregard orders once they draw blood.
Each of these factions is a viable choice, and learning how to effectively command each faction in combat is a satisfying strategic puzzle. For example, you'll learn that where you initially send your Lizardmen troops to is important, because once they engage foes, it's very difficult to make them respond to you. In addition to the differences in factions, there are also unit types to master. Beefy frontline units excel at taking the brunt of the action, while the weaker backline ones contribute high damage from afar at the cost of their durability. There are also power units that can contribute to fights, but need to be supported with the correct forces.
Something that also matters is the type of leader you're playing as. Each faction has unique leaders you can choose when playing through a campaign, and each one offers you unique strengths and weaknesses both in and out of combat scenarios. Speaking of being out of combat, Total War: Warhammer II also contains gameplay where you have to build your economy, research new technologies and units, mobilize your forces, and politically interact with other factions, similar to the Civilization series.
Forming a healthy economy is essential, as is common with RTS games; without resources, you can't maintain an empire. Scientific research allows you to improve the effectiveness of your infrastructure or armies, or even unlock new types of units. Military mobilization allows you to set up assaults or traps against your enemies, and also to respond to any territory of yours being invaded. Lastly, there's politics, with which you can declare war or form alliances with other factions.
Most of this is great, but the political system does feel rather underwhelming. You can't really do much other than negotiating alliances with trade or gifts, which is a shame. Things like letting the factions attempt to assassinate political figures would add an element of destabilization to the overall strategy of a campaign — if you take out significant figures, then maybe that faction would have a debuff to their economic production as a result in order to represent that the people are low on morale, for example.
DLC: Several new ways to play
The new DLC for the game, The Queen and the Crone, adds a hefty amount of brand new content that adds variety to both the factions you can play as and the leaders you choose. The new faction, returning from the previous game, is the Norsca, which is a defensive-style warrior group of warriors that gain bonuses to their combat prowess the longer they fight enemies. In addition, both the High Elves and Dark Elves gain a brand new leader to play as.
Also included in the DLC is a plethora of new quests, units, items, and skills, as well as a collection of new secondary objectives during campaigns. Overall, this all adds hours upon hours of gameplay to an already content-rich game.
Going into Total War: Warhammer II with the new DLC installed, I was expecting that if I was going to have issues with how it ran it would be during battles. As I said before, the task of making entire armies clash in real-time smoothly isn't easy and never has been for RTS developers. However, I was completely surprised to see that my performance problems came not during fights, but while I was on the campaign map doing economic and political stuff.
I'm not sure why the game is choppier here than in massive battles, but it can be annoying for the game to lag behind your inputs or drop frames as you're swinging the camera around multitasking. It's not a huge issue by any means, but it will make you groan. Fortunately, the game runs excellently when you go into battle, so you don't have too much to worry about provided you don't mind a mildly problematic map.
Pair The Queen and The Crones with Rise of the Tomb Kings and you'll have a blast.
Royal Crones conclusion
While the performance and presentation leave some things to be desired, Total War: Warhammer II and its brand new DLC content are a must-have for any RTS player.
- Fantastic gameplay.
- Great overall variety.
- Excellent music.
- Satisfying DLC.
- Average graphics.
- Campaign map performance issues.
You can grab Total War: Warhammer II for $59.99 on Steam, and you can get the new DLC, The Queen and The Crone, for $7.99.
This review was conducted on a PC, using a copy of the game and its DLC from the publisher.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.