Total War: Warhammer II Hands-on – Lizardmen and Elves collide on the battlefield

During E3 last week, SEGA of Europe announced a September release date for Total War: Warhammer II, their hotly anticipated fantasy strategy game. We also got to play the game, and now we know why PC gamers are so excited for it.

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Lizardmen versus High Elves

The demo offered both an easy mission and a hard one for expert players. Seeing as how I hadn't played a Total War game before this one, I chose the easy mission.

The easy mission puts players in charge of the Lizardmen. This reptilian faction has recently become angered by the High Elves' attempt to interfere with the Cosmic Gates, an ancient device that can open a portal into the Realm of Chaos. To get to the Cosmic Gates, though, the High Elves must successfully cross a deep crevasnose – and that's where Lizardman leader Kroq-Gar makes his stand.

Total War: Warhammer II E3 screenshot

The mission area consists of a raised temple portion in the center of the map. A bridge over the crevasse leads to the temple, and forests surround the periphery. The Lizardman army starts out in the southern forest area, whereas the High Elves have already made it to the temple in the center.

The High Elves wear flowing white-and-gray robes and tall silver helmets, many wielding tall shields and spears. Our green-skinned side has its own spear infantry as well, plus more exciting units like dinosaur mounts that can withstand tons of damage.

Total War: Warhammer II E3 screenshot

Controlling units and directing the battle is simpler than I expected, especially for anyone who has played a real-time strategy game before. You can select individual units or groups of units and assign numbers to groups for easy switching. Combat is as simple as sending your groups to where they need to be, hopefully preventing the elvish interlopers from reaching their destination.

As the battle progresses, the Lizardmen receive small groups of reinforcements from the south and east sides of the map. The High Elves aren't without their own reinforcement units, though. A mighty Sun Dragon flies onto the field, apparently disloyal to its reptilian cousins.

The dragon swoops down and battles some of our elite units, occasionally returning to the sky to spit fire at them. The ground-locked Lizardmen eventually bring it down though, at which point its body remains on the field for the remainder of the battle.

Total War: Warhammer II E3 screenshot

The battle continues until the High Elves send a pair of powerful mages into action. Although they deal a fair amount of damage with their magical blasts, our superior numbers and resolve eventually defeat them both. Thus the Lizardmen successfully fend off the High Elf invaders and the level ends.

Despite being a novice RTS player, I quite enjoyed the E3 demo. The controls are simple and intuitive, and the action is exciting to watch thanks to the Warhammer fantasy characters and ability to zoom in extra close during battle.

The only thing I didn't like is that you can't seem to switch to a traditional top-down view of the gameplay. The camera always stays tilted at an angle, making it a little harder to track the chaos of the fight compared to regular RTS games.

Total War is coming

Total War: Warhammer II E3 screenshot

Total War: Warhammer II is due out on Steam on September 28. Players who preorder for $59.99 or buy during the first week of release will receive a free Race Pack DLC that works with both the original Total War: Warhammer and the new game.

SEGA will also sell a $149.99 physical Deluxe Serpent God Edition exclusively through their website that contains a puzzle sphere, art book, metal case, and more. The Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III Collector's Edition was incredible, so collectors will probably enjoy this Deluxe Serpent God Edition as well.

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Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!