Total Warhammering My Bank Account
I'm a woman who likes video games. More than that, I am a woman who likes historical strategy video games. Peculiar? Maybe. Regardless, there it is.
At the risk of sounding like I'm attending an Al-Anon meeting for the first time -- I am a woman and I like strategy games. But, dear friends, I do not need an intervention for this habit. I do not need rehab. All I need is a fresh supply of great strategy games and lots of virtual armies to destroy.
For the past 16 years the Total War series has been my mainline supplier of semi-historically accurate, army-wrecking goodness. The virtual equivalent of "I know a guy". So, when I heard that my "guy" was changing things up, I was understandably wary. Creative Assembly makes Total War and Total War equals historical strategy. Total War does not do fantastically bizarre things, like having goblins riding around on giant spiders or giant, man-eating dragons flying around with vampires on their backs. It just isn't done people. Not okay at all.
From the Table to the Screen
Now let me also say that I am a huge fan of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battles series. I played it for many years, and even painted my very own Vampire Counts army -- complete with a Black Coach and hordes of zombies, because that's just how I roll. It was and remains one of my favorite tabletop wargames of all time. It was quirky, a little silly, and tons of fun both to play and to create. I loved the collectible nature of it and I loved that I could paint and display my own little pieces of art every time I played.
I have to wonder if the release of this game has anything to do with Games Workshop's decision to mothball the Warhammer Fantasy Battle series and replace it with the Age of Sigmar series. Games Workshop is notoriously stingy and extremely picky with when, where, and how their franchise is used. I surmise this has a lot to do with a fear of losing miniature sales to video game playing geeks like me. It's a shame they don't realize that a game like Total War: WARHAMMER can actually boost sales rather then hinder them. I recently had a very strong urge to pick up some more pieces for my old vampire army, only to be sadly disappointed to find that they no longer make them. Cue the violins, please!
Jekyll and Hyde?
So, I am a fan of the Total War series and I am a fan of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but would I be a fan of the two mixed together? Would they be peanut butter and chocolate or Jekyll and Hyde? I debated the merits of buying the game on Steam during Early Access. It was sixty bucks after all, but they were also giving away "free" DLC content to early adopters. Nevermind that the "Chaos Warriors Race Pack" should have been included anyway. Either way, I decided against it. I had resolved never to pay full price for another Total War game. I was still smarting from the Total War: Rome II debacle after all. What if this was even worse?
It's not that Rome II was a bad game, far from it. I enjoyed the game very much, at least parts of it. I loved the battles and I'm a huge fan of that period in world history, so it appealed to me from the beginning. The campaign aspect of the game was a mess, but they did patch that up to an almost playable version, so it wasn't that either.
No, what really bothered me was Creative Assembly's decision to do what I like to call "DLC the crap out of it". They began churning out DLC and charging no small amount of money for each one. I know, I know, it's their game and if I don't like it I don't have to buy it. But yeah right, I can totally abstain because I'm not a junkie here, people. (Did you miss the part where I can't resist the evil machinations of Creative Assembly?)
I don't mean to say that Creative Assembly didn't have a right to charge for their games and add-ons, but I just didn't like the way they went about it. And I wasn't the only one by any account. The boards were rife with complaints at the time, and still are today. I can see that the latest addition to the series will be the same. They left out several major armies from the initial release like Skaven, Elves (High, Wood, and Dark varieties), Lizardmen, Beastmen, and many others. I can see the future through my crystal ball and it shows me DLC with all of the forgotten races included, one at a time, and each one over the $20 mark. They could surprise me. They have in the past.
Making it Right
When Total War: Attila was released at a $40 price point instead of the usual $60, I was in shock. I knew it was to make up for the failings of Rome II, and that made the whole incident bearable. Despite all of that I still had made a vow not to buy Total War: WARHAMMER at full price. In the end, I caved and bought it anyway. They extended the free DLC offer to those who bought during the first week. My love of these games, and my inability to pass up a sale of any kind, won out in the end.
So, is the game good? Yes, it is. It's so good that I have a hard time pulling myself away from it. I won't review the game here. Other's have done that in abundance. This is just my personal opinion of the game. To me it captures the essence of both games perfectly. The atmosphere is amazing and the game mechanics are perfectly balanced. The campaign is fun without being overly complex. That lets me get right into the battles, which is really where the game shines.
The beautiful environments and character models draw me into the action. Sometimes I lose track of the battle because I'm too busy watching my Terrorgeist make mincemeat of a squad Empire troops or taking control of the Dwarven organ guns and chopping down hordes of Greenskins.
It's all terribly fun, and at the end of the day it was worth the price of admission. I know the DLC packs are coming and I know I will grumble about the price, but I also know I will buy them anyway. I'm actually looking forward to giving up more of my hard earned dollars this time. It takes skill to make a game that good. Or maybe just a strategy fan with zero self control. Either way -- bravo Creative Assembly, bravo.