Total War Warhammer 2: An In-Depth Look at the Skaven
Yesterday was an exciting day for Warhammer fans, as the Skaven were officially confirmed as the fourth playable faction in Creative Assembly's Total War Warhammer 2.
Now that we've seen a little bit more footage of what gameplay looks like with the Ratkin, let's scurry and break down the awesome concepts that have been revealed as of this afternoon -- and detail the effects they will have in your Skaven campaign.
Scurry and Hurry, Sneak-Seek Warpstone
After having completed a ritual, the Great Horned Rat has granted me a vision of what's to come from his under-kin's plans. You too can be granted this boon by completing the same ritual, the answer to which is a punny remark about rats I made earlier. (Alright, I'll stop now.)
After you pass the secret ritual, you get a sneak peek at the in-game intro cinematic for the Skaven campaign that offers some contextual information about the Ratfolk themselves and their overall campaign goal. You want to gain dominion over The Great Vortex -- a prophecy ascribed into the Pillar of Commandments by the Great Horned Rat himself.
To do this, the Skaven must seek out vast quantities of warpstone as tribute to summon the Screaming One, a powerful daemon that will help the Ratkin accomplish their plans. It's not currently known what this daemon is, but one could take a guess at it being one of the Exalted Verminlords -- magnificently grotesque beings created by the Horned Rat to serve his immortal bidding.
Skaven Campaign Overview
There is a lot to go over here. Creative Assembly seems to have put a lot of effort into the Skaven and their campaign concepts. There are currently two known leaders for the Skaven. The first is Queek Headtaker, the most fearsome warlord affiliated with Clan Mors. The other is Skrolk, one of the nine legendary plaguelords of Clan Pestilen.
The Skaven of clan Mors begin in the jungles of the Southlands, just below the Lizard temple city of Zlatlan. Their first mission is to defeat an Elvish faction and take the neighboring settlement of Dawn's Light. Warpstone is the reward for completing issued mission -- and again the collection of Warpstone helps the Skaven toward their goal of controlling the Great Vortex centered above Ulthuan. (In fact, all four races in Total War Warhammer 2 have the goal of controlling the Great Vortex. Some have noble intentions, but the Skaven certainly do not.)
The first noticeable feature of the Skaven is the fact that their settlements are underground. To other factions, it simply seems as if the region is dominated by the ruins of a previous city. It is only until they send an army to colonize it that the truth of the Under Empire will be revealed to them. Heroes and treasure hunters can also reveal Skaven settlements. This lets the Skaven hopefully build up their initially weak power base without being bothered until the time to strike is right.
A rat's metabolism is apparently something fierce, however, and the Skaven require vast quantities of food -- which can be acquired through settlement buildings, sacking enemy settlements, and winning battles against the Ratfolk's foes. A powerful tool for these ornery rodents is their ability to stalk around the campaign map and ambush while moving -- quite quite useful for squeaky rats.
Food also plays into another mechanic for the burrowing Skaven -- the ability to summon clanrats from below to join in the assault during battle. This is very useful for dealing with enemy artillery or forcing an advancing army to turn and face a new threat. The number of times this ability can be used is dependent on the food stores, as well as the level of Skaven corruption within a province.
Skaven corruption works very similarly to chaos corruption from the previous game -- so if you're familiar with that, it shouldn't be hard to understand. But Skaven aren't the most loyal of creatures, so you have to carefully manage your armies or you may find them turning against you if they think that they can sneak-stab into you without consequences.
Skaven are known for their advanced (if not wily) technology, such as Ratling guns, Warpfire throwers, abominable Rat ogres, and even the humorlessly named Doom Wheel. But before you can enjoy the offerings of clan Skryer's warlock engineers, you must start at the bottom. The bottom for Skaven being Clanrats and Slave rats, which will make up the bulk of your early armies.
Clanrats' only benefit is listed as "meatshields", but they are certainly cheap and numerous. So your goal early on in battle will be to swarm and surround. This is where the hidden underground cities will really benefit you. Bide your time with raids, and only battle when you have the clear advantage.
Once you have the infrastructure to utilize clan Skryer's mechanical horrors you can begin your conquest in earnest. Don't forget about Hell Pit Abominations though, as it's easily the strongest creature the Skaven can field.
Rituals and the End Goal
When a sufficient number of resources have been gathered (Warpstone for the Skaven), either you or the AI can initiate powerful rituals that grant massive bonuses for the faction that manages to complete them. Once five rituals have been completed by a single faction, the end game draws near and your campaign is nearly finished.
Rituals have their risks involved of course . Mostly, they'll attract the attention of either Chaos or rivals attempting their own rituals -- both of whom will attempt to stall you in your goal.
Having always loved the Skaven in Warhammer, I'm excited to see the detail, and attention Creative Assembly has put into them for this sequel. They certainly seem to stand out from what we know about the other factions, and the developers expertly captured the jittery nature that is a hallmark of the underkin.
I'm sure I'll enjoy the default campaign and vying for control over the Vortex, but I am far more excited about the campaign that will combine the map from the first installment, as well as the map from Warhammer 2.
Total War Warhammer 2 releases on September 28th -- so scurry-hurry if you wish to join the conflict for the Vortex on release.