The third and final installment of the strategy game trilogy, Total War Warhammer III takes on the Warhammer fantasy universe with new factions and mechanics to appeal to both veteran and novice strategists.
In June 2000, the Creative Assembly studio launched its first Total War (Shogun: Total War) and thus initiated its series of turn-based strategy and real-time tactics games inspired by historical military campaigns.
Numerous historical opuses followed, but the license took a step aside in 2016 with the launch of the first Total War Warhammer, to make its first foray into a fantasy environment. The first opus of a trilogy, the title was inspired by Games Workshop’s board games to immerse players in the heart of the epic conflicts of the Old World of Warhammer, before being completed with Total War Warhammer II in 2017 and then with Total War Warhammer III, which is expected on February 17, 2022.
The third opus of the Total War: Warhammer trilogy
The release of Total War Warhammer III is particularly awaited since the three Total War Warhammer games are closely linked to each other. Each game is obviously playable independently of the others with its own features, factions, units and warlords, in campaigns with specific objectives and mechanics. So you can play Total War Warhammer III without owning the first two games.
However, each new title can also complete the previous one(s): the Mortal Empires campaign takes place in the unified universe of the first two Total War Warhammer games and allows you to play all the factions of the first two games in the same campaign and on a gigantic map gathering all the territories of the first two titles.
And eventually, all the content of Total War Warhammer III will be added via an update expected a few weeks after the release of the game. In other words, owners of the three games will be able to play colossal campaigns with all the factions of the three opuses, with their units and warlords, to conquer a unique map extending over all the territories of the three games.
A prologue for novices and veterans
And this is undoubtedly one of the key features of Total War Warhammer III: the strategy game is aimed at strategists who have been wandering the Old World since the release of the first opus in 2016 and are already familiar with all the arcana of the license, but it must also be able to welcome novices who will discover the saga with this third opus.
In order for everyone to find their way around, Total War Warhammer III invites us to take our first in-game steps in a long prologue that starts as a tutorial to learn the basics of the strategy game and gradually becomes a real campaign. While relying on a rather captivating scenario (the story of Prince Yuri Barkov on the tracks of the god Ursun and whose destiny will turn out to be much more chaotic), this prologue proposes some strategic challenges and allows us to progressively discover the main novelties of this third opus: the players thus take the lead of an army of the new Kislev faction (freely inspired by Imperial Russia), before being progressively confronted with the factions of the Kingdoms of Chaos to better discover the different mechanics and strategies.
New factions and new tactical challenges
Like the previous installments, Total War Warhammer III brings its share of new playable factions: the humans of Kislev inspired by Czarist Russia and the Great Cathay which echoes medieval China, the four Chaos deities, Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle and Slaanesh, to which is added the Unified Chaos – and the Ogre Kingdoms, a first DLC offered to players who pre-order the game.
Obviously, each faction has its own strategies and mechanics so that everyone can find something to suit their style of play. Chaos is nevertheless at the heart of this third opus, whether it is through the five demonic factions or through the mechanics of the human factions used to counteract the influences of Chaos.
Five Factions of Chaos
Total War Warhammer III allows you to lead the armies of each of the four Chaos deities, each with a very different play style. The armies of the Blood God Khorne are for example very offensive, rely almost exclusively on melee troops, don’t use magic (but are resistant to it) and get stronger by chaining victories – Khorne’s troops gain in power, regenerate faster or generate more growth as they raze opposing cities without suffering defeats. They then let the faction’s cultists automatically capture the ruined cities.
Tzeentch takes the opposite approach and relies on magic, in particular by controlling the magic winds of a region – they can be increased to feed their own spellcasters or reduced to handicap an opponent who also relies on magic. Tzeentch’s armies have a number of spellcasters and also benefit from magical shields on the battlefield. The mechanics of Tzeentch are based on grimoires (the faction’s resource), which are used to manipulate the actions and relationships of enemy factions – for example, to force declarations of war or break alliances between factions, to open the gates of a stronghold or create rebellions…
Slaanesh is a hedonistic chaos deity who relies on pleasures to seduce opposing troops and rally them to his cause for the duration of a battle. Slaanesh’s troops can also capture devotees and send them to the four corners of his territories to set up cults and spread the word of the deity.
Finally, the troops of the pestilential Nurgle are as slow as they are resistant and spread inescapable contagions: one makes one’s own diseases (each variation has tactical specificities) before spreading them on the battlefields to buffer one’s own troops and infect the enemy’s. Nurgle’s development is also based on cycles of growth and regression: buildings gain levels regularly before returning to level 1 and starting a new complete cycle; at each level you can instantly summon specific units to complete your army. In other words, Nurgle is a faction for the relentless planner.
And for those who have trouble choosing their demonic faction, the Unified Chaos allows you to play as a demon prince and compose your armies by drawing from the troops of the four Chaos gods (provided you have sufficiently developed your connections with the deities of the desired units). The faction is especially characterized by the management of the Demon Prince: a largely customizable hero, who can be equipped to improve his stats and active and passive abilities, while specializing him to his liking thanks to skills and equipment – in a gameplay almost reminiscent of an RPG.
And two human factions
As for the human factions, they must fight against the corruption of Chaos that threatens their territory and their mechanics are thought in this sense.
For example, the development of Kislev is based on “Devotion”, a resource symbolizing the unity of the motherland in a hostile territory (Kislev can appoint Atamans to hold and govern its provinces), which allows to resist demonic incursions, hold the front lines even in tricky situations, and strike hard on the battlefield – including versatile infantry and epic charges of swift cavalry and powerful bears capable of breaking the ranks of just about any enemy army (and pulling sleds or the faction’s few artillery pieces to give them greater mobility).
On the other hand, the Great Cathay is a rather defensive nation: the Celestial Empire is notably protected by the high walls of the Great Bastion, a major strategic advantage to repel demonic threats, but which must be maintained regularly. To achieve this, the Great Cathay can count on the Ivory Road, trade routes to be developed to send merchant caravans – sources of great profits as long as they are well managed and sufficiently protected. On the battlefields, the Celestial Empire draws its strength mainly from the balance between yin and yang.
Every unit, building, hero and warlord of the faction is either yin or yang: favoring one alignment will allow to take advantage of buffs but to the detriment of the other, while reaching harmony allows to significantly increase the statistics of both yin and yang units. Tactical placements are therefore decisive to make yin and yang units evolve together, and make the most of harmony.
Multiplayer modes for eight players
As you can see, each faction has its own specific gameplay mechanics that you’ll have to learn to master in order to conquer the world – and thwart the designs of the enemy factions. Because Total War Warhammer III evolves the multiplayer model of the previous opuses: from now on, up to eight players can compete in multiplayer games (against only two before).
For example, the game offers scripted multiplayer campaigns with the possibility of playing cooperatively or competitively, as a team or individually. The Darkness and Discord mode allows eight players to work for the survival or destruction of the Great Cathay, while Something Rotten in Kislev is designed as a small group adventure for three players.
The “Survival Battles” of Total War Warahmmer III are based on single-player and multiplayer scripted battles in which players must capture areas and defend them against the armies of the Chaos Realms. The strategic challenge lies in the proper distribution of troops, between those sent to the front line to conquer strategic areas and those who will remain there to protect them and build defenses – without knowing which ones will be threatened.
The different multiplayer modes, both scripted and open, are clearly designed to match the scope of the trilogy, and it’s easy to imagine the scale of the battles between up to eight players on the global map of the three opuses, featuring most of the major factions of the license. At the same time, Creative Assembly is also thinking of more confidential multiplayer modes to allow small groups of players to play together, even if they don’t all have a huge amount of time to devote to a complete campaign.
No matter what options are chosen, this new opus is the last of the trilogy, so we can imagine that the British developer was keen to develop its replayability: it will undoubtedly be enriched with new DLC regularly after the release, but beyond the content additions, the multiplayer is obviously already intended to significantly increase the life span of the license.
For the record, Total War Warhammer III was scheduled for release on Steam, the Epic Game Store and PC Game Pass on February 17, 2022. Pre-ordering the game or buying it right after the release allows you to unlock the Ogre Kingdoms DLC at no extra cost.