Warhammer and Total War aren’t that different; they both place armies in the hands of people who, by rights, shouldn’t be left alone with butter knives. With the news revealing that Games Workshop and The Creative Assembly have teamed up, Mark and Phil got together to discuss what they think the joining of these two strategy power-houses will create. The most hardcore and nerdy RTS of all time? Or just another failed Warhammer title?
What does this mean?
Phil: What this means is that Creative Assembly, makers of the Total War series (and some crappy titles no one likes to talk about) are putting out a series of Warhammer games, starting from 2013. Note that this only includes traditional fantasy Warhammer, and not the science fiction, Warhammer 40,000 as the license for that remains with THQ and Relic Games.
No word yet on what they’re planning but they’re apparently huge fans of the mythos and intend to do it justice in a way never attempted before.
What I hope this means is that we’ll finally get a good Warhammer Fantasy Battle strategy game. Warhammer’s record for video games has been patchy of late. There was the ill-received Mark of Chaos, the sports game spin off Blood Bowl and the MMORPG Warhammer Online, but alas … no good strategy title. That’s a bit of an oversight for what is essentially a strategy tabletop game.
Mark: It means I’m finally going to be able to get back into the Warhammer universe without spending a ridiculous amount of money on tiny figurines I’ll never paint, or find the time or opponents to play with. It also means that I won’t have to wait until a whole new edition of the rules comes out to have the unbalanced units and abilities nerfed or upgraded accordingly.
When you’re in high school, the tabletop game is fantastic, as you’re simply a little sponge absorbing the resources of the country and your parents. But now, in my adult years where people are genuinely shocked by me answering them at the door in my undies, I don’t have time for all of that and if I do have the time for it, I want it single-player and instantly available. Warhammer has an incredibly in-depth universe and a variety of amazing characters, campaigns and stories to experience. Hell, this could be the game that provides those careful last strokes that give something simple a deep and complex soul.
Why does this matter?
Phil: Well, Creative Assembly have a pretty good track record when it comes to games. Assuming you only look at the Total War series and not their exceedingly mediocre hack and slash games and that Stormrise fiasco. Either way the Total War series is a brilliant depiction of large scale warfare.
And on the other hand Games Workshop have created a fantasy universe that’s so dark and morbidly humorous that it makes the average fantasy world look like the Teletubbies. This is a world of constant danger and violence, where the armies of good (relatively speaking) do battle with the armies of evil (unrepentantly and certifiably so) on a massive scale.
Put that together and it could be pure magic. And I mean that in a good way and not Warhammer’s way where magic is derived from eldritch horrors. Warhammer is all about large scale battles and Creative Assembly can deliver that in spades. Just imagine Medieval or Shogun Total War with steampunk elements, magic, dragons and all sorts of weird fantasy races.
Mark: Because no-one else could do it. To get into the spirit of things, I’ve been playing Dawn of War II, Mark of Chaos and Shogun: Total War 2. I’ve taken out my rulebooks and army guides and looked at my models, gone to the Games Workshop website and generally filled myself to the brim with nostalgia. What I’ve taken away from this memory laden indulgence is that there are almost no differences in how Total War and Warhammer are played. Different units have different abilities, both use points to determine cost, both rely on morale breaking and recouping, both have a reliance on leaders, and so on and so forth. Really, if you reskinned a current Total War with the aesthetics of the Warhammer universe, you would have a great game. The fact that it will be the genius of Creative Assembly actively trying to make a Warhammer game almost guarantees it will be awesome.
What do we want?
Phil: A good strategy game obviously. But that aside I want a full range of races, most notably the Skaven. For those not in the know, they’re a race of sociopathic bipedal ratmen who live underground and would probably win if they could stop plotting against and killing each other. They also have gatling guns and tesla cannons that have a tendency to blow up and wipe out chunks of their army. Both they, and the players that use them, tend to find this hilarious.
I also want the unique atmosphere of the Warhammer universe to be accurately portrayed. This is a dark and foreboding fantasy world, with a morbid sense of humour. Warfare is constant, fear is endemic, and a lingering sense of doom permeates the air. And yet Orcs fire themselves out of catapults and Skaven have no regard for their comrade’s lives.
In terms of gameplay; powerful hero units, magical spells that can change the course of battles and of course, army customisation!
Mark: Primarily, not a reskinned version of Total War. If a modder did it, I would cream my pants in gratitude, if the development team did it, I would be wondering why no-one was fired. While I did say there are almost no differences between the mechanics of both games, what differences there are need to be addressed. Magic, magic items, monstrous cavalry, flying creatures, a host of races, different battle scenarios that affect different units … at a bare minimum, I’d like to see a nod to the things that make the tabletop game so amazing.
However, if I was to get what I want, it would boil down to this:
Different campaigns: The Warhammer universe has an ongoing history, with campaigns like Dark Shadows and Storm of Chaos actually defining and shaping the game and the units of the world. When I beat the original Shogun (not an easy feat, let me tell you), the ending cinematic shows your Daimyo commemorated as a statue in modern day Tokyo. That is as boring as it is bullshit. I want something epic, and this is a way to deliver it.
Different races: There are around twelve or so different races to choose from if I remember correctly, and I swear to god if they choose Orks, Humans, Elves and Chaos I will shit my pants and send them to Sega. Past the ideals of the fanboy within me, this is a great opportunity for players to really get invested in the army and the race they follow, and to provide a level of variation that Total War can’t currently offer.
Awesome animations: I can’t complain about the animations at the moment, as they’re beautifully simple and brutal. However, Warhammer has magic and monsters and generally evil people. An Empire swordsman vomiting his lungs out because he got poisoned by a Dark Elf Witch would bring a tear of joy to my eye, it really would.
How is this likely to differ from what Relic are doing with 40K?
Phil: Well Warhammer 40,000, even at the largest of scales, is all about the squad based combat. Armies are comprised of squads that move in loose formation. Pretty much what you’d expect from modern warfare, but with soldiers that also love getting medieval on their enemies and getting stuck in with blades. Relic has captured this feel accurately, particularly in Dawn of War II where the scale was decidedly smaller and your command of squads more tactical than strategic.
Warhammer Fantasy on the other hand is about regimented combat. Troops are arrayed in classic formations, marching and fighting as one larger group. This is warfare pre-modern era where armies lined up and face off. As such, you’re likely to be waging war on a grand scale, raising and destroying armies and not just small squads of troops. And as this is a medieval fantasy universe, expect the usual infantry, cavalry, ranged triumvirate.
Mark: As far as I can tell, Relic’s production of the Dawn of War series was their first dive into the RTS scene. They had to start from the ground up, and they produced a pretty damn memorable series. Creative Assembly, however, have a long, long history of making exquisite recreations of historical warfare, and that experience is going to serve them well. With most of the basic mechanics already down, surely the rest of the job is making it an explosive masterpiece of nerdgasm?
What are we most worried about?
Phil: Well personally I’m worried that this is going to be one of Creative Assembly’s rather terrible games. Warhammer is pretty much tailor made for strategy games and the basic framework for the Total War series would work exceptionally well in this case. There’s no reason to try something completely off the wall and different, or god forbid, not even a strategy game when Warhammer: Total War would be absolute brilliance.
That said the atmosphere and gameplay dynamics of the tabletop game would alter things somewhat and I’m hoping that they can accurately depict the spirit of Warhammer as well as the power and utility of heroes and magic spells in terms of gameplay. To a lesser extent I’m concerned that they’re going to go with the boring usual suspects for playable races and not some of the lesser seen but no less popular ones.
To put it bluntly, I’m worried that it’ll be a crap depiction of Warhammer and a crap game overall.
Mark: To be honest, I’m not really worried. As I’ve said, if it’s a re-skin, then I’ll be disappointed, but still incredibly interested. Creative Assembly haven’t made a bad RTS yet and I doubt they’ll start now.
Having said that, if you’re reading this Creative Assembly, don’t screw this up. I believe in you, make me proud to call you my favourite developers of all time.
So are you excited for the upcoming collaboration between Games Workshop and The Creative Assembly? As usual, let us know in the comments below!