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Total War: Warhammer II

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Creative Assembly
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2017


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PC Preview - 'Total War: Warhammer II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 22, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Total War: Warhammer II takes the strategy game series to a realm of grand high fantasy, this time unveiling the mystery-shrouded continents far to the west of The Old World.

Warhammer 40K might be the version of Warhammer that gets the most press, but people should remember that there's plenty of old-school Warhammer out there. Total War: Warhammer II is a sequel to the original Total War: Warhammer and puts players in the midst of a battle over a vortex of energy. Each of the different races wants to either exploit that energy or find a way to seal it away so its power can't be used against them.

Our demo at E3 2017 gave a brief overview of the setting before throwing us head-first into a clash between two of the factions. We were put in charge of the lizardmen, who are an army of angry reptilians riding dinosaurs. We're told they amount to "dinosaurs riding dinosaurs," which already makes it a pretty intimidating-sounding race. The other races announced so far are Elves and Dark Elves, with a fourth unannounced race joining in the fray later. It's easy to see why dinosaurs riding dinosaurs would be a fan favorite, which the developers acknowledged and admitted.

Our test mission involved sending an army of said Lizardmen against the heavily fortified gates of an Elvish stronghold. This wasn't something that could be easily conquered, as the gates were defended by warriors and mages. The latter were effectively roadblocks, but the former could handily wipe out an entire army if left unchecked. To win, we had to find a way to draw them out from their hiding places so they could be cut down. This involved cutting down their defenders without losing too many of our own forces.

In our demo, the key to combat was figuring out where to position soldiers for maximum effectiveness. Lizardmen are durable, but that doesn't mean much when they're up against magic-wielding elves who have the high ground. It's critical that you know who and what is attacking at the proper place. Having your spearmen at the vanguard to keep away the elves' melee fighters can allow your powerful archers and magic users to move into position to wipe out the elves' heavy hitters.

This got more complex when special units came into play. One unit was a Sun Dragon sent by the elves to attack my units. The dragon was powerful and terrifying, and anything ground-based was effectively a snack for it. Throwing all of my forces at it without thought could eventually lead to a victory, but it would come at such a significant cost that you'd probably regret it. Instead, we had to focus on using our melee and ground units to hold off enemy forces while turning archers and magic users against the Sun Dragon. It fell relatively quickly.

Combat can turn around quickly, and the available mechanics and tools in the game are pretty overwhelming. Positioning, including flanking and height advantage, can play a major part in battle, as can morale and confidence. Win a battle handily, and you might cause other units to be routed and flee in terror. The opposite can also be true. The Sun Dragon could terrify its opponents into submission. Targeting enemy commanders can be key to victory, but defending your own can be just as challenging. Kroq-Gar, the commander in our test mission, was a valuable unit to have on the front lines, but he was just as vulnerable to being taken down.

Our demo of Total War: Warhammer II was brief but gave us a clear idea of how an average skirmish would turn out. It's a surprisingly complex set of mechanics. You can't ram your face into the enemy and expect to win, but you need to play around with positioning and proper unit management. A smart Lizardman will slay the mages, bring down the dragons, and topple the gates. A foolish one will lose entire armies even if they somehow manage to win. Fans of Creative Assembly's games or the Warhammer franchise should find a lot to like when Total War: Warhammer II releases exclusively for PC in September of this year.

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