What archers I have left I position along the south side of the wall; their numbers are low but I’m hoping that the height advantage (and giant wall) will negate this. I see the bulk of the enemy lining up opposite, the wailing and gnashing of teeth are terrifying to me, but my troops have seen a lot, they aren’t fazed by the horde set out before them. Fools.

My general stands near the gate with 2 battalions of spearmen and a small group of crossbow men; I’m hoping they won’t be needed but that’s the optimist in of me talking. I know the enemy will break through, I know blood will be spilt but this is my last stand. If I don’t protect the city, it will fall, and with it any chance of completing the ritual and saving humanity as we know it.

This was the culmination of my Total War: Warhammer 2 campaign, and it was by far the most cinematic experience I’ve had with the franchise to date. I was so emotionally invested in my army that I took any and every moment to pause and micromanage the battle, and anyone who knows me knows that this is something I care very little for. I like to think it’s more of the gung-ho approach, but really, I’m just impatient.

The base game on offer here should be familiar to anyone who’s playing a Total War game in the past: huge battles, many troops and much death. The spectacle is trumped only by the tactical nuance; it’s both beautiful and brutal in equal measure.

The campaign is something that has come out of the sequel the most changed, with the huge dominate-the-world incentive gone and an interesting story piece put in it’s place. There’s a vortex dead centre of the map which, as the opening cinematic tells us, has become unstable. Depending on which faction you choose (we’ll go in to that a bit later) the aim is to destabilise or re-stabilise the vortex to bring chaos or peace. Easy, right?

Every other faction and tribe within the game are all aiming for the same goal, and towards the end you may be trying to halt other’s progress rather than concentrating on your own. It’s a kind of risk/reward that I’ve not experienced with a game of this ilk before, and it gives the campaign a focus that certainly helped me get the most out of it.

I initially went with the High Elves, the ‘normal’ race and those that seems a good vanilla start to my journey. They rely on shiny amor and precision to succeed and their cities are shining beacons of humanity in which everybody prospers. They have to collect a fair few artefacts in order to start each stage of the ritual that will ultimately bring the vortex under control. The base building and research tree is fairly cut and dry, you keep everything cool in your cities and you can expand them, which in turn offers new construction options. Upgrading cities garrisons more troops, gives you more money per turn and ultimately lets you unlock different buildings within to train all the amazing end game units (dragons!).

The other factions all offer a mechanically different approach to play, even the Dark Elves which I originally thought would be a goth version of the regular, but no! They concentrate on quality over quantity on the battlefield, with a lower number of exceptional units doing the work of thousands of units of fodder. Their approach to the world map is that of influence over their peers, using espionage and bribery to get what they want.

The Lizardmen and Skaven are on the savage end of the spectrum, hopping from settlement to settlement using what they can and then buggering off again. The Skaven are by the far the most interesting offering here, they can hide in cities, making them literally appear as ruins to any other player, spreading corruption and ruining the landscape before moving on to the next haven.

Visually, both the world map and the battle sequences look stunning if you have a PC good enough to handle it. Each unit has it’s own set of animations and even up close, the effort and detail put in to each character is astounding; watching my FlameSpyre Phoenix drop molten feathers on a group of enemy archers is beautiful and probably terrifying (for them). The Total War franchise has been setting the bar for graphical fidelity for many years now and this is no different.

The original Total War: Warhammer opened with a bit of a whimper, but eventually came in to it’s own once the DLC came to the fore. This angered a few people as they saw that the vanilla game shouldn’t have to be augmented by extra content in order to become a decent product but I can wholeheartedly recommend this to almost anyone who is interested in any kind of RTS, there’s enough action here that even those who enjoy the ultra-pace of Starcraft will come away with something.

There are a few DLC packs already on the cards, hopefully filling out the rather bleak parts of the current world map. There are deserts and jungles that could use a little more life (or death) and with the already stellar cast on show I’m excited to see just what comes next.

Oh and just so you know, I did keep the wolves from the door, figuratively speaking, in my opening paragraph. The enemy towers meant they gained access to my parapets pretty easily, my archers drew their swords but were cut through with no bother. My leader was my last bastion of hope, his gear meant he could take a lot of punishment but without support he wouldn’t last long. When all seemed lost, I had reinforcements bolster the defence coming in from the west; 2 groups of cavalry and a FlameSpyre Phoenix broke through the enemy ranks, the latter of which downed the enemy general. Broken and wounded, they fled in to the distance. World saved, hooray!

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