After five years, we’re nearing the end of our journey through the battlefields of Total War: Warhammer. With the third and final game, we can at last play as and against the daemonic hordes of the Chaos gods, and for this conclusion Creative Assembly still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. In my first foray into the latest game, I found myself facing an endless horde of these monstrosities, slicing my way through them in a completely new kind of Total War brawl.
Survival battles are an evolution of the quest battles introduced in the previous Warhammer games, where you face a bespoke challenge on an extra fancy map. As the name suggests, you’ll need to deal with relentless waves of enemies as you try to reach your goal – a beefy boss encounter – but thankfully you’ll have a lot of help. Fortifications, reinforcements and buffs can all be summoned by spending supplies, earned through slaughter, giving you more things to manage, yes, but also more ways out of a scrape.
“These are very seminal moments in the narrative arc from the campaign game,” says game director Ian Roxburgh. “They’re all effectively boss battles, where you’ve gone through a chunk of gameplay and this is the final part towards completing that area in the campaign narrative. So they really fit that bill and give it that climactic moment, as well as just providing an awesome opportunity to look at the Chaos Realms in more detail.”
With this survival battle demo comes our first proper look at Creative Assembly’s take on the Realms of Chaos and their denizens, specifically Khorne’s neck of the woods. It’s a burning red hellscape that looks extremely hostile and, as much as terrain can, incredibly angry. This is in keeping with Khorne himself, a bad-tempered boy with a massive rage problem. It’s not the sort of place you’d want to add to your kingdom, but it’s probably the sort of place you’d want to wipe off the map, if you can tackle the daemons trying to stop you.
Warhammer aficionados will recognise these evil, snarling bastards. Bloodletters, Bloodthirsters, Skull Cannons – they’re all here. Battle design lead John Whitson reckons the army really encapsulates the asymmetry that’s come to define this Total War series. “Khorne doesn’t really have many missile options, has no magic at all, because he absolutely scorns the use of magic, but in return his armies have spell resistance innate to them. And really their playstyle is getting into melee combat as quickly as possible, slaughtering the enemy, using that to field powerful army abilities.”
GOREHAMMER Meet a few of Khorne’s favourite lads
These guys are the footsoldiers of Khorne’s armies – but even low down the ladder as they are, they’re still very good at murdering people.
Even the god of blood likes to feel appreciated sometimes. These boys show Khorne how much they like him by murdering people.
These hounds wear enchanted brass collars that deflect enemy spells, keeping them safe while they do their favourite thing: murdering people.
THE MORE THEY KILL, THE STRONGER THEY GET
They’ve got a berserker mentality, and the more they kill, the stronger they get, growing drunk on all the blood and skulls that their god loves so very much. Senior battle designer Oscar Andersson adds that Khorne’s army also contains “probably some of the most elite units available in the game” and by the late game these daemons are going to be pretty deadly. “It’s going to be very tough to beat them because there’s just so much power in each of the Khorne units.” To take them down in battle, you’ll want to hammer them before they can get into melee range, or you’re going to be in a whole heap of trouble.
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