Total War: Warhammer’s free DLC, Mortal Empires, came out at the end of October, offering a strategy campaign of unprecedented scale even for the grand institution that is Total War.
We spoke with developers Creative Assembly about rising to meet fan expectations for Total War: Warhammer - Mortal Empires.
The appeal for strategy gamers is obvious. But for Warhammer Fantasy fans - so long underserved by videogame developers, who until recently have preferred to adapt its more popular sci-fi spinoff - it is a huge step toward a dream that I assumed would never be realised: a strategy game featuring all of the setting’s major races, their armies fully present, their characteristics faithfully reflected.
I love tabletop gaming but it has its limitations. In Warhammer’s case, it is even more expensive than PC gaming, and in aesthetic terms your experience is a function of your patience and skill with a paintbrush. This can leave your imagination with quite a lot of work to do: shuffling a unit of undercoated models into contact with another, perhaps pausing to reseat an errant knight, hardly has the emotional punch of the charge of the Rohirrim in Peter Jackson’s Two Towers.
Scale is another challenge. Obviously, the fantasy is to command one of the armies in a Lord of the Rings battle scene, but if you were to buy the models you would need to re-enact Helm’s Deep (let alone Minas Tirith), and then actually do so under Warhammer rules, you would have more money than Smaug, more time than God, and a bigger tabletop than King Arthur.
Total War: Warhammer is the solution. And, indeed, watching three regiments of ranked-up Grail Knights smash into a line of Chaos Warriors at the climax of my Bretonnia campaign, while King Louen Leoncoeur tore Archaon to pieces, will stay with me for a while. This was what I had been waiting 20 years for.
But it is not my only Warhammer dream. Those 20 years have given me a few grudges to settle - I play Dwarfs as well as Bretonnia, incidentally - and Mortal Empires will finally let me do so. Because screw Martin Powell.
“Bretonnians? I’m gonna thrash you!” Not his first words to me, but the first I remember: uttered early in secondary school, when we were both ten, had learned we both played Warhammer, and had asked which armies we collected. Martin played High Elves - elegant, if a bit vanilla - and I do not remember ever beating him. Not with my beloved Brets, at least.
It wasn’t just me: Martin with High Elves had a near-perfect record against the other two members of our gaming group, both of whom I could beat on my day. I can rattle off all our excuses pretty readily by now. Some are more valid than others: no matter how much Martin denies it, always striking first and re-rolling to hit is ridiculous, and plenty of other armies also have to deal with Toughness 3 across the board, you dick. Maybe I would have had more of a chance if Games Workshop had updated Bretonnia even once since 2004. Must be nice to play an army they actually like.
I will stop myself there. I do not need to be bitter any more: vengeance is at hand. First thing I am doing in Mortal Empires is conquering Ulthuan, razing everything to the ground, taking a screengrab, and making it my desktop wallpaper. I could play a multiplayer campaign against Martin, but it is not worth the risk of giving him a chance to beat me in another arena. I just want to kill some pointy-ears with my knights. I do not care that High Elves and Bretonnians are on pretty good terms in the lore, or that there are several much more strategically sensible targets: for his broken sixth edition rules, Teclis must die.
It is a small and spiteful dream, I know. It is made of pure salt. But what else is competitive gaming for - whether digital or analogue - if not for fostering these petty grudges? As I am sure Creative Assembly are aware, Mortal Empires will help thousands of Warhammer Fantasy fans exorcise many similarly bitter daemons (though anyone who got rolled by the ludicrously OP seventh edition Daemons of Chaos will have to wait a bit longer to literally do that).
Many of us probably assumed we would never get this chance. When Games Workshop killed off Warhammer Fantasy and blew up its world - ironically just before the current crop of decent videogame adaptations came out - I know I smothered all hope for a game like this. But now, vengeance shall be mine.
When Tyrion inevitably rebuffs my invasion and conquers Bretonnia, I will let you know. Stupid OP elves.
If you have a story like mine, I would love to hear it in the comments: which Warhammer race has earned an entry in your personal Book of Grudges, and why?