July 2018 - Weekly Update #2

Hi all, hope y'all are doing good and enjoying the summer heat ( or winter cold depending where you are! ) here's the weekly recap and update for the second week of July! 

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So in terms of videos, I've released three in the passed week. "What is... The Banner Saga" which is a sort of first/early impressions video of that game. (The game is really good!) 

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I also reached out and got sent Phoenix Point's current backer build. As I was late to the party with this, I wanted to make my content stand out more somehow, so I drew from the similarities to XCOM to ask "What's the difference between the two" by creating a video focusing on that, instead of a more generic "Phoenix Point Preview". This resulted in my video: "5 Phoenix Point Features NOT in XCOM" - These types of videos are a bit more "clickbaity" or at least sensational than I prefer to do, but I feel the content within stays true to my analytical style of commentary and reporting.

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Following that, I've been studying my analytics more, asking why certain videos do well and certain don't. It's a hard process to figure out, but I tried some experimentation with it in my latest video "7 Confirmed Features in Imperator: Rome - Dev Diary 1-7" and that seems to be doing well. I didn't want just a static screen while I talk about screenshots, from diaries, so I also spent a bit of extra time playing around in After Effects and learning some new things which allowed me to better bring to life the screenshots from the developer diaries by moving a camera around them in 3D space. I think it looks cool, and I've got it down pretty good now so I can make them quite quickly. It was a lot of fun figuring out and learning new techniques too, been a while since I've done that.

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So those were the videos for the week, I also streamed 37 hours in the last 10 days! Streams have had great numbers and I've got to play with JackieFish and LegendOfTW in different games and host my Stellaris MP Game which has been a blast (it's my favourite thing to stream by far). These streams can all be caught on my twitch channel, and some of the best ones make it to the past broadcast playlist on my YouTube too.

So looking to next week, this is a super super busy time for me, as I'm going away on the 23rd for about 10 days, so I'm preparing content in advance as best I can. Last chance to get in on my AMA now btw so if you have a question, shoot it over here: http://www.therepublicofplay.com/ama

I'm planning on covering some of the updates to Total War: ROME II and I've gotten some access to games I've been meaning to cover while also queuing them up for while I'm away.  

Lastly we also got a bunch of new emotes on our Twitch channel by SpartanVI - I'm loving them and love seeing them being used!

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Let me know if you've any feedback or thoughts about the content/direction of the channel! 

Darren

July 2018 - Weekly Update #1

Hi all,

Each week I’ll be posting an update here and to Patreon to recap what's going on in terms of content and The Republic!

First off we had our “Senate Meeting” on July 3rd in our Discord Server in #The-Senate-House. This covered the month of June and if you want you can go there and read over the topics we covered. Generally speaking; things are growing, but just very slowly.

We have a new and updated Stream Schedule for the month of July – This month there are barely any “new” big PC games to cover for review, so I’m using the time to catch-up on older games I’ve missed, such as “The Banner Saga”, “Battle Brothers” and I’ll be playing Europa Universalis 4 with LegendOfTotalWar and Divide Et Impera with JackieFish.

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Also, based on some feedback, I’ve created a “PAST BROADCAST” playlist on YouTube with my streams hosted there. These are all unlisted (meaning they won't show in the videos tab, or in your sub feed), but if you go to my channel, you can check them out and watch them on YouTube or even download them to watch on the go if you have YouTube Premium. Currently, the full “Divide Et Impera” streams are available there with JackieFish, a super fun Head To Head Campaign with me as Egypt and Jackie as Rome, and also my first playthrough of "The Banner Saga".

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Another thing we’re starting up this month is playing games together. On Sunday, and hopefully Sundays going forward for now, we’ll be playing Europa Universalis 4. This isn’t being streamed, it’s just a way for us to come together as a community and play games together and make friends. Joining our Steam Group is the best way to prepare for that, and our Discord. 

That’s pretty much it for this week, so far I’ve released a Battlefield V impressions video, and am working on covering some older interesting games like The Banner Saga this week and some games I picked up in the Steam Sale.

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Lastly, I’ll be away at the end of this month for about 10 days, so I’m doing an AMA video and taking questions at this link: http://www.therepublicofplay.com/ama - so if you have a question you want to ask, or think would make a good talking point, shoot one over there!

As always, feedback about the direction of the channel is always appreciated.

-Darren

Partnered on Twitch & Name Change!

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Just yesterday (June 1st) we got partnered on Twitch! I had been working towards this for the passed few months, and couldn't have done it without the support of the Senate and the Republic at large. 

Also couldn't have done it without the consistent help from a few streamers; LegendOfTW, Ninjahund, Nerdragefitness, ElichTV, MordredViking, AlexTheRambler, HaxoTheHunter and I'm sure more that I may be leaving out. 

This has brought with it some changes to the channel: 

  • The channel has now been renamed from "darrentotalwar" to "republicofplay
  • We can now stream in 1080p and you can choose your preferred quality.
  • We now have 10 available emotes to use, and earned the emote prefix "rop" for them.
  • We've unlocked loyalty badges and subscriber icons.
  • I get a bigger revenue share on Tier 2/Tier 3 subs and earn revenue from the ads that ran on the channel anyway.

That's pretty much it! Be sure to check http://www.therepublicofplay.com/schedule any time to see our monthly schedule.

-Darren

PATREON GOAL REACHED

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Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I did a big update, and now seems like a good time. First off, I want to send my sincerest thanks to all who’ve supported ROP so far and especially for those on Patreon in the month of May. For the first time, we surpassed the $600 goal (and by a pretty significant amount).

This goal means the month of May is profitable right from Day 1. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but April was also profitable thanks to stream donations throughout the month, which means I’ve also hit my personal goal of having two profitable months in a row!

So I just want to say thank you. It’s not lost on me how generous of a community we have. The average patron pledges around $12 which is extremely high and a lot of them double up by subscribing on Twitch as well. When someone lowers their pledge or deletes it, they always regretfully reach out to me explaining their situation, which is incredibly humbling.

As we get more donations/pledges/subscriptions, I feel a great responsibility to make better content that’s deserving of such generosity. It actually weighs really heavily on me, as I judge my own content pretty harshly, often scrapping videos because I feel I can’t make them good enough.

Because of this I’ve been working on improving myself and my work routine; I’ve been eating better, reading more, started going to the gym and think this will lead to a clearer head and better content. It’s early days but I can already see results.

A priority now for me is working towards creating more content for both YouTube and Twitch going forward. I have a few ideas of how to do this in the short term, and some big plans for doing this in the long term. The main one in the long term is getting my own room/office space, as I currently operate out of my living room which can be invasive for the people I live with.

So that’s my next personal goal, saving and working towards getting my own space. Again, thank you to everyone who has donated so generously. I don’t expect Patreon to be that high every month (I’m just cynical in that way!) but it’s extremely motivating to see it grow every month and have such dedicated support.

And as I’ve mentioned before, to anyone that watches my videos regularly or my streams, they are the backbone of the channel and I’m very grateful for them supporting the content.

I’ll leave it at that for now, I’m always around to chat on Discord/Twitter/Patreon if anyone has questions or just wants to reach out.

-Darren

My First Profit!

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Hi everyone,

February has marked an important milestone for Republic of Play. It's the first month since the launch of Republic Of Play where I actually made a profit. That's right, for about six months, I was losing money each month as I worked on YouTube and Twitch full time. (I had saved enough for about six months so I cut it pretty fine!)

Each month has gotten a little better than the one before it, and in February we finally pushed out of the red and into the black! 

This is primarily because of the Senate we have. Around 100 people, give or take, put down their hard earned cash on Twitch or Patreon each month to directly support me and the channel. Not just that, but they give me constant feedback each month on Discord and through emails and messages, trying to help me figure out the best way to deliver my content and balance the different platforms. They push me to be better, to chase developers for access to games, to keep a better schedule and to communicate better. This monthly feedback process I believe has had a direct impact for steady growth month over month. 

It fluctuates depending on the month, but in March, the Senate accounted for 86% of all revenue earned for Republic Of Play. It's almost entirely fan funded.

So thank you for the incredible support over the months. It's been a big learning process for me, but I think in the last couple of months we've started to hit our stride with regular videos and streams and varied content. I also want to throw a shout-out for the other content creators that also support me, either monetarily or by throwing me a host on twitch (or any of the other forms of promo!) They've been so helpful and great mentors to talk to.

The response from developers has been incredible, with many of them thanking me for covering their games, even when it's not a totally glowing review. I really appreciate the developers, PR teams and CM's taking the time to respond and give a small channel a chance.

And of course it's not just those who drop cash who I am thankful for. There are thousands of viewers that watch every single video, leave comments and likes, tell their freinds and link my videos around the web. The support is always incredible and I literally read every single comment. 

So that's it for this little update! I'm not expecting to turn a profit every month, but it was good to finally get a win, and my next goal will be to get 2 months in a row and we'll build from there!

-Darren

A Change Of Direction For Future Content

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In order to help improve my channel and grow the community around it, I’ve made some changes to the planned content.

1] I will be stopping daily streams.

I haven’t been able to grow the viewership on these streams enough to justify spending three hours a day on them, plus the time it takes to make graphics and everything that goes along with it.

The viewership we do have, is strong and very generous. We actually have more subscribers than we do viewers most of the time, which has to be some sort of weird record for twitch.

2] “ROP Live” is gone, for now.

The gaming news show pulled in a decent amount of viewers, but ultimately didn’t grow. I’ll now cover news in videos on my YouTube. This will allow me to react faster to things, not having to wait a week to talk about industry news.

3] Multiplayer Friday will continue.

I love playing games with the community, and want to focus on this more. On Friday’s we’re going to group up with as many as we can and play our favourite games together on stream. These streams are now going to last longer also. I recommend joining our steam group if you want to take part.

4] Streams will happen when I have something cool to show.

With these changes, I’m only streaming one day a week, on Friday with multiplayer. However, if I’m playing a game for review, or get sent one early, then I’ll look to stream that.

This means the games will always be current and I’ll be talking about them in a review aspect, instead of just playing a random campaign of a random game.

If you tune into a ROP stream, it’ll be something worth checking out. These streams can also go on for longer too. If this is ever the case, I’ll post it to my twitter, and probably post a “Live now” type video to YouTube.

So that’s the current plan.

This also means I’ll have to change around some tiers on Patreon, as some of them relied on streams. The reason I’m doing this is because I believe I have spread myself too thin, not being able to give proper attention to either platform, and both platforms are stagnating.

If it continues this way for much longer, I’ll have no way of making content for either platform.

This is an effort from me, to retreat, close ranks and give as much attention to one platform as I can in order to grow it. While Twitch has been monetarily really strong for me (on par with YouTube if not better) ultimately, I need to focus on growth first, and I’m a stronger video producer than I am livestream personality. These changes now free up over 10hours during the week to work on videos and get them out much faster.

These changes will take effect on December 1st.

Total War: WARHAMMER 2 - Mortal Empires Review

Mortal Empires is a complicated product to review. It marks a first in Total War’s history, and potentially even the steam platform; it’s content for a game that unlocks when you purchase a separate game. Further to that, the amount of content it unlocks increases if you bought DLC for that other game.

So for the uninitiated, of which there seem to have actually been quite a few of you out there, Mortal Empires is a piece of DLC content for Total War: WARHAMMER 2, that is only downloadable if you also happened to own Total War: WARHAMMER 1.

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What it adds to the game, is essentially a brand new map that combines the assets from both games in a familiar, all be it a little stretched landscape. Though the consensus in the community when Creative Assembly called it a combined map was that the maps of both games would fit together, this isn’t quite what happened. Instead, portions of the Warhammer 2 map have been clipped off and landmasses have been reshaped and pushed together. In fact its just a whole brand new map. This was revealed 3 weeks after the launch of Warhammer 2.

Now while ultimately the map is huge and the promise of the biggest map ever, pretty much has been delivered upon it is something worth mentioning, and honestly if this was Total War: WORLD, there’s no way they could’ve got away with squishing continents closer and reshaping Africa… like it just doesn’t hold up and I’m surprised they were able to with Games Workshop keeping them in check.

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The bulk of the playable content in Mortal Empires, is actually from Total War: WARHAMMER 1. That is to say, the geographical area it includes is fixated primarily on the old world, and the playable races and factions from Warhammer 1 make up the majority of the content.

So, this makes it a very tricky beast to review. If for instance, your fresh to the franchise, and pickup both games, you’ll have 9 playable races to try out and around 23 legendary lords spread around the map.

The more DLC you own, the more races and lords you have to play with, up to a current maximum of 12 playable races and 35 legendary lords. This means that essentially Mortal Empires is a great reward for loyal customers. Those that have bought DLC, now get another campaign to mess around with them in it.

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However the mortal empires campaign, if you’re playing as one of the old races is basically a mirror copy to the old game. I mean that’s kind of the point. Your lord or race will start in the same place, their mechanics will be the same, their quests, buildings, units, skills and objectives will largely be the same, there are some slight variations to one or two technologies or events here and there, certainly not something that changes the playthrough that much. The faction you play will behave 95% identical to how they did before. However, the most notable change is now you have the chance of coming across 4 new races in some expanded territories to the south and to the west.

I want to make a comparison to one of the previous games in the franchise, Medieval 2 Total War. After a certain number of turns you may discover America, and there’s new and interesting factions over there to fight, that play and look different and have different architecture and landscapes. This situation is kind of similar. Whether you discover it or not, you’ll play your campaign the exact same, but if you do go there, you’ll have something new to fight.

Now obviously these races you’ll encounter have a lot more to them than the ones in Medieval 2, but I wanted to drive home the idea that your faction is untouched by this new world. If you sit around and play as the vampire counts, you might never see the new world, just as Egypt may never have saw the new world in Medieval 2. Now of course, you as the player can make it a priority to do that, so the option is there, but that’s more of a self driven design.

So depending on who you choose to start as, you’ll have an increased chance to encounter these races, obviously factions near the south and the west, will reach them faster.  And encountering them is the largest new element to this campaign, it’s a race that you should be unfamiliar with fighting, and it could also be a potential new ally. Of course there’s also the chance that these races will come for you eventually which can happen, and skaven in particular have been dotted around the old world so you might run into them faster.

So on the whole, if you played a lot of Warhammer 1, you’re not getting too much new here in terms of your raw campaign experience. If you choose to play as one of the Warhammer 2 races, again, you’re probably already familiar with fighting the old world races, as they were present in the Vortex Campaign.

 

It’s not to say the amount of familiarity is an overly bad thing, it’s just that… it is familiar. Playing as Belegar, I couldn’t help but think I’ve done this all already, and was forcing myself to try and encounter new races to shake up the gameplay I was used to.

Other conditions outside of that change how the campaign develops. For one, the new climate system, that the community clammered for in Warhammer 1, allows any faction to conquer anywhere and because of it, you’re seeing a much more random and dynamic campaign, where minor factions conquer well out of their usual areas and it makes it a lot more fun to experience and form allies and make enemies. The emergent narrative of Total War is creeping back in. Now the Dwarfs don’t just sit in the mountains all the time, they branch out a bit and it might be a bit weird for the lore but it makes for a much more interesting campaign, encountering races all over the world.

Another great aspect is that with Mortal Empires you can now play co-op or head to head with a myriad of different factions and races, and as I always advocate, co-op or head to head, is the best way to play. On-top of that, with Mortal Empires’ release, WH2 now allows multiplayer between WH2 and WH1 races and sub factions, so there’s just more diversity overall in the multiplayer scene.

And I think this is what the draw of Mortal Empires is for a lot of people, the fact that the world is much bigger and now that is has 12 races in it, it’s a lot more random creating a lot more interesting gameplay. Now remember, this is a Total War: WARHAMMER 2 DLC, so you also have the new additions that Total War: WARHAMMER II introduced, as I mentioned, we have the climate system, an improved UI, increased skill cap for lords, increased city sizes, improved trait system, encounters at sea and that’s pretty much it. If you want to hear my thoughts on those mechanics, check my Warhammer 2 review. To be honest the new feature set for this campaign, is basically just slight balance improvements which mods had delivered a lot of before and some quality of life stuff to the UI.

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It can sometimes feel as if this was the type of campaign many expected when Total War: WARHAMMER was first announced, one filled with variety and all the races you’d expect from the geography of the area. Athel Loren exists now. Beastmen raids and ambushes occur. Skaven are more than just a rumour. It’s a campaign with a better working trade and resource system. A campaign that let’s you conquer anywhere. And no doubt over time this campaign will fill up even more as DLC is created for Total War: WARHAMMER 2 and DLC from the old game gets patched in.

This is the best way to play Total War: WARHAMMER by far, the only issue is, to get the full experience of this campaign the bill is $195.

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It honestly feels like less and less is offered when the initial games come out, and you’ll rely on DLC and updates to make the product worthwhile over time. Some of these updates, the community really wanted, like small increases to lords levels, conquering anywhere, increasing build slots, these have now been placed behind a new full priced game paywall, while the original game is seemingly done and dusted now.

Of course there are sales on steam to help mitigate that cost over time, but there’s just something about a Total War game featuring 4 factions on release that will always seem bare bones to me. People can say the factions are far deeper and diverse than they ever have been, but I feel that any diversity or depth that was added, was removed from other parts of the game, such as campaign mechanics, unit mechanics, sieges, minor settlement battles and a bunch of other things.

I guess the problem is, if you’ve never played Total War Warhammer, getting that awesome experience is super expensive. If you’re a loyal customer and have purchased this DLC already, then this campaign is largely something you’ve played already. Its bigger and better, but only slightly.

 

So in that regard, I feel like scoring this content is super difficult, so I won’t score it in this review. For me, it’s a bit underwhelming, it’s a lot of what I’ve experienced already, it’s a little anti-climactic because its not as big as they said it was gonna be, it’s end game is currently messed up and some of the updates to the old game haven’t come over yet. For someone new, it’s probably one of the best experiences you can have with Total War, because it’s finally at the stage and perhaps even passed it now of what you’d expect from a strategy fantasy sandbox. I highly recommend trying it out if you haven’t, and wait for a sale for the DLC, it’s been 75% off before, and no doubt Christmas sales will see it drop again.

That’ll be it for my review of Mortal Empires, as I mentioned, the gameplay and mechanics carry over from Total War: WARHAMMER 2, so if you want a further in depth review of those mechanics, check out my review for Warhammer 2 here: https://www.therepublicofplay.com/news/2017/10/total-war-warhammer-2-review

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Total War: WARHAMMER 2 Review

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Total War: WARHAMMER 2 released on the 28th of September 2017, and is currently available on Windows PC through Steam activation. It’s developed by Creative Assembly and Published by SEGA.

As a brand new entry in a long established franchise, and with the fastest turn around time for a full priced game from Creative Assembly, this review will explore how the game stands on its own, how it improves as a sequel over its predecessor and how Total War: WARHAMMER II places itself in the franchise as a whole.

The Races

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Total War: WARHAMMER II features four playable races. The High Elves, The Dark Elves, The Lizardmen and The Skaven. The four races have a wildly different aesthetic and also have a set of distinct characteristics that makes each race feel unique.

The High Elves are an orderly and defensive race, relying on spearmen and powerful archers. They also depend on late game, high tier monstrous units such as Dragons and Phoenixes to cause mass damage and chaos on the battlefield. On the campaign, they specialize in trade and diplomatic manipulation. However both sound far more interesting than they actually play out, but we’ll get to that leter.

The Dark Elves are in many ways the opposite of the high elves, they favour a more dark and chaotic playstyle, with hyper aggressive units such as Witch Elves and War Hydras. Their sole purpose in battle is to cause fear and rage amongst the enemy ranks and the more damage they do, the more powerful they become after reaching a certain threshold. On the campaign, they’re economy is built on slavery, the more slaves you gather, the more you earn at the cost of unrest in your cities. It’s a nice balancing act that adds more depth to the campaign, and connects your battles to your economy, so I think it’s a great implementation. As well as that, they have access to Black Arks, a unique naval unit, that can build armies and provide battle support in the form of bombardment spells.

The Lizardmen, one of the more outlandish races in the Warhammer Universe, are extremely thick skinned and tanky. They move slowly and have strong heavy infantry bolstered by extremely strong monstrous dinosaur units. It’s often pointed out that they’re basically dinosaurs riding dinosaurs, and that’s essentially what you get. Don’t forget that they also have floating frogs that can telepathically cast spells. So yeah. Warhammer. On the campaign, they have the geomantic web. The geomantic web is basically just a building, that recognises if you have the same building in another adjacent province. If you do, you get buffs to the province. It’s simple, but it is a really nice idea, to connect up regions in a chain like that, but the buffs are often so minor, it hardly makes the investment worth it. The Lizardmen also have blessed spawnings, which allows instant free recruitment of high tier units upon completing missions. This was pretty neat, and is similar in previous games to the Vampire Counts raise dead mechanic, except this time it feels more rewarding and special to receive these units.

Lastly, we have The Skaven. Walking talking rat people coked up on warpstone, these guys are the opposite of Lizardmen in many ways, extremely quick and weak, but attack in large numbers from all directions. Their armies are made up of numerous variations of swarming rats, long range missiles and experimental machines, such as the doomwheel and hellpit abomination. On the campaign, they spread a corruption to adjacent provinces and rely on food to grow. They also have a unique hidden mechanic whereby their settlements appear undiscovered to other factions, allowing them to ambush wandering armies. For the most part their food mechanic makes the campaign more interesting, much like the managing of slaves, however the hidden mechanic doesn’t really play out that well as things like corruption give away their position and AI armies tend to attack ruins with full armies anyway.

So that’s it for the races and their diversity, each race also has two playable factions each led by a legendary lord. They share the same army rosters and building chains, but each lord has a unique starting location in the world, unique traits and skill trees. It is also possible to acquire the other unique lord throughout your campaign through confederation, giving you access to some of their benefits.

The Vortex

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Total War: WARHAMMER II’s campaign is focused on the Great Vortex, a large and dominating hurricane of magical energy that each race is fighting for control of. Due to cosmic events, the races believe the vortex to be unstable, as delivered through beautiful 2D cutscenes at the beginning of the game. Now each race will attempt to gain control of the vortex, to stop Chaos flooding into the world, or to destroy the world itself.

To gain control, each race must complete random missions and conquer settlements in order to acquire a particular ritual currency. The currency has different names for each race, but its all the exact same. Once you gather up enough of the currency, you’re able to perform rituals to gain factionwide benefits and push towards completing the final ritual which will give you control of the vortex and ultimate victory in the campaign.

It’s a really cool idea, having each race work towards a goal can place you under pressure to complete the ritual for fear of losing to the enemy AI. You’ll shift your priorities around of who you want to attack, in order to slow them down, and determine where you want to conquer based off missions and ritual resource sites. It really shook up the generic Total War conquer whatever I want gameplay for the better I feel.

The rituals you perform along the way, while interesting the first few times, become extreme slogs as the AI sends wave after wave of auto generated armies at you or your surrounding towns. You’ll end up fighting the same battles over and over again and it really just isn’t fun to play. Switching from an aggressive playstyle to defensive one as you hunker down to perform your rituals does force you to think differently, and I think is one of the more fun aspects of the campaign, however in the later stages when 6 or 7 armies appear at a random location and scatter around your lands, it becomes an extremely laborious affair to chase down armies. In context, these armies are supposed to be trying to stop your rituals, but often the AI determines that it can’t beat your defences and will raid your lands and destroy settlements. It’s really quite unfair, because you may think to yourself, well I’ll just build up defences in my towns. However the AI will spawn in your least defended places, and when they spawn with 5 armies, they can beat any town defense you have. So often performing rituals is a guaranteed loss of settlements at random and just feels very cheap and artificial.

As you progress and eventually reach the end of the game and story, you’ll realize it was all for nothing. There’s minor spoilers here, so skip ahead a bit if you want to avoid it. Essentially there’s a big plot twist regarding the vortex and your motivation for trying to control it. While this was really interesting to learn, it kind of kills the replay ability. Having a strategy sandbox game contain such a rigid story makes it extremely tedious to play through the same plot twist over and over again. Total War is at its best when it provides the tools to create an emergent narrative. Instead, Warhammer 2 has provided an extremely lightweight story, with deep roots in the world meaning it never changes no matter what you do.  The cutscenes were great, the writing was brilliant, but there’s roughly a total of 2mins story for your 20hr campaign. After beating one campaign, there’s really no point in following along the same story again and again apart from seeing the different art for each one.

That’s just the story though, the rituals themselves can also largely be ignored, if you lose the race to the AI, you’ll be prompted to fight a final battle with whatever army you wish, and should you win it, that AI will be out of the vortex race completely. The battle itself isn’t even hard, as your enemies lay down their weapons and fight together against the common foe. It’s a 3v1 that you’ll never lose, unless you’re extremely far behind in the game that you can’t even manage to get one full army together.

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As the High Elves, I was just three turns behind the Dark Elves frantically trying to stop them from completing their ritual, only to find out I could’ve just waited until the end. Then a few turns later, in my final battle, I was against the other three races, but I was given unlimited ammo, massive heal and explosion spells and the enemy trickled in in smaller waves making it quite easy. Then on completion, you’ll receive an extremely minor reward for the rest of your campaign should you choose to continue to mop up.

Overall the implementation of the vortex is a failure in my opinion. In premise, it felt similar to the Advent from XCOM 2. This ticking timer that you had to keep up with, but Creative Assembly couldn’t commit to it fully, instead putting in several fail safes to make sure you couldn’t lose, defeating the entire purpose. On top of that, the story is the same for each race, so playing multiple times is borderline pointless. If you want the regular conquer anything campaign with normal Total War games, you can find that here, but you’ll have to try ignore the cutscenes, the giant UI bar and constant messages and missions about the vortex. The roaming chaos, norscan and skaven armies that fight for the rituals and the enemy AI that is designed to attack and defend ritual sites. After beating the campaign in most Total War games, I want to immediately play another one. In Total War: WARHAMMER II, I’m not sure I have any motivation to play it again.

Campaign Visuals

Let’s just get this out the way straight off the bat. The campaign map looks astonishing. The map is fixated on 4 continents of the Warhammer Universe. To the south west, you have the dense tropical jungles of Lustria, flanked by the large mountain range known as the spine of sotek. To the North West lies Naggaroth, a largely barren and icy wasteland, with Chaos corrupted mountain peaks and volcanoes. To the south east, is the Southlands, a large desert continent with a thin strip of mountains and jungles to the south. And lastly, to the north east lies Ulthuan, a magical island with a pristine climate shielding the great vortex behind it’s impenetrable mountain fortresses.

For geographical equivalents, this is basically South America, North America, Africa and then a giant ring continent, so this game’s scale is the most impressive in any Total War. 

Despite the scale, Creative Assembly have not skipped a beat on the detail. Zooming in all the way in I noticed lots of hidden nooks and cranny’s housing beautiful architecture, from Dwarfen mining networks, to Lizardmen temples and aqueducts, to even small remote caves no doubt home to mysterious creatures. The lighting is extremely pleasing to the eye, even in destitute areas, as god rays shine through the mountain peaks down on the charred terrain and lava bubbles up from the cracked chaos earth. Coral reefs and rolling clouds overhead break apart the coastlines and add some colour to the endless ocean, which can also be rife with thunderstorms and whirlpools.

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The campaign map is the most impressive part of Total War WARHAMMER II and I think is the most incredibly detailed map in any game yet, not just Total War. The texture quality and VFX are extremely high and the audio is excellent as move your camera around the different props, mountain ranges and climates.

And climate is important. Total War: WARHAMMER 2 introduces the idea of persistent climates for the first time with different races having different climate suitability preferences. There’s 10 different climates and 10 different races, though most overlap somewhere in the middle for tropical style climates, while a few others prefer the chaos ridden wastelands. It’s a mechanic that plays out pretty nicely, you can conquer wherever you want, but climate will determine how easily you’ll manage your settlements there as it effects public order, construction costs, income and more.

Economics

So how does the campaign gameplay pan out? The main new features to this game are the Vortex mechanics and rituals, which we’ve already covered. Aside from that, for any Total War veteran out there, the gameplay is instantly familiar as it’s largely the same as Total War: WARHAMMER 1 and is a simpler version of previous games like Total War: Rome 2 and Total War: Attila.

For the uninitiated, the campaign is entirely turn based, in which you play out your turn and then all the other factions play out there’s in the same sequence each time. The goal is conquest first and foremost, so you’ll spend time building up settlements in order to sustain the armies that you field. Generally speaking, the only expenditure in the game on a turn by turn basis is army upkeep and the main sources of income are taxes and trade. You use excess income to then build new armies to conquer and buildings to further your economy.

The game uses a provincial system, whereby regions will fit inside a province and owning all regions will allow you to garner province wide benefits. Each province has a capital settlement, which allows for higher tiered buildings. This is something I’ve mentioned before with the previous Total War: WARHAMMER game, but essentially factions have around 13 building chains they can build. When you own all the regions in a province you generally have 13 building slots free. This essentially means that you can build everything you want, and since buildings have no negative effects, you can just progressively build up and double up on certain buildings, like garrisons to bolster settlements and income buildings.

The system lets you specialize regions to be recruiting areas, income areas and does require some thought in the initial stages about what you want to prioritize, but once you get a bit further into your campaign it becomes extremely easy to manage and you completely forget about provinces. For novices to strategy, this is a great way to jump in and learn in a very forgiving system, but for veterans the simplification can leave them wanting more.

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Something that is sorely missed from this is a sense of immersion with the buildings and provinces in general. There’s no visible population in settlements, just a growth number. When you lose a settlement, or it gets burned to the ground I never felt bad or cared other than the fact I lost a little time investment. When you view settlements in the battles they’re empty, and while beautifully crafted, it’s often hard to picture how anyone lives in these places and there isn’t one reason to believe anyone does. Other towns don’t care when a city gets razed to ashes, millions potentially die, or hundreds, who knows and nobody bats an eye. About 20 turns later, the town is back to where it was and its as if the great holocaust of X never happened. I don’t have the time in this review to talk about why this is important, especially to this series but will get to it in the coming days on my channel. Bottom line is if you care about immersion, its lacking on the campaign.

Resources have a significant impact on the campaign, and each one has it’s own unique building chain. Gathering these resources bolsters income, allows for more trade, provides small buffs to the province and even ties into technology for the high elves, which is a really nice addition. I think having these resource buildings does shake up the monotony of the copy paste provinces you end up creating though for every other faction they don’t have a secondary use for them.

Trade on its own is such a frustrating experience that I’m surprised a whole race depends on it so heavily. All trade comes through your capital on the campaign. If you’re capital is on an island, such as it is for Teclis, then it seems you can only trade with those you’ve connected a port to. I owned the entire western coast of Lustria, bordering Dwarfs, Lizardmen and more, but could not establish a trade route, despite being able to see roads connecting our towns and being able to walk into their lands. You cannot move your capital to trade more effectively and there’s no visible trade routes on the map to relay information to the player about why they can’t establish a route. Trade also just provides money, you don’t actually get the resource to do something with it so it’s a really shallow fabrication of what trade should be.

Some of the new editions to Total War are the Treasure Hunts, Encounters at Sea and Rites. When armies march on ruins, they can perform a treasure hunt that will give you a small story and dilemma. These are interesting, but I often found they were poorly written, not for their use of creativity and intrigue, but for their disconnect with the results presented. You’ll walk into a tomb, and essentially anything can happen. You could decide to walk out, steal something, cast a spell or whatever, and nearly always the result seemingly has no bearing on what you were doing there. It’s also written from a strange perspective. It says “you” open things and “you” walk around, but I feel it should name your lord and even play off traits they have. It’d be pretty cool if a lord who has the brave trait gets a special response to use and could end up getting him killed or could return with something everyone else was too afraid to get. Instead it’s kind of impersonal, disconnected and often not worth waiting the extra turn to do it.

Encounters at sea are pretty basic, but can be nice little stories and usually guarantee you nice items and other benefits. In the early game, these encounters are well worth getting however later on they are pretty irrelevant as you don’t need whatever they give you most of the time. One encounter, the skull island, is a guaranteed 10,000 gold. Once I worked this out, I only ever went after those and it kind of killed the mystique around them. Nice idea though, and they do break up the early game.

Rites are simple faction-wide benefits that are different based on the Race. Often they require a sum of gold or some currency to obtain, and provide fairly significant changes to your faction. The lizardmen can perform a rite to gain an instant massive army of monstrous units, and the Dark Elves can use rites to recruit their Black Arks. It’s a cool feature with a nice UI screen, and it gives the player something to work towards to make life easier and to gain instant access to cool stuff. 

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Essentially in Total War: WARHAMMER II’s campaign you can’t really do anything wrong, you can just do stuff better. There is always an optimum way of doing things, and its reasonably easy to figure that out. You can’t really build something wrong, lose growth or de-stabilize your economy with buildings and because of that its just very simple and a little bit boring.

Lords, Heroes, Armies, Conquest

Armies can be created at any settlement by recruiting a lord and then can be added to with units from within your territory or from any point on the map through a global recruitment system. Doing it globally will incur cost and time penalties. The same works for army replenishment. If you’ve taken losses and want to recruit more men, the game will automatically replenish your troops should you be in home territory or if you’re in a particular army stance abroad. 

This replenishment system makes losing a particular unit in battle a little bit more costly, as they could’ve just been healed for free and will have to be re-recruited which costs time and money. If the unit survived with even just 1 man remaining, it would eventually heal and replenish for free. The catch of this is that while a unit may suffer losses, you still pay the full amount of upkeep each turn. This eliminates some of the tedium in sending armies home and manually paying for replenishing units, which can be confusing and take up time, however this system again eats away at immersion.

How are you recruiting troops 100’s of miles from home, why are units costing the same to pay each turn if half of them are dead. The fact the troops heal quickly and for free, creates a disconnect with the people in that unit. They don’t really feel alive, more like numbers ticking along in a game system. And for the most part, the system works.

This in effect means you never really care when 100 troops die right infront of you, the loss of life is insignificant so long as the unit stays in tact. So again, the gameplay is strong with this mechanic, but immersion is lacking. I feel there is a middle ground to be had here, but again will save it for another video of suggestions.

Lords themselves are needed to recruit armies and they have deep skill trees that allow for great customization. The skill trees have an available 40 slots to be filled in the campaign effects line, battle effects, personal effects and faction effects lines and there’s no way to fill up everything so choices need to be made about how you want to specialize your lords.

One such lord for me, was Enji Benji, a Lizardmen lord I recruited to keep some unrest down in some province somewhere. While Enji was helping the people, he gained traits over time that made him better at doing so as a direct result from being amongst an unhappy populace. As he ranked up, I gave him upgrades that helped with public order, removing corruption, improving taxes and recruiting units for cheap. He became a king of administration, and as his retinue expanded, I assigned him followers such as taxmen, logisticians and administrators, that increased his effects further. If there was ever a town or province in trouble, Enji Benji would go there and fix the problem in no time.

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It’s been a long time since I formed a connection to my generals in Total War, but with the depth of customization at hand, it makes it a lot easier to do so in Warhammer 2. The only downside to my lord was he looked identical to many others I recruited and never had any personality in battle as there are no speeches or any way of really distinguishing him from others. Enji Benji will always have a soft spot in my heart, unlike his asshole brother Benqi Enqi… that guy is a real piece of work.

Diplomacy

The last notable interaction you can have on the campaign map is Diplomacy. Diplomacy is how you deal with the other AI factions in the game. For the most part it works pretty well with what it let’s you do. It gives you information about trade partners, wars and alliances, let’s you set war targets and more.

It doesn’t however let you set goals in a joint war, or let you exchange provinces. This is particular frustrating because of the province system. You may have an ally that takes a part of a province and you can’t get it’s full benefits. Or worse, a faction that might not care about the vortex, could take a settlement containing a ritual resource site, and you have no other choice but to attack them to take it. It’s a very 1 dimensional system that doesn’t really make me feel like I’m talking to a faction rather than just dealing with a particular mechanic that is often just frustrating.

There’s no real back and forth or haggling to be had. Hey do you want to trade? No. Hey do you want to trade and I’ll give you 1000 gold? No. Hey do you want to trade and I’ll give you 2000 gold? Yes. Just tell me what you want! Also, it seems diplomacy has gotten more limited with the removal of the vassalization option completely from Warhammer 1 which is disappointing.

Battles

Battles on the campaign can be automatically resolved if you don’t want to fight it out. The game will do its best to simulate the outcome of a battle, but this auto resolve is one of the worst in Total War’s history. Often the auto resolve bar will display a loss for battles that are easily winnable by the player, and a win for battles that can actually be quite tricky if you fight it out. So essentially you’re encouraged to fight the easy fights and skip the hard fights, which is the opposite of what should be taking place. This is seemingly because of the absence of a reliable cause and effect for magic, which can spawn units for example, or freeze entire armies in place while you hit them with archers. Experience on units and lord levels tend to play an overblown effect also.

Furthermore, getting caught in a battle at sea is extremely unfair because of the auto resolve. Battles you could easily win if you fought it out, will see you losing entire armies at sea because Total War: WARHAMMER 2 doesn’t feature naval battles, despite around 30% of the map being ocean.

Some will cry that Games Workshop hold the license to naval battles from Creative Assembly, but I’ve seen no reliable source for this information so I don’t really believe that. Even if it were true, it’s not a good excuse for the player. Whatever bureaucracy may go on behind the scenes, it doesn’t matter to the consumer as they’re paying to play a good game. Now I personally don’t care much for naval battles anyway, but with the fantasy units I think you could balance it in a fun way unlike the ramming only combat of certain historical total war titles.

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The real issue I have is that the replacement for naval battles is just the completely borked auto resolve. I’d rather there be no option for naval battles, instead transports just ferry troops to and from land. Or battles be fought out on remote island maps to at least give the opportunity to fight. Either way, it’s terrible in it’s current implementation.

Land Battles

Fighting out battles is what you’ll spend about 20-30% of your time doing in Total War WARHAMMER II, out of the 210 turns I played in one campaign to completion, I fought 188 battles and played 60 of them myself.

The battles feel well balanced for the campaign, and look exceptionally good. The quality of models is at an all time high for the series as well as the animations and audio. This starts to fall apart slightly when you look at single entity combat. Entities will miss their targets, swivel around without animating and lock in and out of their animations, which really makes these powerful units look pretty stupid. Monstrous charges are appropriately over the top as entities get flung through the air on impact. Magic has significant influence, and you’ll be making use of it regularly. The AI, while not perfect, does a good job of setting up battle lines, flanking manoeuvres and keeping their missiles out of combat most of the time. The morale of armies tends to break after significant damage has been done, or a lord has been killed, creating mass routs which gives a real sense of great victory or a sudden defeat.

The UI can get extremely cluttered at times, but has some nice features that allow you to configure what information is presented at any time, or when holding the alternate view. This ranges from unit types, health bars, missile range and even options to remove the foliage of trees should it obstruct your view. Most of this stuff is never really explained to you in the game, with the tutorial itself being extremely lacking in teaching players some of the basics to look out for. The in game encyclopaedia has even been removed in favour of a small set of youtube videos with basically no views.

The 4 races have around 100 units available to choose from, with 4 new lores of magic containing 6 spells each. On top of this, there’s all of the Warhammer 1 spells and units available to fight against so the amount of variations possible in battle are huge. In reality though, these minor Warhammer 1 factions largely die out by the time you reach them, so I didn’t actually get to fight many, instead I just fought against the core Warhammer 2 races a lot. I would estimate 90% of my battles were against the core races.

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Repetition and battle fatigue is something that I ran into very quickly. It’ll only take a matter of a few hours before you see the same maps, and fight the same enemies on them. Even across continents you’ll come across the same battle maps, which really breaks the immersion that your fighting in that part of the world. Every now and then a map will load where you’ll recognise where you are, and it really elevates the experience of the game. In older titles terrain was generated based on algorithms, and you could see your fleets in the distance, towns and cities where they should be and land that represented the map you were on.

In Total War Warhammer 2, it seems random maps will load based on climate and your reinforcements will arrive in random places. They’ve said they’ve achieved hand crafted maps in this game as a selling point, but a lot of maps I’ve come across have been low quality and uninteresting, to the point where entire sections look unfinished or unplayable to your troops. As well as that, Warhammer 1 maps are present in the game, but load the new Warhammer 2 lighting and terrain and often look extremely out of place.

Because your fighting the same enemies over and over, you’ll often get used to doing the same formations and tactics over and over. Something noticeable is that even with the skavens superior numbers, they always just bunch up allowing you to cast mass debuff spells and ranged attacks. It’s a pretty big problem with the AI that they never seem to use numbers to their advantage instead creating large bottlenecks for themselves unnecessarily.

And bottlenecks are now a feature as Warhammer 2 has reintroduced river crossing battles. While they look nice and have been a long featured fan request, I really find them to be uninteresting as two sides clash and you end up waiting out the fight with little else to do other than call upon artillery. I feel the maps need multiple crossing points, elevated terrain or something just to break up the monotony. Chokepoint battles also don’t seem to have much tactical implication on the campaign map. Sitting on rivers or canyons trigger chokepoint battles in the old games, but now they seem to appear almost randomly and even in place of settlement battles. This makes it hard to determine where to take a defensive stand as you would normally. A check terrain feature at any point on the map would be pretty cool as you can do it before the actual battle, but really chokepoints should only appear on rivers and mountain passes and nowhere else.

Next up is siege battles, a long-criticised element from Total War: WARHAMMER 1, it’s sad to say that sieges have not changed in Total War: WARHAMMER 2. The main issue yet again is repetition.  Each siege essentially plays out the same. A mad dash for the walls, scramble over them anyway you can either with equipment of without. Fight on the walls for a bit and then push to the centre.  It’s always the same. The first 10 you do, can be very exciting but the AI never change pattern and become very predictable. Players have almost no freedom in how they approach settlements and each settlement has just one line of defense usually. There’s really not much else to say here. Unfortunately, settlements that house thousands or millions of citizens only let you fight in a very small part of the settlement, with beautiful architecture, streets and river crossings teasing you outside of the playable area.

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The AI does an ok job of defending and attacking, they never do anything particularly smart, however there’s a huge disconnect between then AI’s magic use’s and the battle itself. Wind spells, spells that travel in long lines, will often be cast on single entities or in the wrong direction, bombard spells, spells used to hit a group of enemies will be cast on moving towers and miss them completelyand spawning spells, such as the skavens menace below, will spawn a unit outside of settlement walls, before the AI decides they need to return and re-enter the settlement instantly because it’s suddenly realized they have a unit outside of the city and that’s a big no no in defensive siege battles.

What’s worse, is that particular problem will open the gates, rendering any unit attacking it immobile and unable to attack the gate. Your attacking unit may even accidentally walk into the settlement and not be able to move or get out because the gate is locked… even though its open! It’s a huge problem that is almost guaranteed to happen each time you attack a skaven city and it’s been plaguing the franchise since Rome II. The fact it’s a legacy bug adds insult to injury when the game is charging full price for content and issues present in older games that people have constantly voiced concerns about.

Last in the battle spectrum are quest battles. There are 17 quest battles in Warhammer 2, and they’re easily the most fun aspect of the game. You can access them from the front end menu screen or go on quests to fight them in your campaigns. They have little voiced cutscenes beforehand, and while some can be underwhelming, others can present new and unique ways to fight and are almost like Boss battles in many ways, asking you to kill and take down unique units in order to earn your campaign rewards.

Multiplayer

You can play multiplayer battles in Warhammer 2 of up to 8 players in a 4v4 fight, or do a 4 player free for all in which all players fight against each other. There’s also the ranked battles which are 1v1 which I guess makes it the main mode for the multiplayer community.

Personally I’ve never really enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of Total War Warhammer, it’s extremely micro intensive and fast paced, with battles lasting around 3 minutes discounting the time it takes to walk up to each other. The battles are often very small, with most standard builds bringing around 800 troops on average. It’s just not something that has ever appealed to me and as of writing this, out of the 24,000 people that are currently playing there’s 20 game lobbies in the server browser. It’s extremely niche, but does have a vocal following behind it. To me, it kind of goes against the grain of Total War, which as I understood it was supposed to be about recreating large scale battles on a somewhat realistic scale. I don’t mind fantasy units, in fact I really wanted to get into Warhammer, but if you watched something like Lord of the Rings and 800 people were fighting in the battle and it ended in 5mins I think it’d lose some of its appeal.

Where total war multiplayer does shine for me though, is in co-op and head to head modes on the campaign. You can jump in with a friend and join forces to tackle the campaign or go head to head and work to fight each other. If you go into a battle against an AI faction, your friend will step in for the AI and do their best to win. It’s extremely fun because it removes some of the repetition and predictability of the AI. In a co-op situation, you can gift your friend your units in real time so they can take over the cavalry and you can manage the infantry or whatever combination you wanted. It is, in my opinion the best way to play the campaign. It hasn’t changed much since it was introduced with Napoleon, but I’d love to see more players especially since 4 races fight for the vortex it seemed like a missed golden opportunity to play with friends here.

Conclusion / Verdict

Focusing on what Total War: WARHAMMER II does right is easy. The battles are fun. The graphics are great both on campaign and in battle. The UI has been streamlined for the better. The lore of Warhammer fantasy, while never really introduced properly, has been brought to life here through well crafted stories and interesting characters. What holds the game back from being great, are long standing issues with the series, and the failure of newly introduced features. The vortex is anti climactic and irrelevant. The AI is extremely predictable and monotonous, sending hordes of the same armies at you. The battle maps are repetitive both in terms of design and gameplay - especially the sieges. Immersion is at an all time low, with no real link between your battles and the campaign, the soldiers fighting or the people your managing.

If you’ve never played strategy games before, you’ll probably get a lot out of this game in your first few campaigns, I’d recommend it. If you’re a Warhammer 1 fan, and don’t mind some of it’s shortcomings, and want more of the same gameplay then Warhammer 2 is probably a great fit for you. If you’re a veteran of Total War and strategy this title doesn’t do anything to push the genre or franchise forward in any way. Instead it asks for full price when it shares a huge amount of assets and gameplay with it’s predecessor, and fails to build on it’s most frustrating issues.

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