I’ve got a confession to make. You see, I happen to be a fan of the Warhammer franchise.

Not just a regular fan, mind you, but a true zealot. So it was a pleasure to write the Total War: Warhammer II review.

Let’s be clear. I’ve collected the models, played the tabletop games and even inscribed my flesh with a symbol showing my dedication to the ruinous powers (that’s Warhammer speak for I have a tattoo).

So, when I say that this is the best Warhammer game in years, you can be damn sure that I know what I’m talking about.

There is only war in Total War: Warhammer II.

If you’ve ever played any game in the Total War series then you pretty much know what you’re getting into. You have an expansive overworld in which your nation captures settlements, builds resource and unit structures, engages in diplomacy and waits for war to inevitably breakout. When it does, you have the option to resolve these conflicts on the battlefield, commanding armies and individual units in intensely realistic and frantic battles.

Well, as realistic as one can expect with dragons and skeletons in the mix.

Or Lizardmen and Elves in this case – Source Total War: Warhammer II

Yes, the formula of applying real-world military tactics to the heavy metal cover art setting of Warhammer that made the first Warhammer: Total War a blast to play has been left untouched.

Instead, the sequel takes place halfway across the planet in The New World. With a new setting comes new factions. The noble High Elves, their twisted cousins the Dark Elves, the ritualistic Lizardmen and the verminous Skaven. Each of these factions was a noticeable absence from the expansive roster of the first game, so it’s great to finally play them. And on top of all that, there is a new campaign mode that drastically changes the familiar play style.

Welcome to the beautiful and horrific New World

The new maps span the three continents of Naggaroth, Lustria, and Ulthuan. Right from the start, you’re getting a lot more variety in your setting. The dense jungles of Lustria make it a nightmare to navigate through, while the frozen shores of Naggaroth will constantly sap your army’s strength.

But what really makes this world feel different is the colour and character of the new factions.

The main appeal of Warhammer as a franchise is they take every fantasy trope and turn it all the way up to eleven.

I mean just look at these guys – Source Total War: Warhammer II

The Dark Elves aren’t just evil. They’re so evil that they clad themselves in black armour, worship a god of murder and have a holiday where scantily clad witch elves throw anyone who doesn’t barricade their doors into a cauldron of boiling blood. It’s intense.

Creative Assembly deserves a lot of credit for capturing a decade’s worth of this intense lore in its game. The brilliant voice acting, great character designs and hints to a larger world weren’t necessary inclusions, but by throwing them in the mix, the game feels all the more epic in its scope.

The Great Vortex beckons

If Total War: Warhammer II only had a new map and few factions to offer, it would be hard to justify its full game price. Fortunately, the new campaign mode more than makes up for the difference.

The Great Vortex is in danger. The magical maelstrom sucks the excess power from the Winds of Magic from the world, containing the taint of Chaos to the barbaric North. However, it is also a source of great power for those unscrupulous enough to covet it.

This magical McGuffin is the focal point of the campaign. Each faction must search for ritual resources across the three continents to provide the fuel to enact their own rites to alter The Great Vortex.

Essentially it is a resource race. Only certain cities will have these resources, so your first job will be securing and defending them from your enemies. Then you will need to perform the rites. The only issue is that every rival faction will know when these rituals begin and they will send their armies in hit and run assaults to disrupt them.

The elf lands are so pretty when they burn – Source Total War: Warhammer II

Ultimately, these changes are simple, but they completely change the pace of the game. No longer is the campaign a slow march towards world domination. In fact, capturing too many settlements can put you a disadvantage as you divert resources that could be better spent elsewhere defending them. Instead, the campaign is built around raiding and retreating.

It is a testament to how tight and strategic Creative Assembly’s gameplay it. With only a few tweaks they’ve managed to create a style of play that feels completely different, but equally enjoyable.

Total War: Warhammer II Summary

Total War: Warhammer II is worthy of the franchise. It carries the spirit of over a decade of war, bringing it into the modern day with new mechanics and great presentation. Take it from this hardcore fanboy who is not easy to please.

Living proof that playing video games and watching cartoons all day can get you places. Specifically, places where you'll be writing about video games and cartoons all day.