Warhammer: Total War is, without a doubt, a favorite game of mine. I have lost hundreds of hours waging wars in its fantastical setting and nerding out whenever a new lore character was added into the playable roster. It even got me to (re-)read the old books!
Soon we’ll finally reach the third entry in this saga and what little we know about it is very exciting indeed. However, there are some frustrations that have lingered in the series for far too long now and which I hope will finally be addressed. Here are my 5 wishes for Warhammer: Total War III.
Reasonable victory conditions
My love for the Total War series stems from Medieval II: Total War, and one aspect in which Warhammer falls short compared to this strategy classic is in its victory conditions. “Short” and “Long” campaigns have been a staple of Total War for years now, yet Warhammer: Total War has gotten them consistently wrong.
A short campaign used to mean players had to conquer a fair bit of land and eliminate their faction’s main rivals. Say, for example, England having to beat Scotland and France while holding on to a total of 15 settlements. These are objectives that will last players for dozens of turns and provide fun, meaningful objectives to direct their campaign. The long campaigns will usually triple the requirements, usually tasking the player with conquering 45 regions and hold a much-contested city like Rome, Jerusalem, or Constantinople.
By comparison, almost every faction in Warhammer will be required to deal with the end-game crisis event, unite their entire species, and eliminate dozens of factions just to beat the short campaign. Even very focused factions like Clan Angrund will have their lore-based objectives just be some mechanic or minor quest that then expands into having to do basically the same tasks as every other faction.
It’s telling that one of most popular and oft-recommended mods for the game is an overhaul of its victory conditions, because players constantly find themselves abandoning incomplete campaigns they have long since grown tired of. Who can blame them when even “short” campaigns require them to carve out sprawling empires for 200+ turns.
I hope CA will go back to their old setup and give us an official solution to these unreasonable objectives.
Reworked siege battles
Few will deny that siege battles are some of the most boring encounters in the game, yet we are often forced to fight them anyway due to the fickle nature of the auto-resolve function. Players will try anything in their power to avoid them, so a rework is desperately needed.
The problems are well-known by now. Siege maps are all largely the same and afford little to no variety for either the attackers or the defenders. There is no interesting architecture to work around or unique defenses to utilize, meaning every battle feels like a fight over the same walls with the same types of siege engines. These battles have always been kinda lame throughout the series, but the fantastical setting of Warhammer has only served to amplify how little there is to work with and how samey these battles have become.
We really need more diverse maps to make the battles themselves more tactical and engaging, but we should also have more interesting defenses to build. When fighting an enemy with lots of flying units I’d like to be able to build counter-measures, or how about a moat to force enemies into bringing a ram. These could be costly investments, but it would make castles feel special and could reward attackers who employ espionage.
Of course, general updates like better AI during siege battles would also go a long way towards making them more fun to play through.
Improved world map AI
Speaking of AI, it’d be nice if it did more in general. Warhammer is home to dozens of interesting factions with unique starting locations and fascinating heroes, many of whom will stand around for hundreds of turns and do nothing.
And I mean that literally. In my recent Chevaliers de Lyonesse campaign, my dwarf allies remained completely stationary for over a 100 turns, even as I left mountain settlements untouched for them just walk in and take. They just stood there, seemingly skipping their turn every time. It got so bad that a completely unrelated army from halfway across the world marched in and took the settlements in their stead, whereupon I was dragged into a war to claim them anyway.
That the AI cheats to remain competitive is well-known, but it should at least pretend to be playing the same game as the players. Otherwise it’d be like playing a first person shooter where the bots can shoot through walls, but 90% of them stand perfectly still until the player shoots at them first.
“It’s called Total War, not Total Talk” is an excuse that only gets you so far. The truth of the matter is that diplomacy is a vital aspect of any Warhammer: Total War campaign, but is so simple that every relationship follows the exact same progression.
You just follow the same chain of agreements, which translates into a higher relationship score that unlocks alliances and, eventually, a confederation. Sometimes you pay a bit of money to help things along or agree to join an inconsequential war, but that’s it. Allies don’t get mad if your promised help never comes, they never give you quests, and you can’t coordinate with anything they are doing. Being able to negotiate over regions is an oft-requested feature, but I’ve seen plenty of situations where I felt a diplomatic option could’ve been very interesting.
Why can’t you mediate when two allies go to war? Why can’t you void a peace treaty if a “former” enemy threatens your frontiers? Why can’t you contest a confederation when a major power assimilates an ally or trade partner? Total War doesn’t have to turn into a Paradox game, but it’s frustrating when the game forces you rely on war all the time while also penalizing you for not being diplomatic enough.
The auto-resolve is a neat feature that limits how often players need to go through loading screens just to fight a battle. Some encounters are simply too petty to bother with, so you auto-resolve to the obvious conclusion and carry on. The problem is that the current state of auto-resolve is too easily abused.
The criteria that decide how likely it is to win a battle are opaque at best, meaning some fantastic armies are written off as lost causes whereas mediocre, wounded armies are held up as unbeatable. This let’s players worm their way out of a bad situation by auto-resolving battles they’d never have won, or forces them to repeatedly deal with insignificant battles where they suffer barely any casualties.
Another weakness of the auto-resolve is that the results are often outlandish. Losing armies are completely wiped out without even a straggler making it out, whereas victors tend to suffer only a percentage of casualties per unit. Only rarely are units in the winning army wiped out, which means a player that auto-resolves can effortlessly keep on steamrolling while the losing side is afforded 0 opportunity to recover.
I wouldn’t advocate for a complete removal, but both the odds and the results should be rebalanced to be more fair.