In a recent article I shared my hopes for the upcoming Warhammer: Total War III, focusing on general gameplay improvements over any sort of setting-specific content. Among them, I talked about the dubious autoresolve feature of the game, which has been reworked in the recent string of patches. These changes have been received with much excitement by the community, but actually made things worse in my opinion.
My problem with the autoresolve was in how it calculated the odds of winning and how those odds favored specific races, units, and setups, as well as how autoresolved battles would always wipe out the losing army entirely. Instead of making meaningful changes like this, they went for the band-aid solution of just having the autoresolve spoil the outcome before you even commit to it.
You are told upfront if you’ll win or lose a battle, the kind of victory you get, and can then also see which units (if any) you’d lose as a result. People have been excited about this change, praising how it eliminates randomness and, in particular, saves them from losing valuable units while tier-1 infantrymen manage to come out unscathed. I see where these people are coming from… but if you are autoresolving battles where you risk losing strong units… why are you autoresolving them?
Autoresolve is effectively a mechanic to help you bypass content. You don’t want to fight literally every battle in the game, because a lot of them won’t pose any challenge at all. You get to skip any battle you want at the cost of surrendering your role in determining the exact outcome, which becomes riskier the bigger the battles you decide to skip are. If you auto-resolve a 50/50 battle or one that involves dozens of units, you don’t really have a right to complain when you lose a strong cavalry unit or artillery piece in spite of winning. That’s the price you pay for taking the easy way out.
Randomness is treated as something scary here, something to be combated to make the game better. In reality, the randomness is what makes many strategy games engaging; the ability of the game to catch you by surprise and force you to reinvent your strategy. Knowing that each battle has a predetermined outcome that you can just see beforehand is, frankly, lame. Your decision-making at that point isn’t strategy, it’s paperwork.
I find it a shame to see Creative Assembly cater to this kind of playstyle, where certain victories and constant expansion are prioritized. The Total War games have the potential to be so much more than glorified map-painting tools, so it makes me sad that the run-up to the series’ big finale kicks off on such weak overhaul.