The game's aesthetics thankfully extend beyond its bloody combat. The campaign map looks just as one would expect from a Warhammer property. Both landscape and settlement alike are simultaneously bombastic and understated. Mountainous passes are flanked by massive, carved skulls, Bretonnian cities glow with an Arthurian aura, and the Chaos Warriors’ rampaging path can be traced by the bloodshed and destruction left in their wake.
On top of the complexities of army composition, WARHAMMER expands on previous iterations of leadership outfitting by giving you full control over the equipment used by your armies' generals. It's not an entirely new step, as previous Total War games have allowed players to garner minor items and retinue for their named minions, but WARHAMMER presents potions, staves, armor, and weaponry that can be gained from quests or wrested from the clutches of your fallen foes and equipped to their respective slots, à la Age of Wonders 3 or Endless Legend.
The stark differences and complexities of the various factions make co-op play shine. While the starting empire locations inevitably lead to early turns becoming repeated variations of "so… how are things going on your end?", both sides of the game's two player online co-op experience vastly different versions of empire management. Obviously, this won't affect things too much when the two of you are each dealing with the initial political and combative landscapes, but once your factions begin to reach each other and homogenize, the strategic implications really begin to shine through. The mind quickly reels with possible combinations, both tactically and strategically. Perhaps your regenerative Trolls can hold a few enemy units long enough for your Vampiric allies to wheel their Terrorgheists into the enemy artillery, or maybe your Pegasi are the perfect cover for the Dwarfs' ranks of Organ Guns. Seeing these factions interact in such a way is something I've longed to experience for years, and having these systems intertwine so effortlessly is a fantastic feeling for both the Total War and Warhammer fan in me.
It's unfortunate, then, that the game continued in the tradition of Creative Assembly's patented Launch Day Bugs. While I believe games should be be judged over a period extending beyond their initial launch, the bugs preventing me from getting much time with WARHAMMER during its initial launch stages were tough to stomach. It took until the first major patch for me to feel comfortable spending lengthy sessions with the game. While it's nowhere near the Rome 2 debacle, I suspect that some users will continue to deal with issues well into the rest of 2016.
Games Workshop's history in the video game arena is spotty at best, but they've recently hit a hot streak in terms of both polished and well-supported products. When paired with Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, you and your friends could spend hours in the now-dead Warhammer Fantasy universe. Given these victories, it seems strange that GW decided to dismantle their beloved setting, scorching the earth every step of the way. Any good commander will tell you, though, the best plans are those hidden from prying eyes. Perhaps Age of Sigmar will continue this string of successes in ways we didn't even know we wanted. Who's to say? For now, though, we are blessed to have received a game so lovingly crafted from both ends of the spectrum. Whether you're a Total War junkie just dying to get your hands on the latest strategies, a Warhammer veteran looking to convert your tabletop experience to a computer monitor, or an adult whose childhood memories of epic, carpeted combat still linger, Total War: WARHAMMER is about as easy a recommendation as I've ever had to give. I'll still never forgive its creators for wasting the opportunity to name it Total Warhammer, though.
The Co-Op Experience: Similar to prior Total War games, two players can work together to conquer the game's campaign mode.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.