Total War: Warhammer III's reveal trailer is less than a month old, but the game is already my most anticipated 2021 title. I understand the game will launch much like Warhammer II did in that it will be limited to a small-scale campaign showcasing only a handful of "new" factions. I am entirely aware Warhammer III's "Mortal Empires" campaign will not be a part of the game at launch and will likely be sold as DLC in 2022. But, fuck it;. The Warhammer III trailer got me excited in a way I have not been excited for a video game in years. I love this franchise; I love it so much it hurts. Give me more Warhammer, even if it means selling my soul to Satan!
No matter, the subject of this eventual three-part series is pretty simple. I will be looking at all of the factions that are in Warhammer II and speculate how Creative Assembly will change them to fit the theme and scope of Warhammer III. As it stands, the "new" races announced for Warhammer III include Kislev (based on Medieval Russia), Grand Cathay (based on Imperial China), and dedicated factions for each of Warhammer's Chaos Gods (Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh). Two additional races are coming but have yet to be announced. However, all signs point to the Ogre Kingdoms and Chaos Dwarfs filling those two slots. This means Warhammer III will definitely have a stronger emphasis on Chaos' forces, and a variety of pre-existing factions will likely change to mimic this pivot. The purpose of this blog is for me to share what I think Creative Assembly should explore and do for the 2022 combined campaign to make sure everyone gets the love and attention they deserve.
For some factions (i.e., The Empire or Skaven), I can only imagine a handful of slight modifications. However, there are more than a few factions (i.e., Warriors of Chaos or Beastmen) that MUST be fundamentally changed if Creative Assembly plan to include them in Warhammer III. Again, I understand that for many of these races, Creative Assembly has time to figure out what they want to do with them, and it would be unrealistic to expect them to be in Warhammer III's Vortex Campaign equivalent. Finally, given that Warhammer II is still being supported with new Legendary Lord packs, it is essential to note the current "meta" is evolving as we speak. Thus, things are even more interesting to speculate for the future. So, without further ado, let's jump into it!
Current State: Good erring towards Great
As it stands, the high elves' legendary lords break down into one of two camps: defenders and adventurers. On the one hand, you have lords like Alarielle, who defend their settlements against clear targets and largely "turtle" for upwards of twenty turns. On the other hand, you have the Loremasters of Hoeth, who go on adventures and actively put out fires before they get out of hand. No matter which flavor of the High Elves you pick, they all have fantastic magic potential and some of the better Lores of Magic in the game. In their current state, the High Elves' diversity makes them one of the easier factions to recommend as a starting point for new players. As a result, there's not much that needs to be done to the High Elves moving from Warhammer II to III. That said, a few tweaks could make them a go-to faction even for veterans.
Change #1: Spread Everyone Out & Add More Starting Positions
You'll notice a bit of a theme with certain New World factions with this three-parter. Even when Warhammer II introduced its Mortal Empires campaign, things started to feel "cramped" less than a year after the game's release. Now with Warhammer III turning its attention to Kislev and Grand Cathay, a lot of factions are going to get some much-needed "breathing room." However, that breathing-room poses a bit of a dilemma for the High Elves as their "lore-appropriate" homeland makes it difficult for many of their heroes to interact with the new content. Creative Assembly knew this was a problem in the previous game and in Warhammer II placed some of their lords on the continent of Naggaroth to force the player into confrontations with the Dark Elves. Something similar should be done to guarantee the High Elves have immediate interactions with Kislev and Grand Cathay. The Lost Isles of Elithis are what first come to mind, and they allow at least one jumping point for the High Elves to interact with the Warhammer III portion of the map.
Additionally, with Warhammer III, I want the High Elves to feel more vulnerable. Some of their lords should be trying to achieve glorious victories in battle and immediately feel as if the odds are against them. Imrik, oddly enough, is the one Legendary Lord that goes unscathed with this criticism. He is currently the one lord closest to the "action" of Warhammer III, and his difficult start leads to a lot of fun confrontations where the player feels surrounded. Nonetheless, his situation in Warhammer II makes a lot of sense for Tyrion and Teclis. Both are elven crusaders, and both could benefit from a different starting position than their current one in Warhammer II. I say split the difference and have one go towards Grand Cathay and the other towards Kislev. The more defensively minded lords should be focused on preventing the Chaos Gods from invading their homeland. Let's be real; some terrible shit is bound to pop out of The Great Vortex from time to time in Warhammer III.
Change #2: Give The High Elves More Targets And Things To Do In The Late-Game
The major recurring complaint about the High Elves is one that has existed since their introduction: their campaign is dull after about fifty turns. Part of the reason for this issue stems from them not having a lot to do beyond beating up the Dark Elves and getting the Sword of Khaine. Sure, both of these tasks take time. However, the steps involved with either don't change depending on the Legendary Lord you are playing. That's why I think the sub-factions for the High Elves should each tackle a specific Chaos God, with Tyrion focusing his attention on Archaeon. Also, the process of "beating" a Chaos God should require the player to explore different parts of the map to assemble legendary weapons, much like the Sword of Khaine. With a faction like the High Elves, you have to give them a reason to interact with the rest of the world. The worst thing Creative Assembly could do, and this applies to the Dark Elves as well, is to plop them into Warhammer III in their current form and have the player color inside the lines.
Collecting trinkets aside, we also need to discuss how the Warriors of Chaos might factor into their campaign. Closing portals to the Realm of Chaos should be a priority for the High Elves. The Great Vortex should be a focal point of this and require constant attention. I can imagine a scenario where the vortex requires magical energy that can only be found through enchanted items strewn across every continent. But, as you may recall from an earlier point of mine, the High Elves also should have tasks and missions connected to the Chaos Gods. Thus, players have more choices on what they need to accomplish every turn. Time and time again, my issue with the High Elves in Warhammer II is that once you get the Sword of Khaine, they don't have a lot to do in the late-game. Obviously, I think the solution here is to give them a lot more to do, so much so that some players could feel overwhelmed. However, if the big "theme" of Warhammer III is that the forces of Chaos are a threat and have gotten their shit together, I can think of no other way to best communicate that point than to make the High Elves' campaign a clusterfuck.
Current State: GREAT erring towards "Perfect!"
The Lizardmen are kind of in the best possible position a faction can be going from Warhammer II to III. They are fun to play and spread out across the map. Changing their starting locations to direct their Legendary Lords towards the newer portions of the map shouldn't be that hard. The only issue with the Lizardmen is that their version of "corruption" (i.e., the Geomantic Web) is boring, and the rites system leaves a lot to be desired. Speaking of which....
Change #1: Completely Reform The Rites And Geomantic Web Mechanics
You may recall a series of blogs "ranking" each of the factions in Warhammer II from ArbitraryWater a while back. In it, they caught a bit of flack when they said they found the faction-specific mechanics for the Lizardmen to be "boring," and I tend to agree. The big point of contention is the Geomantic Web, which bestows a bevy of buffs to the Lizardmen based on their provinces, buildings, and commandments. The mechanic is straightforward to a fault, and it does not meld all that well with the game's other influence and corruption mechanics (i.e., Chaos, Vampiric, or Skaven Corruption). I think the obvious solution is to have the Geomantic Web become stronger not entirely through monuments but feats of victory against Chaos Corruption. A Lizardmen province bordering a void of chaos should not add ANYTHING to the Geomantic Web, regardless of its monuments, until that void is destroyed. Provinces under the Geomantic Web should still continue to have buffs when attacked by the forces of Chaos. Including both points here provides Chaos players with focus points when invading the Lizardmen. For the Lizardmen, players will know where to pool their defensive resources when being invaded.
Then, we have the rites mechanic. I like rites, but I do have to admit the entire mechanic needs a lot of work. When the Lizardmen appear in Warhammer III, which from the onset is not a guarantee, rites should involve more than "Pay X Amount of Gold for Cool Shit." I can understand if the best hero units are tied behind this mechanic, and the Rite of Primeval Glory spawning a full stack of dinosaurs is one of the most satisfying things to do in Warhammer II. Nonetheless, debuffing enemy units with extra attrition has always felt like a waste of a rite. In the place of the buff and debuff-focused rites, I would rather see rituals that assist in ridding the map of Chaos Corruption. Finally, having the rites' cost be based on "Favour" or "Gold" has always felt weird especially considering the Lizardmen are Aztec dinosaurs. I know my next point is bound to make me sound like a crazy person, but hear me out on this one. I think the rites should involve sacrificing a percentage of your civilian population, making calling them more disadvantageous to your faction long-term. As it stands, there's no balance to the mechanic, and you often look like a fool holding on to them for more than a few turns. So, make the player debate if now really is the time to pop a rite.
Change #2: Add A Faction Start & New LL On The Dragon Isles
Looking at what we know of Warhammer III's starting campaign, it will feature four new factions aligned with each of the Chaos Gods. Additionally, the Vortex Campaign equivalent will include Kislev, Grand Cathay, and two unannounced races. The prevailing theory for these two unannounced races is that one will involve the Ogre Kingdoms, and the other will be Chaos Dwarves. Notice, however, that Creative Assembly has emphasized the words "new races" whenever people ask about Ogre Kingdoms or Chaos Dwarves. That does not mean pre-existing New and Old World factions will not exist in the vanilla Warhammer III campaign. That is why I think there is some hope for a new starting location for the Lizardmen near Grand Cathay in the form of "Savage Lizardmen" on the Dragon Isles. They wouldn't technically be a new "race," and would instead showcase a chaotic "palette swap" of the pre-existing Lizardmen roster.
Within lore, the Temple-Cities of the Southlands and Dragon Isles became cut-off from their Slanns, and as a result, its people became savage barbarians. The Dragon Isles are of particular interest for Warhammer III as they are close to Grand Cathay and could pose as an interesting early target or rival. However, why stop at just having them be a minor faction? The Lizardmen are one of the factions that need reasons to interact with the world of Warhammer III. I think giving them a playable sub-faction that everyone hates, much like Morathi for the Dark Elves, spices things up, and I'm always up for each faction having an "odd man out!" These savage Lizardmen would have a modified horde mechanic in place of the customary rites and Geomantic Web mechanics. Also, I think Grand Cathay needs more enemies, and adding a new Lizardmen sub-faction solves that problem pretty quickly.
Current State: Good-ish
I can't entirely explain why, but I am legitimately worried how the Dark Elves will translate into Warhammer III. They are due to get one more lord, which means they will likely be the focus of the last lord pack for Warhammer II. Nonetheless, as I suggested in my High Elves entry, the absolute worst thing Creative Assembly could do would be to plop the Dark Elves into Warhammer III's Mortal Empires campaign "as is" and hope for the best. Most Dark Elves start in incredibly isolated positions and have to work their way towards viable targets. With most of the attention moving from the New World to Kislev and Grand Cathay, the Dark Elves need a reason to explore the world map. And we will get into it, but the standard solution of aligning each lord with a Chaos God doesn't really "work" with the Dark Elves as most, while practitioners of dark magic, do not profess support for the Chaos Gods. That said, pitting them against the Chaos Gods could prove tricky. But with that in mind, let's jump into my recommendations.
Change #1: Completly Rehaul Everyone's Starting Location
When it comes to the Dark Elves, this honestly is the big "elephant in the room." The Dark Elves heavily benefited from being the main focus of Warhammer II. Their heavily isolated position on the continent of Naggaroth wasn't an issue as Creative Assembly placed the High Elves in their vicinity to create immediate threats. That will not be the case moving forward into Warhammer III, with Kislev, Grand Cathay, and Chaos Undivided being the likely focal points instead. The Dark Elves are going to need to spread out to interact with the new portions of the map, and for the more isolated factions, they need legitimate targets to aim for within turn ten. Otherwise, you end up with a dull campaign where you are stuck conquering rebel settlements for twenty turns, and no one wants that. The best course of action, in my mind at least, is to direct half of the current roster towards the High Elves and the other half towards Grand Cathay or Kislev. Maybe have more relics or enchanted items connected to the Sword of Khaine and have their parts and pieces scattered across Grand Cathay, Kislev, and even the Chaos Wastes. Khaine's Ring of Fury immediately comes to mind as something that could serve as a raison d'etre for the Dark Elves.
However, who gets moved and where is anyone's guess. Malekith can start wherever the fuck you want him, but he needs to have Naggarond as his province. Malus's current starting position is on the Dragon Isle's, and that's not going to cut it in Warhammer III. Then you have Lokhir Fellheart, a corsair known for having raided sea trade routes off the coasts of Ind and Grand Cathay. Lokhir will need a new "home" if you want him raiding the lands of Warhammer III any time soon. Then you have Morathi, a self-professed worshiper of Slaanesh. Do you remove her from the Dark Elves' roster and put her next to Sigvald and wherever the rest of Slaanesh is starting? Or, do you keep her current starting position and make her "play nice" with her shitty son and the rest of the Dark Elves' roster? There's a ton of potential with the Dark Elves, but you also have to consider how you want them to react to the forces of Chaos.
Change #2: Make Dark Elves Give A Shit About Chaos & Chaos Corruption
Right, so this is where the Dark Elves could get "messy." Except for Morathi, the Dark Elves are not aligned towards the Chaos Gods even if they practice destructive magic. Instead, they worship the elven God of Khaine, and that should put them in conflict with the Gods of Chaos. Nonetheless, and this is mostly the case in their current form in Warhammer II, the Dark Elves don't give a shit about the Warriors of Chaos. Part of the reason for this issue is that it is hard for the Warriors of Chaos or the end-game Chaos Invasion to reach them. I think the easiest fix would be to plop a portal to the realm of Chaos on their home continent and force the Dark Elves into an early confrontation so they cannot stay politically neutral as the rest of the world catches on fire. Again, I think there's a legitimate "threat" of the Dark Elves simply "turtling," especially when controlled by the A.I., for long periods unless something fucks their shit up.
Finally, with the introduction of the Chaos Gods, Warhammer III will need to reform how Chaos Corruption works in the game. In its current form, Chaos Corruption is a joke and ranks far below Vampiric and Skaven Corruption. However, when Chaos Corruption gets its much-needed buff, every faction will need a race-specific way of going about ridding it. The strategy of "purifying" a province of Chaos Corruption for Brettonia or The Empire shouldn't mirror what the Dark Elves' approach might be. The last thing I think anyone wants is for a core mechanic in Warhammer III to play exactly the same across all factions. The diversity of Warhammer II's races and nations is one of its most significant selling points. Fuck, if anything, the Dark Elves warrant their own corruption mechanic where they spread dark magic to untainted land. Furthermore, I think Morathi spreading corruption would make things interesting on the Dark Elves' home continent.
Current State: PERFECT!
The Skaven have everything. They are the best faction in Warhammer II, and it is not even a contest. Besides making Tretch not a gigantic piece of shit, there's nothing you need to do with the current roster going from Warhammer II to III. Throt, Ikit Claw, and Skrolk are a ton of fun, and the way they play differently ensures no Skaven campaign will ever be the same. The Undercity mechanic makes moving around factions a cinch, and they already inhabit different parts of the map. Both of their Lores of Magic are great, and their corruption mechanic is the best in the game. If all Creative Assembly did was change each of the Skaven Legendary Lords' starting positions, I would not be salty about it. That said, I think there are a few things that should change about the faction when they do appear in Warhammer III, yes-yes.
Change #1: Move Clan Eshin & Give Everyone A Proper Forbidden Workshop Equivalent
The first point here is about as self-explanatory as it can be. Creative Assembly should change Clan Eshin's starting location and modify their undercity points to put them in direct conflict with Grand Cathay. For various reasons, Grand Cathay is Warhammer III's "wild card" as their backstory is not as fleshed out as the other announced factions. However, Clan Eshin has always been established as the Skaven Clan that "tainted" Nippon, Ind, and Cathay. I also think Deathmaster Snikch is the perfect foil to Cathay's imperial mystique and its mighty Dragon Emperor. Given that Games Workshop has signaled they are willing to let Creative Assembly go ham with Grand Cathay, I think the same creative freedom should apply to Clan Eshin's network of possible under-cities. Again, this is a simple fix, and I doubt Creative Assembly will disappoint Skaven fans.
Regarding the Forbidden Workshop, I am willing to die on the hill saying sub-faction-specific mechanics have hurt Warhammer II's meta. Don't get me wrong, I love the Forbidden Workshop and Grom's Cauldron, but the factions that do not get these mechanics always suffer when they do not have an appropriate equivalent. Things are not as bad with the Skaven as they are with the Greenskins, but Clan Skryre is my most played Skaven faction for a reason. Clan Pestilens can concoct plagues, and Clan Moulder can develop horrible mutants, but the Forbidden Workshop is still on a whole different level. Moreover, to further highlight why Tretch sucks shit, he starts with shitty stats and has no underlying mechanic to get entirely out of that hole. I'm not asking everyone to have a tech tree or upgrade system precisely like the Forbidden Workshop. Instead, Creative Assembly needs to ensure there's a greater sense of balance between the sub-faction-specific mechanics. Otherwise, I'm sticking with Ikit Claw nine times out of ten.
Change #2: Nerf Skaven Corruption
It always feels weird advocating for a mechanic or faction to get weaker in a speculation blog, but here we are. As I hinted at in my Dark Elves section, Skaven Corruption is, by a country mile, the most potent form of corruption in Warhammer II. It allows Skaven generals and Lords to get additional uses of the Menace Below ability and inflict negative buffs on opposing generals. That last part delivers a whopping -15 leadership to afflicted armies when they attempt to fight the Skaven. However, it is the extra uses of the Menace Below ability that makes Skaven Corruption gnarly. Also, identifying Skaven Corruption is not as easy as it is with Vampiric or Chaos Corruption, and eliminating under-cities is a massive pain in the ass. Overall, it is a potent mechanic and remains a threat well into the late-game if you are not careful.
I'm not necessarily against the current buffs carrying over into Warhammer III. However, it would be a BAD LOOK if Skaven Corruption continued to outperform Chaos Corruption in a campaign where each of the Chaos Gods has their disciples stomping about and laying waste to the world of Warhammer Fantasy. As such, I think it makes sense for Chaos Corruption to have an advantage over all other forms of corruption. Chaos Corruption should spread faster than Skaven Corruption, and it should be able to overlap and overtake it more easily. Furthermore, the effects of Skaven Corruption should not impact Chaos or hoard-based faction leaders as much as it does for factions like Bretonnia or The Empire. Finally, I think it makes sense if the number of additional Menace Belows you gain from Skaven Corruption went down or was eliminated and, instead, exclusively a part of each lord's tech tree.
Change #3: Add Thanquol As A Legendary Lord
Do it, you cowards. Please, do it for the kids. You know everyone wants Thanquol as a Legendary Lord in Warhammer III. So, make it happen. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.
Current State: GREAT... as long as you forget that they are supposed to be a naval-based faction!
Alright, as the sub-headline here suggests, I am going to completely side-step the real existential issue facing Vampire Coast. That is, they are a faction whose leaders repeatedly refer to themselves as "admirals," but there's no "real" naval combat in Total Warhammer II. Obviously, there's a reason for that. As most of you know, every time Creative Assembly has tried to add naval warfare to their games, it has SUCKED SHIT! And to be perfectly honest, I do not want Warhammer III to be their third or fourth bite at that apple. I think all of the faction leaders for Vampire Coast provide so much more than naval-based trade or combat buffs that I am willing to overlook this anachronism. Seriously, they are one of the most downright fun factions to play short of the Skaven. Regardless, Vampire Coast is in an impeccable position to interact with virtually all of the Warhammer III map. Nevertheless, there are a few "balance" issues I think need addressing.
Change #1: Make Looting & Sacking Feel "Special" For Pirates
Okay, let's briefly dabble with the present meta in Warhammer II. Currently, after taking a settlement, you usually have three possible choices, and before you comment, I know things are slightly different for hordes. The options are to occupy the settlement outright, loot the settlement then occupy it, or sack the settlement and then occupy it. The difference between those last two choices is not as straightforward as you may think. Sacking a settlement always provides a lot more gold and destroys all of the buildings in the province. However, looting a settlement offers a smaller amount of gold, but it just downgrades or damages the buildings inside it. The big issue with looting is that in low-tier territories, the cost of repairing structures can be more than the amount you earn from looting. For pirate-based factions, looting, lore-wise at least, makes more sense than sacking, but it is a burden to do for much of the game.
Even if you want to argue sacking low-tier settlements should be the way to go for pirates, which I don't necessarily disagree with, then the EXP and gold bonuses from sacking should change dramatically, especially for pirates. Sacking and looting are potent tools for power-leveling Legendary Lords in the early game, but for Vampire Coast, they should get more out of sacking and looting than gold and EXP. Likewise, despite what some may tell you, Vampire Coast is STILL a non-horde faction and needs to occupy settlements to meet their victory conditions. I know I have avoided the topic of victory conditions in this blog, but it makes a lot of sense for each Vampire Coast Legendary Lord to occupy at least one settlement on every continent before kicking up their boots and declaring "mission accomplished." On a related note, I think every province should have unique loot or trinkets that can be combined or equipped to dole out special faction-wide buffs for our swashbucklers. Which leads me to my next point....
Change #2: Give Them A Grom's Cauldron Equivalent
Hopefully, this change helps people avoid what I think is one of the most common mistakes I see people make whenever they play Vampire Coast. Everyone gets tunnel vision and sticks with the first continent they invade on turn four or five instead of exploring the world like a roving band of pirates. Sure, there's plenty of treasure to get in Warhammer II, but there's nothing in-game to encourage the player to start raiding multiple targets like a true pirate king. Unless, of course, Creative Assembly introduced a new Vampire Coast mechanic that forced players to continue exploring the world even during a massive faction-based raid. As a result of pillaging, I think pirates should collect loot that differs from province to province, and these should be combinable to create better weapons or tools for the Vampire Coast's roster. If players want to get the most out of the faction, they will need to be an omnipotent threat to everyone on the map.
Like Grom's Cauldron, I think you should be able to merge these resources to create faction-wide buffs. Sure, there are already quests for Legendary Weapons, but my idea here is to allow players to equip more potent transitional weapons before getting "the good stuff." Or, if The Forbidden Workshop tickles your fancy, require players to spend different trinkets to unlock additional units or abilities on a tech tree. For example, maybe to unlock better flintlock pistols for Luther Harkon or gunnery units, a player first needs to raid a settlement in Grand Cathay for better saltpeter. The point here is also for Vampire Coast to buff their units and not just their Legendary Lords through what they do best: pillaging and razing settlements. Honestly, I think there's a lot of potential for Vampire Coast moving from Warhammer II to III if Creative Assembly wants to make them a free-floating menace.
Change #3: Add Clan Skurvy
Fucking do it!I get that Captain Roth and his Grand Alliance make more sense, but who will argue against ghost pirate Skaven?! They would be a fun hybrid faction taking the Skaven and Vampire Coast's best attributes and put them in a single package.