Total War: Warhammer is the latest instalment in the much-loved Total War series, developed by Creative Assembly. The series is known for their hybrid of Real Time Strategy in battles, and Turn Based Strategy in the campaign map, and its intense, bloody combat on a large scale. With the release of Total War: Warhammer, came the very controversial Chaos Warriors DLC, which included the integral Chaos Warriors playable faction. If you pre-ordered the game, then the DLC came with it, but without a pre-order the DLC costs £5.99.
The Chaos Warriors DLC pack was viewed by many as controversial because of what is called cut content. Cut content is essentially locking parts of the game that exist in the base game behind a paywall, only allowing them to be played after an additional purchase. The developers, Creative Assembly, have a shady history when it comes to cut content, as they have controversially released Race Packs for their previous game Total War: Rome 2. The reason all of these DLCs are called cut content is because they were in the game before purchasing the races, and in this case an integral one to the Warhammer universe, the Chaos Warriors, are only playable after paying extra. A lot of people, myself included, believe that content integral to the game should be included in the base game, not stripped away and placed behind a paywall purely for profits.
So now on to the actual DLC, why is it so special? Why does it cost extra? Well the Chaos Warriors faction, as said before, is integral to the Warhammer universe, and in turn, the game. They are the big, bad enemy, the impending doom always bent on the destruction on the rest of the Warhammer universe. They live for one purpose, to serve the Chaos gods, and this is well represented in the Chaos Warriors DLC. A plethora of new units were added, as would be expected with such a significant part of the game, the legions of Chaos were done justice.
These units include the horrifying Chaos Spawns, perfect for chewing through many units of melee troops, Dragon Ogres, the perfect line-breakers, smashing through even the most experienced and stalwart shield wall, or the Hellcannon, perfect for mopping up huge chunks of infantry at a moments notice, and spreading terror like a wave through the enemy ranks, scattering them and producing easier targets for all.
The DLC also brings in new Legendary Lords, which are potential faction leaders you pick at the start of the campaign, although the other lord or lords are available through the building trees in the late game. The first, and best, new lord is Archaon, the Lord of the End Times. As the name might suggest, he is the embodiment of the Chaos Tide, he epitomises the power of the Chaos Gods. The second lord is Kholek Sun-Eater, heralded by some as a God in his own right, he towers above every other unit in the game and is near invincible when used in the right way. An ultimate line-breaker, his dominating offense overpowers any defense, no matter how stalwart. The third, Sigvald the Magnificent, a vain Prince of Chaos, plays a support role as a commander of the Chaos armies, and cannot be used as the faction leader.
The campaign was changed solely for the Chaos Warriors faction, they are what is called a Horde faction in previous Total War titles. This means that instead of the traditional type of faction, that captures settlements and towns and builds them up according to their needs, and is very much stationary, the Horde factions have no settlements and can only sack or raze any settlements they defeat in battle. They are fluid, almost constantly on the move, towards the next target to be crushed underfoot. Whilst this sounds good on paper, and obviously fits the Chaos MO, this quickly becomes stale as it is literally the same process repeated endlessly until you win the game, with the Chaos end game units becoming so powerful, especially with research, you can steam-roll pretty much everyone. You can, however, move your force into the encampment stance, which allows you some small resemblance of a settlement in that you can build up Horde building chains, allowing for new unit production and other passive bonuses, such as extra income from looting and sacking. As a Horde faction, each army of yours is intertwined with a whole Horde encampment, so if you lose an army, you also lose your hard-fought and arduously built up encampments, so you have to be very careful in picking your fights, making sure you have reinforcements ready, or terrain to use to your advantage.
The Chaos Warriors faction is actually in the base game, regardless of whether you purchase the DLC or not. The Chaos Warriors still play the role of the harbingers of death and doom. I personally found this extremely annoying, as it is the very definition of cut content. Also, if the Chaos Warriors faction is left to be played as another AI faction, then when they incrementally send more and more armies at the realms of men and Dwarves, as they are the Northern-most factions, they specifically make a beeline right for you, as the Player. I found this a bit stupid, as I had geared my defense specifically in mind of the two or three factions that cushioned me from the incoming Chaos threat, but paying them no mind, Archaon, Kholek and two of their subjugated factions’ armies swanned through my allies lands and directly into mine, staring at my capital within a few turns. While this could be chalked up to the unpredictability of Chaos, I know that it is in fact just a game mechanic put in on purpose.
At first I was totally caught unaware, I thought I was doomed, my Dwarven garrisons didn’t seem up to the task, however as the Chaos Warriors begin their campaign at war with the majority of the rest of the world, as they are widely hated, an army sent from the lands of Kislev rode out and attacked one of the enemy forces with balls of cast iron. They were summarily crushed, but it created a necessary distraction for me to move in for a speedy riposte, as the aggressive Chaos AI tends to enjoy running down any surviving troops of a decimated enemy force. I used the Dwarven underways to my advantage, swept in, picked apart two whole Chaos expeditionary forces, with the help of my trusty garrisons reinforcing me at every turn, and felt a swell of pride as I booted the Chaos hordes out of my land for a good long while!
After this great feat, I thought to myself this was a time to bolster my defences on some of my weaker positions, I needed to create a line of solid unbreakable Dwarves, or so I thought. I was expecting Chaos to regrow two more heads like a Hydra, and come back rampaging back through the lands of men at me in full force, ready to exact their revenge on my feeble empire, but I was disappointed with the resulting consequences. The Chaos assault on the realm builds incrementally as mentioned before, and builds a great deal of tension; you expect insurmountable tides of 7ft tall, black steel clad Chaos Chosen to be smashing your lines on every front, Chaos Giants to be pounding through your strategically placed gun lines and flanking forces. The articulate, mysterious and unnerving narrative tied in with each growing step of the Chaos tide, creeping slowly closer, impressively building a real sense of awe around the Chaos.
But once I held fast against their armies for the first few intense, epic and grandiose battles, expecting this to set the pace for a long, bloody campaign stretching over many in-game years, they gradually seemed to peter out as their economy was winded; they were slowly beaten back on all fronts. All of a sudden, another notification box appears telling me the great, all-encompassing Chaos force, sent by the Dark Gods to ravage and destroy all in their path, to wreak havoc on the world and spill Blood for the Blood God… have up and left? After such a magnificent and tense build up, those first original battles and defences that carried such weight, felt like they amounted to nothing in the end, as after a few paltry turns, the climax, which at first was magnificent and fear-inducing, turned very much into an anti-climax. The entire faction literally disappears from the campaign map, without a trace, breaking all immersion built up over the first part of your campaign in a brief moment, offering no real explanations as to where they had gone and why, only saying they had been ‘defeated’.
One interesting part of their desertion from the Warhammer world, is the subjugated Norse tribes left in the wake of the Chaos War. They still fight for the Old Gods, and range far into the lands south of their homes, eventually growing to be some of the largest and most aggressive factions in the game, becoming a universal enemy for almost all of the factions spread across the width of the map. The occurrence of universal enemy factions, such as Chaos or the Norse tribes, actually adds in some interesting elements into the campaign.
For example, if you and a neighbour of yours have had disputes over land, trespassing and cultural differences, sometimes growing out of control into small-scale, short lived wars etc., you can find common ground with them in the presence of a universal enemy. Offer aid in dealing with the imminent Chaos war parties fast approaching their borders, and you can quickly make a fast friend for life. I actually really enjoyed this element of the game, diplomacy definitely shone through in this sort of situation. It felt extremely immersive rushing to the aid of a besieged ally to work together and beat back the enemy, with strength in unity. Although the friendly AI can be lacking at times, it makes it all the more satisfying when they finally rush to your aid in a desperate time of need.
So, in summary, I think the Chaos Warriors DLC definitely added a lot to the game, a whole new play style, as you play as a roaming Chaos Horde, bent on destruction. The expansive Warhammer lore was done justice with all units being correct in comparison with novels and codexes from the tabletop game, even though a bit more depth or variation when it comes to picking a particular God to back wouldn’t go amiss, perhaps gaining favour with one of the Gods and becoming a Champion of Nurgle or Khorne. The biggest downfall of this DLC has to be the money-grabbing antics of Creative Assembly. Unfortunately there isn’t any other way to describe it, even as a huge fan of their previous games, as well as this latest instalment. But once you look past the shady business practices, the content in the DLC is very worthwhile, I’ve had a lot of fun, all in all, crushing peasants, flaying Orcs, burning Vampires and eviscerating Dwarves alike, all in the name of Chaos!
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