Ursun, the Bear god of Kislev roars and the world has to pay attention. His dying screams are unleashing havoc and the only way to control your destiny is to use his harnessed soul for your own nefarious purposes. With so many factions to choose from, Total War: Warhammer 3 makes an appealing choice out of them all.
Factions sit at the heart of the Total War experience and, this time around, every one of them is designed to have their own goals and desires. It's hard not to roleplay your choice when it is accompanied by those visceral sounds and sights.
Nurgle just has that right kind of rot, the ability to feel like you're tearing everything apart just by your presence. Kislev has that sense of righteousness - the ability to feel like you are better than your opponents. These all play into each other to make a healthy and vibrant world map.
As you get into each campaign, you have to figure out where your enemies lie and how much space you can take before you have spread yourself too thin.
Ultimately, Total War: Warhammer 3 is a game dominated by microdecisions. You are constantly challenged to get rid of new threats, whilst building up your own army. This can be done through diplomacy or through brute force.
You can ally with the greatest military to take out the smaller factions or align yourself with the smaller factions to take out the biggest threat. You could pay someone to wage war on your enemy or sit back and let everyone else fight. Diplomacy is just one way of advancing your campaign though.
If you want to just go in and smash everything, that can be a lot of fun, especially if you can grasp Total War: Warhammer 3's intense combat. Although you have the option to simulate your fights based on your army size, learning how to master the field and control your armies can really change the way you play the game.
Instead of running away from conflict unless the win is absolutely assured, it encourages you to take risks and come up with strategies the game doesn't account for. While it factors your armies into account, it can't calculate your strategy. Warhammer 3 is filled with dozens of risk-reward systems and you just have to get comfortable with that paradigm.
In this sense, Total War: Warhammer 3 is occasionally quite brutal. You are left constantly spinning plates so you are never quite prepared for a right hook. While you fight off hordes of armies and take settlements, Ursun death rattles open up rifts across the world - both a threat and a win condition. This leaves you scrambling to piece together your strategy once again.
Never get too comfortable with your position because you need to shift it entirely in a single turn. Those rifts give you insight into other dimensions, where you can harness Ursun and secure the win. They take about a fifth of your campaign to show up but, when they do, they can really do damage.
If you fail to explore or stop them in time, hordes will start coming out, ready to ransack your villages and take out whatever they can on the way.
They are forces of nature, purely there to cause havoc. You can send out an army to close the many rifts but doing so loses access to a potentially valuable resource. In your time with the game. You will find yourself constantly stretching your resources a little too thin, only to be hit by the consequences of your actions.
This can often be brutally punishing as you are forced to adapt your playstyle and shrink your own armies. As well as this, some actions have a domino effect that can snowball into a wrecked campaign. One city being taken or ransacked can make you lose control in others - leading to rebellions.
If you let these run without an iron fist, it can pile on into a full-on revolution of your entire empire. Meticulous detail has been put into these scenarios, really making you feel the weight of a bad action.
That being said, like in previous games, figuring out what makes your faction tick is incredibly satisfying. You may stumble your way through a handful of campaigns, only for it to finally click and illuminate what you've been getting wrong this whole time.
A good example of this can be found in the Grand Cathay. This race is all based on balance. The goal is to align two counter forces to sit in tranquillity between them. You are at your best when your research is spent on competing sides. Your armies are toughest with a range of units.
In their hatred of chaos, they must control everything. At their best, they are incredibly strong and adept at combat and diplomacy. Unfortunately, they tend to snowball hard and, if one thing goes wrong, everything else can too.
What makes it work
In a way, this captures the brilliant charm of Total War: Warhammer 3. Its systems are deep and tough to figure out. You will often find your entire plans going poorly and your campaign crashing hard. That being said, your ability to pick yourself up and try again is almost unmatched.
It has a difficulty that inspires you to try again, rather than one that beats you down. Your own failures become an inspiration for your next campaign. It can be a little slow to really get going but it's worth it when you get there.
That being said, my experience wasn't always at its best. I had some strange performance issues on my Ryzen 7, RTX 3070 rig. Occasionally, frames would stutter and some effects like snow would really drag the entire experience down. It seems likely that the issues will be fixed around launch but they certainly held back my experience somewhat.
Talking about launch, there's so much to look forward to in Total War: Warhammer 3. The team are working on new DLC and ways to tie all three games together in organic ways. In that sense, it seems to be aiming for the experience that tabletop gaming gives you. Whilst you can spot certain sets, they fit together seamlessly and work towards a grander narrative. Sets fit together like lego pieces - distinct by themselves but much greater together.
The campaign isn't the only experience you can find in Total War: Warhammer 3. As well as having a decent tutorial prologue and a multiplayer, you can partake in single battles over big maps or more cinematic battles, intended to tell a central story.
Total War: Warhammer 3 Verdict
Total War: Warhammer 3 is a familiar game with so many unfamiliar parts. It is instantly easy to pick up again but just as much of a struggle to figure out as the previous games. That struggle comes with a rewarding difficulty, complex systems and so much content to make your way through.
Although I got hit with a few performance issues in my time with the game and parts of it is a little slow, it is clear this is the biggest and most thorough Warhammer game to date.
RealSport Rating: 4.5 out of 5
We reviewed Total War: Warhammer 3 on PC with code provided by Sega.