2017’s E3 may have come and gone, but we’re not through with it yet. Among many publishers and developers at the show, Sega and Creative Assembly were around to show off their much anticipated sequel for the Total War: Warhammer series. GameWatcher stopped by the Total War: Warhammer 2 scene to get some hands-on time with the vicious and ruthless Lizardmen race that will be making their debut in the new game. The scaley beasts were intense and we unleashed havoc upon our High Elf foes with strong infantry, flying terrors, and gigantic dinosaurs.
When the battlefield was clear, we were left with a rapid pulse and a slew of questions. Luckily, Lead Writer Andy Cole and Game Designer Mark Sinclair were kind enough to sit down with us and expand upon what we saw in our playtime. Cole and Sinclair took us through the whirlwind of advancements that have been made for Total War: Warhammer 2, including the state of the Grand Campaign, the mechanics of these new races, where our old races from the first Warhammer fit in, and more.
GameWatcher: It has been a busy year for Total War: Warhammer. It didn’t just stop at releasing the original game last year. You’ve also released several DLC and now you’re gearing up for this exciting new horizon in Total War: Warhammer 2. Does it feel like a whirlwind to be here or are you exactly where you planned to be by this point?
Mark Sinclair: It’s both, I think. We’ve always wanted to represent everything that is in Warhammer. There’s so much content and so many years of backstory, sixteen races, a huge map, and more. We planned out this from the beginning as a trilogy and here we are at the second game. I think it’s where we planned to be, but it’s also non-stop and crazy. We’re really happy with what we’re producing.
Andy Cole: We kind of hit the ground running with Total War: Warhammer 2. In a way, the first Total War: Warhammer was a proof of concept. We’ve taken all the feedback that we’ve received to figure out where we can focus our energies. For instance, people like the races being so different, so we jumped straight into that in making sure that the Lizardmen play entirely different from the High Elves, Dark Elves, and unannounced fourth race. Also, we thought it was a great opportunity to try something different with the main campaign. We’ve gotten great feedback and it’s given us a great direction. We’re really pushing through on Warhammer 2 in great new ways.
GameWatcher: A big part of the Grand Campaign was certain around the arrival of the Warriors of Chaos and how each other faction worked against that threat. Where do we find ourselves with the new campaign in Total Warhammer 2?
Cole: For the new campaign, we’re in another part of the Warhammer world. There’s this Great Vortex, which is a big hole in the middle of Ulthuan that sucks up all the excess energy and magic in the world. It’s starting to falter because the Comet of Sigmar and Sotek has flown across the sky. Usually the Comet is a good omen, but this time it seems it’s flown a bit too low and knocked the Great Vortex off kilter, leaving it vulnerable. It makes for a cool motivation for our four different races to take it over, protect it, or save it. For instance, while the High Elves are trying to save it, the Lizardmen are trying to bolster it, and their ideologies on what’s best for it clash. So we’ve got this nice narrative tension and what that allows us to do is put these four groups in a race against time. It’s not necessarily all about being the biggest kid on the block. Even if you’ve got the best empire in Total War: Warhammer 2, you can still lose if you’re not keeping your eyes on the Vortex and everything that goes with it.
GameWatcher: So does the campaign in Total War: Warhammer 2 step away from the factions of the first game entirely? Will we see the Vampire Counts, the Imperials, and others make a return at all in the new campaign?
Sinclair: Every race that was in the first game is going to be featured in some way in the new Great Vortex map. They won’t be playable, but you will see pockets of them that are actually true to the lore based on our campaign. For example, in Lustria where the Lizardmen start, it’s a bit like South America in a way, but there are pockets of Vampires there. So we have provinces of Vampire Counts. Just north of that is the pocket of Norsca where there are groups of Vikings have grouped from further North. Meanwhile the Bretonnians have some groups in the South lands. Every faction will have some presence somewhere in the campaign.
Cole: These groups have sailed across the ocean to try to colonize this land and it makes another threat for your four central races to deal with in addition to attempting to gain control of the Vortex.
GameWatcher: Could you go into depth as to what sets the new playable races apart? What makes the High Elves different to play from the Wood Elves or the Lizardmen from the Beastmen in combat?
Cole: On the battlefield, the Lizardmen are quite slow, but they’re also quite feral. You’ve got these big pockets of strong and stable, yet slow infantry accompanied by these giant dinosaur creatures. They’ve got lots of short range weaponry, so it’s a bit of a slow, plodding mass with short range weapons like javelins and blow pipes, as well as the old “Aztec space laser” because they’re Lizardmen, and some nasty cavalry like the Cold One Riders. On top of that, they’ve got a feral mechanic. If they take too much damage and become wounded, they will go off on their own or “run amok” as we call the state in game. You lose control of them, but they go after the nearest enemy units. With this in mind, you can use your smaller troops to shield a bigger monster forward and then unleash like a wrecking ball into enemy ranks. On the other end, you’ve got the High Elves who are quite defensive and rely on a lot of accurate bowfire to deal with many problems. That said, they differ from the defensive nature of the Dwarves in that they’re good at countercharging and counterattacking with highly elite warriors like the White Lions of Chrace and Swordmasters. So you’ve got these two drastically different styles already and it gets even deeper on the Campaign map.
Sinclair: Yeah, so in the first Warhammer, we had unique features for every race so everyone played completely different on the Campaign map. It was like there could be four different types of games going on at once. We’ve really tried to double down on that feature here. For example, High Elves use influence as a secondary currency. You can gain influence through random events that offer a choice. One option might give you influence while others might give you campaign bonuses. You can also gain influence through hero actions and more. With enough influence, you can recruit heroes and lords or you can use it to manipulate a feature we call “Intrigue of the Court”. This is something directly out of the lore of various Warhammer books. The High Elves are very much a political animal where everyone is trying to gain and upper hand and stab each other in the back. In this Intrigue of the Court feature, you’ll engage in that too by using your influence to gain better standing with political factions. You might have an ally next to you that you want to be at war with another faction, so you spend influence to reduce their standing between one another. You can also use it in trade. If someone doesn’t like you enough to work out deals with you, you can spend some influence to move them to a more amicable point where you can trade.
GameWatcher: Speaking of factions, it’s not all about major factions alone. Minor factions also play a role in the big picture with their goals and power as both a threat and boon to the major players. How will minor factions expand in Warhammer 2?
Sinclair: Every major race is made up of smaller factions. In the High Elves, for instance, you take up the role of one faction under Tyrion, who is one of the main High Elf princes, but there are other High Elf factions dotted around. Also, there are the various factions of races from the original game lurking about. Something very interesting and new to Warhammer 2 is what we call Rogue Armies. Sometimes these bands of mercenaries will spawn on the map. Usually, they’ll prefer ruined areas or areas that aren’t owned by any factions. Other times they might appear in areas that are left unguarded. The unique thing about them is that they can be mixed race armies, like groups of Beastmen and Greenskins working together. They’ll spawn as small armies and won’t be a threat at first, but if you leave them alone, they’ll gather more unts and become quite a problem. They can start capturing regions and become a full-fledged faction if they aren’t stopped. It’s one of a few things to push this feeling that the Campaign map is alive and moving.
Cole: And on the battlefield it will result in interesting compositions against which you can fight. You might have goblins riding on Beastmen or an army composed entirely of tree men. We’ve seen these odd combinations on YouTube and thought it’d be fun and challenging to put unique compositions together here. You’ll be fighting forces you’ve never fought before, which adds a whole new kind of strategic breadth to it.
GameWatcher: One of the most interesting announcements to come out of Warhammer 2’s reveal was that the grand campaign maps from the first and second games will eventually be able to be combined into one massive world. How much of a challenge has it been to make sure everything works in that expanded setting?
Cole: That challenge is ongoing, which is why we’re not moving it out on day one. We want to give ourselves a proper amount of time to ensure that when it comes, it will work entirely proper. We’ve got a lot of things to work with in regards to end-turn sequences and making sure the map can cope with all of these factions in one giant setting. It’s definitely a challenge, but I feel confident in saying it’s one that we’re highly equipped to deal with.
GameWatcher: Will the map combine be specifically for gameplay purposes or will there be a story there as well?
Cole: The main goal in the combined map campaign was to give players a kind of pure sandbox experience. With that big setting, we’ll be able to play around the Vortex mechanics and the Chaos invasion. The Chaos invasion will be in the mega campaign, but the major point is giving the players a pure Total War experience with these eight races. We want you to take that experience and go take over the world.
GameWatcher: Let’s talk mods. Total War: Warhammer has already amassed a fantastic collection of modders who are constantly building great things for the game. Assumedly, Warhammer 2 will see the same level of support, but with the combination of worlds and so much going on in this, what can creators expect out of the modding scene for Total War: Warhammer 2?
Sinclair: The way it will work is that the mods that were created for the first Total War: Warhammer will be only for Warhammer. They are two different and separate games, so you can’t necessarily just use a Warhammer mod in Warhammer 2. That said, theoretically, we’ve made it possible to transfer a mod from Warhammer to Warhammer 2. There will have to be some work on the part of the modder to make sure it’s compatible, but ideally it should be relatively straightforward.
The first Total War: Warhammer has proven that Sega and Creative Assembly can put together a quality Total War experience in the Warhammer universe. It would appear they’re ready to flex their creative muscles for round two. If our time with the game and the answers to our questions told us anything, it’s that Warhammer 2 is set to raise the bar and paint the battlefield in more new and exciting ways than we’ve ever seen before. We’ll be seeing our fourth and final main race in the game soon, so stay tuned as we approach the 28th of September when Total War: Warhammer 2 is set for release.
To find pre-order or find out more about Total War: Warhammer 2, head over to the game’s official Steam page
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