Matt Davis: My name is Matt Davis and I’m the Lead Character Artist on Total War: Warhammer II.
Scott Pitkethly: I’m Scott Pitkethly and I’m the Lead Programmer.
GameWatcher: On a scale of 1-10, how big Warhammer geeks are you both?
Matt Davis: 9.5!
Scott Pitkethly: I’d say not as much now as I don’t have time to be, but back when I was fourteen I was a 10. So working on Warhammer is like a dream come true. If only I could go back and tell myself as a kid that I was going to get to work on these games and get paid for them!
GameWatcher: So… the Skaven have been introduced! After being teased since the very first trailer…
Scott Pitkethly: Yeah, we realise it’s not a surprise to anyone at this point!
GameWatcher: You’re excited to reveal them then?
Scott Pitkethly: Definitely! They’re certainly one of the most unusual races, in terms of their war machines and their lore. They’re quite unique. In the first Total War: Warhammer we mostly had very traditional fantasy races that you might see in other games, but the Skaven are unique to Games Workshop. They have their own playstyle and you have to play them quite differently to other factions, including as an army on the battle map. Their ground troops are numerous but weak, so you’ve got look at overwhelming forces and deploying your key artillery or war machines as well as possible. You’ve got troops to tie things up so you can employ these wacky and crazy machines.
Matt Davis: The Skaven are just awesome to work on. There’s nothing out there in other fantasy games of their sort of James Bond villain bad guy, who you love because they’re always sabotaging themselves for pointless reasons. They’re always blowing themselves up and are terrible at being bad guys, but still really maniacal! They’ve got a great personality and style. Shoddy, destitute, conniving little rat people! [We laugh]
GameWatcher: Do you treat the Warhammer Total Wars as less hardcore than regular Total War games? More inclusive because of the licence?
Scott Pitkethly: In terms of the material, being fantasy rather than historical, they are in some ways more appealing, but we are very cautious not to alienate our core Total War fanbase. With Warhammer we want maintain it as a Total War game. Saying that, with Warhammer II even more than others we have tried to open it up to new players. With the Prelude we’ve put a lot of effort into introducing features of the campaign map and showing off detailed parts of the UI in a piecemeal fashion so new players aren’t overwhelmed. It’s quite a leap from what we’ve done before, I think.
Matt Davis: The game is more approachable because of the Prelude being more of a natural tutorial, rather than just a big battle where things get pointed out certainly. But given the variety of the armies and how some of them might be missing tools you might be used to in other Total War games, such as the Skaven having terrible infantry, if anything at a high level of gameplay it’s possibly more hardcore than our other games! With other Total Wars the armies are all balanced but here you might be missing something crucial and have to find a way to deal with that.
Scott Pitkethly: We’re certainly worried that “hardcore” is a term that might seem unappealing! We prefer to say that it’s immersive and immediately draws the player in, but it’s got a lot of depth too. You don’t have to abide with that stuff though, you can min/max every type of unit match-up or you can just see if a unit’s got good armour penetration and use that against heavy armour, or see if a unit is vulnerable to fire and use a flaming sword against them. There’s depth if you want to go deep, but you certainly don’t need to worry about that especially at the beginning.
GameWatcher: I think the question a lot of people have is still, why a sequel so soon after the last game? We’re used to Creative Assembly launching sequels 10 years later!
Scott Pitkethly: Yeah! We’ve certainly said from the beginning that we wanted to do Warhammer as a trilogy, and that’s because we looked at the content and said that you can’t do justice to the license in just one game. Each of the Warhammer games we’ve done so far has had more work put into it than any Total War we’ve done previously, in terms of the variety of units, animations, graphics etc between the factions it’s a whole level above. It was a big thing for us to ramp up to that level, and that’s just over four key races. There’s no way we could’ve done that with all factions in one game, so we knew we’d want to break it up into three games so we can do proper justice to all factions. We could’ve made them all essentially the same thing and just skin them differently, but we didn’t want to do that.
Matt Davis: It was always the plan to release them in fairly rapid succession, as part of the one big game that comes together in the end. There are around 16-20 Warhammer factions and each have enough unique features to fuel a whole Total War game. It’s just too big for one project, so we needed to break it up into three and still allow bringing it all back together at the end to play as the same faction all the way through.
Scott Pitkethly: Everyone has their own favourite faction of course. If we did a shallow, glossed-over version of the factions I think people would feel cheated.
GameWatcher: It’s your Lord of the Rings basically?
Scott Pitkethly: Yes!
GameWatcher: So should we expect an announcement of Total War: Warhammer 3 out next year then?
Scott Pitkethly: We can’t announce a release date yet as we haven’t committed to one, but there is definitely going to be a third game.
GameWatcher: Should we at least expect the announcement next year?
Scott Pitkethly: I wouldn’t even like to tell you when that’s going to be! It will happen, it might be a longer wait, we just don’t know right now. We’re just concentrating on II right now. With Warhammer II being a sequel we want to adjust it for the new races but we also want it to be a standalone game.
GameWatcher: What’s the deal with the Vortex and the Rituals, which are obviously the big new changes in Total War: Warhammer II?
Scott Pitkethly: What we’re trying to do there is overcome a problem we’ve identified in previous Total Wars, where when you’re winning the campaign with the biggest army and economy but you still haven’t won. The victory condition is still a way away but you know you’ve won, and new battles won’t turn the tide. The Vortex mechanic now constantly ramps up that tension and forces you to change strategy. It’s a race against the clock, and if you don’t counter what another faction’s doing they might take control of the Vortex.
Matt Davis: It’s certainly the big change that also pulls the narrative through. It’s not only an additional way to play, like you can conquer the whole world but it doesn’t matter because if one of the other factions complete the Ritual first you’ve still lost!
Scott Pitkethly: And there are things you can do to counter it once you get to that stage. It’s not like you suddenly lose the game.
Matt Davis: You will be aware at what stage of the Ritual other factions are.
Scott Pitkethly: It is still a sandbox of course. It’s not all about the Rituals. If you want to just destroy everyone instead, that’s fine! We’re not going to stop you from choosing how you want to win the game. This is really to add that element of drama, and narrative is probably more important in Warhammer II than any of our other Total War games. Of course you’ve always had your own internal narrative, like wanting to get revenge on someone who defeated you! But now we have a proper bespoke narrative too.
GameWatcher: Something that caught my eye was the Rogue Armies you can encounter made of other factions’ units, how do they work?
Matt Davis: They’re themed for the most part, for example in one we have a Goblin Beastmaster army that’s just one goblin leading a load of monsters from different armies. They’ll start at a state where they’re low-threat, but if you leave them to run rampant they’ll eventually build the quality of their troops to the point that they’re a serious threat. They’re mostly to provide another element of threat.
GameWatcher: Is there any chance of a Warhammer 40K Total War or is that license off the table?
Scott Pitkethly: It’s not something we’re involved in certainly. We certainly wouldn’t say no to it, we play Warhammer 40K all the time! But we’re not considering it at the present time. Maybe one day, who knows!
GameWatcher: You’ve been doing these Total War games for a long time, are you tired of them yet?
Scott Pitkethly: I do enjoy making Total War games! And there’s a lot we haven’t done, and stuff I’d like to go back and do again. Even within the realm of Warhammer there are still races I’d love to do. Personally I’m a demon Chaos player.
GameWatcher: Tell us the truth – you just made this game entirely to have a Total War with dinosaurs, right?
Scott Pitkethly: It’s funny you should say that, because we once did an April Fools PR stunt that was just Total War Dinosaurs, and we even mocked up a T-Rex in there. That was long before Warhammer was even a glint in our eye. And now we’ve finally delivered on that promise!
Matt Davis: I can’t think of any game that isn’t made better by adding dinosaurs.
GameWatcher: Okay, thank you both for your time!
Matt Davis: Thank you!
Scott Pitkethly: Thank you!
Thanks again to both Scott Pitkethly and Matt Davis for meeting with us, and so expertly dodging our many questions on the future of Warhammer 3, Total War and Creative Assembly. And we didn’t even get to the Alien Isolation 2 question. Regardless, Total War: Warhammer II is looking fantastic, so go and check out our preview of the game too.