While at E3 2017, I had the pleasure of checking out the upcoming strategy game Total War: Warhammer II, which is being developed by Creative Assembly. I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw in terms of gameplay and visuals, and it ended up winning our best in show award. To dive a little deeper into the game, I sat down with the game director for Total War: Warhammer II and discussed some of the new features including game design, mechanics, races and multiplayer. For more details, read below:
For those who might not be familiar with your role, Can you start out by introducing yourself?
My name is Ian Ian Roxburgh, I am the game director for Total War: Warhammer II and the whole trilogy.
What has been improved upon since the first game?
First of all, we have evolved and taken what was received really well about the first game and taken that up to 10. So things, such as the differentiation between races that everyone really liked, we’ve done even more with that now. Each race has a number of completely unique mechanics and features in the game and in the battles to make them play almost like a different Total War game.
There is a brand new map. This is focusing on the new world: Lustria, Naggaroth and the races that are indigenous to that part of the world. Fundamentally, as part of the campaign game, we addressed what has been a perennial problem with strategy games and Total War as well. As you start, you build up your empire until it gets to a certain size, and you know you’re going to win the whole game and you just go through the motions. We wanted to do something that really addressed that problem and made you feel like you’re on a knife’s edge right until the end and you actually win the game.
We brought in the idea of the Vortex, which is a massive part of the Warhammer IP in that part of the world. It’s this massive siphon of energy that was setup by the High Elves thousands of years ago as a way of siphoning out the winds of magic from the world that was allowing Chaos to come in from a different dimension. This Vortex was setup to stop that and keep Chaos at bay. In part of the map, you’ve got this massive Vortex and all the races you can play as in the game are trying to influence that Vortex for their own benefit and effectively dominate the world. Two of the races are just trying to keep it there, to stop Chaos from coming in, and the other two races are trying to destabilize it so they can encourage the Chaos to come in.
Does each race have a unique story campaign?
Each of the races has their own story and narrative, which we’ve done a lot more with now than we have for any Total War game before. Each race casts a series of rituals, and if they can cast the fifth ritual then they’ve affected the Vortex and they can win the game through that. As a player, even if you have two-thirds of the map, you can still lose because other races can influence the Vortex. The idea is no longer that relentless march towards the end. We wanted to keep the end campaign really fresh and interesting so people actually reach a climax when they win the game.
If you play as High Elves they’ll have a whole narrative arc of movies that feed into how they’re trying to fix the Vortex and a series of mechanics in the game that, in a typical sandbox way, allow them to conquer other races or influence them. If you play as the Dark Elves or the Lizardmen, they have their own take on the narrative. This is because of the feedback from Warhammer I about taking these races and making them very different.
Can you discuss the playable races in Total War: Warhammer II?
The races we’ve announced are the High Elves, the lizardmen, and the Dark Elves. We’ll give you some more info on the Dark Elves later and the unique mechanics they have. There’s a fourth race that we haven’t announced yet.
The High Elves are very political and arrogant. They think all that matters is them and every other race is just a pawn in their grand game. We’ve modeled that by giving them extra tools to influence the relations between other races in the world. Some of their heroes can go out into the world and gain influence.
Basically, they can make other races dislike each other more to kick off wars against other factions. They’re manipulating all the outside world to their end. If a High Elf faction gets a trade agreement with another faction, they get line of sight and anything that’s going on in that faction’s territory. The lore is that High Elves don’t trade because they want money, they only traded with other races so they could put their spy network out there. If you play as the Dark Elves, you don’t have that option; you have the normal diplomatic options, but they have their set of unique features.
The other things that we’ve done as well, in Warhammer I if you played as Empire you could choose from two lords to start with but they still started in the same place. In Warhammer II, you can choose from two High Elves but the second legendary lord will start in a completely different part of the map. Not only will they have their own unique skill trees and features, but there’s a whole new set of challenges with different races that you’ll come across early on.
Are there any gameplay or combat mechanics that have been added to the sequel?
We’ve got things such as rogue armies, which are really exciting. In the Warhammer lore, they’ve got these roving bands of mercenaries comprised of more than just one kind of race. There will be a mix of potentially green skins and empire and dwarfs and weird combinations of mercenary bands if you like. We thought that’d be brilliant to bring into the campaign because you’ve already got a massive diversity of races to fight against, but suddenly having an army to fight that has peculiar units from all these races creates a unique challenge you wouldn’t otherwise get. They’ll be attracted to ruins that haven’t been occupied and they’ll just grow in number if you don’t deal with them early on.
There are loads of other things like treasure hunting where you can move an army over to some ruins. We’ve got sunken ships at sea between the four land masses. There are reefs that cause attrition and storms at seas you have to avoid. Features that just enrich that campaign map.
Have there been any additions made to multiplayer gameplay?
We’ve got a new mode now that our fans have been asking for, which is free-for-all. So you can now have four armies all against each other in one battle. You can win that by actually dealing more causalities than anyone else. So we’ve designed around the issue of people sitting back and letting everyone fight and then cleaning up. If you don’t get involved you’re not going to win because you’re not dealing enough damage. It’s part of custom battle with matchmaking.
We’re still supporting co-op, and versus, campaign multiplayer. One of the benefits of having two lords per race but different starting places is now you can co-op with a mate and be the same race but start in different locations. One of the features that we really enjoy about the co-op is that when you go into a battle, you can share the units.
We appreciate you taking the time to discuss Total War: Warhammer II with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?
It’s part of a trilogy so we’re evolving and improving on everything with new features. Another thing to point out is we’ve got the mega-campaign now. If people buy Warhammer II and Warhammer I they get to download this massive mega-campaign map that combines the land masses and races. So literally we’ve put two games together to make it double-sized. Our fans would want to play all the races at some point, and we wanted to make that. We’re making that available for free. Because it’s a trilogy, when we bring out the third game it’ll have everything.
Has Total War: Warhammer II piqued your interest? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us what you’re looking forward to the most!Related: Creative Assembly, E3 2017, Interview, SEGA, Strategy, Total War: Warhammer II