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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Best Strategy Game 2022: Total War: Warhammer 3

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Despite a divisive launch, the final part of Creative Assembly’s fantasy trilogy became our favourite strategy game of the year—in large part thanks to the bewildering scope of its Immortal Empires campaign. Visit our GOTY 2022 hub for more awards, revealed throughout December.

Sean Martin, Guides Writer: With the addition of its trilogy-spanning Immortal Empires campaign, Total War: Warhammer 3 is now so big it scares me. I’ve spent all year playing this game, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of its characters, campaigns, and roleplay possibilities. In simple terms, Immortal Empires is a stew pot into which Creative Assembly has tipped every delicious morsel of content from the past six years of Total War: Warhammer, cooking up a campaign quite unlike anything ever made.

And the most terrifying part is that this is just the beginning. Now the trilogy has reached its final form, CA effectively has a blank cheque. They can work at further fleshing out the setting with characters, units, and factions, but also on the campaign itself, as with the new array of thematic endgame events. The best bit? Nothing is wasted. All of it goes towards enriching one of the best Total War campaigns ever made, and one I know I’ll be playing for years to come.

Fraser Brown, Online Editor: Like Sean says, Immortal Empires is the headline attraction here, but Warhammer 3 had a lot to recommend it even before that update. While the experimental Realm of Chaos campaign proved divisive, I liked how it took me out of my Total War comfort zone and threw me into this stressful race to kill daemon princes and steal the power of a god for myself. It had diminishing returns, but those first couple of games were great. 

Warhammer 3’s factions and legendary lord designs are among some of the best Creative Assembly have ever put together. The Chaos factions are especially impressive, and it’s been a delight to see how the team interpreted them. I’m especially fond of the seductive qualities of Slaanesh, as this faction of horny daemons can conquer the world with a silver tongue. It’s the custom daemon prince and his united Chaos army who sits at the top, however. I never thought I’d play a Total War where I could mix and match body parts. 

Thankfully, all the best bits of vanilla Warhammer 3 made their way into Immortal Empires, a mode I expect to play for many years to come. Even in beta, it’s the best that Total War has ever been. With all these factions fighting over a gargantuan map, it’s pure Total War, with conflicts constantly kicking off, but also bold and experimental. And this is just the start! There are new legendary lords and factions waiting in the wings, promising to make this mammoth-sized war even larger. What a treat. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted from the series.

Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Thanks to Immortal Empires I finally got to play a Vampire Counts campaign with Vlad and Isabella von Carstein in the same army. In the first game they’d both been Legendary Lords, faction leaders who are limited to one per host. In Immortal Empires you can choose one of them to be a Legendary Hero instead, finally letting them fight side by side like an anime battle couple.

Warhammer 3 also let me play a manipulative daemon who got to engage with a decent diplomacy system for the first time in the Total War: Warhammer series, gave me a proper look behind the previously obscured walls of Cathay’s Great Bastion, and filled all those campaigns with randomly generated Champions of the Dark Gods who have wonderful names like Grogg Hellknox, Expletus Truthstealer, Soulscreamer Minister of Desire, and Quakeooze Lord of Vomit. 

Basically, I agree with Fraser. This is everything a Warhammer tragic could want.

Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I remain as quietly baffled by Total War’s intimidating campaign as ever, but this entry’s excellent tutorial at least gave me a fighting chance this year. With a custom story that leads into the events of the main game, and a cleverly constructed mini-sandbox to experiment in, it’s a lovely, engaging way to get to grips with all the ins-and-outs, without having to watch 10 hours of YouTube videos.  

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