This is a guest post by Bill Cooney who you can find @Whoisthecoon7 on Twitter

Last week Creative Assembly released what is arguably the most ambitious title in the Total War franchise to date, Total War: Warhammer 2. This game takes players across the Great Ocean from the Old World to the New World, a land of Elves, Lizardmen, and according to whatever rumors you believe, the disgusting Skaven. Warhammer 2 goes where no other Total War game has gone before and shows no signs of stopping.

First things first, WH2 offers both standalone battles and a campaign mode. Both campaigns and battles can be played single player, or multiplayer online. Single player battles are fought against the computer and can be a massive engagement, or a simple skirmish, it’s all up to the player. This has been a standard feature in almost every Total War title. Multiplayer battles are a little more intense. You’re facing off against another human general, so you’re strategic decision-making skills better be on point. For the campaign, Creative Assembly outdid themselves from the first Warhammer.

To start with, WH2’s campaign map is massive. We’re talking 4 separate continents and minor outlying islands huge. But that’s not all, CA will soon be releasing a DLC called Mortal Empires, which will combine the maps from Warhammer 1 and 2 into one gigantic campaign. Those that have enjoyed both titles can truly understand how insane this will be. But the map is just the tip of the Campaign mode iceberg.

There are, currently, four playable races in the campaign, each with two different factions and legendary lords to choose from. There are the noble High Elves, who field an organized, disciplined fighting force. The Lizardmen, who fight for the Old Ones with an unmatched ferocity. Dark Elves, who are like High Elves, but, you know, evil; and the disgusting Skaven, who are hordes of rat-men. CA did a great job of offering four brand new unique races for this game with more certain to come in DLC.

For those just starting on WH2 or Total War in general, High Elves are going to be the most familiar faction to play with. They have the most traditional units, spearmen, archers and swordsmen that will allow new or novice players to learn the game. The Lizardmen and Dark Elves are a bit more advanced, but not by much. Any race can be played as a beginner, as the game has a great tutorial system that takes players through how to manage their empire on the campaign map and how to march an army on the field to victory in the beginning of the campaign.

One of the many new aspects to the campaign CA introduced in WH2 was the ability to search ruins for treasure. But this can also lead players to an encounter with the Skaven, which represent another change CA has introduced: hidden factions. Skaven settlements remain hidden unless you search the ruins with an army or hero. A word of advice: it’s a lot better to search ruins with a hero than have a legendary lord taken out by two hidden Skaven armies.

There is also a sense of urgency added to the campaign in the race for the vortex. The Vortex is a giant vortex siphoning the chaos energy out of the world, and it’s super powerful. Being as it is super powerful, every faction wants to gain control of it. To do this, your faction must complete a series of rituals before the other factions. This is accomplished by gathering magic items, depending on your faction, throughout the campaign map by completing quests, searching ruins, or building certain buildings in certain settlements. This adds a sense of urgency and purpose to each turn in a way no Total War Campaign has been able to do before, and keeps you engaged far longer than a generic campaign with no time-limit. If your faction isn’t the first to complete all their rituals, the campaign is not lost, but it makes the endgame much more difficult.

There is one negative aspect to the campaign mode: the imbalanced naval engagements. There is no option to fight out a naval battle on the battlefield, it must be auto-resolved. This can get annoying, especially when playing as the Skaven or Lizardmen, because those armies often rely on massive hordes, and as such individual units don’t do as much damage. This means that a small army of elves can crush a larger army when at sea, due to better unit quality. Admittedly, this is a minor annoyance, burt one CA should really look into balancing out or fixing. Maybe add a magic little island the armies can fight on?

Visually, the game is stunning. Scenery ranges from lush rainforest to frozen tundra and bleak desert. The sound effects are on point as well, with birds chirping in the forest and icy winds howling across the north. In-battle animations have been greatly improved from WH1, lords now have unique, interactive animations when they fight another lord and units just look better in combat over all. Gameplay in-battle hasn’t changed much from WH1, which is a good thing. Magic and spells have been improved though, and they can influence the outcome of a battle this time around, something that was lacking in WH1.

The soundtrack to WH2 is epic, it takes players right into the battle and provides a sense of ominous foreboding at the appropriate moments. It also varies depending on what faction is being played and where the player’s at on the map. This is just another thing that keeps the game fresh and interesting as one plays on.

Total War: Warhammer 2 is a massive game that’s just as much fun as it can be overwhelming. There has been some argument lately in the Total War community about the direction CA is taking the franchise, focusing on Warhammer as opposed to historical titles, but once one plays this game all that goes out the window. Whether you started out playing Rome: Total War or this is your first foray into the world of Total War, Warhammer 2 is a ton of fun. Just, make sure you have a few days to dedicate to it when you pick the game up, you’ll need it.

Thecoon was provided a copy of this game for review by SEGA