Total War: Warhammer 3 was always destined for greatness. Years ago, developer Creative Assembly shared a lofty vision for a trilogy of Warhammer games, fused into one vast campaign map. That campaign, Immortal Empires, is finally here – and even in its beta state, it’s everything a strategy fan could hope for.
As you can imagine, the addition of an entirely new game to Warhammer 2‘s Mortal Empires campaign map brings vast new lands to conquer. The Chaos Wastes, once the Old World’s minuscule naughty step for mutants and mischief-makers, is now a vast and menacing expanse that stretches from one corner of the globe to the next; while the mountainous East now opens up to the lush plains of Cathay. In terms of scale, Immortal Empires is a behemoth that towers over any of Creative Assembly’s prior Total War campaigns, but size isn’t everything.
The real draw for most Total War (or Games Workshop) fans is what’s contained within. Immortal Empires has a whopping 86 legendary lords to start with, a mix of base factions from the trilogy and DLC that’s been added over time. Though most eyes will be on how Warhammer 3‘s new factions gel with the rest of the trilogy, new starting positions and the occasional fresh mechanic means that there are several older lords that are worthy of your time. Two particularly brilliant campaigns center around Volkmar The Grim and Mannfred Von Carstein’s competing race to find the books of Nagash, which has taken them to the far south – a region now bursting at the seams with demons, Tomb Kings, and Lizardmen.
Speaking of which, Oxyotl – the Lizardmen’s version of Doom Guy – is a brilliant example of a lord that’s been enhanced by everything Immortal Empires brings. From his new isolated start position on the fringe of the world, Oxyotl can teleport his forces across the world like a scaly XCOM, to fight a far tougher cadre of Chaos than he’s used to. While the majority of his foes in Warhammer 2 were angry metalheads, he’s now able to face off against all manner of Warhammer 3‘s new demons with his guerrilla band of skinks; and it finally feels like the grand world-saving campaign he always deserved.
However, Oxyotl’s (im)mortal enemy has benefited from a full-on rework for Immortal Empires. Warriors of Chaos have been neglected since they launched as a pre-order bonus for the first Total War: Warhammer, but they’re now kitted up to feel like a legitimately world-ending threat. Each faction leader – including the four new lords from the Champions of Chaos DLC – now have proper mechanics in place to subjugate Northern tribes, earn gifts from their dark patrons, and recruit units that have chosen to flock to their banner.
The general idea is that you scythe your way across the Chaos Wastes, building up strength and bringing rival tribes to heel, before your forces pour into the civilised southern world like an unholy flood. It’s a phenomenal testament to how much Creative Assembly has learned from the last six years – Chaos now feels infinitely better to play, well-suited to Immortal Empires’ gloriously violent stomping ground.
The faction is also home to Be’lakor, who’s been promoted to lead his own faction on the misty isle of Albion – a suspiciously British island, complete with power-hungry demon overlords. Be’Lakor is one of few Chaos factions that can recruit units from every Chaos God’s pantheon, which is bad news for the forces of Order – especially because his Immortal Empires starting position lands him within striking distance of the completely broken Sword Of Khaine. If you’re struggling to decide which lord to play first, Be’Lakor is a fantastic pick – not only does he lead a new faction with all of Chaos’ shiny new tools, his starting position allows you to take Warhammer 3‘s new cabal of demons and pit them against factions from older games.
A playthrough as fellow Chaos worshipper Vilitch – Tzeentch’s intensely creepy new lord – offered a chance to not only get stuck in with Chaos, but also explore some completely new features that Immortal Empires’ introduces to the trilogy. The first, Sea Lanes, are a way to minimise the logistical bore of moving an army from one side of the world to the other. Located at several useful points across the world’s oceans, Sea Lanes allow an army to cross the world at the cost of several turns out of action. Once the Vilitch people started gaining a foothold in the North, a separate army was sent across one such Sea Lane to cause mischief for Lustria’s Lizardmen. Why? Just because Immortal Empires allows it.
A little later into the campaign, Immortal Empires’ second new feature put the shoe on the other foot. End-game scenarios are designed to combat the monotony of cleaning up toward the end of a campaign by introducing a new challenge – in the case of Vilitch, the Old World’s Greenskins launched a Waaagh to end all Waaaghs. An indiscriminate tide of green poured from the mountains south, krumpin’ Order and Chaos alike. The Greenskins’ sheer numbers were enough to charge through nearly everything unopposed, and it took some real coordination to stem the invasion.
Other end-game threats include the Dwarfs marching from their holds to right every perceived grudge in history, Vampire Counts deciding to give world domination a shot, and the spirit of Nagash stirring to once again ruin everyone’s day. These end-game threats are a fun challenge, but aren’t quite enough to save a campaign that’s already running out of steam if you’re already guilty of having a hair trigger for ‘New Game’.
At first, the most exciting part about Immortal Empires is everything that’s immediately on offer: the hordes of factions, swathes of new land to paint your colour, and all the shiny new features to get stuck in with. But like the most devoted of Tzeentch’s worshippers, it won’t be long before you look at what lies ahead. Immortal Empires is in beta, and Creative Assembly has been very vocal about what lies ahead for the game. The Total War: Warhammer fanbase has spent the last six years imagining what’s possible, and old habits die hard – the scale of Immortal Empires cements Total War: Warhammer 3 as one of the most ambitious strategy games of all time, but it feels like it’s only just getting started.
Immortal Empires launches on August 23 for anyone who owns all three Total War: Warhammer games.