Total War: Warhammer, more than any other game in the series, has managed to offer such brilliantly distinct flavours with each its playable races. Deciding whether to lead the Empire or the Vampire Counts isn’t just about the unit rosters, it’s about entirely different playstyles.
The Wood Elves continue this trend, boasting the expected list of excellent ranged units (they’re elves, after all), but also a selection of game mechanics we’ve never seen in a Total War game before. We’re talking about some pretty wacky stuff, too.
Not only can all wood elf archers move and fire simultaneously, some of them offer a 360 degree firing radius, the ability to stay hidden whilst firing at enemy units, or can equip specialised ammunition that allows for increased range, poison damage, or the ability to hit multiple targets at once. There’s so much versatility here, it’s a micromanager’s wet dream.
However, these new toys come at a cost: wood elves are essentially made out of papier mch and twigs. At least half of the forces at your disposal feel incredibly fragile and tend to melt away once engaged in any kind of substantial melee combat. There are ways to beef up your infantry forces a little, but first we’ll need to talk about a new resource on the campaign map. It’s called amber.
Unlike any other race in Total War: Warhammer, the Wood Elves can claim any region in the Old Word as their own. You’ll only be able to construct a single building in a captured city and those options are fairly limited, but for each region you capture you’ll be rewarded with a single piece of amber. This stuff is extremely important.
For a start, you’ll need it to win the game. See? I told you it was important. The Wood Elves have a unique victory condition that’ll require you to spend loads of this resource to grow a big, magical tree called the Oak of Ages. As it grows taller on the campaign map, your enemies will notice and there are at least a couple of big scripted moments that you’ll eventually need to deal with.
“Let’s put it this way,” said lead designer Richard Aldridge. “We saw the reception to the Fall of Man objective with the Beastman and we certainly took that on board. It should be fun. And a challenge, obviously.”
Alongside this, you’ll also have the option to spend amber on certain research, as well as a selection of units that will initially be unavailable to you depending on which legendary lord you’ve decided to play with.
If you’ve selected Orion (wood elf/demigod that chucks spears at people), then you’ll be able to recruit any of the elven units as you please. However, if you’ve opted for Durthu (the oldest tree in the world), you’ll have access to the treefolk units instead. Should you wish to recruit a unit that’s not associated with your legendary lord, it’ll cost amber. And so a decision needs to be made: well-rounded armies, or progress towards your victory condition? You won’t always have the resources for both.
I like the sound of this idea, although I’m yet to play with the Wood Elves on the campaign map itself. My only concern here is that my stubborn brain won’t enjoy the idea of ‘wasting’ amber on units that could easily be wiped out during combat. But I guess that’s the point?
All in all, I’m a big fan of this more ambitious approach to the way in which Total War factions and races are now being designed. Warhammer seems to have given the team the necessary confidence to create units and playstyles that feel drastically different from one another. That’s exciting not just for Total War: Warhammer, I think, but for the entire franchise.
Speaking of the entire franchise, I spoke with a few senior members from the Total War team about their changing plans for the future of this series. Do you know Creative Assembly employs close to 500 people? They’re working on lots of different stuff.
Or, if you’d like to see the Wood Elves in action, we’ve been sent some gameplay from the quest battle I played earlier this week. Give it a watch, if you like. There’s a dragon with antlers on its head!
The DLC, entitled ‘Realm of The Wood Elves’, arrives on the 8th December and introduces the Wood Elves as a playable race alongside a new mini campaign. It’s a similar setup to the Call of the Beastmen, basically, but with more elves.