What we want from Total War: Warhammer 2

More War is coming. The Creative Assembly recently announced Total War: Warhammer 2 with a trailer showing off the High Elves, Dark Elves and Lizardmen and hinting that the ratmen Skaven as the game's fourth new faction. Warhammer 2 looks like a meaty standalone expansion to the original game—its new map will combine with Warhammer's already huge depiction of the Old World for a "vast combined campaign map." The Creative Assembly also gave us some tidbits about a new endgame, but there's a lot we still don't know about Warhammer 2, and that set our minds to wandering.

What does our dream sequel to the most imaginative Total War in years look like? Here are nine things we want to see in a bigger, better Total War: Warhammer 2.

More Warhammer influence, less Total War holdover

Look, I know 'Total War' is in the name, and Warhammer 2 is designed to interlock with the first game like a mega expansion. So I'm dreaming a little, here. But after seeing The Creative Assembly cut loose a bit with wonderfully creative Warhammer units and diverse races, I'd love for their future games to feel less like Total War with a Warhammer skin. There's so much more they could do. Quests are an awesome addition to these games, giving you a bit of narrative flavor to a campaign and reason to move your lords across the map. But why does that narrative text have to be delivered in a tiny text box, a holdover of who knows how many Total War games? 

Are there cool formations from the tabletop that units could adopt? Could magic be used on the strategy map instead of just in combat? In Total War, hills in combat are important for charge bonuses—would terrain in the Warhammer world influence combat in different ways?  Should there even be a diplomacy system? 

I don't know Warhammer lore well at all, but I feel like there are tons of things, big and small, that could make a future Total War: Warhammer feel more unique, keeping the core combat Total War does so well and building cooler, weirder systems around that. I guess I'm more or less asking for the fantasy version of Dawn of War 3, which is built to bring out the best of Warhammer 40,000. Now that The Creative Assembly has proven that Total War + Warhammer = Big Hit, I want them to run with it. — Wes

Rework the Agent system to be less rote

When I first started playing Total War: Warhammer, I wrote about how ready I was to see Total War revamp its 'agents,' aka Warhammer heroes, to be less, well, boring. And yep: still feel that way. I've played enough Total War games now to be a bit tired of units fulfilling the exact same strategic role just with a fresh coat of paint. In Rome 2, I had spies I'd run around the map poisoning other agents and generals. In Warhammer, I do the same thing, except with a vampire. These heroes inevitably pile up late in the game, and micromanaging dealing with the enemy's AI heroes always becomes a grind. There's no fun in it.

But you know what is fun? Using those heroes in battle. This is the one thing Total War: Warhammer does differently than previous Total War games, where agents could only be used strategically on the world map. They can now fight in battle and gain abilities just like the lords that lead armies. And it's both way more satisfying, and way more varied, to level up a hero and take them into battle to cast spells or wade into the melee. I want Warhammer 2 to emphasize this strength, giving heroes quests and more involved leveling and skill trees. Maybe cut back on the number you can recruit to make them more meaningful, and give the same ol', same 'ol world map micromanagement a rest. — Wes

Create the perfect endgame

No pressure. Seriously, though, this is one of the biggest problems with grand strategy games generally, in 4X games and turn-based RTS hybrids like Total War. If you’ve played well your power curve puts you past a point where you can feasibly lose, but before you’re allowed a victory screen you have to mop up dozens of cities. This takes hours, and I always give up once a campaign has loosely run its course.

Total War: Warhammer 2 aims to fix this with the vortex. Theoretically this gives every faction an objective to race towards. It’s an interesting subversion of the typical endless expansion grand strategy victory condition that could force some interesting decisions in the late game. CA haven’t gone into much detail about how exactly the vortex will work, but the very idea of it raises interesting questions. When you do stop expanding and start chasing the prize? Will there be an event that triggers the race for the vortex? Most importantly, can it fix the sluggish final third that most campaigns experience? — Tom

Do Skaven justice

When asked whether there are Skaven in Total War: Warhammer 2, the official Creative Assembly line is “what’s a Skaven?” Coincidentally this is the official line offered by Karl Franz and the Empire in the Old World. The insidious ratmen are a myth, a story used to terrify children and force them to behave. To serious-minded individuals the idea of a society of rat people living in vast hives under the Empire’s major cities is simply madness. Giant invisible vermin, stealing vagrants from the streets, running through the sewers? Such nonsense couldn’t possibly be true, could it?

It’s true. The shot of a red-eyed rat at the end of the intro trailer very much suggests that the furry hordes will be a force in Total War: Warhammer 2. This is great news, but I hope they do this unique faction justice. On the battlefield Skaven swarm in extraordinary numbers and melt enemies with hideous warpfire. As a species they tend to lurk parasitically beneath existing settlements in vast cave networks. I’d love to see this faction’s unique characteristics reflected in the way they operate on Total War’s strategic map.

Also, Deathmaster Snitch would make an amazing assassin agent.  — Tom 

Improve diplomacy

Diplomacy is hard to model in a world full of factions that fundamentally hate one another. A Warhammer game should be about the war-war, rather than the jaw-jaw. Still, if you’re going to let the factions talk to one another there should be some point to it. 

The existing system, which records the relationships between factions and lists positive and negative modifiers, does a good job of allowing your behaviour on the world map to influence factions’ opinions of you, but the way the factions act on these ratings can be plain weird. Outmatched opponents will repeatedly demand that you surrender. Factions will turn down a deal and, turns later, come back to you with an offer that’s worse for them. A solid diplomacy system is going to be even more important in a campaign that has factions racing to the vortex at Ulthuan. Forming allies to bludgeon through enemy blockades, and acquiring free passage through friendly lands, will be vital.  — Tom 

Make the underway less obnoxious

The underway is bullshit. Oh, it's great if you're an elf or a dwarf or some obnoxious little warherd, but if you're not, say goodbye to the notion of ever catching an enemy army, or defending your territory at strategic chokepoints. Those dreams are dead. Several of Total War: Warhmmer's factions can use underground pathways to duck under mountains and other world map obstacles, and there is a risk of being intercepted by an enemy while doing so. But the benefits to mobility far, far outweigh that risk, and as a result those factions can harass the hell out of other factions, like the Empire and the Vampire Counts. 

Even with a mod that gives you extra movement distance in your own territory, catching armies that use the underway to sneak in or out is an obnoxious, near-impossible task, especially once you conquer a large chunk of Warhammer's map. The races that can't use the underway need a better counter to those sneaky bastards next time around. — Wes

Properly sneery Elves

The haughty, precious High Elves and the kinky Dark Elves will face off in Total War: Warhammer 2. This is the perfect opportunity for some reedy British voice actors to deliver some icy, condescending put-downs. I want to feel their arrogance. I want to experience the full force of their fierce derision for the unperfumed, unwashed denizens of the Old World. 

The interplay between Warhammer’s lurid generals should always be characterful, and there’s plenty of opportunity for comedy. I can’t wait to force a High Elf hero to address an Orc warlord. There’s little to no chance of them ever doing a deal, but it should be worth trying just to watch them try to share a screen together.  — Tom 

Even more imaginative battlefields

The Warhammer setting gives CA the chance to render The Old World at greater scale and higher fidelity than any game that has gone before. The first game did a good job of this with a beautiful world map and characterful locales for both underground and overground conflicts, but Total Warhammer 2 takes the series to more exotic places. Lustria is an dense, exotic jungle region and Ulthuan is varied land of dragons, magic, rainbow skies and vast mountains. Just off the coast of Ulthuan you’ll find a concentration of of magic islands that deform under shifting, magical mists. It’s really weird out there.

There are plenty of opportunities to create some spectacular battlegrounds from this varied mix of biomes. They should be a refreshing change from the Imperial flatlands and Ork wastelands of the first Total War: Warhammer. Total War needs to give you open, relatively flat spaces to fight on, but these can take place against ambitious skyboxes that show the Old World in all its glory.  — Tom 

Find DLC pricing that works for the community

This is hard. I don't want to presume how much work goes into a faction DLC for a game like Total War: Warhammer, because I honestly have no idea how much time and money and effort it takes to create a new race like the Beastmen or the Wood Elves. But a large chunk of the Total War audience was clearly deeply upset by the $19 (£14) price, a third of the cost of the base game. Each DLC does add a chunk to the map and new races with some new mechanics, but the Beastmen, especially, feel like recycled hordes from Attila (or like Chaos in Warhammer) with a bunch of minotaur units added in.

I think it was a great move for Creative Assembly to offer the Bretonnia faction for free, and several other pieces of DLC were free or much more affordable. But I think most fans would prefer more affordable new factions, even if that means slightly less unit variety. Maybe the solution is simply Creative Assembly being more transparent about how much work it takes to make new factions and why $19 is the right price for them. So far, that pricing has been a really tough sell for the community, and it's something Creative Assembly should address before Warhammer 2 DLC starts rolling out. — Wes

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).