Monday, 6 June 2016

Turns out Age of Sigmar was just a dream.

Well not quite. Age of Sigmar is still very much alive and kicking but thankfully for those of us who love the old Warhammer world, Geedub still seems to be happy enough to license it's IP out for video games based around it. We've recently had a number of titles issued around the old Warhammer world with Mordheim: City of the Damned and Vermintide being released last year and now in the last few weeks...

I have been hanging out for this game for...well actually only about a year or two. But it feels like it's much longer! I even bought a new gaming rig specifically for this game because my old computer wouldn't be able to run it. So now that I've had a couple of weeks to get into it I thought I'd post up a bit of a blurb for anyone who might be interested.

As a quick intro here's some background on the game. If you're wanting some in depth understanding of the game then just check out the website but otherwise I'll give you the one paragraph version:

Archaon has once again decided to vent his 'daddy issues' on the Old World and has set forth from the Northern Wastes to destroy all before him. In the game you take up one of 5 races involved in this apocalypse: Chaos, Empire, Undead, Orcs and Goblins or Dwarfs. Each race plays very differently in terms of how they interact with the world and how they fight with one another, and each is given victory objectives that align with their race which they will need to complete in order to win the game. It plays along the same format as all previous editions of the Total War franchise with turn based map strategy and real time battles. One very notable difference however is the real time battles which now include flyers, magic, monstrous infantry, monstrous cavalry and gigantic creatures.

To highlight all of this in a bit more detail I'll give you a review of the Dwarfs which I have been playing as (no surprises there for those who know me).

First up, after picking your race, you need to pick your Legendary Lord. This defines what specific benefits you receive in-game from their unique abilities. In my case I went with the somewhat unoriginal High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer. I've always found the idea of a grumpy, old, fat Dwarf king being hoisted round on a palanquin kind of amusing.

Once you've selected your Legendary Lord you go through a beautiful cinematic scene before being thrown into your first fight. I got a bit caught up in this and forgot to get screenshots, but once you have won this battle (it's not difficult) you begin the tutorial for the campaign map.

The tutorial shows you the basics of how to manage the various in-game aspects of the race. It explains the infrastructure of the cities and helps you start your progress on the technology tree and diplomacy. It evens tells you how to rename your settlements.

Goodbye Mount Squighorn...

Hello Mount Hairybottom!

There are two main trunks through the technology tree. One upgrades your warriors and equipment so your soldiers perform better in battle, while the other provide upgrades to infrastructure, trade, diplomacy and the like.

In all honesty I've not paid a whole lot of attention to it so far as I'm really not sure what I should be focusing on. In hindsight building on any revenue gathering would have been a good place to start but I've managed to get that mostly under control now.

On the other hand, the Diplomacy screen is one I've been having a lot of fun with.

At the start you are surrounded by other Dwarf kingdoms and the Orcs and Goblins so they are your first contact. Initially I just tried to gain military alliances with the other Dwarfs and then I found you could organise a combined military target if you were at war with the same enemy. This turned out to be extremely useful for sending my allies off to distract the enemy's armies while I focused on capturing their unguarded settlements  :)

Also I've progressed far enough in the game now that I'm able to organise confederacies with the other Dwarf kingdoms allowing me to absorb their kingdom into my own which I've discovered is an incredibly easy and quick way to expand my kingdom!

One aspect of the game unique to Dwarfs is the Great Book of Grudges otherwise know as the 'Dammaz Kron'.

When another kingdom slights your King in some way, usually through raiding, agent effects, defeating you in a battle or sacking a settlement, a mission is then lodged in the Great Book of Grudges and you must go and settle the score with them. It can be annoying at times chasing up on every little, petty insult made against your good Dwarfy self but such things can not be overlooked if you are to retain your sense of honour. Occasionally a grudge will also be issued as a scenario such as this one from the tutorial but they are few and far between from what I've seen.

Once you have settled the grudge, usually from crushing a few skulls, the entry will be struck from the Great Book of Grudges and your number of unsettled grudges will be reduced.

If you leave grudges unsettled for too long it begins to have an adverse effect on your kingdom. Your followers, both your subjects and your nobility, begin to lose faith in you as a leader and the flow on effect contributes to rebellions in your territories. I think it also has an effect on any followers you might have picked up in your retinue, as a handful started leaving my Lord when I left my grudges unchecked for too long.

Additionally there are Quest Objectives issued such as the one below.

These have something to do with victory conditions but I've been having far too much fun killing Orcs and Goblins to pay any attention to them. As such I have no idea what effect they might have on the game, other than the obvious point that they will need to be completed in order to achieve 'victory'.

Anyway enough about all the infrastructure and strategy and campaigning crap. What about the fighting!?! One of the most enjoyable things about the Total War series is the real-time battles. It allows you to take a step away from the strategic aspect of the game and get down and dirty with your troops on the ground. Just like all of the previous editions of the Total War series battles are commenced by moving your armies across the map and into contact with other armies or settlements like so...

Assuming your opponent doesn't run away from you battle will commence!

The pre-battle screen will show you what is in each army and the little yellow and red bar under 'Battle Deployment' indicates who the stronger combatant is. Once you enter the real-time sequence the game will allow you to deploy your forces as below:

The exception to this is where you are ambushed, in which case you get a cool cinematic of your army walking along a road before the camera moves seamlessly to the real-time battle without any chance to deploy. Also, a neat feature available to the Dwarfs is the use of the Underway for travel. This allows the Dwarfs to move through impassable terrain which helps get around their generally slower movement. However, there is always a chance of ambush in the Underway where battles are fought to the death. There is no escape or retreat from the Underway when in battle so if you lose, you lose everything!

Once you have won your battles you gain experience and sometimes rare items for your Lords or agents like this...

However if you lose you can have your equipment taken from you by your opponent. So if you allow your Dwarf Lord to be surrounded by an army of Orcs and Goblins like this then he could end up a little lighter in loot after the battle.

Worse yet this could happen...

I've also found you can receive negative traits though I'm not quite sure how you earn them. I'm assuming I got this one after a battle where I forgot to commit Thorgrim to a fight so I'm assuming it is an outcome of your actions in the battle...maybe?

It's been a lot of fun getting elbow deep in all of this over the past couple of weeks. The Dwarfs are an interesting race to play in that they are very reliable with tough, well armoured infantry. However, they don't have all of the cool toys other races have such as monsters, giants, massive cavalry or magic users. Nonetheless they have a few interesting troops in Slayers, Irondrakes, Gyrocopters and Miners with blasting charges. The last one especially is a lot of fun when your enemy gets close to your battle line.

The game itself I've found to be both very challenging and very rewarding. The sight of an Orc Waagh coming charging into your lands can be daunting, but once you have weathered the storm and the Orc lands are left empty and ripe for conquering you can make good on all of those grudges accrued in the Dammaz Kron. My only real frustration with the game has been with agents assassinating my characters. From what I've read on-line I'm not the only one either. When attacking the Vampire Counts to settle a couple of grudges I found my agents and generals being assassinated with disturbing regularity. The Vamps were killing me off with a 50-60% success rate, while my agents were struggling to do anything. When making the attempt the game would say I had a 25-30% chance of wounding or killing their characters, but in reality it was closer to 5%. It's something I managed to weather (as all good Dwarfs do) and it's no longer an issue as I eventually smashed the Vampire lands to itty, bitty pieces. None-the-less it was a frustrating episode and an issue that appears to be a bit of a bug in the game.

Overall though an awesome, awesome game that I will be playing for many months, or possibly even years, to come. Given my new found hatred for Vampire Counts I will leave you with a couple of screenshots of me killing Mannfred von Carstein. I can't possibly find the words to describe how satisfying these battles were for me.

Next weekend I'm off to Maelstrom IX so I'll try and get a post up in the downtime about how things went. Until then, arrivederci!

Thorgrim laying the smackdown on Mannfred.

My favourite: this is what Mannfred looks like after a cannon ball to the face.

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