I haven’t written about video games in a while. Probably because I’ve been playing video games. A lot.
My experience with the Total War franchise goes back to Medieval: Total War back in 2003 or so. Huge fan. I’ve played all the main Total War games except the Shogun games. When I found out Games Workshop was going to let them make a Total War style Warhammer game, I was entirely onboard. Funny enough, I didn’t realize Warhammer and Warhammer 40k were two different properties at the time. I had it in my head it would be some kind of planet hopping sci-fantasy Total War game. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was not the case.
The third installment in the series could be the best in the lot after the prerequisite several patches. With games this large, there’s always some adjusting that has to be done. With the Total War games it’s usually some unforeseen bugs, and balance tweaking. I play the game for a week after release date then wait for the first patch to come out.
What I’ve seen with this game is that, it’s not so much that there’s an unexpected number of bugs, it’s that the new mechanics they introduces aren’t really great. Also the AI cheats.
Wow, does it cheat.
With every new Total War game there’s a little learning curve. Lots of new units to learn, new game mechanics, maps, and all that. For me, the best way to do this is play a couple of campaigns on easy mode, and then do some battles against the AI. Once I’ve got it figured out I’ll then play the campaign on normal or hard.
Warhammer III, at least on easy mode, has a really forgiving economic system compared to the previous installments. That’s great because the point of the game is more the battles, sieges and quests. It’s not terribly hard to keep income. The economy is really just what limits the size of the armies you can field and how much and how often you can do certain things. On the previous installments when I’d try a new faction, I’d often use a ‘no army upkeep’ mod so I could learn the faction without having to worry about that part of the game.
The easier economic system should mean the campaign is easier to win on some level. Exactly why I play on easy mode the first time or two. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to get through the rift campaign, if not mostly impossible because of how the AI cheats.
The basic idea is you play through four survival challenges based on one of the four gods of chaos. The Khorne rift has a battle arena, Nurgle’s realm has heavy attrition damage, Slaanesh has a pit you descend into through portals and resist temptation, and Tzeentch has a portal maze. You can try one of these challenges once every thirty rounds or so. If you win one, you have to wait another thirty rounds to take on another. That means it takes a minimum of 120 turns to get through all four challenges. Once you beat the final challenge, you can immediately go to the final battle. I’m not totally certain if the rift stays open until you’re ready or if they’ll disappear and come back.
I caught the AI cheating in the Slaanesh realm on my second or third playthrough attempt. I entered the realm before the AI. I made it down one rung before the AI showed up as the Nurgle faction. There are six rings you have to descend down. It takes about two moves to get down the top few rungs using normal movement, maybe one if you are in “march”. When you descend a ring, you can’t move until the next turn. It should take an absolute minimum of six turns, and on average about ten turns to get to the bottom. This is assuming you can avoid the battles.
I was on the second rung, one turn before entering the portal to the third. I calculated I could easily beat the AI down even if I had to fight a battle or two. Nope. One move later the AI that just entered somehow ended up on the second to last ring. One more turn and it had taken the soul and won, kicking me out of the rift. Outside the rift I’ve seen the AI get the Slaanesh soul within four turns, which is not possible with the game mechanics.
Two of the other realms are pretty straightforward with no real puzzles. Khorne’s realm just requires you to fight a few battles. Nurgle’s is dead simple if you move through it in encamp or raiding mode. Tzeentch’s realm though, the AI will win after entering any five portals, regardless of whether it’s the right path. This can make his realm nearly impossible if you have even a little bad luck.
To make things even more annoying, every time you beat a challenge the battles inside get harder. This dramatically increases your chance of getting wiped right before the soul battle on the fourth soul.
Whatever I did, I could never quite get that fourth soul. Once you’re at this point in the game, at least one other faction will always have three souls. There’s no buffer, except a chance to intercept the AI. I’d always lose a battle, get sniped, or my faction leader was simply unable to enter the rift quick enough. Then the game ends a few rounds later. The two times I tried to intercept the AI at the forge of souls, the AI just straight up didn’t show up after seven or eight turns. When I exited the rift to wait for them to open again, game over two rounds later. Might be if I waited one more turn I could have caught them, but something tells me that isn’t the case.
A quick Google search told me I was far from the only person to have this problem. Many people find the rift system impossible, annoying or stupid. Considering the game just ends after roughly 120 rounds, making a domination victory laughably hard if not impossible, I can see why. Nothing like getting to the last battle of the last soul, only to need to replenish for a turn or two and the AI wins the game two rounds later. Or is just getting its last soul one turn before you. You’ve just wasted hours of your life only to unfairly lose. On easy mode. Multiple times.
It’s bad enough Creative Assembly is patching the urgency out of the rift campaign. My hope is they make this part of the adjustments you can make when setting up a new campaign.
Fortunately, there are a lot of guides out there that will show you how to edit the LUA files to make the campaign a little more fair, or just to remove the rift quest entirely. So, that’s what I did. I reduced the difficulty curve for each rift attempt, increased how powerful the AI needs to be before it can win, and lowered the amount of corruption the rifts create. I was able to win the game this way, it was still challenging but I felt it was more in line with the difficulty of the campaign in general. There’s also a way to turn the rifts off to make the domination victory possible.