Total War studio Creative Assembly continues to push the boat out when designing new factions, and we’re now so removed from land that there are sea monsters.
Even extra so than normal, monsters are the celebs of the present within the newest Total War: Warhammer 2 DLC: Curse of the Vampire Coast. In realising these monsters, Creative Assembly’s artists and animators have outdone themselves. This military of piratical bloodsuckers is a giddily joyous field of recent toys: large crabs chitter and chirp, crusted in barnacles and dripping with saltwater. You can virtually style the brine.
The inexplicable Necrofex Colossus – an enormous golem, constructed out of previous, rotten ships – twitches and lurches because it lumbers throughout the battlefield, groaning when its picket beams pressure. The consideration to element is astonishing – even the items the Vampire Coast shares with the Vampire Counts, just like the dragon-sized bats known as Terrorgheists, have had a slimy reskin to differentiate them from their landlubber equivalents.
Early conquests come simply by (ab)utilizing the Raise Dead mechanic – which helps you to immediately increase items anyplace, permitting you to shortly reinforce after battles – to overwhelm enemies with low-tier troops. This mechanic will likely be acquainted to Vampire Counts gamers, who’ve the identical system. Where the Vampire Coast distinguish themselves is their artillery, which is definitely essentially the most deadly within the game. By the mid-game you may subject sufficient mortars and cannons to rout enemy items in a single volley, particularly if a kind of cannons is the huge Queen Bess.
Without query, Vampire Coast artillery is essentially the most deadly within the game
Necrofex Colossi take the stage within the endgame, the place, as with the opposite factions in Total War: Warhammer, it builds to a singular epic ultimate battle. I gained’t be spoiling what it’s right here, however I believe it’s most likely the good but. I took a kicking in my first try, so I tailor-made my military for an additional try to introduced six Colossi. The picket mechs’ cannons have good vary, can hearth whereas transferring, and are sturdy in melee as well – they routinely racked up tons of of kills in each battle.
Tactically, my method was to focus on items that may give me bother (primarily ones designed to carry down my colossi) earlier than they hit my strains, and purchase myself time to take action by stalling the enemy’s advance. Like the Vampire Counts, the Coast have loads of tips to do that: they will summon tarpit items of zombies, or use disruptive magic to interrupt up formations. There’s additionally the bloated corpse, a fast-moving suicide bomber that may virtually kill a complete unit with a clear hit. I’m not exaggerating – one received 79 kills in response to the post-battle display screen. If you end up going through the Coast you’re going to wish to get good at sniping bloated corpses or undergo the implications.
But prime of the invoice with regards to these new monsters is Amanar – a ‘merwyrm’, or sea dragon, so huge that it may possibly harm coastal settlements. Which it would do, periodically and arbitrarily, all through the marketing campaign. It’s a flavourful contact, and for the reason that new Legendary Lords all aspire to regulate Amanar, a essential illustration of its energy.
In play, nonetheless, it’s frankly a bit annoying. Amanar’s assaults add no strategic depth, boiling right down to a notification saying ‘some of your coastal buildings are damaged now’. You can both depart them that manner or repair them, which isn’t a significant selection. Perhaps a mechanic by which you would curry favour with Amanar, and plead for it to assault another person, may have supplied an attention-grabbing inflection at these moments.
The goal of the Vampire Coast’s marketing campaign is to bend this beast to your will and dominate the seas, which you handle by acquiring and empowering a magical harpoon. To activate the harpoon, you’ll must reclaim all of the components of a misplaced sea shanty, every of which is held by a legendary pirate. Excitingly, pirates are a factor now – there are a dozen buccaneer fleets roaming the ocean, very similar to rogue armies on land. They are a stern proposition early within the game and can make seafaring extra perilous for everybody, however for the Vampire Coast, they’re rivals in addition to hazards.
All pirates – Vampiric ones included – are ranked by their Infamy. The three who maintain the shanty verses won’t spawn till you’ve surpassed their Infamy, so accruing it’s primarily your foremost goal. And how do you construct a fame amongst amoral bloodsucking materialists? Killing enemies and taking or razing cities are main sources of Infamy, after all. Some of the pirates you’re attempting to outshine additionally carry ‘pieces of eight’, with which Vampire Coast factions can unlock their regiments of renown, so that you’re fittingly incentivised to do at the very least a few of your scrapping on the excessive seas.
If you desire a extra reliable stream of Infamy then you definitely wish to set up some pirate coves. These are Creative Assembly’s newest game-changing concept: take a port settlement from an enemy, and in addition to occupying, sacking, or razing it, you may decide to arrange a pirate cove there, successfully constructing in enemy territory. You can then select certainly one of 4 additional cove varieties, of which by far essentially the most helpful is that which siphons half the port’s revenue into your coffers (all of them give Infamy, however in various quantities).
It’s an thrilling concept however takes a while to regulate to. Setting up a cove means leaving an enemy metropolis intact when you’ve taken it, which doesn’t come naturally – at the very least, to not me. It also can trigger public order complications in case you have designs on the neighbouring area and might lengthen wars, for the reason that AI is understandably reluctant to make peace except you deal it a crippling blow. This means coves are finest as distant outposts, put in in factions you don’t thoughts being perpetually at conflict with. And because you need a whole lot of them, try to be able to, once more, choose a lot of fights. As with Skaven and the Dark Elves, your Lords will undergo decaying Loyalty in the event you don’t make use of them, in order that’s one other nudge to get you out and terrorising the seas. I belief you’re seeing a sample right here.
It’s doable to finish a Vampire Coast marketing campaign with out holding any territory in any respect, aside out of your capital. This is due to coves and to the brand new shipbuilding mechanic, which is restricted to the Vampire Coast faction leaders and to 4 distinctive Lords, who you may recruit by way of the tech tree for 1,000 Infamy every (by the way, these Lords don’t undergo from the Loyalty mechanic, which is nice in the event you want a home military). Shipbuilding is the nautical equal of a Horde military – it permits you to develop and recruit troops out of your ship as if it had been a settlement, and means a Lord might be away from residence, plundering merrily, for dozens of turns at a time.
In my first marketing campaign as Count Noctilus, I abandon the concept of a land empire after a poorly executed invasion of Ulthuan teaches me learn how to use coves the laborious manner. The remainder of the game is a linear grind up the tech tree and Infamy ranks, crusing across the Great Ocean and beating folks up. I pay for my more and more costly military by sacking or organising coves in ports owned by weak factions, by grabbing techs and abilities to scale back repairs, and by plundering the excessive seas.
Treasure maps will drop from battles, ruins, or encounters at sea for Vampire Coast factions – although very not often, in my expertise. Trivial clues level you to a given area the place you ‘dig’ utilizing a brand new military stance. Rewards embody an honest wedge of gold and Infamy. It’s one other system to encourage you to get out into the world.
You might have seen that plundering and preying on weaklings is stereotypical pirate behaviour, and it’s spectacular that Creative Assembly has as soon as once more reshaped Total War’s mechanics to create a playstyle that completely suits maybe its strangest race but. But being a nautical bully isn’tas enjoyable because it sounds. Noctilus’s capital is in the midst of the ocean, and with a very good garrison, not one of the many enemies I make appear fascinated about punishing my aggression (on ‘normal’ problem). With just one foremost military to command, entire turns go with out incident whereas I sail, or recruit, or construct. I’ve to suppose forward when growing my ship, however in any other case I don’t encounter too many tough selections. Just a whole lot of crusing.
Fortunately, you’re below no obligation to take this method. I’m midway via one other marketing campaign as Luthor Harkon, mixing international coves and excessive seas scraps with the customary challenges of a land empire, and I’m having rather more enjoyable. It helps that Harkon is hilarious, sinking his fangs into the cutscene surroundings as a lot as his rivals’ necks.
Still, even with nothing higher to do than sail about and combat, the aesthetic and story components of this enlargement have saved me engaged. Another sequence of painterly cutscenes inform the scurrilous story of your pirate lord as they journey from dockside cartographers in teeming Sartosa to the very depths of the ocean itself, whereas notifications drop little teases of a twist ending. As with the bottom game, it’s virtually painful to see the world realised with such magnificence and never be capable of get nearer throughout play, however I can hardly fault a method game for taking a strategic view. Even a glimpse at such a private perspective is a uncommon achievement on this style.
This is a richly characterful DLC that the devs clearly had large enjoyable making. It’s as if everybody on the artwork and narrative groups binge-watched Pirates of the Caribbean, then melted and drank the Blu-Rays. Their work is an equal pleasure to expertise. The wider game can also be tremendously enriched now that there’s extra happening at sea, with new hazards and a method to manually combat naval battles, even when it’s not ship-to-ship.
But oceanfaring isn’t so attention-grabbing as to maintain a complete marketing campaign by itself. Pirate coves are a neat concept, and mixed with shipbuilding they make it doable to dwell the lifetime of a solo pirate. This suits the theme completely and is a intelligent little bit of game design, however in enabling you to disregard a lot of what makes Total War attention-grabbing, what stays generally is a pretty one-note expertise. Step onto land and do some good old style empire constructing, nonetheless, and also you’ll have a whale/merwyrm of a time.
Total War: Warhammer 2 – Curse of the Vampire Coast
Creative Assembly’s artwork workforce has outdone itself, constructing a visible deal with that drips with element. However, Curse of the Vampire Coast’s sheen is let down by a one-note marketing campaign.