As I eased myself onto the plastic podium provided I felt a certain amount of trepidation. I know the game looks fantastic – The gameplay videos of the Battle of Blackfire Pass and The Ambush at Thundering Falls have more than shown off the superlative engine and monstrous creatures. But nagging at the back of my head were concerns about whether the actual game play would click with me. I’ve tried to enrol myself in the Total War franchise before – most notably with Shogun 2 – but something never felt quite right and I would always abandon the game before getting too far. The one beacon of hope for me was the happy memories of playing the brilliant Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen games from Mindscape, way back in the late 90s! Armed with these I plunged myself straight into hard mode (hoping to win that most elusive of prizes – a free t-shirt!).
The demo available was the Thundering Falls level, with us controlling the dwarves against many, MANY waves of greenskin scum. I was able to wield the familiar interface nice and easily, with the left and right mouse buttons doing exactly what you would expect. Forming up ranks on a hilled surface I used my unique and unparalleled knowledge of Sun Tzu’s Art of War to put my hitty guys at the front, and my shooty guys behind them – cunning, I know.
Whilst I was able to hold off the enemy at the front, a rear attack by some trolls and a giant threw things a bit awry, my slayers managing to take them down but not before they’d caused merry havoc amongst my artillery and allowed the other enemy units to start running amok. I managed to recover the situation relatively well until a GIANT SPIDER turned up with a howdah full of pesky goblins. Sending my already beleaguered slayers off to face yet another large creature and one of my heroes, I summoned my remaining units on a small hill and made them close ranks in a desperate last stand. By now my steam copters had arrived to lend some more firepower and, as the spider finally slumped down lifeless and with the arm of my last slayer hanging out of its mandibles, I managed to finally rout the remaining enemy.
I came away with the feeling that I absolutely need to have this game. It’s the most fun I’ve had playing a strategy game in a very long time and definitely feels like a spiritual successor to the Mindscape games. There were a lot of over the top battle cries, a few magical trinkets and a LOT of bodies and I loved every single second of it.