I love pirates. I grew up on Monkey Island as I have previously mentioned time and again, and that’s followed me through life. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve got a reputation within my friendship group. Every RP character I make…it’s essentially a pirate. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many decent pirate games released over the years, so it’s been a struggle to find a decent swashbuckling fix.
Luckily, Creative Assembly has me covered for this year with Curse of the Vampire Coast, an expansion to Warhammer: Total War 2. The expansion adds a new faction; The Vampire Coast, with four commanders, and a new victory condition. The faction is based on some old, obscure Warhammer lore, and whilst some units are reminiscent of TW:W’s Vampire Lords the majority of the content is brand new.
The pirate-themed faction’s mechanics are an interesting combination of elements seen in other races, however. The Vampire Coast retains the ability to revive units and the creeping layer of vampiric corruption which infests the map from vampire settlements. The faction does, however, also have a hierarchy system, like the Empire, which allows you to choose who does what within the fleet. Finally, the faction has the ability to recruit and build around the hero in a similar way to the horde of Chaos. It’s an interesting mix which melds well into a whole.
With this faction then, you’ll be moving around a lot. Settlements are useful to you as a source of income, but it is preferable to build coves inside enemy settlements using heroes. Pirate coves are a feature unique to the group which allows you to siphon a cut of a city’s wealth without taking full responsibility for it. I found this mechanic to be incredibly fun, as it gave my characters a reason to explore outside of looking for a fight. They were also useful as treasure hunters whilst setting up coves, as also added are treasure maps which can lead to some incredible treasure. These two elements typified the feel of piracy in the expansion and set the faction apart from the others for me. They’re both unique ideas which fit the theme; well done CA!
The other new systems in the expansion are tied to the VC’s victory condition. As you play through, you will now notice cities and ships being attacked by a sea monster, drawn by the cyclone spinning over the world. The VC wants to kill it and tame it. That’s how you win.
Yes, it SOUNDS underwhelming, but trust me when I say it pays off in the end. In order to get there, you need to collect three sea shanties to find it and a magical spear to kill the beast with. These can all be collected from other pirates, but require the collection of Infamy, as it will lure your opponents straight to you.
Again, it’s a unique concept which I loved, and whilst earning infamy through missions and events does occasionally feel like filling up a bar I’m at least glad they disguised it as a leaderboard.
Overall, the campaign changes refresh the TW loop just enough to make it interesting again without completely revolutionising it. Granted, I wasn’t a fan of the lackluster skill trees in this one, but they fit the function even if it just isn’t that exciting. Graphically there aren’t any huge upgrades to the engine, but the overall quality continues to be high.
Finally, let’s talk about units. An important thing to remember is that the VC is mainly about range. Whilst you have access to quite a few melee units they’re relatively frail compared to those your enemies will be fielding, so you’ll need to focus on that ranged prowess and tenderise your opponents before they reach you.
In terms of lords, all four are unique and interestingly designed, but my personal favourite is Count Noctilus, who gives me a real Davey Jones vibe with his living ships and powerful magic. In terms of other interesting units beside your starting gunnery mobs and deckhands (melee) you eventually get access to giant enemy crabs, Syreens (I wonder where they got that name from…), giant bats, mortars, bloated explosive suicide zombies, Mournguls (giant torso zombie-demon things) and a massive cannon; oh, and the Necrofex Colossus; an animated zombie ship with a cannon-arm full of zombies. The roster is endlessly interesting and fits the unique theme perfectly. I am more than happy to have a back-line of (un)living ships firing cannons at the enemy.
In short, I’ve been incredibly impressed by this new addition to the faction-list. Whilst it doesn’t feel quite as original as it could, re-using old mechanics in a different way, I’m glad to see something a little more obscure enter the game and I can’t deny that CA have done a stellar job of taking a theme and running with it; especially considering the level of polish on show. If you enjoy armies in TW:W2 which have a bit of a twist, this package offers another reason to jump right back into the Vortex.
Total War: WARHAMMER II – Curse of the Vampire Coast was developed by CREATIVE ASSEMBLY and Feral Interactive, and was published by SEGA along with Feral Interactive for PC.