Just over 6 months ago I was given the chance to review Total War: Warhammer; the latest game in the Total War franchise from Creative Assembly. As a life-long Warhammer fan, I leapt at the chance and thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, awarding it my seal of approval and a solid 9/10. My biggest criticism at that point was the lack of the more interesting Warhammer races; Lizardmen, Beastmen, Skaven, Elves, Tomb Kings etc.
Since then, things have started to change. Whilst they are continuing their classic trend of releasing huge amounts of DLC, including some stuff which should have been free (*COUGH* Blood for £1.99? *COUGH), at least the Beastmen are now available alongside some new story content, characters and units. However, until recently I haven’t had a reason to go back, because Beastmen are really just Chaos with fur, right?
Then came the Wood Elves. This excited me on two levels; Firstly, elves are awesome, especially ones which focus on range. Secondly, I collected Wood Elves models as a teenager and still have them on display. The thought of having an army of Dryads in a game really gives me wood(ern soldiers.) But have Creative Assembly successfully captured the essence of the Wood Elves, and is the £13.99 package worth the entrance fee?
The first thing I want to point out is something that wasn’t immediately obvious to me; regardless of whether or not you have this DLC, or the Beastmen DLC, you will be able to encounter them in the base game. Creative assembly seem to be expanding the Grand Campaign as they go along to include the new races, making the game as a whole richer and richer. You will only be able to play as them with the DLC, however.
First and foremost, the most important aspect of the DLC is the army itself. The Wood Elves faction comes with a variety of units, each with their own battlefield roles. The most immediately available of these are the legendary commanders Orion; the king in the woods, and Durthu; an ancient treeman who wields a sword in battle. Both have their own pros and cons, but I found myself drawn to Orion; who is basically a Wood Elf Demigod, as my main character. What interested me about him was his eclectic mix of ranged and melee combat ability which goes really well with the rest of the Wood Elf roster. Prioritising range, the wood elves have the unique ability to be able to move and shoot at the same time, allowing more battlefield movement throughout battles. Alongside their huge range (I mean, Glade Guard get 180) they’re pretty fast and fluid. The wood elves also field a good variety of melee units, including some very powerful melee cavalry in the form of the Wild Riders and a huge number of treekin creatures. Your choice of character will determine how easy these are to acquire, but they are easily one of the most interestingly designed creatures in the whole game.
In short, this is not an easy army to play. Agreed, they can be ridiculously powerful at range, but they really do fit the definition of a glass cannon, in that they have a severe lack of physical resilience. The wood elves also require a ridiculous amount of micro as opposed to the shielded nature of many other factions. Creative Assembly have seemed to take a bigger risk here than they have previously, offering an army which is completely different from anything else in the game.
Raiding is the name of the game, sending fast units to take pot-shots before running away and leading them to your hidden ambush of Glade Guard. They have a good variety of units, from the simplest archer elves, to their equal counterparts who have AP or poison-dealing power, to the shadowdancers, giant eagles and forest dragons, but you will find yourself consistently losing unless you change up your strategy a little. These changes are a very welcome addition, especially in a game which felt like it had little difference between starting factions, and bring a whole new way to fight to the game. The integration of moving fire makes the micro element of battle much more important and that brings a new sheen to an already sparkling masterpiece.
The Wood Elves also have their own eccentric campaign objectives. Sticking close to Warhammer Fantasy Lore, their victory condition is to completely restore the Oak of Ages, located at the centre of Athel Loren. This monumental task requires Amber, a new exclusive resource, which is also used to acquire more advance units and technologies. Early on in every campaign you’ll want to ally with the other Wood Elf factions and gain access to the rest of Athel Loren, as you will only be able to build up proper settlements within the forest itself. Whilst the Elves can settle any town or village, any outside of the forest become outposts; un-upgradable and only allowing a single, low level utility building to be attached to it. Whilst the fact that gameplay revolves around staying in a single can make progression seem very slow, it’s satisfying to finally upgrade the Tree to a new level and feel the forest becoming stronger.
Alongside adding the Wood Elves to the Grand Campaign map, the DLC also comes with a new campaign set in the Wood Elf homeland of Athel Loren. You play as either Orion or Durthu, fighting against the other for control of the forest. It’s an interesting scenario which plays well to the strengths of the new faction, with scripted events which help the player to truly become engrossed in the Wood Elf lore.
Regarding lore, the developers have shown an astounding attention to detail whilst creating the faction. For the most part, character models reflect the GW originals incredibly well, and although they have used creative license at times it’s mostly effective, with some fantastic sound effects which give the feel of being part of a forest-dwelling tribe. My one nit-pick is the modifications made to Dryads. Whilst I appreciate that their creative vision was to make them less feminine and more “wooden”, I’m somewhat disappointed that their sleek, vine-like tendrils have become so much chunkier. Whilst they do reflect the other tree-kin more effectively with this design, I would have liked a feminine variation to have a place in the roster, as to reflect the tabletop game’s vision.
In conclusion, Creative assembly have succeeded in providing more high-quality content for Total War: Warhammer with in the inclusion of the Wood Elves. Their design adds a whole new style of play to the world, whilst also filling some of the gaping holes in the base game’s version of the old world. Requiring a lot of skill, they offer players more familiar with micro-based gameplay a chance to really show off and control an army of stealthy-yet-deadly warriors in battle. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all of the design choices, the Wood Elf units are beautifully realised both aesthetically and aurally, and playing has made me feel closer to them than ever before; even as a Wood Elf player of the Tabletop game. Whilst the entry fee for the expansion is high, you do get a huge new chunk of content with a lot of new situations that you will not have encountered in the base game. Of all the DLC to have come out for Total War: Warhammer so far, this is the one I would most highly recommend.
I’m KNOT joking, I’m really ROOTing for this DLC. TREE bien!