Weaving a new faction through a strategy giant like Total War Warhammer is never going to be an easy task. There are so many different unit types already, each with varying sizes, all capable of interacting with each other in close combat. With a player controlled camera that can zoom and move fluidly across the real time 3D battles, it would be very unforgiving if the combat animations and AI were not choreographed and put together by one of the best developers around.
The Call of the Beastmen brings forth a playable horned Horde that strikes rapidly from the forest lands of the campaign map. Suffering little from the usual movement attrition that other static nations such as Orcs, Dwarves, Undead and Humans experience, the Beastmen instead bring forth dark justice to any that feel the right to set up settlements in the Beastlord’s realms.
When the War Herd strikes, their goal is to bring ruin to all existing civilisation, tearing down as many cities and armies as they can before regrouping back in the forests to replenish their hooven troops. You can choose between two Legendary Lords to lead your Herd, that start in varying places. One is a front line battle focused minotaur, the other a cloven Shaman that summons dark magic from the moon.
A swift summary of the Beastmen faction would describe them as a nomadic fast strike force that is beholden to a mix of game mechanics taken from the Orcs and Chaos factions. Like the Orcs, the Beastmen need to try and maintain offensive momentum. Striking often will eventually bring about the creation of a Battle Herd. A bonus 20 stack unit army that appears from nothing, to be pointed towards an enemy target where it will unleash destruction. The Player can change the target as often as desired, but cannot micromanage the Battle Herd’s movement. It will finds its own way to its target and then attack. It will support and be supported by your other units as an ally, should an encounter happen near enough. Also similar to the underpass tunnel travel movement available to the Orcs (and Dwarves), the Beastmen can slip across vast sections of normally impenetrable forests to launch a swift attack or make a swift exit.
And then, like the Chaos horde, the Beastmen have no settlement to call their home. Instead, they will destroy any city or town the horde conquers, in exchange gaining resource that will fuel the development of the War Herd. So instead of seeking refuge in the walled cities, the Beastmen make camp wherever they desire; trading a turn of attacking for a turn of reinforcing units and building up camps. Here the player can upgrade their camps (where each army has its own Camp tech tree to develop) from the factions pool of resource.
As indicated above, this collection of gameplay mechanics works well to keep Beastmen players moving and striking the smaller settlements fast, gaining strength enough to take on the larger walled cities.
The War Herd units are varied, with a few powerful units available fairly quickly, like the Minotaurs and then later the Horned Giant, but also with plenty of cheap cattle/cannon-fodder who’s main ability is being hidden and placeable almost anywhere on the battle map before a fight, representing the Beastmen’s ability to strike swiftly and cause disarray in an enemy before sending in their stronger melee units.
They also have Centigors, melee cavalry , hybrid horse Beastmen that are rapid and shielded, with devastating charge bonuses. Most of the Beastmen units are faster than the majority of combatants in Total Warhammer, but with low armour capacity.
This focus on speed, low armour, and strike tactics is the real separator between the two Horde factions. Where the Chaos army is a slow moving indomitable force that rolls across the map, almost unstoppable in its powerful armour, the Beastmen are swift and hidden, pulling out the light ballistics or cavalry units when they need to further confuse the enemy into chaos, splitting armies and retreating.
The Call of the Beastmen also comes with another separate campaign and map, that puts the Beastmen Player up against just one Human opponent. While this seemed like a nice extra to the DLC, it didn’t really grab my attention for long, as it felt more like a cut down version of the full campaign that I would rather be playing.
The Beastmen DLC offers another dynamic into the TW Warhammer campaign, and having them run around causing mayhem can certainly put you up against greater challenges if you feel as if playing the Human faction is not challenging enough. I certainly enjoyed unleashing waves of mighty minotaurs at my enemy, but I anticipate that this DLC, like many that will follow it, will be one that people choose to pick up when they want a fresh challenge and dimension added into their TW Warhammer game, rather than a need to grab them all.
This is what Games Workshop are masters at. Take a look the tabletop Warhammer game and you will see walls of bite sized miniature packs, ranging from £5 up to £20 a go, with only a handful of miniatures in each. The miniatures are always gorgeous, mind you, but still, they are the add-on masters. So rest assured we are only just seeing the beginning of this flood of micro-content for the TW Warhammer games. I reckon it will be one DLC every 4-6 weeks for the next six months at least. We haven’t even got all the core races rolled out yet. Elves and Skaven are definitely on the cards. and on the 1st September there is the Lords and Units DLC pack, for Humans and Undead, called Total War Warhammer The Grim and the Grave.
This Beastmen faction DLC is a top quality product that can revitalise your TW Warhammer game. The question is, does this deep title need revitalising now or does it need it when there is a winter sale on? Completionists and fans of Warhammer will pay top dollar for this DLC, everyone else will shrug and wait until a bunch of Total Warhammer DLC comes together in a cheaper bundle.
I will get DLC as it piques my interest and the price is right for me. And that is why those tempting people at Games Workshop are the masters at this. There will always be something a Total War Warhammer player will want, it's only a matter of time.