Total War Warhammer 3 Developer Interview: Designing Kislev and Survival Battles

Total War: Warhammer 3 developers Jim Whitston and James Martin recently shared with us the exciting new addition in the third Warhammer game.

After our the recent Total War: Warhammer 3 media preview, we at UnGeek got the privilege to sit down (virtually) and interview the game’s Lead Battle Designer Jim Whitston and Battle Designer James Martin. During our chat with Whiston and Martin, they were able to give us lots of interesting insight regarding the conceptualization and development of the game’s new race and massive new mode.

Along with this, Whitston and Martin were also able to share how the game will play for newcomers to the series, as well as what specific thing they are most excited about regarding that finale to Creative Assembly’s Warhammer trilogy.

Can you talk me through how the Kislev were designed in terms of gameplay?

JW: Yeah, I mean we’re super excited to be bringing Kislev to the total Warhammer series in the third game in the trilogy, along with Cathay as well, another race that we will be going into a bit more later. They are factions that have been present within the Warhammer lore almost from the beginning, but they’ve never really been fully realized and fleshed out. They have histories and so on but they don’t have a full roster of units and and so on. But they are a bit of a fan favorite so we were super excited when Games Workshop said that they were going to put some work into fully fleshing them out, and we had the opportunity to look over the shoulders of their designers as they went through that process which was obviously hugely interesting for us. And as that was going on, we were kind of laying our own plans of how to authentically take that new creation across into our game in a true and a fun way. So that was, that was a great opportunity for us.

On paper, Kislev look like quite a conventional faction. They’ve got some really solid line infantry, but difference that they have is that the vast majority of their line infantry is what we call hybrid infantry. So as well as a melee capability, they have a strong missile capability. And that adds a lot of tactical depth to the battle so players can decide whether they’re going to pelt the enemy with missile fire before engaging or get straight into melee. They also have many amazing supporting units like winged lancers, bear cavalry, and some other great characters as well as the new spell lores. It was an absolutely fantastic opportunity for us and we’re super excited for everyone to, to get their first look at this faction.

How did the team develop the concept for Survival Battles?

JW: Well the main driver was really looking at how everybody will be familiar with the kind of epic nature of the campaign side of total war games. And the narrative on this occasion, we needed some big beats when players are going into the home realms of each of the four Gods of Chaos. Despite the already epic scale of of Total War battles we felt that we wanted to push that even further, to really up the numbers of enemies that you’re coming up against and to really reflect the flavor of the challenge that you’re taking on at that point. Obviously, that presents an additional challenge to players so we provided this wide ranging toolbox of new mechanics that they can use to help them overcome that challenge in a way of their own choosing, So you’ve got the barricades to funnel enemy units around the map and the towers to whittle down their numbers before you actually come to blows with them. You’ve also got reinforcements that you can bring on to bolster your existing four forces, and you’ve got the upgrades and replenishments to increase their capabilities and keep them at fighting force.

We’re really interested to see how players will find different ways of kind of overcoming the challenge within these battles. And it’s all part of the philosophy of it being the third game in the series. It would have been very easy for us to just play it safe, not do anything too risky, but we wanted to continue pushing the series on and make it bigger, badder and better to keep the gameplay fresh.

JM: So, in survival battles, we’re really there to immerse you in this great task. So each of the maps that we have are unique to that God’s realm, and all of the features and mechanics that we’ve got inside it are all there to enable each other to give us this bigger and badder battles. Before in previous titles we wouldn’t have had this many units in the battle, but this really enables us to do the biggest battles that we’ve done ever.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced in creating these Survival Battles?

JW: Well, we’re quite fortunate, I mean we’ve hit alpha on the game so we like to give ourselves a good period between alpha and beta just because of the sheer size of the game. So there’s a balancing challenge there sure. We’ve embraced other balancing challenges within the series I mean, we really embrace the the asymmetry of the feature set and the roster between all of the races in the games right from the first game. And part and parcel of that was an additional balancing burden, but we decided to take that on because we felt that it made the game far stronger and more deep and rich. As a result, and as the series has gone on, we’ve become increasingly comfortable with that balancing process. So, we’ve got a balancing task with the survival battles, but we’ve got plenty of time to take that task on and we’re comfortable that we’ll do a good job with that.

JM: As with what Jim said there about asymmetry in the past of all our other rosters, as you know, Warhammer 3 now has got the most races on release, so that itself required more balancing thought behind it. Then there are the survival battles that has a lot of new features inside of it, as well as this new currency income. So we really had to sit down and take everything into account, but we are very confident that we’ve put a lot of thought into this to got these working together as well as we can.

JW: When we sat down originally even before Warhammer one and started laying our plans and looked at the wealth of content that Games Workshop had, we set about a strategy that would allow us to do justice to that depth of content. And now we’re kind of reaching towards the end of that cycle and the plans we laid out originally are kind of coming to fruition.

What will the new player experience be like for Warhammer 3? Will the game be accessible enough for new players, or would you still recommend starting from Warhammer 1?

JW: I mentioned when we were laying our plans back many years ago, before we’d even begun work on the series that one of the core pillars of that planning process was, we wanted to improve accessibility for players of all kinds of skill levels to the series. So we’ve had a constant focus on that throughout the trilogy to date. We’re constantly going through the battle engine and the campaign side of the game, looking for ways that we can streamline things, make things clearer. I mean in this game, we’ve reworked the way that the winds of magic system works to make it clear to players what’s going on, and a whole range of other tweaks just to help players into their game, hold their hand if they’re not particularly familiar with the way the game works. This is to improve the approachability of the whole experience because there is such a wealth of content there, with three games and all the DLC and free content that supports that. There’s such a great amount of fun to be had and we want to make that it is easy to access for our existing players and new players as well.

JM: We do listen to players on the forums and really take into account what they say, as well as talk with our DLC team perhaps and see what they think. We really want with Warhammer 3 to bring the most improvements to the table as well as really honing in on that usability. Everything that we’re trying to do now is, as Jim said, trying to appeal to both, new, new players as well as existing players.

What are you most excited for players to see and experience on Warhammer 3?

JW: We spoke earlier about the, the Kislev and Cathay races. The fact that they have been so popular with fans within the tabletop setting but have never been fully realized beyond some articles in White Dwarf and so on; I’ve got the Kislev pamphlet from White Dwarf myself. So to actually have those fully specced out now with all the rosters the spell lores, the heroes, and the full backstory and everything, I’m really excited for players get a first glimpse of the super cool stuff we’ve got coming up with them.

JM: For myself, it’d be the battle modes, with survival being one of them. To me, these battles are something that Total War would have been able to do in the past, but it wouldn’t necessarily fit in with some of our older titles. But now that we’re creating Warhammer 3 with all of these daemons, it is the perfect opportunity to get in this survival battle with more of a tower defense-y, survival feel, and I think it’s something the players will really enjoy.

JW: Outside of these things, we’ve got so much stuff to talk about coming up that we can’t go into today. Butthere’s just some amazing stuff coming up that we’re really excited to share with everyone.

Total War: Warhammer 3 will release on PC, Mac, and Linux sometime this year.