After an latest reveal on the upcoming Total War Warhammer 3 game which showed a surprise new playable faction – the Daemons of Chaos, we were able to virtually sit down with James Whitston (Lead Battle Designer) and Mark Sinclair (Lead Campaign Designer) to talk more about the Daemon of Chaos and Grand Cathay. We were also able to discuss what the biggest changes are to the Total War: Warhammer 3 game as compared to previous entries in the series, and why you should be excited for the launch of this awesome game – whether you’re new to the franchise or a long-time player.
Your announcement about the Daemons of Chaos was the big surprise right here. So you guys showed that it emphasizes customization. What would you say are the most interesting things about this race? And how the balancing done for this?
James Whitston (JW): Yeah, I mean, the thought behind it was when we sat down and looked at the content for the third and final instalment in the Total War Warhammer trilogy, we were looking at the Daemons of Chaos book, and that’s a strange army book because it kind of includes four factions within one because it’s each of the chaos gods and we can see looking through there there was enough content for each of those gods to support an individual playable race for each of those. The advantage of that is it allows us to go deep take the player through the kind of the ethos of each of those gods, the story behind them, the individual rosters, the spell lores, and the great characters that are there. The disadvantage of that is that it doesn’t allow you to do what you can do with the Daemons of Chaos army book in the tabletop game and that’s field an army that includes units from each of those gods’ rosters.
So by having the Chaos Undivided faction (the Daemons of Chaos), led by the Daemon Prince, that allows us to offer the players that experience and also since it’s led by the Daemon Prince – within the lore, it specifically states that there’s no two daemon princes alike… they are as varied as there are grains of sand on a beach… and that’s kind of reflected with what players do with the Daemon Prince tabletop miniature. They kit bash them, to customize them in the way they see a Daemon Prince being. We wanted to offer players that experience so that kind of RPG element where you’re unlocking new body parts – you know gifts from the gods to reward you for allocating daemonic Glory to the glory of each of those gods, they reward you with body parts that you can use to customize your Daemon Prince and you can also unlock faction features or the units in the rosters and so on. And it just provides a really compelling and immersive gameplay experience in which you’ve got a really wide-ranging toolbox to approach any different problem that you encounter within the sandbox campaign in the way that you see fit at the time.
Mark Sinclair (MS): Yeah, in terms of balancing, we didn’t want to let the player have access to every single tool from the beginning so you can only start by recruiting a few different daemon units but, as you dedicate towards one god, you can get more of the higher tier units. So if you want to go exclusively down the Khorne route, for example, you can get the bloodthirsters fairly quickly and that will mean you’re very powerful, but you won’t necessarily have access to the other greater daemons. So it’s a lot harder to push all four gods for example, and get those high tier units. But it is possible if you want to play that way. So there’s a lot of different ways you can play the teams, which is really fun.
JW: Yeah and the balancing challenge kind of goes right back to the first game in the series, where part of our preparation for making these games was to spend a lot of time actually playing the tabletop game so we could really get our heads around what makes each of these races tick. And we very quickly realized they’re all very different, not just in terms of the units that you have available, but the mechanics associated with them and the spell lores and all of that kind of stuff. So obviously, in deciding to reflect that in what we produce in our game so that we’re faithfully reflecting the source material and the lore and so on, that means that we’re volunteering for a greater challenge in terms of balancing the game though, you know, we were comfortable taking on that challenge with open eyes and we’ve become increasingly comfortable with that process as we’ve gone through the series. This is kind of the ultimate epitome of that because it is a race that incorporates the features and the rosters and so on from pretty much four other races in the game. We think we’ve done a pretty good job of bringing that all together in a fun and compelling way.
Obviously, the biggest PRO of using the Daemons of Chaos is player customization. What would be the biggest CON about using them? What’s the biggest disadvantage?
JW: Well, I suppose there’s a lot of content there to get your head around. You’ve got all of the many different units, each of which you need to build an understanding of. You’ve got all of the campaign features, which can really change the way that you’re doing things on the campaign and the campaign itself is obviously on a vast scale. We knew that that would be a challenge. But throughout the series, we’ve made it one of our objectives to ease new players into the game because we knew that this content would bring a lot of new players who have to played the historical games. We’ve added a lot of quality-of-life features to the game which make accessing the actual fun stuff far easier. The game remembers, for example, if you drag out your army into a formation during the deployment phase of the battle, it will snapshot that automatically and, the next time you go into an open land battle, that that army will be laid out exactly the way that you left it in the previous deployment phase. There are many other examples. That makes accessing the funner elements of the game that much slicker and quicker for players. We’ve also produced a prologue to this game, which is kind of a smaller standalone campaign which really holds your hand and introduces you how to play a Total War campaign. We’re not going into a lot of detail on that today, because this game is so vast and there’s so much to talk about. We can’t really cover everything so we’re going to leave that one a little bit later in the campaign. But yeah, we have we have looked at a lot of elements. The advisor in the game takes you through as you encounter new features. It will take you through and introduce you to them and let you know how to make best use of them.
MS: I think obviously the Daemons of Chaos have so many different features. But the cool thing is, each of the individual gods have their own set of features that the daemons don’t have access to. So for example, Tzeentch has the “Changing of the Ways” which is a really powerful feature that you won’t be able to access if you’re playing as the Daemon Prince. So those tools make the god races really powerful and unique in their own way. So if you play the Daemons of Chaos and just focus on Tzeentch, you’re going to be missing out on this really powerful tool that allows you to manipulate other factions and force wars between them and transfer regions amongst them. So you’re missing these really powerful features there.
JW: Yeah, and each of those gods is very strong thematically that you know, if you are playing as the Daemon Prince, it’s perfectly viable to follow the path of just one of those gods and you can’t really go wrong with that. But as you get more comfortable and more experience with that, you’ll start to notice that, on one of the other daemonic glory tracks, you might think of a way that you can incorporate that into what you’re doing and it’s just having those options there. You don’t have to follow them. You just find your own path and pretty much everything works pretty well.
You mentioned earlier that you have a prologue system. Is that how you’re going to ease new players in, in terms of gameplay and story?
MS: Yeah, I think definitely that’s the recommended route – to play the prologue first because, not only is that going to teach you the basics of how the game works, but it’s going to introduce you to the narrative and the world that this game set in. We’ve really made some big strides in this game to beef up the story and make that much more important. The whole writing team describes it as a playable black library novel, which I think is really a good way of describing it. The movies in this game are so much bigger and better than what we had in Warhammer 2, which we already had great feedback on so we’ve really taken those learnings and beefed it up and made it even more impressive, I think.
JW: I think that narrative side of the game that we’ve really doubled down on, especially in this game, that is another route into the game for a new player. You’re not just cut loose on this huge sandbox campaign map. We’re constantly offering the players objectives in the short, medium, and long term. So you’ve always got something to focus on, something to do, something you’re waiting to complete or whatever. You’re never left kind of kicking your heels wondering what to do next. There’s always an exciting new challenge.
Would you guys have a recommended path or a sequence on playing the eight races that would maximize the game story or the gameplay experience for players?
JW: I think it’s interesting that each of the playable races have their own take on that – their own route into it. So every single one of them is completely viable in terms of tackling that that narrative. I mean, we were talking to some guys earlier about what would they recommend as a starting race in the game… they’re ALL viable or very easy to get your head around and get playing as. For players who have maybe played the historical games previously, perhaps Cathay and Kislev would be more familiar because they’re human races. The units that you start the game with are usually fairly straightforward. Very quickly as you go through the game, you start unlocking the more fantasy elements – the huge terracotta sentinels, flying units, balloon artillery with a Cathay, Elemental bears with Kislev, etc. There’s no right or wrong way to play the game. Every single race is viable. Each time I start a new campaign, I fall in love with that race and that race becomes my favorite race in the game and then I’ll start another one and THAT becomes my favorite race in the game! I think that’s a pretty good sign that we’re doing something right.
We got a bit of an extended look on Cathay this time and there’s a lot going on. Can you tell us a little bit more about them? What are the most exciting parts for Cathay that players are supposed to look forward to?
JW: For me, just the fact that they’re in the game at all is incredibly exciting. They’ve always been a bit of a fan favorite, but they’ve never had their own army book in a similar way to Kislev. So we’re very excited! It was really exciting to have a chance to kind of sit on the shoulders of their designers as they went through that design process and to start working out how we’re going to slot it into our game. We’re really fortunate we’ve got a really good working relationship with Games Workshop and there was a bit of to and fro, about some of the features there.
MS: What’s really cool is they’re all kind of interwoven so they all work with each other. So I think one of the really exciting things for me is using the Compass feature. If you direct it in a certain direction, you can get a gradual power up and, once that bar fills up, you can unleash the Dragon Emperor’s wrath and what that means is all the Chaos armies that have amassed outside the great Bastion will take attrition. So if you’re struggling to defend the wall, you can unleash that and it’ll really hinder the Chaos armies there and help you defend it, which is really fun.
What would be your the biggest changes in Warhammer 3 compared to the previous entries?
JW: I think the scale of the game for me, this is the largest number of playable races that we released for one of the standalone games within this series. So there is a huge amount of content there. Every single race totally different to each other. The asymmetry of features and the fact that we’ve achieved a balance, satisfying balance in that each time as I say you start a new campaign. You’re looking at a totally new feature set, a totally new set of units, spell lores, characters, and all the rich depth of detail that Games Workshop have created to explain the world and the races within it – their motivations and thoughts – so it’s super satisfying to sit down in front of this game and know that you’ve got probably thousands of hours of really really enjoyable gameplay ahead of you.
MS: I think, for me, the biggest thing is what we’ve already talked about – it’s the Daemons of Chaos and the Daemon Prince. Being able to create your own character essentially. We’ve never had that level of customization and role-playing elements before, which is really exciting for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the posts on the forums about, “Look at my Daemon Prince! it’s got this crazy arm and this crazy sword!”, and just seeing how players interact with that. It’s gonna be really fun.
Total War: Warhammer 3 will release on PC, Mac, and Linux on February 17, 2022