Damn this game is just great. After combining the entire trilogy with all the DLCs, we get a game so vast that the developers can hardly keep up with patching, balancing and reworking it. Just a short look at the Total War subreddit shows plenty of frantic users demanding a rework of this or that faction, which are currently not the main concern of the developers. That's not because they can't or don't want to – the game is just too huge, and the number of interrelated elements that become especially significant in multiplayer can give you a headache. Now, after a relatively long period of silence, Creative Assembly adds yet another large DLC, introducing a long-awaited faction.
Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs join the already sizeable Total War: Warhammer 3 faction roaster – and along with them, plenty of new overkill units, new mechanics and new objectives. For many players – myself included – it's a small celebration, because we can stop complaining about CA and get back to playing the game, at least for a while. And there's plenty to return to!
The first rumors about Chaos Dwarfs becoming a playable faction in Total War: Warhammer appeared around a year ago. This isn't the most famous faction in the Warhammer universe, but at the same time, many players are very fond of it. That's because, first, they're dwarves, and second, ones that decided to embark on the path of Chaos. So, like their counterparts of Order, they have not only access to magic, but also technology, firearms and heavy equipment (cannons, artillery and such). Add to that the ability to form armies of cheap orc and goblin slave units and powerful fire magic, and you'll get a ready recipe for... a necessary nerf. I have a feeling that the Chaos Dwarfs will reign supreme in the multiplayer servers after the DLC is released. Until the first balancing patch.
You can play Dwarves both in Total War: Warhammer 3’s grand story campaign and in Immortal Empires. Even if you choose the former, keep in mind that the dwarves are completely oblivious to the affairs of the silly tsardom and the demons. These gloomy miners have their own interests, their own evil god and their own ambitions. The campaign seems to be more local, disinterested in the pivotal conflict of Warhammer 3. To tell you the truth, I liked that a lot, because this suited the faction well – the dwarfs only care about their precious gems and their even more precious... drill. Don't be fooled by this locality of the story – the dwarfs are located right between the rock and a hard place, and soon, you'll find your land invaded from almost every direction.
Creative Assembly, however, made sure that the new, evil dwarves perfectly fit into the game that's often considered one with overly high entry threshold and prohibitive level of complexity. Hence, the multitude of new mechanics can initially seem intimidating – and to be honest, rightly so, because the new faction isn't, at least in my opinion, the optimal choice for new players. Here’s why:
The Chaos Dwarfs build outposts, factories, and towers – instead of cities. There are 3 types of cities and each has a different set of buildings – build too many outposts and too few factories, and the game will be over sooner than you can say "beard." Do the opposite, and the same story happens. Building outposts allows you to put the workforce to good use, mainly for crafting raw materials, which are necessary for factories and for crafting armaments, which in turn is a resource for buying upgrades for your units. Sounds like a city builder? There's a lot of micro and macro management – in order to power the entire economic machine, we need laborers, whom we get through combat. In other words, progress requires waging constant battles, since that's the most important way to get laborers for your outposts, and building more of them increases workload again… etc.
In addition, there are Conclave Influence points, which enable you to buy further upgrades (shared by other factions of Chaos Dwarf). And then there's gold – it's another currency that we'll need, although it doesn't matter as much for dwarfs as for other factions. In addition, the dwarves also use convoys: you will send them to neighboring provinces to obtain money, workers or weapons.
The biggest early change for me, however, was the introduction of a cap on your main units. While the numbers of goblins and orcs you can recruit (i.e. cheapest minions of Chaos Dwarfs) don't have any caps, the number of somber dwarves you can recruit does, and you have to increase the limit by purchasing upgrades. This slows the progress down, while forcing us to focus on the economy (the sooner we receive a lot of armaments, the sooner we will replace goblins with dwarves). Interestingly, you can buy upgrades for these of your units (quite substantial ones, I would say). All of this means that you don't just need a powerful army – you also need a great, thriving economy to keep your them up and running at all times. But beware: if you become encumbered in wars, you will get too many workers, who bring a negative impact on the stability of your provinces, eventually leading to rebellion. Holly smokes!
Difficult? For sure, and while there are better choices for beginners, I can confidently say that after about 3 hours, you will learn most of the ropes, if not all. Creative Assembly has once again managed to design a system that, although complicated, is extremely entertaining.
There's a method to this chaos
Total War: Warhammer 3 is a game you don't need to really understand. I doubt many people are interested in getting that deep in the mechanics; if you're a player who usually plays other games, don't worry about this high entry threshold and FOMO – this the game cannot be fully explored, it's physically impossible. The balance here changes as often as in battle royale, things get turned upside down from patch to patch. So, unless you plan to become an online master of this game, just play it as you see fit, use the difficulty that suits you. This game, although it has reached astronomical sizes, remains as hellishly playable strategy as ever, now additionally giving us the unique opportunity to play as a tribe of pyromaniac dwarves.
The best way to approach it is to take any piece of the game that you enjoy, and then try to tame and understand it. And trust me, it's worth giving Total War a chance. You don't really need to fully know the game. Total War: Warhammer 3 is an unbalanced game that's all about balance, and the new dwarves are a great example of that. There are a lot of mechanics, the economy is quite complicated, sure, but all in all, if you start playing and building it without any general idea of where you want to take it, it will soon turn out that the game accommodates this approach well, prioritizing fun over efficiency. And oh girl, is there a lot of fun to be had.
A moment of reflection
The way Creative Assembly is releasing new patches and DLCs is, let me wax poetic, an endless balancing on the edge of Chaos. Seeing the centaurs (the dwarven cavalry) effortlessly massacre almost any unit on the field left me astounded. Then I saw how fire magic can be exploited (you're able to stack fire vulnerability on an enemy unit to the point where you can slaughter them in seconds with fire-based attacks). Of course, the devs will balance this in the future (because, as I said, TW: Warhammer 3 is a game about balance), just for it to turn out that some other faction or mechanic has become OP. So, if you're one of those gamers who love to complain about the development of their beloved games, then Total War Warhammer 3 is absolutely the right choice for you. You can really wage endless discussions about balance, nerfs, buffs and exploits, and the subreddit proves that again. But in the end, it's just about enjoying the experience.
That's why Total War Warhammer 3 (as the previous part) were both therapy games for me, which I used to fight this part of my psyche that's fixated on knowing and understanding everything. Seriously – try it, and you won't worry about missing something. Well, unless you want to test all of the 24 factions the game offers and 86 lords in them, who often significantly modify the mechanics. Then good luck – and see you in 5 years.
Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs are just one more piece of the rough-hewn and not-quite-fit puzzle, but they'll give you a lot of fun. Just like the game itself, provided that you approach it as a game – and not as a job.