I’ve had some pretty wild ideas in my day, but probably none as ill-advised as Tsarina Katarin of Kislev deciding to invade the chaotic, unearlthly realm of the Blood God, Khorne. If you want to survive the daemonic invasion in Total War: Warhammer 3’s campaign, though, you don’t have much choice. Taking the fight to the Ruinous Powers won’t be a simple matter of routing a few armies from the field and laying siege to a fortress, though. It will play out as a new type of Survival Battle that combines elements of tower defense and resource management in ways we’ve never seen in Total War before.The Slavic-inspired realm of Kislev has generally been the first to bear the brunt of Chaos throughout Warhammer’s history, and their playstyle definitely reflects this. They’re built around a core of rugged hybrid infantry – that is, fighty guys who can also shoot, and shooty guys who can also fight. Kossar archers can hold their own against a melee charge much better than the missile troops of the neighboring Empire. The burly Streltsy come to battle with big ass axes that make them great shock troops, but if you look closely, are also guns for softening up the enemy at range first.Total War: Warhammer 3 – May 2021 ScreenshotsTheir unique ability fits them perfectly, as well. By Our Blood makes all of your core units fight harder once they’ve lost at least half of their numbers, in contrast to most other mortal factions. This allows you, as Creative Assembly put it, to ask for greater sacrifices out of your soldiers than you would normally. It’s a great feeling to have your back against the wall in a desperate defense and see your bloodied units somehow still hold the line, against all odds.Kislev also has a really strong cavalry component. Winged Lancers are swift shock cav who might not be as tough as Bretonnian knights, but can inflict similar damage on the charge. They’ve got horse archers for general harassment. And last but definitely not least, their signature bear cavalry carves through the daemonic hordes so savagely that it brought a tear to my eye. All the while, Katarina’s lore of ice can strengthen your defenses or slow down your enemies to great effect.Skulls for the Skull Throne!On the other side, Khorne’s armies are pretty much exactly what you’d expect. They’re red. They’re angry. They cause quite a bit of a mess when they get into melee range. Keeping them at safe distance seems like a smart play, though quick units like the winged Furies and daemon-mounted Skullcrushers can close the gap before you have much chance to respond. The daemonic units also work much like undead in Warhammer and Warhammer 2: They don’t suffer morale damage, but will start to dissipate once they’ve taken enough damage.Winning a survival battle requires holding out against wave after wave of these bloodthirsty beasts, spending a slow trickle of resources on towers, barricades, and reinforcements. I found it really hectic and challenging the first couple times, and it made me think in ways Total War never has before. Especially at the end when you’re trying to hold three different control points and deal with a terrifying Exalted Greater Daemon, one of Khorne’s most powerful servants, the sense of desperation is palpable.Survival battles won’t only be available to the human factions, either. While Creative Assembly didn’t want to spoil too much about the story, they did confirm that each of the four Chaos Gods will have their own version of this battle to play, and that you’ll get to experience them even when playing as the daemons. In Warhammer lore they rarely get along very well, so it’s easy to imagine that they may invade each other’s realms to prove who gets to be the headlining act at the apocalypse.We’ll also be able to play these battles in multiplayer co-op, which sounds like a great way to cut down on how hectic and difficult to manage they feel in the later stages. I was never able to actually bring down the big guy on my own, so I’d be more than happy to call in a friend for support. But until that day, I only have one thing to say to the Blood God: You won the battle. But the war is far from over. Do svidaniya.
Leana Hafer is an avid PC gamer. Talk strategy games and more with her on Twitter at @TilFolkvang.