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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Review: Total War: WARHAMMER – Norsca DLC (Steam)

Total War: WARHAMMER – Norsca is the seventh paid DLC pack to be released for the Total War title which proved that a comprehensive fantasy setting would be more than just a detour from historical eras and figures. In more ways than one, the Norscan factions represent a far deadlier version of the Warriors of Chaos or Beastmen, since settlements are an obvious improvement over a roving horde. As expected, Creative Assembly has offered this DLC race a personality of its own along with unique gameplay mechanics and units. I cannot know if it shall be the final faction pack to be added to Total War: Warhammer before the dev team shifts all its focus on the sequel, yet Norsca leaves the initial game on a high note.

The DLC unlocks two major Norscan factions (Norsca & Wintertooth), making them playable and quite enjoyable if you’re looking to dip your toes into a bit of Chaos and control forces from the Evil side and perspective into Warhammer’s End Times. It really won’t matter if you choose Wintertooth over Norsca, since one of the key gameplay features which you’ll take full advantage of during the first few turns just happens to be called “tribal confederation”. I picked the Wintertooth faction and its leader, Throgg. Also known as the King of the Trolls, this character was an easy choice over Wulfrik the Wanderer since I decided to take Total War: WARHAMMER – Norsca’s motto quite literally: “We fought monsters and we became them”.

What would be more fitting than taking over or destroying the Old World, not with a barbarian warrior but with an actual monster? An immensely powerful and cunning Chaos-warped troll whose megalomania knows no boundaries? A true King in the North for starters, since before you can wreak havoc in the South, you must unite the Norscan peninsula under your banner. Defeat a minor tribal faction leader, and his entire domain shall swear fealty to you, and Wulfrik will join too, once you annihilate the army he’s leading. So you see, you really don’t miss out on either faction leaders and legendary “heroes” if you pick just one faction and stick with it.

After an estimated 20 turns of fighting and confederating (playing on Normal difficulty), all the frozen settlements within Norsca shall be yours and you’ll be free to start building a monstrous army which some might fear, but all shall witness its force of destruction! Since Wintertooth and Norsca are already factions bound to the demonic influence of Chaos, the aforementioned Warriors of Chaos faction does not have a triggered invasion within the Grand Campaign, as was the case when you’re controlling any other playable race. Instead, after your allegiance to a Chaos God has been deemed irrefutable, you will have to battle three Champions of the Gods you didn’t support and only after that, does Archaon the Everchosen show his presence along with his many full stacks of Chaotic forces.


I found it highly intriguing that you can pick a canon perspective and join the Chaos hordes on their destructive path or you may betray, defeat them in combat, assume the mantle of Lord of the End Times and finish their dark mission. The Sith would be proud. I also like how the Chaos Gods themselves are being represented through the own beliefs of the Norscans. Players shall have to ally themselves with either The Hound (Khorne), The Crow (Nurgle), The Eagle (Tzeentch) or The Serpent (Slaanesh) and one of these deities shall “bless” you with a certain special unit or bonus, once you reach level 3 out of 3 on your devotion scale by razing settlements or accomplishing epic hunts (Monstrous Arcanum missions).

The graphics in Total War: WARHAMMER – Norsca are as gorgeous as those in the base game, naturally. Along with new units, spells and certain effects which accompany them, the attention to detail doesn’t disappoint. The graphics engine is proprietary to Creative Assembly. A modern and efficient engine which fully supports DirectX 12 and requires a 64-bit OS as a minimum standard. In practice, I found that maxed out, 4K resolution would not guarantee even constant 30fps on my GTX 1070 so I opted for 2K which remains stable at a frame rate never dropping below 45, no matter how many troops were simulated on-screen. The Campaign Map and light skirmishes were rendered at 60fps more often than not, of course. As a rule of thumb, most Grand Strategy titles tend to place a bigger strain on CPUs than GPUs. One of those rare occasions in which having more threads than cores, can really benefit gaming.

OST and sound effects are of the highest quality and that should come as no surprise. The Total War series never lacked the funds for skilled composers and sound artists. Voice acting is on par with the rest of the audio assets and the new characters whether we talk of minor lords and agents or the Norscan unit roster, all sound convincing. Having played the base game factions to some extent already, I knew that I couldn’t expect anything less from this DLC pack.

When I say that I consider Norsca to be a bigger threat to the Old World than Archaon’s minions, I mean it. Guided by the skilled hands of a human strategist, this motley crew formed from viking-like barbarians, trolls, werewolves, mammoths, giants and last but not least ice dragons, shall indeed face limited challenge in their quest to brings forth a new “Ice Age” over an already war-torn continent. Make no mistake, there will be plenty of opposition to your dominating plans, yet few standing armies can match an advanced Norscan full stack and once you unlock an overpowered Hellcanon (The Ice-Forged Legion) by siding with the Hound, even sieges shall be little more than a cakewalk. This isn’t even the case of carving the proverbial cake. More like stomping it to the ground since those massive mammoths reminded me why Hannibal Barca’s invasion, terrorized the Roman Republic so efficiently. These large and furry pachyderms are Norsca’s equivalent of the Steam Tanks employed by the Empire of Man: gate breakers and infantry crushers.

By contrast, the infantry found within the frozen North are ill equipped and trained but fear not. They are still a perfect “anvil” just waiting for the “hammer” to strike true. The many monstrous units in service to the Chaos Gods and their champions, shall eagerly serve you in battle. Trolls are surprisingly fast given their size and can be used for flanking or pursuing a routed foe, yet they are best used in conjunction with the main cohorts of Marauders, Beserkers and Hunters since the human warriors within your army lack the discipline and bravery to hold the line for very long. The key to winning battles with the Norscan factions, is to rapidly flank enemies from several directions with your heavy monster types and then pursue any stragglers with your cavalry or ice wolves and hounds. Historically speaking, most casualties occurred after the battle was over, since retreating or surrendering troops are an easy target and chivalry was mostly a farce. As for this DLC, you are Chaos incarnate, for Khorne’s sake. Mercy doesn’t apply to the “job description”!

I’m certain that the new spells are quite powerful but from my own experience, the battles within Total War: WARHAMMER don’t last long enough for special skills to be used more than twice, and seeing a charging Norscan mammoth or two, most foes just go running for the hills anyway. Can’t blame them and this DLC is a fine example of an add-on which brings quite a lot to the table. It certainly isn’t the case of a simple reskin or unit unlocking and fantasy Vikings raiding from their longships. I really wish naval battles would return to present and future Total War games. Time will tell. The Skaven are finally here, ships deserve it too.

All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.

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