Developed by Creative Assembly
Published by SEGA
Available on PC through Steam
Rated T for Teen (M for Mature with Blood for the Blood God DLC)
In my very first review for Total War: Warhammer, I made a comment that certain NPC factions were clearly primed to be playable with DLC. In retrospect, it’s amazing how wrong I was. I predicted that the Savage Orcs, Border Princes, Norsca, and Bretonnia would be released eventually at some dollar cost to expand the paltry four team (five with the pre-order Warriors of Chaos) base roster. While they have added Savage Orcs, Bretonnia, and now Norsca, only one of them did we wind up having to pay for. More than that, I never dreamed that the Beastmen, Wood Elves, Crooked Moon, Von Carsteins, and Clan Angrund would be the DLC we ended up seeing. Total War: Warhammer is a game that has surprised and delighted me at every turn. And even though I predicted that Norsca would make the final roster, I did not foresee just how awesome they would be.
A persistent threat since the first iteration of Total War: Warhammer, it would have been easy to add a few units, unlock the existing Norsca factions, and call it a day. That is not what we are getting with the Norsca DLC. Like the Wood Elves and Beastmen before them, the Norsca are an entirely unique faction with a fresh new playstyle, objective, roster, and feel. It doesn’t come with a new mini-campaign like Call of the Beastmen or Rise of the Wood Elves, but at just $9 Norsca easily matches the $19 DLCs.
Two headed dragon, twice the power!
Similar to the Wood Elves, you start out your Norsca campaign picking between the Norsca and Wintertooth factions. The Norsca are led by the legendary Wulfrik the Wanderer, champion of Chaos and mammoth riding badass. As a unit, he has some truly devastating abilities that destroy the defenses of enemy lords and heroes. An unparalleled duelist, he can deal decisive blows to your foes by cutting the snake off at the head. As a general, he grants bonuses to your Marauder infantry units. Hardy men of the north, they gain constant buffs by sticking in combat and increasing their levels of rage/berserk. Ramp them up to level three pissed off, and they can punch far above their weight.
“Just in case, I carry a skull of every size for every occasion!’
The savage Wintertooth clan is led by the Troll King Throgg, who mostly cares for people as a side dishes to his mammoth steaks. He prefers the monstrous units like Trolls and Firmir to the squishy man-meats. Spewing hot vomit at foes and forgoing any kind of mount, he kicks such savage ass that I almost felt bad for the world of man. They both have access to the same roster and win conditions, but the alteration in preferred unit type really makes the teams feel different. There isn’t a clear winner between the two Legendary Lords, but I can’t deny the charming vulgarity of Throgg.
Man, I wish I could see the look on his face as he realizes he just brought a sword to a “trolls with massive hammers” fight
The goal for the two Norscan teams is to align themselves with one of the four Chaos Gods, then wipe the world of the Empire and Bretonnia. As far as objectives go, it’s relatively fast to achieve. You have to rack up 100 loyalty points, which can either be acquired through the new quest-like monster hunts or razing a settlement. Every time you ally yourself with one god you decrease your favor with the other gods, meaning that it’s actually impossible to gain favor with all four. If you just rush one, you can easily get to the max favor by turn 100.
Each of the four gods give distinct buffs, meaning Norsca has far more playtime that just adding a new legendary lord. Align with the Wolf, and you’ll get an attack bonus and a badass Hellcannon Regiment of Renown. Align with the Serpent, and you’ll increase your replenishment rates and unleash a plague across all the other nations. Be careful though, because once reaching maximum alignment you’ll have to vanquish challengers from each of the three gods you shunned. How very Chaos.
I do so love Hellcannons…
Align with a Dark God, beat your rivals, and it’s over? Nope. After that you’re given the choice to either follow Archaon and his Warriors of Chaos, or say fuck and declare yourself the true scion of the Dark Gods. It’s a massive challenge to stand up to Archaon. But I mean, come on. You didn’t raze all those cities and slaughter all those lords to bend a knee, did you?
I didn’t put god damn flaming Chaos shrines on the back of my mammoths to get second billing in the destruction of the world.
Now if the campaign overview sounds fun, wait until you hear about how they actually play. Similar to the Greenskins, the Norsca are primarily a raiding faction. But like, way way more so. If you thought the Greenskin and Vampire Counts had shit for economy, the Norsca will give you a new level of appreciation for the need to steal other people’s stuff. Not only do their commerce buildings hardly give any income, but they actually increase the amount you sack and raid from enemies.
As the Norsca are not horde factions like the Warriors of Chaos or Beastmen, their empire building is unique in that it supports their raiding lifestyle. It reminds me of the Danes in Total War: Attila (if that game is actually even relevant anymore). Outside of their northern wasteland, they are only able to capture port cities and major settlements like Altdorf, Kislev, Castle Drakenhof, etc. The coastal settlements mostly just give you a place to hold up and replenish your troops. The captured major cities give economic bonuses and—far more importantly—endgame technology. Capture the Tilean capitol, and you could see your troop upkeep reduced by 20%. Altdorf will give you a magic bonus and a siege time reduction of three turns. These bonuses are absolutely massive, and well worth the investment.
I mean, yeah, that sounds kind of OP, but I did have to exterminate the entire Greenskin race to get it…
Aside from the raiding and pillaging, there are a number of monster hunts to keep you killing for the Dark God’s pleasure. Long quest chains similar to the lord specific ones we’ve seen before, these will take you far and wide to slay the most savage beasts in the Old World. The fights themselves aren’t terrible challenging for a maxed out army, but they are unique. Not one of them were forgettable, and the massive rewards are well worth the effort. If that wasn’t enough, you get to sacrifice the beast to your favorite God, giving you at least two settlements worth of favor.
Its less like a journal of dangerous game and more like the worlds most metal SkyMall Catalog
There was some criticism with the Beastmen that the roster overlapped with the Warriors of Chaos, which surprisingly is not the case here. Even though the Marauders and Marauder Horsemen used to line up with those of the Warriors of Chaos, the units have been changed to be fundamentally distinct from their previous counterparts. Norsca lacks ranged power similar to Warriors of Chaos and Beastmen, but their skirmishers are genuinely strong. Outriders are Norsca’s biggest problem, but can be countered in the late-game with unstoppable mammoths and clever Marauder Horsemaster flanks.
As we come to a close on Total War: Warhammer and move into the sequel, I feel that Norsca is the perfect endcap. A horde of marauding seafarers plundering the Old World to make way for something new? Cracking. That’s not even mentioning that the DLC is free if you pre-order Total War: Warhammer 2. If you are a fan of the original and wondering if this is worth $9… why? You already know you are buying the sequel. Just pre-order it and get this for free. In a vacuum, this is certainly worth $9. Ending this review, I’m venturing again into the lands of the north and spending another 300 turns exalting my favorite Dark God.
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