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Speaking of interesting looking, while I was watching slo-mo moments my army had been ambushed from behind by a horde of trolls and a giant. Neither creature is any laughing matter in the Warhammer universe, as the game's scripted dialogue was doing its best to tell me, so I pulled my musketdwarfs and longbeard veterans off the front line and pulled my Slayers out of reserve. All of these were late-game units, I was told, and despite the rather impressive jiggle physics of the giant's gut and the trolls' propensity for vomiting acid onto the dwarfs, my Slayers managed to kill every single one of the critters: Leaving only a single, unbroken dwarf left. "They're suicidally brave," said Pitkethly, "a few units like that in the game. But the Slayers are the most extreme. They're trying to die, so they will almost never run."
As that combat wrapped up, my reinforcements arrived in the form of dwarf Gyrocopters. I'd been trepidatious about flying units in a Total War game, but they felt right at home. In a much more traditional RTS maneuver, they even had an ability that was skill and timing based: dropping bombs. I quickly ran them off to take care of the goblin-launching doom diver catapults that had been harrying my army. Once their marker was over the enemy, I dropped a volley of bombs, immediately routing my enemy's artillery. I dropped another volley, and that was it. I was out of bombs, leaving the copters with their rapid-firing and not nearly as entertaining steam guns.
Meanwhile, my front line was being crushed by an Arachnarok sized problem. While the main goblin army had crashed into my lines with little effect, the giant spider simply plowed through and turned around for another pass. Meanwhile, the Goblins Shaman in the midst of the green horde had summoned up an apocalyptically powerful spell that'd obliterated my carefully crafted artillery bastion. Had I payed attention and moved up my force to intercept, I'd have been able to avoid it, but I was busy watching the jiggling of the Giant's gut (trust me, it was mesmerizing.) I had heroes of my own, though, and charged my dwarf thane back to take care of the spider alongside the remaining two Slayers. Clicking off a few activated abilities, one to rally a few flagging dwarfs and the other to give the thane a combat boost, I was able to break the enemy line and reclaim the underway for dwarfdom.
(Handy thing about dwarfs, by the way: If you lose your frontline combat units, the muskets double as clubs. Sturdy weapon construction, that. In fact, a major army advantage for the dwarfs was clearly that even their ranged troops are heavily armored and can melee well - just like in the wargame.)
"Those campaign missions are all based on particular characters being present with an army," Pitkethly said. "And they're all replayable." Replayable, specifically, within the context of the campaign itself - so you can send more than one force to reclaim the underway, should you fail, or take another shot at the story battle if you particularly liked it. I asked a few other questions about campaign mode, but Creative Assembly wasn't interested in revealing too much yet. They did say that they're trying to give it extra thought, and that some other unique mechanics will be present. Dwarfs, for example, will have a Book of Grudges - a very important aspect of their culture in the Warhammer Old World. The book will start with some vendettas for you to fulfill, and it'll also fill up with new ones as enemies do bad things to you over the course of your campaign. Burned cities will beg for avenging, as will lost battles.
While I went in skeptical, I'm now quite optimistic for this one. If Creative Assembly can create a smooth strategic layer to go over the tactical experience I had, then I'm going to be a slightly-less-grumpy dwarf when they release the game some time in 2016.
Author's Note: Oh, and, for the record, I am with the entirety of the team over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun when I say I can't believe they didn't call it Total Warhammer.