First we saw the Lizardmen, and we knew that the High Elves were involved, but now we've seen the Dark Elves in action, and more interestingly, the Skaven. As more and more of our favourite armies make the transition into digital form, Total War: Warhammer II is increasingly shaping up to be a treat for fans of the fantasy setting.
This writer's personal relationship with the Skaven goes back a long way, back to Shadow of the Horned Rat, a strategy game that precedes the Total War series, influenced it no doubt, and was rekindled when Fatshark released the entertaining Warhammer: Vermintide last year. Now the pestilent faction is heading to Total War: Warhammer II, and they're doing so in style.
The first thing that struck us during our introduction, which included the opening stages played out on the campaign map, was the effort that has gone into differentiating them from other factions. Like the Lizardmen before them, Creative Assembly has gone to town when setting them apart, and the increasingly asymmetrical spread of armies continues to expand in new and interesting ways, and with it the range of possibilities open to the player (and no doubt the amount of headaches endured by designers at the studio as they try to find some sort of balance, if that's even possible).
CA certainly looks like they've had fun making the Skaven. This whiskered army has a few tricks up its flea-infested sleeve, with the scheming ratmen spreading their pestilence across the map, complete with their own exclusive stance - stalk gives them a high chance of ambushing an enemy army - and of course unique units. As well as that, enemy forces will have to enter abandoned-looking cities and explore them to find out if there are ratty occupants already in place, scurrying around in the sewers beneath the city streets. Sounds like there's going to be plenty of opportunities to spring traps, then.
That little trick manifests itself on the campaign map, but there's a battlefield move that mirrors it, whereby you can surprise your opponents with units popping up in the midst of battle, burrowing out of the earth at a choice moment. You might want to time this surprise to coincide with a big infantry charge (it looks like low-level Skaven units are very cheap), engaging the enemy's ranged units just as they start to fire volleys of arrows at your advancing ranks. Or maybe you'd like to distract a legendary lord or delay enemy reinforcements while the rest of your army moves on a specific target.