I’ve not yet pre-ordered Total War: Warhammer as I’m still waiting to see more non-scripted campaign and battle footage. But I do like what I’ve seen so far. One of my main concerns, however, is how the Battle AI will adapt to the new magic system.
Total War has had ‘magic’ abilities of a sort for some time – buff and de-buff abilities to boost friendly unit morale or apply morale penalties to enemy units. But it’s always been somewhat rare to see the Battle AI make effective use of these skills. So how will the AI in Total War: Warhammer cope with an expanded system of varying magical buffs, de-buffs and offensive spells?
We’ve already seen through a few videos how effective magic can be – how it can turn the tide of battle in your favour if used at the appropriate time against the appropriate unit. But, until recently, we’ve not seen any clear indication of how effective the Battle AI will be at handling magic – at understanding how and when to use it.
That changed during a Total War: Warhammer live stream as part of the Vampire Counts reveal in which we see the AI make surprisingly effective use of the magic at its disposal. You can view a recording of the stream here - https://www.twitch.tv/totalwarofficial/v/55138239
At various times throughout the stream you can clearly see the AI applying magic buffs to its units. A great example is at 01:35:00, when the AI buffs a unit of goblins in pursuit of the player’s heavy cavalry.
At 01:24:00, the player attempts to flank behind the enemy with three units of dire wolves, but the AI uses magic to effectively wipe out all three units before they can even reach its lines. We don’t know which spells are used, but we see at least three separate casts targeting the wolves, including a de-buff effect.
At 01:06:40, we see the AI target the player’s cavalry with an offensive spell. It then immediately buffs two units of spears on its flank to counter the enemy charge.
Obviously, we can’t make any firm judgements about the Battle AI and how it will cope with the new magic system on such limited content, but what little I’ve seen does appear promising. In many ways, I’d argue the AI used its magic far more effectively than the player in these battles, and it will always have the advantage of being able to target and apply these spells much faster than a normal human player.
The question is whether it can target and apply these spells appropriately – at the most effective place at the most effective time. So far, at least, it seems that it can, and that’s gone some way to alleviating my concerns.