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A Demon Prince from the Daemons of Chaos Image: Creative Assembly/Sega

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Total War: Warhammer 3’s eighth faction transforms the game into an RPG

Hands-on with Daemons of Chaos

Spectral bears, flesh-eating ogres, horny cyclops minions — the previously announced seven factions for Total War: Warhammer 3 were already a rogues gallery of bombastic fantasy creatures. And now, with just under a month until the strategy game’s release, developer Creative Assembly has revealed yet another playable faction: the Daemons of Chaos.

Last week, I spent several hours with the turn-based/real-time strategy game, during most of which I commanded the newest faction. And although the third entry has yet to even release, it was some of the most fun I’ve had in the trilogy to date.

The demo gave me access to the first 50 turns of Warhammer 3’s campaign, which follows various warring armies in their quest to gain access to the ethereal Realms of Chaos. Each faction leader has their own reasons for the journey, and the ensuing fighting, intrigue, diplomacy, and backstabbing take place on an absolutely massive map that’s twice the size of either in the first two games. Put simply: Total War: Warhammer 3 is huge. By turn 50, I had only seen about a fifth of the world, judging by the fog covering the rest of the mini-map.

The Daemons of Chaos must devote Glory to each of the four lords
Daemons of Chaos can devote “Glory” to each of the four Lords of Chaos, or to all four equally, to unlock new units and equipment.
Image: Creative Assembly/Sega via Polygon

As the name might imply, the Daemons of Chaos can mix and match units from all four other Chaos factions (the previously announced Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Khorne), making for some fascinating army compositions. For my first few battles, I fielded my melee-centric Khorne warriors at the center of my army, while pestering the enemy’s archers with airborne Tzeentch units. Slaanesh’s brutal torture machines made quick work of the enemy flanks, and as my troops whittled away at the enemy’s front lines, I sent in Kharn, my Daemon Prince, to mop up the rear guard.

In keeping with the asymmetrical faction design that Creative Assembly continually honed with Total War: Warhammer 2’s excellent DLC packs, the Daemons of Chaos also feel wholly unique in the turn-based layer between battles. Rather than harvesting resources or establishing trade routes, the Daemons earn “Glory,” which is used as a tribute to each of the aforementioned Chaos gods. The more Glory I devoted to each god’s respective track, the better units I unlocked from that demon’s roster. I could also devote Glory to Chaos Undivided, a path that spreads power across all four factions in late-game turns.

But here’s Daemons of Chaos’ biggest wrinkle: Not only was I unlocking new units with which to flesh out my armies, but I was also earning interchangeable armor, weapons, and whole new body parts for my Daemon Prince faction leader. By filling in each of the 10 slots, I granted attribute bonuses and passive abilities for my lord to deploy in battle. Similar to how the faction’s armies become a kind of demonic portmanteau, my lord’s appearance and powers reflected which of the four Chaos gods I consistently paid tribute to.

Outfitting the Daemon Prince
Daemons of Chaos’ faction leader can swap out armor, weapons, and whole body parts depending on which Chaos god you devote Glory to.
Image: Creative Assembly/Sega

The result is a faction that played almost as much like a character in a role-playing game as it did a grand strategy title. It was a thrill to see my Daemon Prince dual-wielding Khorne-inspired melee weapons, swinging his Tzeentch-outfitted tail, and poisoning hordes of enemies with the powers I unlocked from Nurgle. It was even more of a thrill to swap out every piece of equipment for the next battle, the better to counter the Empire’s ironclad tanks with.

Although the Daemons of Chaos were the highlight of my time with Total War: Warhammer 3, I also played 50 turns with Grand Cathay. The human faction, inspired by Chinese myth, comprises floating artillery, towering terracotta warriors, and omniscient deities that transform into snake-like dragons. Battles became kaleidoscopic displays of firepower as my missile units erased airborne enemies from the air. The bulk of Cathay’s early turns were spent defending a massive wall from the invading armies of Chaos, as well as establishing an extensive trade network that extends far to the southwest portions of the map.

It is in no way a boring faction — in fact, I had tons of fun with it — but in the leadup to the game’s February 17 release, it’s the Daemons of Chaos I can’t wait to experiment more with. Creative Assembly spent years creating, tweaking, and improving unique factions in Total War: Warhammer 2’s DLC, and I can’t wait to see where the experience has gotten them.

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