I have been enjoying the Macro and Cato series for such a long time now. This is another amazing entry into the novel. The narrator does such a fine job with narrating Apollonius, Cato and Macro. I love Macro’s voice acting. It’s exactly how I would imagine the tough old grizzled veteran.
This novel has a lot of good things in it. The descriptions of the Parthian Empire. Macro and his marriage with Petronella, and Cato’s little son. The capital of Ctesphion. The Parthian King. There is so much detail that it can’t be summarised in all good detail. Simon does a terrific job of illustrating why the Parthians were so dangerous in the Eastern Borders of Rome. There’s mutiny, sieges, the descriptions of the cities, the battle scenes are really engaging when the narrator is really doing a fantastic job of making this book come alive. Apollonius is one of the best characters in the book. Cato embarks on an expedition to Parthia to negotiate a peace treaty with the Parthians. Anyone that knows Roman history knows that is impossible. The Parthians are a cunning bunch. They will seek to destroy Rome, and their successors, the Sassanids ensured the Romans got a bloody nose.
Here you’ll go through towns, cities, the Silk Road, merchants, conniving Greek pirate captains, heroic soldiers, epic sword fights, mutiny and starvation, and sieges. That’s what I can call this novel. There is so much attention to detail, so much stuff that I can’t summarise it in all but one go. It’s really that good. Get the audiobook. It’s a fantastic voice acting. I felt immersed. Though I wished they had a female voice narrator for Petronella. Honestly, an amazing effort. When will Simon Scarrow turn this into an alternate history series or something like that? I’d love to see Cato explore new lands or go to America. That’s just me. Otherwise, a solid 5.5.
In my opinion, this novel stands up with the likes of RF Kaung and the books of Child and Bone and Evan Winters. This novel deserves to be there, because one, I am impressed with the dedication and hard work that has been put into simplifying the names of the Japanese culture into this fantasy setting, and two, for creating an engaging and gripping story.
To summarise this story into a whole sentence would be difficult. There are different plot arcs, different character arcs, that they all work wonderfully to the end. It is however the story of a boy, the heir to the Shogunate that loses his father and thereby goes on a quest to discover himself and find the hidden threat that is threatening to engulf the Shogunate into chaos and civil warforever. His name is Kaito.
The strengths of this novel are plenty. From rutheless Samurai Warlords to emperors forming organisations to take back control, there’s everything you could ask for. Love, Betrayel, etc. It’s like if you played Nioh in all its glory. The picturesque descriptions are a glory to behold. I would have wanted to seen more Japanese mythological creatures and more elements inspired by Japanese mythology. Yokai and what not.
This novel works in such a way, that it has a very traditional style of storytelling. And that works in its favour. I think Naomi and Kaito’s chemistry was under-developed in some areas, and some more additional scenes could have added more of an intensity to the book. I also would have wanted more of Mayumi’s and Kaito’s chemistry to have had a few additional scenes to fully explore their relationship but that is a minor quirk. I do think getting to the relevations that do happen at some point, was a bit slow-pacing. I would have wanted a little more fast pacing in those areas when it comes to those moments.
I don’t wish to reveal much. You must read this fantastic novel and this is the reason why I set up my blog up. To read and review settings like this that you’d never get at a shop like Waterstones or any major publisher. There’s far and few between for historical fantasy set in Japan and we need more of this. So I say, this book is def worth your time. Fantastic stuff. 4.5 out of 5 for me!
Thank you to Josh at CA and the Creative Assembly for providing me a review copy of this enjoyable and fun DLC. I have had so much fun in this I am astounded.
Playing the Dark Elves is not a usual choice for me whenever I load up Warhammer 2. Usually, I’m playing the Good Guys. The Lizardmen, the Empire, or the High Elves. However, this DLC is a fantastic recommendation for newcomers to this series. It’s fun, it’s imaginative, and it’s immersive. The DLC has some minor quirks, but nothing compares to the amount of fun I had playing this DLC. I played on the Vortex Campaign.
To note, this is the addition of the latest DLC. You may see the huge amount of DLC for this game, but the best way to enjoy this game is to pick and choose the faction that is for you and pick the DLCs up in a sale. Total War has constant discounts during the next year to come.
For a start, if you like evil guys, this faction is for you. I think they’re initially better than Chaos. The Dark Elves are like hornets and wasps. They go around the world poking their noses whaere they don’t need too. There’s new lords, new units, and the Skaven. They are the most annoying faction to fight with but are the most fun.
I think there could be more features added to make them even more difficult to beat on the campaign map, like maybe having a feature that has the Skaven Empire Network: If you or your clan loses an army, you can call upon Skaven Hordes to help you replenish your losses. You can only get that if you are famous in the world of Skaven and have beaten numerous enemies. Like the Mongols in Medieval 2 to an extent, and the Huns in Rome Total War Barbarian Invasion.
Except you can call more hordes because the Skaven Network is underground all around the world so there’s no shortage of them. They have annoying powers of doom units. You’ll see why when you play through this. With Malus, this campaign is internally a struggle between balancing a great demon called Demon T’zarkan, the drinker of the worlds that wishes to influence you and fighting it back with elixirs provided by Malakith, the King of the Dark Elves.
Some of the tiny details I believe should be noted here. First, the terrific voice acting by both actors playing the Demon and Malus. Second, how the screen goes purple, and the voice effects of the laughing demon make you immersed in the feeling that you are losing control of Malus. I would have wanted more additional dialogue scenes and a bit more cutscenes to show Malus confronting this demon and condemning it to an unknown fate. This leads to another point. I loved the fact that we had more dilemmas and you searched in lost and hidden treasures and went to secret islands. However the treasure quests gave your army either a better performance in battle or campaign, and instead I would have preferred figuring out story quests of Dark Elven Lore that have never come to light. The writing department at Creative Assembly has a fantastic ability to do such details. And when I fought over treasures, it was just Vampire Pirates but with a relatively weakened garrison. I wanted to fight the Huntsmen Expedition. I wanted to fight Teclis. The High Elves. The Tomb Kings. Etc. Add some more story behind the treasure quests. So imagine if Malus finds a jealous Tomb King unwilling to give his treasure away. You could have a hidden Tomb King ship in the middle of a desert setting etc. It doesn’t always need to be the Black Ark map, but some more maps and a few more dilemmas and story choices would help in some way. Make it more personal. Otherwise what I’m getting is sure you can perform better in battle, but I emphasise more on the interactions between different factions. Or imagine Malus finding a corrupted High Elven Lord that is bent on seeking on power and he has to stop the spread of chaos. Add more battle maps. Give us tunnels, give us anything. Each map you fight when you encounter a treasure chest should be a randomised map. Just like you could do quick battles in Rome Total War. But it should be new battle maps, including some of the best features. Heck imagine fighting a Lizardmen ship inside the tunnel of that vessel. How awesome would that be? I’d be expecting a lot more Dwarven maps, but new maps, new maps will do a long way.
However, some of the dilemmas did seem a tad bit repetitive. Okay so say for example you killed a mutinous warlord. Then that event pops up a few events later again. I would have wanted Creative Assembly to go even more deeply into Dark Elven Lore and pull out so many stories. Make it more like Elder Scrolls online in terms of quests. One of the things I’ve wanted in total war games is more narrative and in the current titles, Creative Assembly is delivering this.
There should be more quest battles because they are really fun. There should be more quests, so say, for example, Malus has to go and meet with the Tomb Kings. I can imagine an illustrated cutscene of Malus meeting Settra the Imperishable.
The fantastic artists of the Creative Assembly do such an evocative job of making the world come alive, especially in this fantasy genre. Maybe they could tackle Conan next? Additionally, and as a small plea to Creative Assembly, I would love to see more interactions in this world. In diplomacy, I encountered Settra knowing of Malus Darkblade but I wanted more!!
That’s what I want to see more off. I’d also love if each faction, good or bad helped each other from time to time. For example, if Malus wanted to gain access to defeat the Wood Elves in this part of the world, then there could be an event scene art depiction of Settra requesting help from Malus to defeat the Bretonnian Crusader, as an example. In diplomacy, Settra could thank Malus but warn him of the powers of drinking elixirs.
That he won’t be completely free from the demon’s influence forever. I want to see more diplomatic exchanges of famous lords in this Warhammer world of knowing each other, acknowledging each other. A little bit more of a shakeup. Imagine what would Karl Franz says when he meets Settra. These moments are there, in the diplomatic circle but not often used a lot.
It only happens to say if Karl Franz in the Mortal Empires Campaign went and conquered a few the Tomb King’s Lands, and then Settra acknowledges the fame of Karl Franz and proposes an alliance to defeat Chaos. However, that’s my opinion. The real foe of this campaign is the Skaven and Deathmaster Snitch. I would have wanted to see more dilemmas focusing on Deathmaster Snitch sending more of his assassins to kill Malus.
More events related to Skaven and Dark Elves. I understand that this campaign was intensive to create, but a few more tales, like do something off: The Lost Tales of Warhammer, that show different cultures interacting via each other through quest chains, etc. The High Elves must be finished first. In my campaign playthrough, I didn’t take on the Last Defenders. I became their allies. One thing I did not like was how the Last Defenders never came to help me in battle, though they did help in keeping the High Elves away. The High Elves did a good job of beating them back, so by the time I defeated the High Elves, the Last Defenders were too weakened to fight. My plan succeeded 50% of the way, but the Last Defenders had too many lands. Still in the end I defeated them 🙂
The Last Defenders under Kroq-Gar proved a useful buffer against the High Elves. Taking their lands was difficult since they had more armies than I did. One thing I did find a little difficult to contain was the fact that High Elves garrisons had more unique units, more elite. Whereas I had to struggle with getting funds and raising expensive elite units. I had to rely on monsters. On one of the first playthroughs, I learned that an army reliant on monsters can’t defeat a highly trained High Elves army. You need mages, sorceresses, heroes, etc. Those agents of chaos and magic turn the battle on your side. After I defeated the High Elves, it became sacking and I LOVED this part. I was raking in the money of around 30,000 per city. And since you’re the Dark Elves, well looting and pillaging are in your blood, isn’t it? I had an insane amount of money and gold.
With such a beautiful city like this no wonder I’d be raking in all that gold.
Defeating the Lizardmen was tough, but it was worth it. With the Skaven, bring more numbers into your army. The Skaven win because they have plenty of reserves. You should ensure that you have it too. I would have wanted to see more events of Chaos agents meeting with Malus and Malus refusing them. I had such a fun campaign that by the end I had done it. Fantastic stuff. But one thing: Dark Elves must recruit Lizardmen Dinosaurs! Those big dinosaurs would be under Dark Elven Magic. I wanted a big dinosaur fighting with Malus. Imagine Malus on a huge T-Rex. Dark Elves should be able to recruit them if they venture into Lustria or lands where the Lizardmen are, and build some sort of stables, etc.
On a last note, I have seen the battle maps and man are the High Elven cities beautiful. However I prefer big cities and large sieges in Rome II/Attila and this is purely a preference. When attacking High Elves settlements, all the good stuff that’s in the background I wish to be more present. So if there’s a big giant fancy castle in the background of the map, I want it in the middle. It adds so much immersion. I note you can add stakes and fire in Mandate of Heavens, the new upcoming DLC for Three Kingdoms. I want that feature in here especially in settlement battles. When I attack a settlement, I want all the good stuff in the middle of the map. Add chokepoints, make it like Napoleon’s maps where each moment you put your troops, the terrain was very important. Add wooden stakes, add anything!
Moving on, I wanted to note that the Dark Elves maps are a bit repetitive. Say you attack an Black Ark you only get that one side of the ship. You don’t get enough areas of the Black Ark. CA made a Empire map that showed a fortress showing more chokepoints. Make this more unique. Black Ark Maps should have so much detail in it you feel like you’re attacking in a labyrinth of chaos and there’s no way out. When you attack the High Elves, I want to see more battle maps of their ships! They must look so beautiful ingame. Otherwise, a really fun DLC in my opinion. 8/10.
Current work includes epic fantasy, futuristic science fiction, mystery, romance. Follow me on Twitter @nmlromer! Visit nathaliemlromer.com for information and news about the author and her publications.