Total War: Warhammer developer Creative Assembly has told Eurogamer it found the negative reaction to game's controversial pre-order DLC "disheartening".
The announcement of Total War: Warhammer's release date back in October was overshadowed by an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the fact that the game would offer pre-order DLC.
The game's Chaos race would only be playable to those who were willing to purchase the game ahead of launch (or who were happy to pay to unlock them afterwards).
This isn't exactly a new position that Creative Assembly finds itself in. Back in 2013, Total War: Rome 2 smashed pre-order records for the series, partly thanks to a similar deal that saw the 'Greek States' (three playable factions) being sold as additional DLC, free to those that purchased early. Combined with a notoriously troubled launch, these huge pre-order numbers left fans feeling understandably bitter.
And yet Total War: Attila walked the same path with 'The Viking Forefathers' DLC being offered to those that pre-ordered, and now here we are again with 'The Chaos Warriors' for Total War: Warhammer. The outcry this time around seems louder than ever, perhaps because the Chaos race are such a core part of Warhammer fantasy - some tabletop fans will have been battling with and against them for more than 20 years. Within Total War: Warhammer, they'll also be one of only five starting playable races, which makes this pre-order DLC feel somewhat more significant.
I recently caught up with Rich Aldridge, the Games Designer for Total War: Warhammer, and asked him how the team felt about their fans' anger towards this decision.
Eurogamer: There are a number of people in the Total War community that aren't happy to see the Chaos Warriors being used as a pre-order incentive. Have you been surprised by that reaction?
Rich Aldridge: Yes and no. I think some people are always going to want to voice their opinion and be heard, and sadly that tends to be more negative than positive. They're a very important race and they do feature in the game. What we've decided to do is that we've added additional content and then made them playable. We didn't want to disappoint people. We actually thought by adding more content, that would make it an exciting pre-order proposition for them. But certainly all of the criticism that we've taken and the comments that have been made, we have been absorbing and taking on board for future products.
Eurogamer: The announcement trailer for Chaos Warriors has something like 40,000 dislikes. Do you think it's justified?
Rich Aldridge: It's disheartening, you know. You never like to see there being a negative aspect of the game, but it seems to be something which is becoming, sadly, a more common trend with a number of games. Again, I'd just like to stress that we feel that by adding the additional content that actually the users get a far better game in the long term. And, obviously, it is their decision whether they wish to purchase now or in the future. We leave that open to them.
As far as I can tell, much of the outrage surrounding the Chaos Warriors DLC stems from the feeling that this content has been removed from the main game simply to squeeze more money out of players. Creative Director, Mike Simpson, attempted to address this in a recent blog post that's worth reading in full.
"So in TW: Warhammer's case, we had our four main playable races sorted," explained Simpson, "and we've planned for Chaos to have a big role to play later in the trilogy. But we really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC - to give a big, bad end of game 'boss' enemy Race for all players. But we couldn't do that within the resources for the main game. So we added it as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one - making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an AI race for everyone.
"So is adding Chaos as a pre-order incentive 'cut content'? I think the opposite is true. If we didn't add it to the pre-order, it would have been DLC later on and not in the game at release."
It all comes down to trust. Eurogamer, along with other publications (and those dastardly YouTubers), will be in a position to review and talk about the game ahead of launch. The embargo, we've been told, will lift prior to the game's release date. If you're wary of pre-ordering the game, we'd suggest you wait until that happens. In the meantime you can have a nosy at some of our early impressions, including today's look at the game's campaign map.