Disclaimer: In this thread, I am not claiming that the Wood Elves have been made unplayable, or too weak, nor am I interested in damning the new DLC in its entirety. I do think some of the new mechanics are very cool (world roots, and healing the forests IN PRINCIPLE).
I am, however, both puzzled and disappointed by the large number of useless buffs the Wood Elves seem to have received in their rework, and a very noticeable lack of 'wow-factor' mechanic and units in this DLC, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth and a noticeably more lackluster experience compared to the standard we have become accustomed to in previous lord packs. I find this all the more noticeable as the contrast with the Skaven mechanics becomes more apparent. To clarify, I am focusing solely on campaign here. Humour me a moment, and allow me to explain.
I LOATHE useless buffs. Possibly more than anything else in a Total War game, they break my game experience. There is, in my opinion, nothing more disheartening to the player than a legendary lord with a faction trait that makes no difference to your faction regardless of difficulty level or campaign progression. The same is true of useless techs, useless skills in Lord skill trees, useless mount options, and useless special building buffs. Topping the list come main campaign objectives that provide meaningless bonuses, and buffs to units unit that are useless/unusable/poorly designed/serve no purpose, and which do nothing to fix these units.
I think I dislike these things so much for two reasons. Firstly, because they feel mildly insulting to the player. You get the feeling of 'Really, CA? YOU know - and I KNOW - that this skill/building/LL/tech/campaign buff/mechanic makes NO difference to my game in any way, at any difficulty, at any stage in the campaign. You still put it in, rather than put in something useful or exciting. Why? Am I supposed to get excited about this?'
The second reason is because of the real pleasure useful buffs, traits, objectives and mechanics can provide - and because after some of the stellar content CA has produced in DLCs and FLCs up to this point, we KNOW they can do so much better.
As the Warhammer Total War series has developed and matured I found myself thrilled at the fact that we seemed to have almost completely abandoned meaningless buffs and mechanics after Warhammer I.
Unfortunately, from what I've seen so far, the Wood Elf DLC is absolutely RIFE with buffs and campaign mechanics the presence or absence of which are absolutely not noticeable regardless of difficulty or campaign stage, or yet which just provide no use whatsoever to the player.
To drive my point home, I am providing a list of the worst offenders below, starting with the tech tree, moving on to Lord faction buffs and skills, buffs from special buildings, and last but not least campaign mechanics. I am including useless PARTS of buffs as well – for example, when a tech provides a decent buff along a completely useless one. This is bad design in my opinion – you should not be made to feel robbed or Meh about a tech because only half of it is useful and the half utterly pointless.
At the end, I will contrast these with buffs and mechanics for other factions which provide, in my opinion, far more rewarding experiences.
I do this in the hope that someone from CA will see this and pass this on, and that this may provoke a bit of a rework/rethink of this update, as I think this is really necessary.
This is not about doomstacks, or about relative faction strength – although I do think that this is an issue in this DLC as well – but about player reward and experience.
I - The Tech tree
Wisdom of the Eagle Lords – 10% Physical resistance and +25 AP damage for Great Eagles. Great Eagles are a weak, extremely situational unit which is near useless in early campaign and a liability in mid-to late campaign. You should not recruit great eagles. This does not make them useful. Why?
Mathlann, Lord of the Deeps – Immune to storm attrition, +100% Gold from ports. Ports make you no money even with this tech. You thus have no incentive to conquer any ports in campaign, and those you conquer you cannot hold. You will not go out to sea. Why?
Asuryan, the Creator & Ladrielle, Lady of Mists - +15 and 20 relations with High Elves & Bretonnia respectively. Wiped out by great power penalty. Why?
Isha, the Mother - +5% replenishment rate for Dryads, Treemen & Treekin – inconsequential.
Anath Raema, the Savage Huntress - +5 Bonus vs. large for elf cavalry, great eagles and hawk riders – completely inconsequential, might as well not exist.
The worst offenders here though are the amber techs – and those are weird, because they’re mostly not BAD. They’re just… Standard. They don’t feel like big, late-game upgrades with the notable exception of Wisdom of the Yew (poison for Treekin, Dryads and Treemen? +15% reload time for all armies? That’s more like it!) and Wisdom of the Ash (+35% Ammunition - NEEDED). +25% fire resistance for Treekin, Dryads and Treemen? Who cares? Fluffy, but a non-issue in campaign. -1 winds of magic cost for lore of beasts spells? Please. I’m supposed to pay a rare, hard-earned late-game currency for that?
II - Athel Loren Building Buffs
These are just no good. Expensive buildings in reduced building slot settlements for stuff like reload time reduction for hawk riders (they’re a terrible unit and should never be recruited) or -20% upkeep for great eagles which are, guess what? A terrible unit which should never be recruited.
III - Lord Traits
My main gripe here is with Orion’s upkeep reduction for elf cav. It’s useless. You have no good cav. in the early game, so you don’t need this, and in the late game you have money, so you don’t care. Why? Why not a boon for waywatchers? Why not something which will, in fact, impact gameplay?
IV - Game Mechanics
The big one. This is where I really lose my cool.
Orion’s Offices: None of these – either during or outside of the wild hunt – confer any global bonuses (which they should. This is what an office should do from a conceptual point of view), and the bonuses they confer make no difference whatsoever to your gameplay. Tiny leadership and charge bonus increases for Dryads, Tree Kin and Treemen? Missile Strength for a lord (Ranged lords do almost no damage)? Upkeep reduction for cav units in THAT LORD’s army? It’s laughable. You could get rid of the whole screen and wild hunt mechanic and not notice in your Orion campaign.
The Magical Forests Bonuses: My single biggest disappointment of this DLC. These are your campaign objectives. The most important thing to the wood elves. The forests you traipse halfway across the Old and New Worlds to heal, expending a huge amount of resources, time and effort in doing so. And what do you get? Special unit versions, like the empire gets from its provinces, or like Eltharion gets from Yvresse or Imrik in the form of his Dragons? Special versions of generic lords with exclusive traits or abilities? Do special Ancient Treemen decide to join your cause when they see you heal the forests, or particular elf kindreds? Are Ancient artifacts of great power unearthed, or do the forests themselves empower your lords with special traits as the grow back?
Nope. None of that stuff. All entirely possible, doable and exciting. All Fluffy. But no, you don’t get anything that comes even close. All you get is numbers – boring at best, useless at worst.
For starters, for the goddamn Oak of Ages. Growth, upkeep reduction and – admittedly – more uses for world roots. Sure, it’s useful, but… it’s the OAK OF AGES. It’s not a random tree. This is not rewarding! There’s nothing unique about it.
The Gaean Vale: +40 winds of magic at max heal, +1 global recruitment capacity. Useful to be sure, but again – worth the expenditure of effort for a late-game objective? No! I feel much more excitement chasing after one of the Books of Nagash as a Tomb King, or after one of Imrik’s Dragons, than I do over the ability to cast one or two more Pit of Shades every battle. There is no originality in this, and it simply isn’t worth the effort when a few knowledgeable heroes can provide an even greater benefit.
I’ve not been able to find information on the other magical forests except in passing on some streams, and I can’t remember what they were. Which is a problem. They’re not memorable. Some research time reduction, maybe. Nothing Game-changing. Nothing to induce excitement. No proper cost-benefit payoff for the player. This is a big missed opportunity.
Please let me know if you guys share the sentiment, or if you disagree completely! Always glad to have you fine folks thoughts – but please share and forward to CA if you feel this hits the nail on the head, and feel free to add examples I've left out or forgotten.