The time to raise the sails in search of loot and plunder is almost upon us. The Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC for Total War: Warhammer II will be out on November 8. However, we’ve got a special preview for all you landlubbers out there. Creative Assembly were kind enough to let us get a glimpse of what the pirate lords and ladies of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles world have up their sleeves.
Note, for the purposes of this preview, we’ll be focusing on the basics of the Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC as seen from Luthor Harkon’s campaign. In the next few days, we’ll also be adding more information for Count Noctilus, Aranessa Saltspite, and Cylostra Direfin — a completely original character made for Total War: Warhammer II.
Pirate Lords and Ladies
The Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC will have four legendary lords (and ladies). All of them have the following race attributes (we’ll explain these in detail later as well):
- Infamy – boost your reputation through conquest or decisions
- Loyalty – sharing post-battle wealth or certain attributes keep your subordinates close to you
- Pirate Coves – establish these in port settlements to siphon income and gain infamy without your enemy knowing
- Extra Powder – increased firepower for missile units due to high ammunition
Your chosen legendary lord will also have certain unique traits which you can see in the image above. For this preview, we’ll focus on Luthor Harkon first. The Arch Grand Commodore and ruler of the Vampire Coast has the following:
- -30 diplomatic relations with Lizardmen
- +8 Leadership when fighting against Lizardmen
- +25 percent magic resistance for his army
- +3 vampiric corruption in his local province
Harkon also has a unique quirk with his “Fractured Mind.” He suffers from multiple personalities, and one can take over randomly every few turns. Each personality will have its strength and weakness (ie. the “Coward” personality boosts your army’s missile damage but penalizes your Leadership; others even provide new skills). If you are able to complete a quest, Harkon’s mind is repaired allowing him to cast spells from the Lore of the Deeps.
X Marks The Spot
Speaking of treasures and quests, a new mechanic for Vampire Coast factions is their ability to dig for treasure. Doing so uses up all the movement points of a lord or hero, but has a chance to unearth some riches. You gain treasure maps from certain settlements you capture, quest completions, post-battle events, or rival pirates. These maps, in turn, will point you to a treasure chest on a random part of the campaign map.
Digging for treasure doesn’t guarantee success. Sometimes your attempts can fail which might lead you to reload your save if you want to. Also new to the Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC and the Aye-Aye patch are treasures from the Old Ones such as this:
Another new mechanic for Vampire Coast leaders is the Pieces of Eight. If you check their location on the menu, you might notice that they move around every turn. That’s because these Pieces of Eight are held by rival rogue pirates roaming the seas. Defeating them in battle will reward you with a Regiment of Renown.
For The Horde? For The Hoard!
So how exactly do you start hoarding your doubloons and plundering the riches of new lands? Well, you do it with your pirate crew, of course. Unlike other Total War: Warhammer factions, the Curse of the Vampire Coast leaders are actually hybrids — they can use/capture settlements, and they can build their own improvements as a “horde” faction!
Let’s say you want to start recruiting Zombie Handgunners. You can upgrade your recruitment building in a settlement — enabling local recruitment for that province and global recruitment. Seems fairly straightforward, right? But, you can also upgrade a separate recruitment building in your Legendary Lord’s panel. In turn, this will enable local recruitment for those units wherever your Lord may be.
And, because your Vampire Coast fellows can raise the dead, you can spawn entire armies everywhere you go!
Normally in Total War games, the only worry you’d have when you’ve got a sprawling empire and multiple armies is the upkeep. In the Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC for Warhammer II, you also need to worry about Loyalty.
That’s because the Vampire Fleet Admirals (generic lords) you recruit will have their Loyalty decrease over time (like the Skaven and Dark Elves). Should their Loyalty fall down to zero, they’ll rebel and create a separate faction.
Your Vampire Fleet Admirals will have specific traits that will boost their Loyalty. For instance, I chose an Instigator-type admiral because her Loyalty increases when she joins battles with another Vampire lord. Meanwhile, her Mastermind trait means that her Loyalty gradually goes down significantly slower compared to lords that don’t have it.
You’ll need to manage multiple Vampire pirate lords around the campaign map to ensure that their Loyalty is at a decent rank since it also confers bonuses. If ever there’s a faraway treasure that needs to get discovered, maybe it’s a good idea to just let a hero do it. Still, if you do win battles, you also have an option to distribute riches to your lords. This will boost their Loyalty at the cost of your own Infamy.
Another mechanic for Vampire Coast leaders is Infamy. When you start the game, your Legendary Lord will be at the bottom of the rung — a petty smuggler instead of the most feared master of the waves. Capturing settlements, post-battle decisions, building chains, and even certain events will boost your Infamy.
Your goal is to reach the top of the Infamy leaderboard, so to speak. Each step along the way gets you closer to your goal of binding the Great Merwyrm, Amanar. You’ll need to obtain the Star-Metal Harpoon from a specific pirate that’s guarding the quest weapon as well as build the ship harpoon launcher in your Legendary Lord’s panel. You’ll also need to reach certain Infamy ranks and battle the pirates that own Sea Shanty verses; grabbing all three verses leads you to the decisive battle.
Like any leaderboard, your Infamy will make you the target of your competition. That means certain rogue pirates will become more hostile and declare war on you to knock you down a peg (leg) or two. I did find it odd though that after several turns, the rogue pirates that declared war on me never bothered to attack my coastal settlements. They just waited for me to dip my feet in the water.
Once you’ve finished a battle, you’ve got an extra option other than occupying, sacking, or razing the settlement. You can now create a Pirate Cove. Establishing a Pirate Cove will not let you capture that settlement; it still belongs to your opponent. However, it does provide additional benefits depending on the improvement.
These are the following improvements you can construct in a Pirate Cove (note that all of them provide you with visibility for that region):
- Pirates’ Rest – 80 Infamy per turn
- Corrupted Tavern – 50 Infamy per turn; Vampiric Corruption to settlement and those that are adjacent
- Picaroons’ Hideout – 30 Infamy per turn; 50% income from the settlement
- Smugglers’ Cove – 20 Infamy per turn; 200 income; 2 percent income from trade; 2 percent research rate
Even though Pirate Coves provide these bonuses, you will want to make sure that they don’t distract you from certain missions like capturing a settlement or an entire province (to be able to enact a provincial edict). Since a Pirate Cove’s settlement will still be in the enemy’s hands, it won’t count as you owning/sacking/razing that settlement at all. You’ll need to attack that settlement again then occupy or raze it. This will remove the Pirate Cove from that location.
For my Luthor Harkon playthrough, I mostly focused on consolidating the Vampire Coast province (fully owned). After that, I set up Pirate Coves for locations that were generally far from my start location or those provinces that I didn’t plan on fully controlling. The Pirate Cove feature is a lot better than, say, leaving an extra army to guard the hinterlands, since you can just scurry off to friendlier shores while the improvement passively nets you some benefits.
Even with all that knowledge above, the question still remains: How exactly do you play the Curse of the Vampire Coast factions?
The answer is Napoleon: Total War.
Most of your early to mid-game units are cannon fodder (pun intended) zombies, but they will serve their purpose. This is because of the Extra Powder racial trait. Your units from Zombie Deckhands, Deck Droppers, Rotting Prometheans, to artillery pieces, and even the Necrofex Colossus are all mid-to-long range threats.
I treated my battles as if I was playing Napoleon: Total War again because many of these units are reminiscent of that style of play — line infantry slowly moving forward, artillery pieces bombarding enemy formations, and “crab-alry” dashing in at the flanks. This is the style of play I became comfortable with while doing this preview but, who knows, maybe more players will find better tactics and strategies once the DLC is released.
Your lords will also have specific skills that will bolster your offensive and defensive capabilities even more. Here’s Luthor Harkon’s skill tree:
Head To Port!
Well, that should cover the basics for Total War: Warhammer II’s Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC. Again, the DLC will release on November 8 and you can check it out via the Steam store page.
We’ll be providing more details about the other Legendary Lords, as well as the climactic battle in the next few days so be sure to check those out only here on PC Invasion. For now, we’ve added some additional screenshots to shiver those timbers.