Total War Warhammer 3: The Viking Devil Worshipers

Norsca is a faction that combines real Viking history of raiding wealthy and opportunistic lands from the sea with mythological wyrms, war mammoths and werewolves, and the idea that they all worship four evil satanic Gods for whom they fight to earn the favour of. Convoluted as it sounds they’re also one of the game’s best thematic factions, with a distinct atmospheric feel to their aesthetic and campaign progression. Considering Warhammer 3 was supposed to be the game that focused on Chaos, and went so far as to entirely rework the Warriors of Chaos faction, what might surprise you is that Norsca, a DLC faction for the first Warhammer game, are still to this day also the most well rounded Chaos faction. In my opinion, of course.

But their campaign isn’t exactly beginner friendly. In fact, it’s quite damn hard to get traction. The early game consists of consolidating the land of Norsca, which is basically just fantasy Scandinavia, by confederating all the nearby tribes under your banner. The tribes will kneel if you defeat their faction leader in any battle. Alternatively you can permanently kill the faction leader if you just want to keep the war going, ransom him for money, or release him for free. Though you won’t really be clicking anything other than ‘confederate’ unless you’re in the late game fighting some tribe you never thought you’d need to have come across. This makes the early game acquisition of territory uniquely interesting since you won’t want to be razing or damaging settlements you’ll soon own – or even occupying them due to negative public order – and it doesn’t even matter if you lose a bunch of land to a rival tribe because all that land will return to you anyway if you just beat their leader in a fight.

Aside from with other Norscans, other unique interactions you’ll have in campaign will be with the Warriros of Chaos who are more interesting when playing as Norsca than they are even in their own campaign. They routinely pop up in numerous ways – Opportunistic daemons who want to subjugate you and use you as fodder in their own armies, indifferent snobs who believe you unworthy of even considering a threat or being in the presence of, and frequently as the antagonists in quest and story related battles for rewards and unique gear.

I think it’s unfair to say Norsca are the Warrirors of Chaos under a different name because of how differently both interact with the world: The Warriors of Chaos are infamous beings who have captured the eyes of dark Gods and willingly, or forcefully, been made to wreak havoc in their name, while the Norscans are just a bunch of guys who can only hope to one day be that, if they kill enough people. And true to this difference, all Warriors of Chaos factions will generally stick their noses up at you while actual Chaos God aligned factions like Slanesh, Nurgle, Khorne and Tzeench will ironically like you for trying to appease them. It’s like the Warriors are gatekeeping satanism, even though Satan himself wants you to join. It makes for nice world building and faction interactions that can wind you up in dicey diplomatic situations.

So, also ironically, Norsca has one of the more interesting diplomatic situations in the game despite them being one of the ‘burn everything down’ factions. It just goes to show how much thought went into their position and status among the rest of the world.

Securing Norsca can just about get you the short campaign victory in of itself, and take long enough too if you aren’t familiar with the start position. And that’s great. It used to be that this was a small part of the early game, but the additions made to Warhammer 3’s Immortal Empire campaigns like new settlements, denser populated areas of Legendary Lords and a whole new northern frontier for the Norscans to worry about really made the unification of this land feel like a true achievement instead of something that just happened in passing, as it had in Warhammer 2.

After this you’ll be fighting wherever your heart desires. There are several technologies that will boost your effectiveness at fighting in specific parts of the world to help you no matter who you choose to fight and where. You can go east to the Vampire Counts, Kislev and Orcs, south to Empire, Brettonia and Dwarfs, or to the new world where you’ll find Dark Elves, High Elves and Vampire Coast.

You get INSANE income from ports thanks to your viking theme – 800 gold (and higher with buffs) per level 3 port is insane, especially given how many coastal settlements exist right on your doorstep. A bunch of tier 3 Norscan buildings also give pretty insane heroes and units – namely Marauder Champions, Skin Wolves and spellcasters. Marauder Champions, a tier 3 unit, can legitimately just carry your whole campaign if you’d like them to. But I’d say you’re missing out on the fun if you’re not making a doom stack of mammoths or putting your other wide variety of monsters to use. Norscans have some useful high damage ranged units, but they’re not always reliable because of their short range compared to other faction’s ranged units, so their shortcomings can be summarised by saying that their support units often need support of their own.

Norscan Legendary Lords come in two flavors: Human or Troll?

Wulfrik the Wanderer is the human guy. He’s a great melee combatant who eventually gets to ride a Mammoth, can summon boats to crush enemies and gives good buffs to marauder units. He can make early game marauders worth something other than nothing, and late game champions terrifying. Specialising in the aforementioned Marauder Champions with some fast moving monsters and a Maommoth or two extra will make him near impossible to defeat. He has the easier start of the Norscan lords in the west of Norsca, surrounded by nothing but local tribes eager to be subjugated. His most notable early game threat would be Be’lakor, a Warrior of Chaos on the island of Albion who frequently sails over to try and expand into the very same tribes Wulfrik has already called dibs on.

Then you have Throgg, who is the king of the trolls and specialises in, you guessed it, troll units. Generally speaking trolls aren’t that great units in campaign – even chaos trolls that are marginally better than normal ones. In fact, I don’t even think Norsca get the best trolls in the game – to that honour goes the Greenskins! But the unique Norscan ice trolls are okay, if not spectacular. Luckily he also buffs other monstrous infantry the faction has access to, in order to offset his nicheness. The harder of the two Norscan starts, Throgg begins with some nearby tribes in need of subjugating, but also nearby to Azazel, an angry daemon, some Dwarves in the mountains nearby and Throt the Unclean who may or may not play nice with you depending on what mood you catch him in during your campaign. In battle, his most notable ability is to make nearby units unbreakable so that they’ll never flee. In dire situations this is incredibly useful, but ideally you’ll never find yourself in need of the ability because the battle will be in your favour… Again, ideally.

Both these guys travel the world and raze settlements in the name of their gods. The hound devotes you to Khorne, the serpent to Slanesh, the crow to Nurgle and the eagle to Tzeench. Garner enough favour with each of the Gods and you’ll get a beefy reward – sometimes a unique daemon lord will decend from the heavens to lead an army for you, and sometimes a unique hero, along with some faction-wide buffs to ports, which make your sea economy even more ludicrously profitable. Fully committing to one God, however, will anger the followers of the other Gods who will then try to put and end to you. Spawning on the map will be two fairly strong Chaos armies from two of the other Gods, and one new quest battle to defeat the third army belonging to the God who is the most diametrically opposed to the one you dedicated yourself to. The reward is a bunch of money, but I’d have liked to have seen an item here too.

Another unique thing Norscans can do is monster hunts, whereby they follow clues in multiple-stage missions to track the strongest monsters of the land and defeat them in battle for rewards. In some cases you get a unique item, and in others the opportunity to recruit the monster you defeated… Sometimes both!

The way it feels as these guys is like there’s always more to do and like you’ve only just scratched the surface. But at the same time, the Norscan mechanics are well paced enough that you aren’t overwhealmed by them – you’re generally not interacting with the devotion to Gods mechanic at least unitl you’ve confederated the other Norscan tribes, and you can’t engage in monster hunts until you research monster related technology. It doesn’t feel like there’s a bar to entry for these mechanics, so much as it feels like you get a clear choice when and where to engage with them.

I suppose their opposite would be the Beastmen, another chaos faction with many unique mechanics. Both factions have a lot of depth, but you MUST engage with all the Beastmen mechanics as frequently as possible to get the most out of the faction’s potential, while you can still win a game as Norsca without confederating anyone, devoting yourself to a God or hunting any monsters. I’d argue it’s not a great way to experience the faction, but it can be done. And just that option being there – to let you experience the faction at your own pace and in your own time – is one I respect. All of this, doubled with the tone, atmosphere and the unique diplomatic position the faction begins in, make for one of the most distinct campaigns you’ll find in Warhammer 1, 2 or 3.

This post hasn’t been quite so whacky as my other Warhammer faction reviews, but that’s because Norsca really surprised me with how nuanced it felt by comparison to the others and I wanted to convey it. It’s not beginner friendly though, so I would steer anyone new away from it. But otherwise, it’s a faction I believe everyone should dig into at some point or another.

Side Note: Today was meant to be a full game review, but WordPress decided not to save any of my writing or editing progress from the last few days, so I hope another Warhammer post suffices until I’ve redone my work on the game review.

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