Will there ever be Total War: Warhammer 40k?

Creative Assembly’s Total War: Warhammer series has been a hit, introducing millions to Warhammer, so a sci-fi sequel seems inevitable.

Total War Warhammer 40k release date speculation - Ragnar Blackmane of the Space Wolves leads a mixed arms force in an assault

Could Creative Assembly be working on Total War: Warhammer 40k? We have absolutely no idea, but we desperately want it to be true. This speculative guide explores the earliest possible Total War: Warhammer 40k  release date, how the gameplay could translate to the sci-fi setting, what factions might be involved, and the likely recommended specs to run the game.

We’re Warhammer 40k fanatics here at Wargamer (particularly editor Alex and staff writer Tim) and so naturally, the arrival of a Total War Warhammer 40k would be a dream come true for us – but we promise we’ll keep this analysis and intelligent estimations based in fact and sound reasoning, not excitable hype.

If you’re a Total War Warhammer 3 fan who hasn’t bumped into 40k before, we have full guides to the many Warhammer 40k factions that make up the setting, as well as the other great Warhammer 40k games you can already find on PC and console.

Here are our predictions for Total War: Warhammer 40k:

Total War: Warhammer 40k release date

Creative Assembly hasn’t announced a Total War: Warhammer 40k release date, since – as far as we know – the game isn’t even in development.

If Creative Assembly is working on it secretly, bear in mind that it has never released more than one Total War game per year. Total War: Pharaoh released in October 2023, and – as of January 2024 – we’ve still not had the slightest whiff of an announcement for TW:40k.

Therefore, we predict Total War: Warhammer 40k won’t be released before mid 2025 at the very earliest.

The last major real-time strategy game in the Warhammer 40k universe was Dawn of War III, released way back in 2017. 

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Total War: Warhammer 40k gameplay

On the face of it, Warhammer 40k’s setting is completely alien to all the structural norms of the established Total War formula – so we’re forced to consider the question: how would Total War: Warhammer 40k gameplay even work?

The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it: Total War Warhammer 40k will present massive challenges – and require equally serious changes – at both the turn-based strategy and real-time battle levels of the TW experience. 

How will Total Warhammer 40k battles work?

The Total War engine, and the familiar gameplay style of its real-time battles, were built to handle chariots and pikemen, and have never been used for a sci-fi or even modern military setting. The massed infantry formations of the classical through to Napoleonic battlefields fare badly against automatic weapons and tank companies.

Warhammer 40k is another level of transformation entirely. Its most important battles take place ‘navally’ between space warships – or as thrilling boarding actions to capture said warships – as often as they do on flat patches of land on a planet’s surface.

On top of that, when forces do clash on solid ground, it’s rarely a matter of neat, formed-up troop bricks ranking and flanking over a clear battlefield. High-tech armor and shields mean that warfare in the 41st millennium includes a lot more hand-to-hand fighting than it does in the early 21st, sure – but it’s still mostly about taking cover, shooting guns, and taking and holding objective points.

This will require an entirely new battle system (or systems plural) redesigned literally from the ground up.

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Although 40k is set in the distant future, it’s far from a traditional sci-fi setting. The corrupt and decaying Imperium of Man teeters on the brink of annihilation, beset on all sides by the forces of the Chaos Gods and Xenos predators.

Wars are often waged by masses of infantry. Although the poor footslogging humans of the Astra Militarum fall apart when subjected to explosions and assault weapons, they are by far the weakest of all the species in the setting.

Space Marines are genetically engineered super-soldiers clad in power armor. Necrons are deathless robots that can repair their own bodies when destroyed. Orks are a horde of incredibly durable green-skinned maniacs with no fear of death. Tyranids are psychically controlled alien bugs, some of them a tide of numberless minions, others living tanks.

Melee combat is also incredibly important in Warhammer 40k. It might not make any sense that an Eldar Howling Banshee can dodge a Space Marine Terminator’s 300-rounds-per-minute assault cannon fire and then slice through his six inches of solid adamantine armor, but it is totally awesome.

The setting is also full of totally impractical, enormous war machines, from the Astra Militarum’s Baneblade and other iconic Warhammer 40k tanks, to the Orks’ ramshackle Mega Gargants, or the mighty Warhammer Titans of the Adeptus Titanicus. As Total War: Warhammer’s colossal units have shown, these look totally rad when surrounded by teeny tiny infantry.

Ambitious fans have added these huge units to the original Dawn of War game for years, like the Dawn of War Ultimate Apocalypse mod, as this video by MandaloreGaming shows:

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Whatever scale of implementation CA chooses will be a vast undertaking. Even a ‘lazy’ reskin of fantasy Total Warhammer, with regular pitched battles taking place on a single planet, would be a huge project, requiring every unit from every army to be designed, animated, sound and voices recorded, et cetera – and we strongly suspect CA will set its sights much higher than that.

At minimum, we expect to see a variety of terrestrial battles – from jungle ambushes to Hive City street fights – and some implementation of ship-to-ship naval combat in space.

At maximum, anything is possible – here are a few ideas we’d get excited for:

  • Real-time voidship boarding battles that play like the love child of Dawn of War 2 and Space Hulk.
  • Fully realised real-time voidship battles that play as a simplified, but modernized, cousin of Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2.
  • An alternate battle mode – adopted under certain campaign conditions – that plays out over a much larger map with more units, on a similar system to Eugen System’s Steel Division 2. 

What will a Total Warhammer 40k campaign look like?

Meanwhile, at the turn-based grand strategy game campaign layer, previous Total War campaigns have concerned themselves with taking territory across – at most – a single planetary map. Many of them are much more zoomed-in, capturing a single continent, or even less ground.

The scale of war in 40k, on the other hand, is rarely confined to a single world, and often spans entire galactic sectors containing thousands of planets. Moreover, the space warships used to transport armies to wage those wars (and the bizarre technology that drives them) are crucial pieces of the 40k setting, whose omission would sap value from the game.

How, then, to create a Total Warhammer 40k campaign that captures the core gameplay appeal of Total War, while properly including the chaotic, asymmetric battles,  spaceship-to-spaceship warfare, and massive, interstellar scale that make 40k what it is? We don’t know, but it’s fun to think about. 

Total War: Warhammer 40k factions

Total Warhammer 40k may not even exist, and certainly hasn’t been announced. However – since we’re already toying with a list of imaginary hypotheticals that’d make even Roboute Guilliman, redoubtable primarch of the Ultramarines and famous philosophy nerd, blush – let’s talk about how the possible Total War: Warhammer 40k factions might work.

We’ve got a few questions to answer here…

How many playable factions will be in the game at launch?

Based on the previous Total Warhammer games, we predict Total Warhammer 40k will launch with four playable factions.

The first two games in the fantasy Total Warhammer trilogy launched with four playable factions, while the third and final title shipped with six (plus one bonus, remixed alternate faction):

Game Factions at launch
Total War: Warhammer The Empire, Dwarfs, Greenskins, Vampire Counts
Total War: Warhammer II High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, Skaven
Total War: Warhammer III Cathay, Kislev, Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch + Chaos Undivided

So, if TW3 had six playable factions at launch, why do we think TW:40k will pull back to just four? In short, because this game is going to be much harder to make than TW3 was.

TW3 is a magnificent game (just read our glowing Total War Warhammer 3 review) but it’s also, essentially, just a huge, expansive iteration on one big game that CA had already been making for over ten years.

TW:40k will be a completely new kettle of alien fish, requiring completely different game design at every level. For all we know, CA has already been working on it for many years – but it’s still a colossal undertaking, and we suspect that means we’ll get just four launch factions, and the rest as later DLC.

Which 40k factions would be in the game at launch?

As for who we’ll be able to play as from day one, there’s at least one extremely safe bet to make: we can confidently predict that the Total Warhammer 40k factions list will include Space Marines, a.k.a Adeptus Astartes.

These guys are the (helmeted) face of the 40k brand: an elite, durable, fairly flexible force with a huge range of units to choose from, and a slight preference for ranged combat.

Beyond them, the job of predicting becomes a little murkier. The bestial, fungoid green Orks have traditionally faced off against the Astartes in videogames – notably all three Dawn of War titles – but they’ve taken more of a back seat in the recent lore, so we think they’re unlikely to be playable in this game from day one.

Traitor Chaos Space Marines are the natural foil for the regular Space Marines, with all the durability of their loyalist kin but more daemonic power and a greater penchant for melee.

The psychically powerful Tyranid swarms would also look fantastic surging across the battlefield or unleashing blasts of bioplasma – and they’re the main antagonists in Warhammer 40k 10th edition, the latest version of the tabletop game.

That leaves a forth faction, and we think the robotic Necrons are likely. Their resurrection mechanics are similar to the Undead that debuted in Total War: Warhammer, and their rigid, mindless infantry formations are a perfect fit for the Total War franchise. 

Total War Warhammer 40k release date speculation - system requirements, stock picture by AMD of a very high tech gaming PC

Total War: Warhammer 40k system requirements

The Total War: Warhammer 40k system requirements are impossible to predict without knowing what year the game will release in and what features it will have.

But we can make some speculations based on how the tech requirements for games built in the Total War 3: Warscape engine have ramped up over the years. These are the recommended system specs listed on the games Steam pages:

Year Game CPU GPU RAM
2016 Total War: Warhammer Intel® Core™ i5-4570 3.20GHz Nvidia GTX 760 2048MB @1080P / AMD R9 270X 2048MB 8GB
2017 Total War: Warhammer 2 Intel i5/Ryzen 5 series Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti / AMD RX 5600-XT 8GB
2018 Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia Intel® Core™ i5-4570 3.20GHz Nvidia GTX 770 4GB / AMD R9 290X 4GB @1080p 8GB
2019 Total War: Three Kingdoms Intel i5-6600 / Ryzen 5Intel Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD R9 Fury X 4GB VRAM 8GB
2020 Total War Saga: Troy Intel i5-6600 / Ryzen 5 2600X 2600X Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD R9 270X 2 GB 8GB
2022 Total War Warhammer 3 Intel i5/Ryzen 5 series Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti / AMD RX 5600-XT 8GB
2023 Total War: Pharaoh Intel i5-6600 / Ryzen 5 2600X 2600X Nvidia GTX1660 Ti / AMD RX 480 8GB

The recommended system requirements for Total War games built in the Total War 3: Warscape engine has changed very little since Total War Warhammer released in 2016 – though a more powerful machine makes the games run a lot more smoothly and look a lot better.

Fundamentally, the core of Total War is about rendering a lot of units onscreen at once, and Creative Assembly reckons that an Intel i5 or Ryzen 5 series CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a three-generation-old graphics card is enough to play the games at 1080p.

If Total War: Warhammer 40k runs on the same engine don’t expect those recommended specs to change much. Creative Assembly will want a very broad selection of gamers to be able to play the game.

To find out how well your PC can handle Total War: Warhammer 3 or the upcoming Total War: Pharaoh, visit our friends at PCGamesBenchmark.