Sega and Creative Assembly's take on the Total War: Warhammer is looking very, very, very promising. It may seem like preemptively waxing praise for a game we know very little about, but the latest in-engine cinematic shows just what kind of possibilities gamers could experience when the game launches for PC.
You can check out the Total War: Warhammer trailer below from the official Total War YouTube channel.
There's quite a bit to talk about in this trailer. One thing that really stands out is that this game is using some really impressive graphics filters. So to set the stage, in-engine means that the game is running natively within the game engine. It does not mean that this is exactly how the game will look, but that there were no external software measures used to render the game. Essentially, this means that the game can run on a single computer with graphics looking the way they do in the trailer above.
It's a really impressive feat to see Creative Assembly take the Warscape Engine and elevate the visual elements to such a high-end degree. It looks really impressive here and could easily make some fans think twice about the engine's capabilities when compared to other AAA engines like the Frosbite 3 or the Unreal Engine 4, and to a later extent the Unity 5.
But first up, for anyone thinking that this is a pre-rendered CG trailer there are a few things that give away that this is in-engine. If you look at Karl Franz' cape in the trailer when he walks out in front of his troops, notice that it's only rigged to bend at specific vectors to give the illusion of his cape fluttering. In most CG rendered videos like those from Blur Studios – the same company who handled CG trailers games like Mass Effect 3 or Elder Scrolls Online – the clothing for the characters is usually handled by soft-physics cloth simulation. Franz is not rocking that kind of rendering, indicating that this is still using basic cloth animations found in many other games in today's market.
Additionally, most CG trailers rely on real-time global illumination. That's not in play here and the reflections and shadows are still reminiscent to some previous Total War games. However, one of the big differences between Total War: Warhammer and some of their previous titles is that we're seeing a lot of post-processing effects that give the illusion that what you're seeing is pre-rendered CG.
The implementation of bokeh depth of field effects, the stable frame-rate and the high-resolution texture mapping all help lend itself toward the presentation of being pre-rendered CG. It's really impressive work by Creative Assembly, but not entirely foreign to what they accomplished with Total War: Attila, where some of the in-engine cinematics were almost on par to what we're seeing here.