Character artist, designer, and animator, Todd Marshall, understands the relationship that exists between strong imagery and powerful narratives in determining the success of an action fantasy game. He says, “…story and aesthetics take first place in terms of what I care about”.  

Marshall, a UNSW Art & Design graduate, is a character artist at Creative Assembly in London, a company responsible for the creation of epic online games devoted to hero development, rising empires, and prolonged and intense battles. The company has produced Viking: Battle for Asgard, Shogun: The Mongol Invasion, and Spartan: Total Warrior. 

In May this year, they released Total War: Warhammer, the tenth instalment in the wildly popular computer strategy game series, Total War, on which Marshall worked. 

The premise of Total War: Warhammer is the engagement of multiple players in real-time battles, taking turns to play against one another in an epic fantasy strategy game. Each player selects one of five playable factions: the Empire of Men, the Dwarfs, the Greenskins, the Vampire Counts, or the Warriors of Chaos. Within these roles, players control their faction, build settlements, and recruit armies in the process of gaining control over the world.  Battles are complex – utilising 16 years of aggregated computer programming developments - and interspersed with turn based campaign game of statescraft. 

According to Metacritic, a website that aggregates online reviews of games, movies, and albums, Warhammer has achieved a score of 86% out of 100 in terms of user ratings. GameSpot said it earned a 9 out of 10 and amounted to a “triumph of strategy design, and the best the Total War series has ever been”. Even The Guardian awarded it 4 stars out of 5, saying Total War: Warhammer “is the most diverse and exciting the series has been in years.”

Marshall’s specialist skills are fundamental to Total War: Warhammer’s impact and success.  He’s the person who creates the character assets that give the game its visual style and mood. He makes initial sketches and 2D illustrations based on the art director’s overall descriptions of the game and its many components. He then adds definition, weight, and colour to his drawings using 3D computer-imaging programs. In Warhammer, the Empire of Men must appear hardened and given to their causes, while the Greenskins remorseless and savage, and the Dwarfs unbreakable in physique and weaponry. It’s Marshall’s and other character artists’ jobs to achieve these outcomes. Marshall’s focus for Total War: Warhammer was on human and dwarf characters and their weapons.    

Total War: Warhammer is out now.