I’m was extremely happy to finally get my hands on Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, an RTS (real time strategy) game, published by Focus Home Interactive and developed by Tindalos Interactive. Tindalos Interactive have previously developed Stellar Impact, a sci-fi MOBA and Etherium, a sci-fi RTS. Tindalos Interactive are also responsible for bunker buster iOS title and have also worked on the Rendering/lighting/compositing in Foot 2 Rue extreme; a 3D animated series.
Before I cover the specific story behind Battlefleet Gothic. I would just like to mention that when it comes to Warhammer games; the sheer amount of lore is mind boggling, we are talking a Tolkien-sized universe, perhaps even larger. Whilst this is the multiplayer beta, there is a prologue which serves as a tutorial. I have provided links later in this preview for further reading for those, like me, that know little (or nothing) about the universe.
As the name implies the game takes place following the events of the Gothic War which starts at 139.M41 (year 139 of the 41st millennium, for the uninitiated). Enter Abaddon the Despoiler who managed to unite the normally fractious forces of Chaos in order to invade the Gothic sector. Abaddon wished to conquer the Gothic sector as that it is the location of the six known Blackstone Fortresses, which gives it significant strategic importance. Within Battlefleet Gothic: Armada you are an Admiral of a battle group belonging to Battlefleet Gothic, charged with the protection of the Imperium in the Gothic Sector, and the ultimate fate of not only the Gothic sector, the Imperium but the entire galaxy rests with you (no pressure).
Whilst primarily an RTS, the main game will also feature a TBS (turn based strategy) element whilst on the star map, where you will choose the relevant star system to deploy in, every turn there may be multiple events, during this, a choice must be made as to which to react to. Who and what will you risk, and just how far will you go to defeat Abaddon and the legions of Chaos, Admiral?. As mentioned the main “meat” of the game, as well as the multiplayer takes place in RTS battles in the various systems in the Gothic Sector. As you engage in battles you gain ranks which in turn unlock not only new bigger and badder ships but also skills and abilities for said ships. Further to this, your ship crew will also gain experience, and will, in turn, provide an additional buff to their relevant section.
Within multi-player each faction (4 currently, 2 in this beta (Imperium and Chaos)) has its own strengths and weaknesses, players may find having to create a new profile for each slightly annoying but it kind of makes sense. This forces players to also actually play the races and learn from the ground up which can’t be a bad thing. Each of the fleets being persistent further enforces the need for this, and let’s face it, it’s not really lore-friendly to have the Imperium and Chaos share resources is it?
If that wasn’t enough you are also able to activate a favour (or mark of Chaos) which will grant your ship a further bonus, however these should be used with caution as they are difficult to acquire and are applied to an individual ship as such, if said ship is destroyed the favour (or mark) is lost and must be repurchased. The marks of Chaos work in the same way with the exception that upon taking the mark, the ship and its crew will be warped and change appearance depending on the mark chosen.
One of the nice mechanics that I’ve waited until now to mention is that during the single player (perhaps due to momentary possession by Tzeentch) players have an additional ability to slow time, to more carefully plan manoeuvres and use ship abilities this referred to as consulting the “Tactical Cogitators”, this was one of my favourite mechanics within the game. Players can also have customised fleet deployment, and can select the type of engagement that each ship will attempt, for example, a ship with heavier prow armour would be told to engage enemies in frontal attacks. Each of the enemy vessels can also be given a priority for fire support, with the larger ships having target-able sub-systems, which can be used to cripple shields, engines etc.
Whilst this is a preview, and it’s mostly a multi-player beta there are a few things that I’d like to see improved in the game. Most notably binding of the mouse cursor to the game. Failure to bind to windowed mode is common and annoying, however, this is the first game I’ve played that didn’t bind the mouse on fullscreen, which is quite an oversight. Particularly when games such as XCom2 running on Unreal 3.5 has the setting whereas Battlefield Gothic is running on the Unreal 4 engine but yet does not have the setting. Aside from that, there are a few translation issues, a few instances of “damages” in the wrong context and such, a minor complaint but something the developer needs to look into fixing before launch.
If you’re like me you’ve been brought up to think of “shiny” when thinking of spaceships; so when seeing the ships in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada being more matt in appearance may at first seem odd, but it is actually true to lore and feels like the figurines have been scanned directly into the game, which is a nice touch. Of course, when it comes to the rest of the graphics anything goes, and I must say, watching those slow-motion explosions is very satisfying. Additionally, the main story to the game appears as a partially animated graphic novel, which for many will bring to life the books. The music and sound assets sound good too, all the weapons explosions sound like they should, and the voice acting (from the little on offer) brings a nice layer of immersion.
Overall, I’d have to say that Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is looking pretty good by all accounts, I personally have really enjoyed the beta, it’s given me a taste of things to come. I personally can’t wait to play through the campaign. This preview even prompted me to buy some of the other Warhammer 40k games (Space marine and Dawn of war 1&2). As promised for those (like myself) who either know little to nothing about Warhammer here are a few recommended links that I myself used to delve deeper into the lore, in addition to the games own website. The Black Library for books, graphic novels etc, the Wiki for some further reading, and The Vaults of Terra youtube channel for those that don’t fancy a lot of reading.