Standing eight feet tall, each Primaris unholstered their bolt rifles and decimated the Tyranids below the cliff. Innards and blood sprayed the already crimson armor of the space marines. It wasn’t very particular they felt any different from one of us sending an email to the client. After all, it was what was expected of them. At least the Emperor does.
That’s one thing that Warhammer gets right every time, no matter the medium, is the amount of gore and the feeling of ripping innards from extraterrestrials. Although the tabletop version may require some disturbing imaginations from the players, Slitherine certainly took full advantage of the capability of a computer game.
Not one for being unfamiliar with the Warhammer’s universe, I spent the better part of 2019 assembling, painting, and moving my miniature space marines around hundreds of manhours of painted terrain. It was fun, but I still preferred slowly painting them even when it took me weeks or months to complete an army.
That could be the reason why, even when my digital miniatures were blasting away at the bipedal purple lizards. I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of doing it again and again, albeit with a somewhat functioning story about a Leviathan invasion of Baal Secundus.
The campaign expands across the planet, placing you in charge of the Blood Angels Eight Company fending off the horde of Tyranids. You play as Sergeant Carleon, the mostly Roman-inspired names as it is for all of Warhammer universe can seem archaic to a non-Warhammer observer.
Nonetheless, most battles can last up to 20-30 minutes. And often sees you leapfrogging your assault squads with their screaming chainsaws over intercessors overwatching the kill zones and bringing down what must be at least 200 KGs of glorious titanium military-grade equipment on top of those poor Tyranids who knew no better.
The gameplay is similar to the tabletop counterpart, and it was exhilarating to learn about a near one-to-one copy of the tabletop mechanics. However, no matter how many times I imagined my AI opponents to be a 30 something geek holding the 9th Edition rulebook for Warhammer 40,000 on his left hand. It never felt like the real thing. Interestingly, other Warhammer computer games never did have that problem. One could attribute the smaller scale and static pacing of Battlesector more than the lack of social interaction from tabletop games.
I am aware most of you are afraid of the lackluster AI seen in most other wargames. This time, however, in my opinion, it’s a little better than your average self-aware artificial opponent. I have observed the computer using tactics like burrowing units underground to flank my cloistered units of space marines by spewing flesh-eating acid on them.
There is a caveat that can be game-altering, which is the overwatch system. At times, it works spectacularly, taking out enemies or slowing them down significantly. Still, other times the overwatch triggers prematurely and shoots at the terrain that completely obstructs the enemy’s view, missing every last shot because of the elevation. This seems unfair and wasteful.
Continuity and progress in the campaign are a hit and miss at times. Although army management is there with reserves and a point system, ultimately, you won’t be too invested in it as you should. Switching out units is fast and straightforward but does not offer customizability and flexibility, unlike the tabletop variant.
A common gripe is that units who die in one mission will come back to live in the next one. Injuries are also not brought forward. Understandably, the developers were trying to replicate the tabletop counterpart but many of us were expecting a better sense of journey when campaigning around Baal.
Fortunately, there’s the HQ upgrade tech tree for you to invest any points you’ve earned along the way by completing missions. On the other hand, most of them are stat boost, with a few being skill-based, like Krak Grenade, which is not as helpful as you think it may be.
Sadly, I could not try out the multiplayer as all of the games were password protected. Despite this, I am glad that they included PBEM, Hotseat, and Live modes in their multiplayer for all types of playstyle. I can’t imagine multiplayer mechanics being too different from single-player, but having a real player will go a long way in bringing the tabletop version into our homes.
Sci-fi computer wargaming not being my forte. I still find some joy in positioning my Blood Raven to create deadly choke points and obeying the Emperor in the complete annihilation of any and all heretics. Having some knowledge of the Warhammer universe will go a long way in immersing you into the battlefield. Despite only having two races to play, several DLCs must already be in the works and will soon hit the store.