Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a difficult game, both in terms of its lore and, more crucially, its gameplay. With regard to the first point, those with only a passing knowledge of the Warhammer 40,000 universe will find little here for them but those aren’t the players the game is being marketed at anyway.
You will lose in Armada, a lot, and probably early. The game’s campaign begins with you investigating a space station that has gone silent. Never a good turn of events and not so here either, the heretical Chaos fleet is threatening the holy dominions of the immortal Emperor and things soon spiral out of your control. While battles take place in real-time, the game’s story progresses in turns and if you lose a battle during a turn, there’s a higher risk that Chaos, or the alien Eldar, or the savage Orks will take control of one of the Imperium’s planets and the more planets they control, the more are likely to fall. This is all compounded by the fact that you only have a limited number of deployments per turn for your fairly small fleet.
There’s a compulsion, especially initially, to simply revert to an earlier save and try again but refraining from doing so allows you to really see where and how the game shines. It’s tactically challenging and mistakes will come back to haunt you – you might not think losing your first encounter with Eldar will be all that serious but these initial missteps are punished, sometimes severely, later on.
The campaign adds a range of RPG staples, including ship customizations, upgrades, and additional “modules”, as well as the chance to upgrade your crew and you do have freedom with regard to retaking the planets you’ve lost even if you can only ever advance the story by pressing for the next turn. These elements are all stripped away for the skirmish mode and multiplayer, where you’re dropped right into the action.
Missions in the game can be of the escort variety (either trying to save or destroy a certain number of supply ships), stopping the enemy warping out, eliminating an enemy officer, and more besides but no matter your objective, the game gives you a basic overview of your fleet in advance from your capital vessels to helpful, if ultimately disposable, escorts. Every ship has advantages and getting to know your fleet, and how to make the most out of it, can make all the difference.
All of this means that when you lose a ship, it’ll hurt, and you’ll spend several turns waiting for it to leave drydock and rejoin your fleet. Capital ships have the option to warp out and may even do so automatically if things look truly dire for your fleet but the same is also true of the enemy and there’s a risk, on both sides, that the captain of a ship may mutiny – if they’re on “your” side you have the chance to execute them remove they jump away and the ship can return to battle. Thankfully, as your Admiral levels up bigger and better ships are unlocked but even your original vessels improve over time and are still formidable as the game draws to a close.
It’s clear that a lot of thought went into perfecting the game’s script, story, and voice acting to make the most of the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Even so, the 2D battles feel unbalanced (particularly in multiplayer) and even frustrating at times – you’ll lose about half of your battles on Normal difficulty and almost every transport escort mission is a lost cause. When you’re not moving around in circles (sometimes, it feels, too slowly) sending torpedoes at the enemy or trying to board them and in turn being boarded, you can see the unique touches given to every faction. Imperial ships are slow but powerful, the Eldar corsairs are maneuverable, and Orks will gladly ram full speed ahead into the side of your flagship.
The game is a tribute to its source material and one that will test even the most exceptional admirals out there but that’s when Armada is at its best.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada was developed by Tindalos Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. The game is available on PC now.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.