At long last, we are getting another RTS set in the dystopian WH:40k universe! This time, the developer is ditching the Space Marines in favor of, well, actual space. This latest entrant goes by the name of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. We have, of course had Warhammer 40k real-time strategy games in the past: Relic’s beloved Dawn of War franchise being the most notable, but this is the first developer foray into the cold harsh void of space.
When viewing pictures or videos released by French developer Tindalos Interactive one thing becomes immediately apparent and it’s that this game is gorgeous. Tindalos boasts that this is the first game to be developed using the Unreal 4 engine and it really does have a very sharp and unique look to it [Unsure of the validity of this, even for RTS titles: I know Submerge is being built in UE4, for example… Either way, I can agree the game looks very pretty – wayward]. They also appear to have nailed the Warhammer aesthetic that Games Workshop are well-known for; from the cathedralesque Imperium warships to the jury rigged Ork monstrosities.
One very interesting thing to note is the design decision to go for a 2D game world over the more common 3D. Homeworld popularized the idea of a three dimensional battle space in RTS games – where vertical movement was an important feature to battles between foes with many subsequent space games following suit. This choice does actually make sense when given the context with which the developers are making the game: Battlefleet Gothic was originally a Games Workshop specialty miniatures game where you would buy, assemble, and paint a fleet of ships to fight against your opponents on a tabletop. Developers of the game have stated (and I am paraphrasing) that they are trying to remake the experience of playing the tabletop game but within the confines of the real-time strategy genre [Still seems like a wasted opportunity – wayward].
Maps will have environmental obstacles like asteroid fields and debris which can shield your ships from damage and gas clouds will render your forces invisible to enemy sight. Another interesting detail is that, as their gameplay trailer states, “damage is compartmental”. This means that certain weapons and systems on your ships are able to be disabled based on the damage those sections receive in battle. Most interesting is a mechanic which seems to mimic the morale system in Total War. In this system each ship has a captain whose morale fluctuates through battles, if their morale gets too low they will steer their ships away from combat and flee. Of course an Imperial Commissar will be on standby with his trusty Bolt Pistol to relieve the captain of his command, with extreme prejudice I’m sure!
Four factions have been announced to be in the game including the Orks, Eldar, Imperium, and forces of Chaos . The decision was also made to introduce a fifth faction, the Space Marine fleet, as a pre-order bonus. While preorder bonuses have become quite controversial over the last few years I think many gamers will find this one to be a little easier to stomach as the bonus will remain for several months even after launch and won’t be available to play for 2 weeks after release. This allows those who aren’t comfortable with purchasing the game to check out reviews and lets plays before deciding whether to purchase and still being able to pick up the extra content for free. For those who are willing to take the leap before the game launches it also includes access to the multiplayer beta. Tindalos have also stated their intentions to make more factions available in the future.
So everything sounds and looks great right? There is one caveat, however, and that is Tindalos Interactive’s somewhat spotty track record. The company has a few games under their belt, and none of them have been a critical success. Their first release was a mobile game which, was followed up by Stellar Impact: a sort of MOBA/RTS hybrid where you control ships in space. Finally, in 2015 Tindalos released their middling RTS Etherium which had interesting concepts but suffered from release delays, races that felt too similar, and uninteresting units. There were also some serious communication issues with regards to Etherium with some gamers wondering whether the game was going to release at all due to the lack of info from the development team.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada seems to be on the right track so far and as a big Warhammer 40k fan I’m extremely excited. Still, due to Tindalos’ relative inexperience, and none of their past games having received more than average reviews, I think cautious optimism is the best approach. Luckily we will all get to find out whether Tindalos Interactive created a game worthy of the Warhammer 40k license when the game comes out in March.