There are still too many Warhammer games, but this month we finally got an excellent one to add to the list, something we haven’t been able to achieve in a while.
One of my biggest gripes with Games Workshop’s proliferation of licensed games is that it dilutes something that should be exciting—Space Marines!—into white noise, a tasteless gray mass, as one lousy mobile game flows into another bland turn-based tactics outing on PC.
Since the new Battlesector, which was released on PC and has turn-based tactics as well as being produced by a studio responsible for many of the franchise’s past dreary games, is out, you’d be excused for not being excited about it.
You’d also be losing out on Battlesector, which is a great game!.
Definitely! I know you’re skeptical, so I’ll begin by mentioning the person who created it. This strategy game was produced by Australian firm Black Lab Games, well known for their work on the Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock video game franchise.
If you’re a fan of a specific style of licensed release, these guys are certainly masters of it. Despite evident financial and resource limits, they’ve done a fantastic job with this one. If I were, to sum up, Deadlock in a nutshell for you, I’d say it’s like this.
When it comes to strategy games, Battlesector is one of the best out there. You build up an army over time, adding troops every few missions, and each stage is given a points cap with which you may deploy any sort of unit you want on the battlefield for the scenario at hand. It’s a superb portrayal of the 40K tabletop experience.
In addition to wonderful subtle animation touches and fantastic details, each hero unit packs additional actions, interesting support powers, even nicer clothing, and the chance to gain better gear for both themselves and your ordinary soldiers as well, making them the major stars of the show.
I was pleasantly pleased by how strong the fights felt for a game that relies so heavily on its fighting. To survive and thrive in a strategy game like this, you must have a lot of options at your disposal, which is why XCOM and Fire Emblem are two examples.
And Battlesector has a lot of wiggle room, too. Marines and heroes vary from agile Assault Marines to massive Rhino tanks, and individual units may have their main armaments switched out, such as trading a bolt cannon for a flamethrower, or a chain gun for plasma weaponry, as the game progresses. There is a strong feeling of ownership over every fight since you can modify and deploy precisely the army you believe is needed.
As you hover crosshairs over a target, a pop-up displays the predicted hit points, estimated hit accuracy, and the current state of the opponent you’re aiming at. At times the AI was a clever adversary, cutting off my vulnerable units by using narrow city streets and ravines to outflank me, while at other times it reverted to dumb bug rushes, though it’s hard to tell whether that’s an AI failing or just a consequence of the insect-like Tyranids in the game.
Basically, it all seems like a tabletop 40K game that’s both beautiful and fun to play. Your armies here may not be as large as those in Dawn of War, but they are great for duplicating the tabletop size and, more than any other 40K game, this seemed like this universes version of ‘Swiss Chess against Real Chess’ more than any other 40K game I’ve ever played.
As it is, there are only two factions to contend with, and the lack of personality of the Tyranids makes things a bit tedious after a while, even with the game’s attempts to introduce fresh characters and keep things moving. Having just two armies to choose from in such a vast world gets a little tedious. I’d be surprised if more different terrain and additional armies weren’t in the works later on.
The game also has a…cheap? feel to it. Despite the attention paid to combat, the rest of the game, from campaign briefings to menus to cutscenes, feels oddly lacking. To have the campaign’s tale told via only a few static pieces of art and narration is a disappointment for a world that generally plays out so massively and with such wonderful in-game action.
But, my, what a story. The voice acting in this game elevates an excellent strategy game to a remarkable Warhammer 40,000 experience. One of my favorite aspects about 40K is how insanely overblown everything is. In the grand scheme of things, everything is simply a lot. While many Warhammer games have failed to live up to expectations due to their poor quality, many more have failed because of their superficial adherence to the source material.
It’s a joy for the Battlesector. Having the opportunity to listen to these hilarious men and women’s voices wash over you is a treat in every mission briefing and debriefing. Best of all, there’s a steady stream of conversation that adds a lot of flavor to the tasks. “WE ARE THE WALLS AND THE RIFLES.” Heavier warriors may scream as they approach imminent death, while your main hero may exclaim things like “I am the sword of Sanguinius” as you move him.
Battle Sister’s hero voice acting is so fantastic that it makes the entire game worth playing simply for the enjoyment of it.