Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Review – Fire All Broadsides!

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Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Tindalos Interactive

I recently fired up Tindalos Interactive’s new Warhammer 40K space game, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, after a gaming friend had been ranting and raving about it. Well, he didn’t exactly have to twist my arm—I’ve long been interested in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K IPs and so playing it was only natural, and inevitable.

After receiving my Early Access review copy I tried out the campaign first. The first thing that I noticed was that the visuals were extremely well done, with gigantic space ships set against beautiful nebulae with brilliant bloom effects and bright stars. The voice acting was also excellent and captured the feeling of the Warhammer 40K universe, with gruff, serious Imperial officer’s voices sounding determined and resolute, and their Chaos equivalents grumbling and growling in deep-toned deliveries.

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The first few campaign missions get you acclimated to your burgeoning fleet’s movement controls, as well as basic weapons systems and special abilities. Befitting the cruel and uncaring universe that it is set in, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada throws you right into the mix and it’s up to you to sink or swim pretty quickly. In this way, the campaign more or less functions as a trial-by-fire tutorial, which is anything but hand-holdy.

Although I appreciated how Battlefleet Gothic: Armada throws players to the wolves and forces them to pick things up rather quickly, I did notice that there was a curious lack of a manual, or at least some sort of in-game glossary that better explains everything. What exactly is a macro-cannon, or a prow lance? Does a boarding party consist of Space Marines and/or perhaps Assault Terminators? I miss the days when games used to come with proper game manuals, either in the game’s directory or directly accessible through the Steam platform, where you could delve in to a game’s lore and check out some of the specific details of units, weapons, and all of the fun minutiae. I remedied this by going online and looking up some of the source material from the board game that this game is based off of, by the same name.

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The main campaign places players in the role of an Imperial captain in the infamous Gothic Sector, who quickly ranks up to admiral. The Gothic Sector is a highly volatile region of space that sits very close to the Eye of Terror—a portal from which the forces of Chaos spew forth from on a regular basis. But that’s not the only threat in the area. There are also internal problems such as rebellious planets as well as external ones such as Orc Raiders and Eldar Pirates. It’s safe to say that the Gothic Sector is a very busy and dangerous place.

As you successfully complete each mission you are awarded renown points, which is basically Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s currency. Even if you lose (the game is notoriously difficult—even on normal difficulty) one, you’ll be awarded renown, although not as much. Either way, players can then use these points to upgrade their ships. This is where Battlefleet Gothic: Armada gets really interesting. Each ship not only has a commander but you can also get additional crew members, weapons, and all sorts of special abilities.

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In this way, players can customize each ship to perform specific duties. For the game’s 1v1 and 2v2 multiplayer duels this can be especially useful. For instance, when my gaming friend and I team up he outfits his ships to be capable of higher speeds and be outfitted with closer-ranged weapons. Meanwhile, I’ll specialize in heavy armor and more long-ranged armaments. In this way, when a match begins, I usually head straight into the thick of things to draw attention while my buddy flanks around and hides in nebula clouds for quick, lethal ambushes. When an enemy fleet gets routed and tries to flee, if my long-ranged armaments and abilities don’t finish them off, my friend’s faster ships will usually catch up to and eliminate them before they can warp-jump out.

The battles themselves are played out on 2D playing fields which contain the aforementioned gas clouds as well as asteroid fields thrown in for good measure, in order to spice up tactical considerations. Some people have complained about the lack of a third dimension in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, but as far as I’m concerned, being in 2D is fine since it mimics sea battles so well, which I’m sure the board game was trying to simulate. Even many of the ships themselves (at least the Imperial and Chaos fleets) look like futuristic versions of classic World War II naval war vessels.

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Besides the robust campaign and multiplayer modes, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada also features various Skirmish and Custom Battle modes where a budding admiral can gain renown through such things as breaking through blockades or attacking or defending space stations. Although these modes are fun in their own rights, the multiplayer component is where Battlefleet Gothic: Armada really shines.

There’s just nothing like trying to outwit other real-live humans with your fully customized battlefleets. I’ve experienced some real hair-raising battles that came down to my opponent and I having one ship left apiece, furiously attempting to outmaneuver each other, all the while firing at each other with what’s left of our weapon’s systems and special abilities. Luckily, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada also features a match-making system so that noobs don’t get thrown in with veterans. Yes, this game is so fun that there are already hardened vets with many hours logged online.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s graphics use the Unreal 4 engine and they really do a great job of depicting the Warhammer 40K universe in all of its grungy, forlorn glory. Imperial ships look sturdy and regal while Chaos fleets appear as bastardized and corrupted versions of those. Meanwhile, the Ork ships have a front-heavy, rugged appearance which stands juxtaposed to the other aliens of the game (so far), the Eldar, whose streamlined vessels convey as sense of speed and majesty.

5

There are a whole plethora of video game adaptations of Games Workshop IPs that are going to be released this year, and if Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is any indicator, we’re in for some real treats, gaming-wise. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is easy to get into, yet it has enough depth to satisfy any armchair admiral. It combines lots of strategic implications along with really deep tactical gameplay, which is quite addictive and allows for a lot of replay value (especially for the price). And, there is also plenty to come—Tindalos is planning to release the Space Marines faction in the next couple of weeks, and the Tau soon after that (with rumors of the Tyranids and others releasing eventually). Until them, I’ll be honing my skills on the meaty content that we already have in the base game in order to meet the new arrivals head on.

SCORE: 87%

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada comes with some extremely immersive visuals that should be enjoyed on a decent gaming PC or gaming laptop, such as this one:

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