The more I immerse myself in Warhammer, the more I realise how much I’ve been missing out on all these years. For a long time, I ignored pretty much everything to do with as “not for me”, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. This includes a vast array of video games across many different genres but the majority are some kind of strategy game. This means that I’ve never given myself the opportunity to experience these games. On the other hand, it means that I am extremely excited to try out lots of cool looking games set in the various Warhammer Universes, starting with Battlefleet Gothic: Armada.
Battlefleet Gothic is an RTS space fleet skirmish game. You get your own little armada of ships that you grow and upgrade as the campaign unfolds and you battle the forces of Chaos as you try to bring peace to the Gothic Sector. You get a lot of spectacle for a remarkably straightforward RTS. It is full of the campy, silliness I’ve come to love from the Warhammer 40,000 setting and gives you a real taste of void warfare.
The basic set up is that you take over as the leader of some ships and are tasked with combating all the races and factions trying to take over the Gothic Sector of the Imperium. You’ll start with small frigate class ships and steadily grow a fleet of massive ships that shoot bigger and bigger guns. The sense of progression and scale grows as you become a more accomplished commander and learn the game’s various systems. However, even at it’s smallest scale Battlefleet Gothic has enough tactical decision making to make every ship encounter fun.
In standard RTS form, you’ll be moving your ships across a map with different weapons having different ranges and various ship types all having their specialities. You can set it so that your ships automatically get into certain ranges depending on how you want them to behave and they’ll automatically shoot and chase a ship if told to do so. While this might sound like it takes away some of your tactical agency, in reality, it reduces the amount of admin you need to do so you can focus on the parts of the game that matter – explosions. You’ll still have a suite of special abilities and weapons to manage, such as making sure to line yourself up for a rocket barrage, but by letting the game take over the engagement range you let each ships ‘captain’ do their part and act as an actual admiral. Well almost at least, and you certainly are given the ‘feeling’ of being an armchair general as you move your fleet towards enemy ships.
It’s because Battlefleet Gothic is less complex that you can take in everything that is happening and make decisions quickly. You don’t need to worry about all the little details but can instead focus on how you are going to get into position with your biggest guns to do the most damage. Or on the other hand, how you are going to take out an important target or just generally enjoy the show as two big hunks of metal ram into each other. This is because, at the end of it all, Armada is less about smart tactical decision making than it is about making you feel like you are living these cool moments as the leader of this battlefleet.
Outside of battle, you’ll upgrade your favourite ships as their captains steadily gather experience points. As you progress further, you’ll unlock new ship types and have a great capacity to field them in engagements, too. This again is relatively lightweight. You can use certain combos to your advantage but a lot of the upgrades flat out make your ships better while others add fun abilities to help turn the tide of battle. So while none of the RPG elements are going to blow you away, it is exciting to make your prow lance have more range or give your vulnerable ships some extra armour.
The campaign itself progresses via a map screen. You’ll have certain missions that are required by the story and several others that you can take on to help defend the sector. You’ll want to do at least some of the side missions as you need to stop all the worlds falling and ultimately losing the game, but it’s never a problem that you feel like you’re endlessly doing side missions. On top of this, each engagement is quick enough that you’ll want to dive into another straight away anyway.
For my first foray into Warhammer video games, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada was a hoot. It was exactly what I wanted from a Warhammer 40k game with fun, fast and frenetic gameplay that had plenty of spectacle. I’m looking forward to trying out its sequel and seeing how the developers have built on this solid foundation.
Thanks for reading. If you would like more Warhammer 40k bits then check out our Bookclubbing reviews of The Horus Heresy. Alternatively, we wrote a fun article about how we got into miniatures last year and Warhammer takes centre stage, so check that out.
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