by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Warhammer 40,000 universe
Battlefleet Gothic is now a largely forgotten part of the Warhammer line of miniatures. It was a space fleet battle game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe until it was discontinued in March 2013. However, the name and the conflicts live on in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, a game from developer Tindalos Interactive. Published by Focus Home Interactive, it’s a real time strategy game built on the Unreal 4 Engine that hopes to capture the essence of the table top game and bring it to your computer screens.
Table top in real time
The game focuses on the war between the Imperial Navy’s Battlefleet Gothic and the Chaos Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler. Abaddon is a recognisable name from the Warhammer 40K universe - a Chaos Lord and one of the most dangerous Warmasters in the galaxy. His fleet of spaceships is nothing to be sniffed at either, and that is what you will be fighting against in the game.
It was described to us as a “game of broadsides and boardings”, and indeed, these are the main game mechanics on show. You move your ships around the map as if you were playing the table top game, but here you control them in real time. It is possible to pause the game in single player scenarios, and this is often necessary since a lot of action can be happening all around at any one time. In multiplayer you won’t be able to pause whenever you like, as that would become understandably annoying for other players.
You can select from a number of different behaviours for each individual ship, which will determine how they react to enemies, where they are aiming their weapons, and so on. Using these behaviours means you won’t have to micromanaging every aspect of your fleet at all times, however it will help to go in and take direct control whenever possible. You will want to be manoeuvring your ships in order to make the most out of each one’s specific firing cone. Being able to unleash a devastating broadside is only possible if you’re able to out-strategize your opponent.
Even though the action takes place in real time, the ships are massive and hulking enough that their speed is slow enough that you can make meaningful decisions. If you see an enemy ship is preparing for ramming speed, you should be able to get out of the way in time. That is of course, unless you want to ram them too. It’s a perfectly viable tactic and the ships crunch into each other and bounce around in satisfying ways. Another way of turning the battle in your favour is using a boarding party - but you will have to watch out for invading ones too.
You are not the all-powerful god controlling these ships from on high though. You’re giving the orders, but it is up to the ship’s captain to decide whether he wants to carry them out. If you are sending him on a suicidal run right into the middle of the enemy fleet, it is pretty likely that he will simply refuse to follow your orders. You have a couple of choices in this situation. Execute him and make an example out of him, or you can let him off the hook. Both have different outcomes. Tolerance Points are used to determine how captains will respond to you. The more there are, the more likely that your captains will disobey you. Executing a couple here and there might bring them more in line. It’s a very harsh part of the galaxy.
As well as Chaos, Eldar and Ork fleets have been announced so far. You will be fighting against all of them, but the main story will focus on the struggle between the Imperium of Man and the forces of Chaos, as it often does. It’s your job to move around the sector and defend from attacks from all sides. In between battles, you will be upgrading your ships and watching as your characters gain experience and new skills. The game will also feature up to four players in multiplayer, where you can choose from any of the factions.
All the right notes
There are plenty of Warhammer games in development at the moment, but Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is exploring an underused element of that universe. So far, it looks like it captures all the right notes from the table top game, while bringing it into a more action packed setting. Start preparing yourselves for the armada when it arrives early in 2016.