by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
From table to desktop
I’ve never played the physical tabletop Warhammer games. That being said, I have enough friends who do to be pretty familiar with the games and their rules. I am, on the other hand, intimately familiar with the various Warhammer video games available and would argue that Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach is the truest-to-form digital representation of the massively popular tabletop classic that I’ve played so far. But does it work as a video game?
When first booting the game up, you’ll notice something that plagues many, if not most, strategy titles. The presentation is pretty dreadful. The menus and user interface do nothing to appeal to your sense of aesthetics and you are constantly aware that you are engaged in a dialogue with a piece of software. When you start playing, on the other hand, an intricate turn-based tactics system presents itself which has you considering and planning every move you make eight turns ahead, and engages your senses to an extent that the presentation becomes inconsequential.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach has you play as the Viking-inspired Space Wolves as you battle hordes of Goff for every tile under your feet. 30 units are on offer for each side, and your units gain experience and new abilities the more you use them, which is perhaps the biggest sidestep from its tabletop source. It is therefore not only about the battle, but the whole war. Do you want to get into the final skirmish with every unit at level 2, or a few fully fleshed-out elites accompanied by nameless cannon-fodder? How you play will determine your options.
A skirmish takes about an hour to complete and the challenge is balanced, fair, and satisfying. The first few will seem easy to a veteran player, but as an introduction to the rules of the game they serve to acclimatize players to the units, their abilities, strengths and weaknesses, as well as reminding them to set each unit’s reaction arc at the end of their turn without punishing them too harshly for small errors. Later on in the game, however, the difficulty ramps up and each move must be carefully considered. Each unit must be utilised to its maximum potential and forgetting or misusing an ability may cost you dearly.
The game has over 40 skirmishes in total, an easy to use campaign editor and a well populated multiplayer mode to boot, so there’s no lack of content and replay value is considerable. Too bad I can’t paint my units in single-player mode and have to accept the naked, grey, plasticky-looking models in front of me, which is a nice segue into my criticism of the game’s aesthetics and optimization in general.
The game is pretty ugly, let’s face it, but that is something we strategy gamers have become accustomed to. We place higher value on system depth and challenge than on pretty graphics. Luckily for developer Straylight Entertainment and publisher Slitherine, they’ve done an excellent job on that front. The game is, however, poorly optimised and I had severe slowdown problems while playing the game on a laptop, the specs of which exceed the minimum requirements. Granted, my laptop is no spring-chicken, but the game is not graphically impressive enough for one to expect that a watercooled, overclocked gaming rig would be required. Playing it on my watercooled, overclocked gaming rig, however, was very enjoyable.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach and the publisher actively support the modding community, so I may get my unit painter soon enough and Steam Workshop will undoubtedly be filled to the brim with custom campaigns before you know it. As it is, the game is well worth the purchase, but if the community takes to it as I suspect it will, that investment becomes a bargain. Who knows, perhaps there will even be a “UI Sexifyer mod” released to make the presentation more pleasing.
A true turn-based tactical representation of the tabletop game
Ugly user interface and poor optimisation