Review: Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
It’s been 10,000 years that the holy armies of the immortal Emperor protect a threatened galaxy from the forces of Eldar Pirates, Ork Freebooters and a massive Chaos fleet. The story fall upon the Gothic era, a fifty worlds under the thumb of an imperial army harassed constantly between rebellion, acts of piracy and frontal assaults. Taking place during the 12th Black Crusade of the Warhammer 40000 timeline, players are pitted in the middle what is called the Gothic War – thus the title of this game – that raged between the Imperium and Abaddon the Despoiler. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada takes us on an epic adventure of courage that goes hand in hand with your strategic skills and self-sacrifice.
By based, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is an adaptation of the eponymous board game created by Games Workshop, and Warhammer 40,000 universe, turning the game into a real-time strategy game, which Focus Home Interactive and Tindalos Interactive focused on a war involving the Chaos, Imperium, Eldar and Orks fleets in epic space battle. The narration of the story is a merely conventional dialog boxes within the interface and other cutscenes introducing the different missions you’ll have to play. From fending off a simple Ork attack on a peaceful colony, to escort transport ships through guerrilla warfare between ambushes and suicide attacks, your imperial task is to repel the unholy hordes and restore order, at the head of an armada consisting of cruisers and other vessels.
Developed by Tindalos Interactive, Battlefleet Gothic Armada stands out from the board game by its real-time approach while retaining the inherent complexity of the game designed by Games Workshop. Information galore to be read, the clashes take place on a single plane deliberately forgetting the concept of altitude / height for the benefit of a more linear or usual RTS mechanics, on the contrary of another space strategy game I reviewed, which is Homeworld Remastered Remastered Collection.
Being a simple ranking officer at the head of a cruiser, this war will offer you the opportunity to stand out and take the head of an army composed of several vessels ranging from simple escort to the heavy cruiser ships. Once a mission starts, you begin with a composition phase, where you need to set up your armada between flagships, capital ships, escorts, cruisers, etc… But you must choose carefully and for a good reason, because every mission has a set limit of armada composition points, which requires a lot of pre-planning thinking depending on your strategy but also the type of mission, objectives to achieve and what kind of enemy forces you will confront.
Battlefleet Gothic Armada is a demanding game in more ways than one way. A full frontal attack without a previously established plan will end up in flames, which is not fitting for an empire in decline, but victory will appear before your eyes as your orders are applied to the letter. Tindalos Interactive has also made a great effort in micromanagement, with each ship having a staggering number of parameters to control, like the shooting distance, frontal attack, special weapons, speed… I got myself into instances where I was managing in real-time 5 vessels at the same time, and feeling an epic rush of being a real commander, and not just a player unloading every single ship at once in one attack and hoping for the best (despite some errors of artificial intelligence). Your ability to slow down time as well in this RTS is quite an interesting feature, by simply pressing the space bar, which will grant you a few seconds to reshuffle your armada, to meet the opposing army with increased efficiency.
The various ships at your disposal have their usual weaknesses and strengths, but also unique skills and abilities that can get you out of a bad start situation. Micro-jump warp, plasma Bomb, overload a Void shield, which will make your approach different in each mission and build toward your reputation. One mission after the other, the story of your exploits will reach all corners of the galaxy, and all of these acts of bravery will translate into fame points to spend at Port Maw, the empire’s main arsenal, to buy new vessels to expand your fleet, crew members, skills and enhancements.
And so with simple recruitment of members from specific classes will offer significant bonuses like critical hit chance, faster repair, which added with other improvements will transform a mere cruiser into a war machine with the likes of reinforced hull, turbo, and more economic plasma thrusters. As for the skills, their use will be at the heart of the battle, when a plasma bomb sends a cruiser to the bottom of Chaos, or mini-jump warp out of the crosshairs of an Ork ram attack. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada definitely extends its strategic dimension beyond the eternal RTS battlefield.
In terms of graphical features, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is developed on Unreal Engine 4, which should be a great deal, but sadly isn’t. Despite really greatly made cinematics, a soundtrack in tune with a space conflict, and a true Warhammer 40,000 artistic direction, the game in general is a poorly rendered title. The textures and models feel outdated, even after setting them on Ultra. Textures, lighting effects, even the models have the bare minimum production value, yet still manage to transcribe an epic space combat.
Once the heretic forces are pushed to the frontiers of the civilized world, you will have the opportunity to lead the Imperial armada again and again, and harass its eternal enemies in Skirmish modes, which also gives you the chance to play with the other armies including the Chaos, Orks and Eldar. Each faction is distinguished by a fleet with its own characteristics and strategies. While Orks are the bully-type agressors, with their ram-equiped cruisers, Eldars will maneuver around their target and flank at will with speedy ships. The Skirmish mode is based on random assignments punctuated by the same pre-game customization phases and fleet improvements. Without truly renewing the gaming experience, this mode increases certainly the lifespan of the title, while obviously giving you the pleasure to try all factions in the game.
Once you feel you’re an unbeateable commander, you’ll get the chance to jump into PvP and proper multiplayer skirmishes, to impose your dominance to all human admirals in the real world. After selecting a faction among the 4 available and composing your starting armada, the clashes will toss you in 1v1 and 2v2 space battles which can take quite a long time, and add this competitive element to this neat RTS game.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada was reviewed using an PC downloadable copy of the game provided by Focus Entertainment. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 10 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 fitted on a 5th Generation Intel i7 4720HQ 3.2Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Very rich in strategic game mechanics
• Loyal and true to the lore of the Warhammer series
• A simple but easy to grab multiplayer and skirmish mode
• Great demanding story campaign
• Outdated graphics even on Ultra modes
• An AI that can be a bit weird
• A very minimalist UI for a game of this richness of data