Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon (PC) Review

By Robert Blowes 06.12.2014

Review for Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon on PC

Flashback Studio and The Lordz Games Studio combine to release another hex-based turn-based tactical war game under growing specialist publisher Slitherine. Taking place on Armageddon in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this game offers the opportunity for aspiring Imperial Guard Commanders to fight and die in the name of the Emperor. Unfortunately, some chaos slipped in through the back door.

Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon is an strange creature, offering a game that never quite explains how it should be played. Taking place during the 2nd Armageddon war, it follows the lore established by Games Workshop quite accurately, including several star names from that universe including, but not limited to, Commissar Yarrick and Overlord von Starb. The plot, and there is one, flows somewhat erratically, starting with the Ork horde landing on the planet for the invasion and going on from there. The story, then, is already set in stone for those familiar with the lore, but the faceless protagonist has an active role in the commanding troops on the field but actually making decisions on the strategic level on occasion via conversation in-between the fighting. These choices permit the player to explore different battles or routes within the over-arching storyline.

Act too conservatively and the protagonist's own regimental Commissar for the Steel Legion will come knocking on the door with accusations of being a coward, yet making silly choices for the glory of the emperor, of course, is likely to force more difficult battles than need be fought. It's all rather interesting watching the interactions between members of the squad, and there's plenty of cut-away scenes (unanimated, though) of the main political and military figures in the war. The plot, though, is unkind for those who aren't 40,000 fans; the constant jumping from place to place for dialogue scenes doesn't quite set the tone or lay out the background of the story well enough, and there's no effort to contextualise the story-panels, nor present them in anything other than a very basic scene-switching method. However, this issue is minor for those well versed in the lore of the 2nd Armageddon war.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon on PC

Armageddon deviates from the a-typical Warhammer 40,000 game by going slightly old school. This isn't a real-time strategy offering, rather a hex-based tactical game in the vein of the older classics like Panzer General and is similar to the developer's other title Panzer Corps.

To be quite clear: this game is hard, even on normal difficulty. Starting off as a Commander of a Steel Legion company, several units of Infantry and a few other vehicles, like the Salamandar Scout and the Sentinel Walker unit, are presented as the 'core' of the starting army. Warhammer 40,000 fans rejoice! Absolutely every variant of the Leman Russ Tank is in here; it is a lore-expert/fanboys wet-dream, and yes there's lascannons, plasma guns, storm bolters... the works! However, it must be said that units can't be custom fitted with weapons, sadly, and the game doesn't follow the table top rules quite so strictly. This army can be built up as progress is made through the game, and it very much feels like an atypical Imperial Guard army in that they exist only to die.

The Imperial Guard's weaknesses, though, aren't what make the game hard, nor are the mechanics of the game. Rather, the game is hard because it has an abysmal lack of documentation about how it plays out and how everything inter-relates to each other. The tutorial explains how to move, attack and, well, that's it. Nothing is made of the importance of the unit statistics, the weapon types, or the number of shots available to them. No distinction is made between a unit that might be anti-infantry and a unit that might be an anti-tank unit. This oversight means that anyone unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard units or weapons are likely to left in the lurch, trying to figure things out, and it runs the risk of getting messier when the famous Space Marines finally do make an appearance during the later stages of the campaign; yes, these guys can be purchased into the army - three different chapters, in fact!

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon on PC

To give an example of an oversight in not explaining the mechanics, all units have a HP value and a Strength value, the Strength being the total "number" of people in the unit. Therefore, 20 Strength means 20 people, and each of these 20 have a HP value. For most Infantry that is 1HP, so when an attack is made with an attack value of '5' that means '5' people will get killed. Nothing is mentioned or pointed out that if a unit is 20 Strength but 5 HP then an attack result of '5' means just '5 HP' and so the unit strength depletes by 1 and not 5 as most new players would suspect. This might sound like common sense, yet no attempt is made to direct players to this fact and traditionally games of this genre present an attack result in terms of unit losses and not hit point losses.

Worse still, turning to the manual offers no insight into many of these issues. A few mentions of terrain and an overall summary of unit types are present but nothing in-depth or accessible for either the veteran or the newbie. Indeed, there are a few topics cropping up on publisher's Slitherine's forums about the lack of documentation, the poor tutorial and the need to explain things better, which - had this reviewer not decided to read - might have meant plenty of hours of frustration. This factor is a massive negative; under no circumstances should a gamer have to resort to a guide made by other users to compensate for the product's failings in presenting things clearly. As if to compound matters, there are references within the manual book to things such as unit ammunition and the need to rest in order to resupply them, yet this appears to have been cut from the game itself.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon on PC

That aside, what is on offer is a suitable representation of the 2nd Armageddon War; the units have been recreated faithfully in their 2D glory on the hex map, along with their armaments. Fight in the name of the Emperor and die, pretty much, except they are not just dying to the horde of Orks, they are dying because they have been commanded to use a Storm Bolter on a Gargant because nobody decided to mention that it's like using a pea shooter on a tank.

Missions also suffer from being too vague at times, but they are varied, intense affairs that reflect the nature of war in the 40,000 universe. Sound effects for the weapons are lovely, but there's a critical lack of animation here - sometimes units zoom across the map to follow a move order and the camera fails to keep up. There's no indication of 'melee' attacks either. Sure, guns fire with flashing lights and missiles taking off, but nothing demonstrates the melee situation except the unit strength depleting. Combined with a fast pace resolution and the AI turn literally flying by at the speed of light, even the most eagle-eyed General will miss units that have been destroyed during the turn, particularly as the army grows bigger and bigger over time.

Putting all issues to one side, there is a brilliant tactical game here. The mechanics, once figured out, work well, the tactics are solid, and the Imperial Guardsmen die well… so it's just a shame that it's been released in its current state. This is simply not polished or accessible enough for those outside of the existing fan base. With future patches inbound, it may certainly become a strong entry into the turn-based tactical genre, but in its current state it leaves a lot to be desired.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon is a 40,000 fan's dream come true for the attention to detail given with the variety of units. Lore-nuts will enjoy the telling of the Armageddon War, and armchair Generals will find their mettle tested on a regular basis here against the utterly relentless green horde of Orks. Where it fails to attain a higher score is in its lack of accessibility, documentation, polish, and, particularly, the ambitious price point. Most would want a manual book that is appropriately accurate on release day for any price, let alone a game costing £30.

Developer

Flashback Games

Publisher

Slitherine

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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