Posted on 03 May 2016 by Bis18marck70

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

The Defence

Developer: Tindalos Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 21 Apr 2016

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: AMD FX 3.6 GHz
Intel Core i5 3.3 GHz
VGA: AMD Radeon HD 6850
Nvidia GeForce 560
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 10 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: None
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: AMD FX 4.0 GHz
Intel Core i7 3.9 GHz
VGA: AMD Radeon R9 270X
Nvidia GeForce 760
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 10 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: None
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

2016 is set to be a big year for Warhammer fans with multiple titles lined up that seek to bring this universe to our screens. It was only a few years ago, with the destruction of THQ, that certain doom for the license was prophesied. Luckily, and in some cases unluckily, the failure of THQ put the Warhammer license up for grabs, with Games Workshop handing it out willy-nilly to anyone that had the cash. Naturally, we go a lot of bad games. Then again, we got quite a few good ones too. Today, we enshrine one of those for eternity to come.

The Trial

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada catapults us into the void, open space, the realm of the Warp, foreign and ever-twisting. We have seen the battles of the Space Marines, the Orks and Traitors on the ground but space was a frontier yet to be conquered. As we noted in our preview, Armada could very well strengthen the Warhammer franchise on the digital market but, naturally, certain emotional restraint is necessary in a preview.  That said, I am jubilant that Armada got it right. First off, the campaign knows what it is doing. Slow to start, a bit on rails, it eventually opens up step by step to present a true warzone, massive and with countless challenges to overcome. Taking the reins of Admiral Spire after his customary torture session with our very own overzealous Inquisitorial friend, it is up to us to prevent the fall of the Gothic to Abaddon The Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos. Or is it?

Just a nudge.

Naturally, this is not our only challenge as the Imperial Navy but it presents us with the groundwork of the game. Meeting the Chaos forces head-on, more and more powerful vessels are placed under our command. We are given the tools, but with an extensive upgrade and skillset, it is up to us to mould our forces into a coherent and powerful corps, thrusting them into a colourful and aesthetically loyal visual palette powered by Unreal 4. Combat is fast and intense, with just enough depth to not overburden the average Joe. The ship combat, outside of the obviously satisfying DakkaDakkaDakka, feels great with precise manoeuvring and the most important part of the game: ramming! However, at the same time, in the heat of the moment, the UI often feels a bit loaded, counter-intuitive even, with some obvious options seemingly missing.

Of course, the campaign is only for those who accept the light of the Emperor. Those amongst you that would rather cast your lot with the heretics and Xenos can do so in Skirmish and Multiplayer, game modes that too unlock ships and skills as your experience rises. The Imperial Navy, deploying cathedralesque ships and the traitorous Chaos forces with their computed and derelict vessels, have a relatively straight-forward approach to space combat. Here, the Orks and Eldar bring not only diversity but a nasty surprise to anyone thinking they would be met in a straight-forward firefight.

The house with the nice view.

While only a minor menace during the campaign, in fact I found the Ork and Eldar incursions a bit ‘too’ manageable, both races break what would otherwise be a very monotonous campaign experience. Orks, charging forth recklessly and without a moment’s hesitation, might not be as savvy as your neighbour’s cow, but what they lack in brains they make up with pure aggression. As for the filthy Xenos that are the Eldar, well, be on your guard for as their ships might be fragile, their minds be astute and their weapons sharp.

Meeting all these races in the campaign definitely represents a high point in my experience as one feels besieged from all sides with few friends and no respite. Protecting the Gothic sector is no easy task but it manageable. Incursions from all sides are aplenty but with the right management of resources, it becomes a task that tolls no exuberant burden. If you look for a challenge, consider upping the ante with the ‘Ironman’ mode. Despite this, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada manages to fulfil the most important tasks of all: capturing the Warhammer 40K feel. While I still believe that the emphasis in the dialogues on ‘saving lives’ rather than military or technological assets, does not fit perfectly into my expectations of the Imperium of Mankind, they represent a minor complaint in the otherwise unyielding and dogmatic attitudes at display.

They didn’t mind the gap.

The grit of the Warhammer 40K universe is ever present. Nevertheless, as bombastic sounds, explosions and screams of defiance are the base line, the title has exceptional sound design. As captains panic and attempt to disengage into the warp you hear the sizzling and shrieking of a warp rift opening up, at the same time you the crash of a game changing ram hitting home and the bombastic explosions that seal the fate of the enemy’s fleet. A game profits a lot from a well realized sound scenery, thankful Armada delivers.

The Verdict

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a title that deserves to be checked out by any fan of Warhammer 40K or even beyond. It is not only a title for fans of the franchise, but it stands on its own feet while remaining loyal to its roots. With two more races already announced (Space Marine and Tau), it could be worth your time. If only all Warhammer titles were like this.

Case Review

  • Core Values: Loyal to lore and the tabletop basis.

  • Imperial Justice: Bombastic fights and well realized engagements.

  • Acoustic Immersion: Exceptionally detailed sound assets.

  • Ram, Ram, Ram!: Ram ships. In space.

  • Post-release Support: Dependent on post-launch DLC, potentially lacking in replayability.

  • Turtle Story Telling: Initial storytelling pace can be off-putting.

  • Small Buttons and Lacking Utility: UI can feel like a hindrance

4 Score: 4/5
Cleansing the Gothic Sector was never this satisfying.

Evidence

  • Graphics: Presets available, alternatively full customization.
  • Audio: Multiple audio sliders, including separate for music and vices. Subtitles available.
  • Controls: Full playability with mouse and keyboard. Mouse suffices for a casual approach, keyboard helps for special abilities and complex manoeuvres. Full rebindability.
4.5 Score: 4.5/5

For the will of the Immortal God Emperor! That is about all you need to know. If you have ever dreamed of being the fist of righteous retribution, this is the game for you. A shockingly faithful and effective translation of the table-top game. Blending the original gameplay mechanics with a more fluid, fast paced video-game system. Rather than falling victim to the “95% chance fails five times in a row” kind of shenanigans that a lot of such games are plagued with. In fact, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is so well built, even someone like me, who sucks balls at RTS, can succeed on the Heroic difficulty.

Being powered by Unreal 4, it’s a deliciously beautiful game to behold. Especially when you hit the Tactical Cogitators, which slows (but does not stop) the action down, and plow right into the engine block of an opposing cruiser. The sheer sense of visceral ecstasy, the duality of the grating of metal and rolling explosions brings welling up from inside…its orgasmic. Most satisfying when turning the tactic back round on the Orcs, who revel in ramming everything up the bottom at every opportunity.

In short, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is frickin’ awesome. I cannot compliment it enough. Apart from one thing. Though you don’t have to go back and redo a mission if you fail, should you choose to do so. Little things like the opening panning shot, at the beginning of a mission, are unskippable. Which can be tedious. Even the lack of in mission saves isn’t a huge issue, because most engagements only last a few, highly frenetic, minutes.

3.5 Score: 3.5/5

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is the real time fleet combat simulator you’ve been looking for. Tindalos have not just delivered on the strategy goodness again, they also have created a visceral representation of the 40K universe. The game looks and sounds stunning throughout, and is faithful to the source material. The campaign in Armada places you as one of the admirals charged with defending the gothic sector from the predations of Abaddon The Despoiler (Demonic space Napoleon), various Xenos threats, and just plain insurrections. You will be given some story driven missions, but for most of the campaign it is up to you to choose what mission to go on and which planets to save, because you won’t save them all. This is a losing battle and each turn more and more planets will fall to the invaders. You will however gain more renown with each mission, which you can use to build and upgrade fleet as much as possible before the final confrontation.

Multiplayer is based around short battles, but it allows you to level up admirals for each faction, building fleets and tailoring ships to your liking. There are many different mission types for a battles, such as escorting transports, attack the space station, or just simply cruiser clash (destroy the opponent). Multiplayer has 1v1 and 2v2 battles, and allows you to add Steam friends directly to a battle. I’ve found that 1v1 works very well against random opponents, however trying to pick a battle with a specific person, or even just a 2v2 battle, can often lead to bugs and network issues, to the point where it’s impossible to play. Multiplayer also lacks any kind of player control for point size or mission type or even comp stomp. To get these options you have to play offline against AI only. The replayability of BFG is pretty good, but could be a lot better. Once you’ve reached level eight with an Admiral there’s not much else to do, except keep playing successive battles against random opponents. Without high scores or some kind of ranking system, this can feel a bit pointless.

I adore what Tindalos has done with BFG: Armada, and I know that many strategy and W40K fans adore it too. However multiplayer issues cannot be ignored, even knowing fixes may be on the way for many of them, Tindalos should have addressed this before release.

Comments (2)


Posts: 42
Stephen Haselden
Posted 28 May 2016, 08:42
One month after release and we can now invite friends to play in 1v1 and 2v2 custom games. kind of an essential component for multiplayer, but I'm glad their keeping their word and addressing these problems.

Posts: 293
L Coulsen
Posted 07 May 2016, 15:18
I wish I could, ahem, ram home the point better.

:p