From as far back as 1991, Games Workshop, the company behind Warhammer, have been releasing video games based on their fantasy worlds. These have been a mix of, the now called, Age Of Sigmar (previously just “Warhammer”), Warhammer 40,000 and Blood Bowl. These games have come in a variety of forms, whether that’s of the third person shooter, real-time strategy or even parodies of American football. This huge scope of genres has meant the Warhammer universe has mass appeal and has something for everyone.
That being said, not all of these numerous titles have been a singing success; in fact some have been downright awful. However, the latest instalment, Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, has promised a fast-paced, battle-scale, turn-based shooter that goes back to its roots and sets the standard for a Warhammer game. Is this true, or will it be another flop for the fantasy wargames company?
The story of Battlesector is as grand, bombastic and as stereotypical as I had hoped for. Set in the year 40,000, we follow the Blood Angels faction of the Space Marines in the aftermath of the Devastation of Baal. The main protagonist, Sergeant Carleon, and his allies must purge the Tyranid infestation on Baal Secundus and preserve the honor of the noble Blood Angels.
Sounds confusing? Well, Battlesector does kind of assume that you know a lot of the lore and inner workings of the 40k universe and as there is so much to unpack here, it may put off new players. There is a well presented opening sequence, as well as cinematics throughout, explaining what is happening and why but there is constant jargon throughout the 20 mission campaign; it still may become a bit daunting for newbies. You will get to grips with it, but it may take time.
In this turn-based strategy game, the idea is pretty simple: complete the objective in each chapter as well as destroy the enemy. Each unit for each side has a set number of attacks for each round and it’s up to you to use these as wisely as possible, whether that’s via full frontal attacks or sneaky flanks to surprise the enemy. As with the physical, miniature wargame, each unit’s attacks in Battlesector have a specific chance to hit as well as run a damage roll, so you’re not always guaranteed a brutal hit, or even a hit at all. It’s one of the first Warhammer games I’ve played which is literally like playing the real, physical game, just in virtual form – that’s the biggest compliment I could give it. This makes Battlesector the perfect transition for both new players to get to grips with this version and then play the real game, or for veterans of the board game to move from the physical to this version.
What helps make Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector unique is your unit’s momentum bar. These bars fill up differently depending on whether you are playing as Blood Angels or as Tyranids. You will always play as Blood Angels during the campaign, but can play as Tyranids during skirmishes.
Blood Angels’ bars fill up for being right in the thick of the action and blasting away, whereas the Tyranids bar fills through kills. It’s constantly in your best interest to play as skilfully as possible to fill up your momentum bar, as when you fill it up it will give your unit a stronger, buffed up version of one of their many abilities, or give you an extra turn that round. This isn’t always needed to win, but when the battlefield gets chaotic and overrun with the hive minded Tyranids or you see half a dozen Dreadnoughts coming over the horizon, you need everything in your arsenal to take control and win the objective.
Picking your unit types is as fun as it is challenging. Each unit type costs a set number of points and you’re given a limited number to spend before the mission; once again, just like in the real tabletop game. This gives Battlesector huge replayability as for one mission you could focus on infantry and try to overrun the alien scum with a mix of Ultramarines, giant Primaris Marines and Battle Sisters, or you could heavily rely on more vehicles such as Land Speeders, Rhinos and Dreadnaughts. The more you use each unit type, the more they level up, in turn unlocking better gear to better destroy the enemy. Both these options can make the play style and tactics incredibly different but both just as exciting. It also ensures you’ll want to use the varied terrains differently too, navigating a mix of derelict citadels, expansive wastelands and narrow canyons. The game has so much variety on offer that, whether you want to replay the main mission or play skirmishes, there are endless ways to play your army and claim victory.
One final mention, that is just fun as hell, is that of the voice acting. It’s, again, exactly the type of outrageous and ridiculously over the top soundbites and narration you will want from a game of this type. Hearing a dramatic, Lord of the Rings opening female voice set the scene of battle, my Ultramarines screaming in unison as they ran forward and my commander yelling “I am the Sword of Sanguinius”, was just a joy. Having this mixed in with fantastic sound from armoured vehicles, roaring chainswords and the blood curdling screams of Hive Tyrants, and it makes every mission feel like an overwhelming bombardment. I loved it.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is the best Warhammer game I’ve played in years. The level of care, detail and clear love for the subject material shines through with every moment. It’s the closest offering to playing the physical table-top game that you’ll come across and I cannot stress how wonderful that is. I do wish there were a few campaign missions with the Tyranids and it can definitely be a bit of a daunting prospect for newcomers, but if you push through will find that Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is a wonderful experience that will make you get the miniatures out again. Say goodbye to your social life.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is available from the Xbox Store