Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

The people over at Tindalos Interactive have done their homework providing, through Battlefleet: Gothic Armada, an excellent Warhammer 40k experience and the first proper 40k game we’ve had in quite a while.

By Woozie, Posted 28 Apr 2016

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada caught my attention when it was first announced only to fall under my radar until the beta announcement. I’ve left playing the beta with good impressions, but also a certain amount of skepticism due to the recent Warhammer 40k games that didn’t really do the license any justice. 50 hours and over a hundred chaos cruisers turned to ash later, any skepticism that was previously there ended up blown away as my Imperial fleet was making sure the Emperor’s light in the Gothic Sector doesn’t dwindle.  

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Screenshot, Review

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s lengthy campaign takes place during the 12th Black Crusade that swept across the Gothic Sector. It is split into two segments: the first, turn based, taking place on a star map where you can choose where you’ll deploy your fleet and the second one which involves real time combat. The campaign throws primary missions at you every other turn or so. These missions take place near a planet in the sector. Planet types affect how much Renown (the game’s main resource) you earn, upgrade and repair costs and boarding strength – basically, the potential strength of your fleet. You will lose missions, however, that doesn’t warrant reloading a save. Even primaries can be lost which, will make your fleet weaker while allowing you to continue. It’s a nice little feature which adds to the overall sensation of desperation that takes hold of you when you see worlds being overrun by enemy forces. There’s always a feeling of losing ground and, as Lord Admiral Ravensburg puts it, you can’t save them all. You’re fighting a losing battle; after a certain point in the game worlds under Heretic or Xenos control will get targeted by Exterminatus which will push you towards deciding: do I do the Space Marine alliance mission to get a discount on their favour ship upgrade or do I save the world from Exterminatus, thus making sure I don’t lose a source of wealth permanently. The campaign will also have you making a couple of choices which will change a couple of things in the Gothic Sector. You will be squaring against Seditious forces (Imperials gone rogue), Eldar, Orks and Chaos.

In Battlefleet Gothic: Armada you take command of a fleet of ships belonging to the Imperial Navy, in the campaign, or any of the four playable races, in multiplayer. The level of visual badassery present is off the charts, the ships being very detailed and an absolute joy to just look at. Absolutely awe-inspiring, as most Warhammer 40k-related things should be, the visuals do a good job at capturing the essence of the universe. It’s an utter delight to let the ships loose, watch them slowly trudge towards their objective and follow the flurry of lasers, torpedoes and shells flying from one ship to the other, waiting for the moment of impact. You may, however, want to keep antialiasing on the lowest setting as, just like in the Beta, any setting above it turns the ships into a blurry mess. There’s something incredibly satisfying in controlling your fleet, especially once the game moves towards the latter stage and you can have a greater number and a higher variety of ships on the battle map.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Screenshot, Review

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s combat might seem slow, but matches need to be finished in under 20 minutes and at least half of mine took way less than that. This doesn’t mean that intensity is sacrificed for brevity’s sake. While, as I mentioned in my preview for the game, the earlier sections tend to get rather stale because there’s not that much to micromanage in a 2 light cruiser fleet, when getting further ahead, with Battle Cruisers and Battleships available, possibly even upgraded, things become exponentially better. Positioning, speed control, area denial: these play a vital role. You need to micromanage each ship for the most part, making sure it fires torpedoes without hitting allies, making sure it doesn’t get itself into mines or asteroid fields. You also have to keep into account the strengths of the enemy. Playing as Imperial against Chaos? Chances are you want to get in close, as Chaos ships excel at range. Playing as Eldar? You’ll want to always be on the move, turning around when you’re ready to give the enemy a taste of your highly damaging pulsar burst. Are you excessively green, orky and wearing a pirate hat? Well, you’re flying rust buckets through space, so might as well ram and board the sh*t out of everyone and everything that stands in your way.

Depending on the ship type, they can come outfitted with weaponry situated on the prow or on the sides. You always have to keep track of which gun is more effective for which scenario, changing them as needed when they end up destroyed. Engagement ranges can be set on the UI, but nobody stops you from manually directing a ship, especially when you plan on ramming someone. Micro-warp jumps allow for quick relocation of even the biggest ships coming in handy when you want to avoid getting caught in a stasis field, or, when you’ve a particular ship to catch. So, as you can hopefully draw from what I’ve said, the combat is way more than clicking the enemy ship and waiting for the bigger ship to win. You have to always adapt to the situation and the potential dynamicity grows when you enter multiplayer, which now also boasts a 2v2 mode. The fact that the combat is lacking a third dimension does not imply a lack of depth, nor does it detract from the fun, in this case. It is also a choice that can make things less intimidating for newcomers to the genre. There are, however a couple of things that could be added. At the time of writing, there are no custom or preset formations for ships and neither is there a way to get one ship to fly at the speed of a different one (especially for moments when you’d rather have one of your bulkier ships soak the first enemy volley).

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Screenshot, Review

The ships in your fleet can be bettered on four different fronts. Firstly, every ship has crew members that offer passive bonuses in different areas. These crewmen have different portraits and names for all four races, but offer the exact same bonuses regardless of who you’re playing as. Skills are the second area that can be upgraded and these affect the actual battles, ranging from temporary invulnerability to a variety of bombs that slow down or damage enemy ships, to taunts and mobility enhancing skills. You’ll want to outfit ships with different skills in order for them to complement each other on the battlefield or fulfill certain roles that might come in handy in certain mission types. Upgrades are a whole different set of enhancements which are mostly passive. While the majority of them are similar in effect, each race does get a couple that are specific to its own playstyle. Last, but far from least, there are Favours. These are expensive upgrades that act as “specializations” of sorts, although, the term is a tad improper seeing how a ship becomes truly specialized only when Favours and the other three categories work well together. Favours are different for each race and, on top of giving really strong bonuses, they also change the already-badass look of your ships into something even more awe-inspiring. I had a very hard time holding myself back from giving my Emperor class Battleship the Adeptus Astartes Favour, in the campaign, as quickly as I could, when upgrading my cruisers was the better course of action, just because of how amazing it ended up looking afterwards.

The six mission types offer varying experiences, however it is here where the greatest problems with Battlefleet Gothic: Armada occur. Cruiser Clash is your typical deathmatch mode where you have to destroy or rout the enemy force. This was, by far, my favorite mission type as, despite seeming to be more straightforward than the others, it is where the combat system shines the most. Data Recovery has the attacker attempting to steal information off the defender’s admiral ship prior to them being able to warp out. In order to steal the information off the enemy ship, you need to get its shields down and land a successful lightning strike after which, you need to keep your ship from suffering the same fate. Assassination runs the same rules, except instead of stealing data the attacker has to destroy the enemy ship. Breakthrough requires the attacker to destroy four turrets and advance to the opposite edge of the map, with the defender attempting to stop this from happening. Planetary Assault has the attacker attempting to reach bombardment locations in a required time window, while Convoy is all about getting weaker transport ships to the opposite edge of the map while the other player tries to blow them up.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Screenshot, Review

Now, when discussing balance, there are a lot of things to take into consideration, but, from my experience there are some issues that can stop players from having fun with some of these game modes. Convoy is, in my eyes, the biggest culprit, especially when playing Defender. Try to deny areas and force enemy ships to take long routes to my frail transports as much as I wanted, the attacker still won most of these missions, simply because they can rush the transports while ignoring my other ships for the most part. Planetary Assault comes forth with an interesting concept, but the bombardments zones appear in random locations, which, at times seem impossible to get to. Certainly, nobody’s shoving slow ships down your throat, but after a certain point attempting missions with just light cruisers because of their speed isn’t something you can quite pull off. I found myself hunting for Cruiser Clashes in campaign mode while completely avoiding Convoy defense missions. It was never about not being able to win, because, as I’ve said, the game doesn’t stop if you lose, it was simply about there being no fun whatsoever in convoy defense missions. The issue of balance is also present in multiplayer with Eldar Voidstalker Battleships seemingly leaning a bit too much towards the overpowered side.

The multiplayer works exactly as it worked in the Beta. You can have different admirals, each with his own fleet; you level them up and upgrade them. These fleets, after a while, end up feeling very personal, especially in multiplayer. One thing I did not mention when referring to the campaign, despite it also applying there, was what happens to ships when they’re destroyed or lost in the Warp. Destroyed or heavily damaged ships aren’t lost forever; instead, they get repaired after a turn, or a number of online matches. You can speed up the process by spending renown you earn by completing matches. Ships get lost in the Warp when they warp out, regardless if it’s because you choose to do so or because the mission objective asks that of you. The sole way of combating this is by spending crew points on your Navigator, which reduces the chance of this even occurring. These mechanics make sure that you plan your fleet knowing that you may not have access to your higher level ships at all times. The mission types are still completely randomized, which can add frustration, especially when you’re getting the same role you hate three times in a row. When it comes to stability, there was no sign of crashes or lag.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Screenshot, Review

I don’t think I’ll forget how playing through Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s campaign felt. That’s not to say the multiplayer is negligible; far from it as, for many people, it’s where the real value of the game lies. It’s just that from the way the ships look, to the voice acting, sound design and cutscenes, everything is exactly how a Warhammer 40k title should be. The people over at Tindalos Interactive have done their homework, thus providing an excellent Warhammer 40k experience and the first proper 40k game we’ve had in quite a while. Furthermore, they’ve promised continued support, especially in regards to balance, which is the biggest gripe I have with the game at the moment. Knowing that a Space Marine fleet DLC is on the way and keeping in mind a particular detail from the campaign cutscenes, I’m already getting excited at potentially getting to play more races and at the thought of a possible expansion somewhere down the line. This being said, it’s pretty clear that, while there are some things that need fixing, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a game you don’t want to miss out on. As for me, I’m going back and painting those transport ships red in hopes of getting them to go faster.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Developer(s): Tindalos Interactive
Genres: Real Time Strategy
Themes: Space
Release Date: March 2016

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