Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus PC Review

Excellent atmosphere, engaging turn-based battles and variety in terms of arsenal make Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus a strategy game worth dipping into.

By Woozie, Posted 21 Nov 2018

The majority of Warhammer 40,000 video games shine the spotlight on the Imperium of Man and its struggle to survive against constantly worsening odds. Until now, however, it was the Adeptus Astartes that mostly stole the show. Bulwark Studios aims to change that, focusing on the eternally curious and diligent members of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their latest title. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus sees the Adeptus Mechanicus answer a distress signal from one of their own who set off to explore the planet of Silva Tenebris. Their curiosity, however, sets in motion the awakening of dormant Necrons, turning their mission into a race against time, as they brave alien tombs to locate the Necron commanders before the entire force awakens.

While Skitarii units explore the depths of Silva Tenerbis, Magos Dominus Faustinius and his retinue oversee the entire operation from the bridge of the Caestus Metalican. The Magos sits on top of his throne on the Ark Mechanicus’ poorly lit bridge. Oversized wires crawl across a significant portion of the room before digging into its metal floor, while ever-busy Servo-skulls float across the screen towards unseen portions of the ship every now and then. The bridge serves as a place of preparation for the turn-based battles that wait in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus’ Necron tombs. It’s where you can see available tech and customize your squad. You start off with two Tech-Priests, being able to unlock more as you complete missions. They can specialize in six different disciplines that make them more efficient with melee or ranged weapons, at healing others, commanding auxiliary troops or collecting Cognition Points – a vital resource used for most attacks and extra movement actions.

There’s plenty of potential for mixing and matching weaponry, armor and gadgets. A Tech-priest could wield a light pistol and a flamer, alongside a power axe, or bring the hurt to all enemies in a line using a plasma culverin. Arc weaponry chains to nearby units, while other guns deal damage in an area. Although unlocking latter skills requires linearly progressing down their respective trees, you’re never locked into just one or two disciplines. Progressing down a tree also unlocks armor for your Tech-Priests which not only enhances stats, but also changes their appearance.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PC, Screenshot, Review

Tech-Priests – vital for your mission – can also be accompanied in the field by a handful of auxiliary troops. They’re meant primarily as cannon fodder but, especially once you upgrade them, they can provide a good deal of support. Not only can they bring the hurt, but also come with handy skills that disable the main weapons of enemy units or make their attacks miss. The final step of preparation involves selecting three Canticles. Unlocked as you reach certain milestones, they’re powerful tactical tools that can be used once per mission. Whether it’s refilling you Cognition Points, increasing the damage of an attack or making several attacks ignore armor, they can turn a dire situation around.

The missions proper are split into two sections. Initially, the camera zooms on the console at the center of the bridge, entering Noosphere view. In it, you guide a holographic representation of your squad through various tombs comprised of rooms linked together by narrow passages. As you move from room to room, you often run into situations that require choosing between three options. Described in detail through a hefty amount of text, they managed to constantly keep me on my toes. Curiosity might have rewarded extra Blackstone – used for upgrading Tech-Priests – and gear at one point, but on several other occasions it left my cohort damaged; this is especially significant in longer levels, as HP loss persists in between battles. There’s a variety of effects you can trigger which do end up affecting how tough of a time you have in actual fights. I learned that the hard way when a series of choices not only damaged a couple of my units, but also raised the Necrons’ initiative, giving them the first turn each round.

The longer you spend inside a tomb, the more Necrons awaken. The Awakening mechanic isn’t just a global tracker of how close you are to all Necron forces coming back to life. Each step increases its level inside missions, pitting you against more foes or making them reactivate faster after their health is depleted. While this does visibly impact tactical engagements, that already require a good degree of thought to begin with, the level resets with each mission and it always gives the enemy the same bonuses. Regardless if you complete a mission or not its Awakening level translates to the global meter, which unlocks more and more missions of increasing difficulty.Mission difficulty is also where the first cracks in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus begin to show. The classifiers attached to missions are fairly unreliable. I’ve had normal difficulty ones that wiped the floor with my cohort, just like I breezed through some of the hard missions. The levels’ procedural generation plays some part in it – you can restart the mission over and over for a different layout –, but it was ultimately the number of Necrons thrown my way that I felt was often the deciding factor in whether I won or lost.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PC, Screenshot, Review

Warhammer 40000: Mechanicus’ turn-based battles are slow, atmospheric endeavors that require planning and proper reaction from the player. Success hangs on the management of Cognition Points, a shared team resource, used for attacks, abilities, moving after using your movement points and calling in extra troops at the start of rounds. Every map has its CP sources that refresh at the start of each round. Initially they actually require making some interesting tactical decisions regarding how you move, or whether you’ll sacrifice scanning an enemy with your servo-skull – revealing its stats in the process – in favor of getting one extra CP to your pool. Later on, however, as you develop character skills and obtain Canticles that grant CP, trivializing fights with free movement becomes a possibility. Scannning is important because enemies often have armor, which protects against physical or energy attacks. Thus, without being aware of an enemy’s stats you can end up wasting potential damage by attacking with the less efficient weapon.

You’ll fight a varied host of Necron opponents in Warhammer 40000: Mechanicus. From run-of-the-mill warriors to lychguards that move whenever attacked and counter your attacks; from Deathmark snipers that phase around, using ovewatch to cover entire areas to heavy destroyers that charge their weapons before unleashing a devastating attack that damages everything in a straight line, they all provide interesting tactical challenges. There is no cover in Mechanicus, so outside of hiding behind walls, taking damage is more or less inevitable. Especially in later tombs, which come with at least three encounters, fights become an effort of carefully managing deaths rather than keeping all your Tech-Priests alive. After all, if one of them makes it out, you leave with Blackstone, gear and potential upgrades; dying only adds to the Awakening meter.

Combat in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus also has its small minutiae. Depleting a Necron’s HP will leave it dormant, but wait too long before dealing another blow and its Reanimation Protocol will bring it back into the fight. As they’re fired, weapons charge their Machine Spirit for more devastating attacks, while proper movement and positioning allows setting up traps around opportunity attacks with your melee troops. In tandem with the arsenal variety, this makes for a good amount of engaging battles that require careful consideration in terms of positioning and target priority. The lack of cover means that you’ll rely on breaking line of sight, moving troops out of range or in harm’s way to protect others. Critical hits and misses are present, although not in a widespread capacity and while units aren’t glass cannons generally, they can’t sustain too much damage either.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PC, Review, Screenshot

The only battles where I got to doze off were Mechanicus’ boss fights which stick out as underwhelming, despite being themed differently. One of the Necron leaders would teleport to his personal guard when damaged, using them as shields. Another would heal whenever Flayed Ones units died, which quickly turned my troops’ opportunity attacks into a useful tool for the enemy. And yet, despite being themed differently, they’re far from memorable and not that big a challenge, especially how you’ll find yourself potentially swimming in CP to freely move around and focus down the bosses. Mission variety is another spot where Mechanicus doesn’t reach too far. The majority of the missions revolve around killing all enemies, while few others require reaching consoles and getting your troops to designated areas.

Warhammer 40000: Mechanicus’ levels are constant reminders that you’re fighting on enemy turf. The blocky, alien architecture, the unusual glow beneath suspended metallic floors and a soundtrack that mixes electronica with solemn church organ contribute greatly to creating this impression that you’re treading where you, perhaps, shouldn’t be. Dormant Necrons step out of tombs pulsating green, taking the glow with them as they enter battle. Hits from Gauss rifles distort the screen and, just like the Mechanicus models do the tabletop figures justice, so do the Necron models carry this sense of cold, unmovable dread wherever they go. A couple of rough movement animations and a very limited camera angle when zoomed in do annoy somewhat, but overall, the title looks and feels great to play. It’s a pity that the story never really does anything particularly interesting, ending abruptly with a boss that’s far too easy to defeat even when it’s unlocked at 75% Awakening, which also robs you of seeing a good bit of the late game unless you postpone the fight.

Faustinus’ retinue provides input and even bicker in regards to how the mission should be approached. While the Subdomina – retaining more of her humanity – focuses on the troops’ survival, another member sees them as nothing other than expendable resources, given the broader context. When one member constantly suggests taking every bit of Necron tech back for study, the Lector Dogmatis answers with spouting scriptures while demanding you burn all that is alien. They’re one-dimensional characters, sure, but this back and forth between them brings life to the bridge.

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, PC, Review, Screenshot

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus has an unmistakable tabletop feel to it and its levels ooze a strange alien atmosphere befitting of Necron tombs. With a surprising amount of writing that fleshes out locations and choices inside missions, engaging tactical battles and a whole suite of equipment to purge xenos with, Mechanicus gives plenty of reasons to stick around for the 20-30 hours it lasts. Its pacing and balancing do begin to falter further in, as gaining Cognition Points becomes a tad too easy after a while, giving the player a little too much leeway in terms of the actions they can take within a turn. But the good outweighs the bad, ultimately and all of Mechanicus’ missteps don’t stop it from being a 40K game worth paying attention to.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Kasedo Games
Developer(s): Bulwark Studios
Genres: Turn-based Tactics
Themes: Sci-fi, Dystopian, Grimdark, Mechanicum
Release Date: 2018-11-15

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