Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 PC Review

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a spectacular, explosive space RTS with a couple of rough edges.

By Woozie, Posted 28 Jan 2019

Tactical, explosive naval space battles turned the original Battlefleet Gothic: Armada into a welcome surprise for Warhammer 40,000 fans, and its freshly released sequel, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, ups the ante in almost every way. Instead of one campaign, you’re treated to three, with a fourth on the way post-launch. Instead of four factions, all twelve from the tabletop are playable, and, while some rough edges persist, they don’t overshadow the feeling of unbridled joy that comes with seeing massive ships blast each other to pieces.

Twelve Black Crusades aren’t enough to stop our old friend Abbadon the Despoiler from gathering his blasphemous buddies and racing across the stars in the name of the Chaos Gods once more. Battlefleet: Gothic Armada 2’s three campaigns offer just as many perspectives on the cataclysmic event. As Admiral Spire, you take control of a combined force of Imperial, Space Marine and Adeptus Mechanicus ships. The second campaign puts you at the helm of a Necron dynasty fleet, while the third features Hive Fleet Leviathan in their eternal quest to nom on all the planets.

The three campaigns share most of their DNA, but not without having specific details which set them apart. The Tyranids devour the worlds they capture, being required to always push on in search of new resources, while Necrons can use Dolmen Gates to travel long distances at minimal movement point cost. Just like in the original, they’re split between a turn-based section and real-time naval space battles. While the turn-based section can look a tad intimidating at first, it doesn’t take long to fully grasp.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, PC, Review

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2’s campaign maps are split into sectors made up of several systems which, themselves, house a number of planets. These planets are often considered points of interest, granting owners various benefits. Some increase the income earned per turn, others replenish troops faster. Some boost your fleets’ capabilities while in combat, others act shipyards which build more ships. Each of these points of interest has three levels of potency to which they can be upgraded after a set number of turns.

There are several resources to manage, most of them coming from conquering systems with specific planet types. Income, which is used for the aforementioned upgrades and bolstering your fleet with new ships is, more or less, the central resource. Renown is gained as you complete objectives, increasing your available number of fleets, their size, alongside opening access to heavier ship classes and extra unlocks on the tech tree. Battleplans can be used to delay enemy invasions or open routes to certain systems. Lastly, Urgency grows through setbacks and ignoring the main objectives for too long, increasing the threat of factions in a sector, which makes them more likely to move around and attack. If you let it build up too much, the campaign fails.

It sounds like Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2’s campaign is quite a handful, but realistically speaking, there’s not a ton of depth to it. Sectors become available gradually and, for the most part, things are fairly straightforward. Enemy attacks are always signaled prior to happening, giving you time to react. Attacks from outside the sector mostly occur on specific planets and can be mitigated by just leaving a small fleet there. Rather than a complex tug-of-war, the campaigns feel more like a straight push towards the end, with a handful of elements to distract you from the stream of randomized skirmishes and scripted missions in which lots of things go boom.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

Each system can host three fleets from both sides, with the potential of reducing the opponent’s number to two when fortifications are present. Battle sizes are determined by your Leadership value. Thus, if you have more ships in orbit than fit the value, the game will take a random assortment from the first two fleets and throw it into the fold. Those that fall or retreat will be automatically replaced with reinforcements of similar value.

It’s definitely strange to not be able to fully tailor what you bring into battles, but the reinforcement system is fairly interesting, even if they do always enter exactly where you spawn, which means they’ll often have a long way to go before reaching potentially desperate situationss. Individual ship customization is also gone. The most you can do in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is determine some of the fleet’s skills depending on which leader you assign to it. Aside from that, you’re stuck with the available ship patterns, which is not as bad as it might sound.

But what about battles themselves? They’re arguably Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2’s main draw. Especially once you gain access to more (or heavier) ships, engagements quickly turn into explosive spectacles as lasers, projectiles, fighters and bombers streak across space towards their target. Pulsing energy, arcing lasers, rockets trailing through the vacuum of space before disabling the engines of a hulking pile of metal – it all looks stunning; battles are veritable screenshot treasure troves.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, PC, Review

Combat should be familiar to anyone who’s played the original. Lack of customization aside, a couple of other changes have been introduced, like torpedoes and squadrons having limited charges per battle, so as to avoid spam. This only adds to the methodical approach you need to employ in fights. Positioning and leading your opponent is still key, as weapons have specific firing arcs and ranges. Movement abilities return, from the lengthy Imperial “Full Speed Ahead”, to the quick bursts of already-nimble Eldar fleet and the sudden relocation of Necron vessels, while stances are permanent now, instead of only lasting for a short while.

The most impactful addition, however, are the various map events that can occur while fleets tear at each other. Aside from structures, asteroid fields and gas clouds, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 throws damaging solar flares that streak across the map, plummeting asteroids that damage ships, radiation that kills scanners or massive space leviathans travelling across the map and decimating anything caught in their path. Proper ship movement was already a vital step towards victory, but these new additions make things even more challenging, requiring players to stay on their toes.

With its twelve available factions, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 has a truly massive roster, filled with several options in terms of play styles. Where the Imperial Navy reprises its role as a lumbering armored beast, Space Marines have efficient assault moves which, in the best cases, leave enemy ships floating unmanned in the vacuum of space after having dispatched their crew. What the Eldar lack in resistance, they bring in terms of speed and critical hit potential which can decimate battleships once their shields are down. Necrons, although having the smallest roster, are slow and exposed but can teleport around at a moment’s notice while using scarabs to heal and damaging pulses to shatter their foes’ hulls.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

The inclusion of all the factions from the tabletop game is commendable, and they each come with a lot of sub-factions; but it also ties into one of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2’s biggest issues. The nitty-gritty of your fleets and actions involve lots of numerical values and counters that aren’t always obvious without spending time both battling but also reading tooltips. The game tries to introduce some of these concepts in the tutorial and during the campaign, but its system of disposable messages, which can sometimes flood your screen while you’d much rather watch the action unfurl, is anything but efficient.

Navigating between ship screens and sectors is a bit fiddly as well, just like some of the scripted missions can throw high difficulty spikes your way. It’s even worse as you can’t really swap ships between fleets and, especially early on, building new ships, to retry the mission you’ve failed with a different fleet composition can be tough to do. In actuality, as large and awesome as the campaigns could be, I’d be lying if the process of skirmish-skirmish-campaign mission didn’t border on getting tedious, especially with the Necrons, given their significantly smaller roster.

On the multiplayer front, Battlefield Gothic Armada: 2 offers a rather lean array of modes. With 1v1/2v2 Skirmish and 1v1/2v2 Ranked being the only options, it falls to the faction variety and spectacular action to hold things together; and while they do manage, the few hours I spent in multiplayer weren’t always great. It sometimes seemed far too easy for factions like the Space Marines to knock out ship crews in the first few moments of an engagement, or for Eldar to always tear to shreds with ease anything that’s less nimble than them. People are also fairly inclined to quit at the first sign of defeat, forfeiting the entire match, which is a bit of a bummer as I’ve seen matches turned around by just one ship.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

The multiplayer progression is tied to abilities, which I’m not entirely a fan of even if it doesn’t seem to be significantly crippling, alongside portraits for the game’s many sub-factions. Ranked play sees the Cruiser Clash mode, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2’s version of deathmatch, replaced with Domination, which adds capturable points to the mix. Sadly, Ranked play doesn’t seem to include the newly added map events, nor switching to Cruiser Clash, which is why I found myself rather enjoying Skrimish in favor of it.

There are moments when Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 begins to falter –perhaps a sign of the project being a tad too large for otherwise passionate developer Tindalos Intearctive. The sudden difficulty spikes and lean multiplayer mode offering would suggest as much. But even with all this in mind, the sequel is bigger and ups the ante when it comes to the spectacle on show. While its campaign isn’t exactly a beacon of depth, it compensates through slow yet exhilarating battles between behemoths of metal and meat. And trust me when I say that few things offer the same kind of joy as seeing a massive weaponized flying cathedral explode into a ball of color as a giant space rock propelled by shoddy makeshift engines crashes right into it, all to the sounds of green brutes savagely celebrating their triumph.

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, Tactical
Themes: Warhammer 40000, Grimdark, Sci-fi
Release Date: 2019-01-24

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