All of us at some point have heard of Warhammer 40,000; less of us have heard of Battlefleet Gothic. The Battlefleet Gothic tabletop game started in 1999, and was focused on space skirmishes rather than ground troops. Now the ships are getting the video game treatment in RTS form probably because a movie is too damn expensive.
But Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a well-rounded and smart RTS game. Licensed games run the risk of being a mediocre game brought up by the licensed overlay and many examples spring to mind, though shall be kept out of print. But Armada manages to bring enough unique action to the table to keep itself above the mediocre line and lines up to be one of the best game experiences from the Games Workshop franchise I’ve ever played.
The game is as you would expect. You control one of four fleets: Chaos, Imperial, Elder or Ork. You beset your fleet against other fleets and aim to destroy them. However this typical and simple concept can be done in a multitude of ways depending on your fleet and your preferred playstyle. Each fleet has different strengths and weaknesses, though they fall somewhat into a predictable style of being slower and stronger or faster and weaker. Within each fleet each class of ship has different skills making each a unique entity against its superiors or lesser and increasing the play options available. You can power in with your beefiest ship and bombard the enemy with gunfire and boarding parties or pincer in and pick off ships one at a time. These differences enhance each fleets uniqueness beyond aesthetics which shows a level of detail I was surprised to see.
Actual gameplay is somewhat akin to Total War or Pirates. You click to move your ships around, individually or in groups. Pretty much everything is placed under click. Click to move, shoot, boost, use skills. This puts a lot of pressure on your ability to think quickly and move fast, and is an aspect more typical of MOBA experiences. If this gives you concern then fear not. The story mode does a good job of holding your hand through this learning process.
The learning aspect is helped by the story mode being quite a masterpiece. You control an Imperial captain attempting to build up a fleet to battle the armies of Chaos. The story is by far the best way to get your head around the controls. The game lets you in slowly; and surprisingly there is quite a well-balanced and interesting story with this. The characters are unique and somewhat interesting to boot, although some background characters seem to blend together and some of the word choices seem out of place within the universe.
Graphically, the game is utterly phenomenal. The ships are brought to life so beautifully, with each fleet looking truly monstrous and unique. You get a sense of these behemoths are truly dangerous and the missiles look almost beautiful launching across space and landing on their target. Credit definitely is given to the environment designers as the backdrops to these worlds are truly jaw-dropping, reminiscent of the worlds of games like Elite Dangerous and EVE.
It’s hard to find anything bad about this game. I’m not a big fan of RTS games of this type, preferring the slower experience of games like Civilisation or Europa Universalis. Having everything under the mouse is a bit of a pain though you get used to it quickly. Anything I can find wrong with the game requires serious scrutiny and in the glances you will see it mentioning them seems pointless. What may be an issue for newcomers though is Armada’s learning curve, which feels rather steep compared to other games of the kind and risks locking out much less experienced RTS players.
Overall Battlefleet Gothic: Armada has done well to keep itself above a bland licensed experience. The game has built a well-rounded RTS for the most competitive of friend groups and a story experience that has plenty of hours of play time inside. This game has not tried to be a huge expansive experience. It has picked what it wants to do and does them all well. Several friends of mine have been asking if this game is any good and it has been nice to give a resounding yes back to them. This game is a solid 9. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a must for any RTS fan, Warhammer 40K fan and even some MOBA fans.