The Warhammer universe gifts us with another great space combat title.
The Warhammer universe is a vast one. Not only is it filled with tons of creative races, events, and weaponry, but it is also filled with plenty of material for amazing video games. And there have been a lot of amazing games released over the years, from Dawn of War to Space Marine to Vermintide. But there have also been a slew of bad titles, those games that don’t use the license to the fullest and aren’t fun to play. And now Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, the latest outing from Tindalos Interactive, is here. The question presents itself: which category does this game fall into?
The sequel to 2016’s space combat epic, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 has you piloting great warships through the stars and waging war against the forces of Chaos. You’ll be playing through the fall of Cadia in this journey. For fans of the Warhammer universe, you already know how important this moment is. For newcomers, just know that there were millions of warriors involved in this war and that means you’ll get to play as a lot of different races. Story is presented both through in-game cutscenes as well as through beautiful animated cutscenes. The story is pretty typical of the grimdark tone that Warhammer games go for, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less compelling. Seeing characters that you’ve grown attached to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their cause is affecting, if you’re willing to buy into the grandiose dialogue and writing of the story mode.
"The story is pretty typical of the grimdark tone that Warhammer games go for, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less compelling. Seeing characters that you’ve grown attached to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their cause is affecting, if you’re willing to buy into the grandiose dialogue and writing of the story mode."
Graphically, Battlefleet Gothic is pretty good. The ships are detailed and a lot of care was put into making sure the models in-game were consistent with the Warhammer lore. On the other hand, the Tyranid ships look appropriately organic and unsettling, their opens mouths hungering for other sentient life. This is all good stuff and aside from a few wonky particle effects here and there, the visuals are impressive.
Gameplay in Battlefleet Gothic consists of manoeuvring your ships around the play field while engaging in engaging with enemy ships. You can generally win in two ways: either through complete destruction of opposing forces or through capturing set points on the field and accumulating enough points. This opens itself up for multiple playstyles. You can bumrush the team as soon as the match starts and swarm over them, crushing them before they have the chance to get any points and potentially catching them far away from backup. But you also have the option of stalling the enemy with smaller attacks while you send other ships off to capture points. There’s a lot of creativity allowed by these win conditions and it really helps differentiate each battle.
Battles can also include more interesting twists, like meteor showers that will constantly have you relocating your fleet to avoid collision. You also have access to a stealth mechanic, letting you shut off your engines and lie in wait in a clouded area. There’s nothing more satisfying than hiding yourself right next to a point, waiting for your opponent to come by, then lunging out right as they start to make themselves comfortable.
"There’s nothing more satisfying than hiding yourself right next to a point, waiting for your opponent to come by, then lunging out right as they start to make themselves comfortable."
During the campaign mode, there will be three races you’ll play as that all fight for their own purposes and creeds: The Imperium, the Necron, and the Tyranid. These factions all have their own strengths and weaknesses and will force you to adapt to different playstyles. Although some are easier to get used to than others, they are all pretty fun in their own way.
In the campaign mode, you’ll be doing much of your tactical planning from the map screen. Here you’ll be in charge of a race as you set out to take over territory from adjacent races and build up an armada. You maneuver your ships around the map screen, launching into battle with other ships, creating more and laying down traps for invaders to fall into. This mode is really engaging and does a lot to highlight the differences between the races. While the Imperium follow the tried-and-true formula of expanding, building, and defending, the Necron use existing ships to explore enemy territory and unearth lost technology. And then there’s the Tyranid race, which opts out of strategy and instead chooses to consume conquered planets, grow more ships, then move onto the next conquest. All three races have their own flavor and it’s not a slog to go through each campaign due to their differences.
But let’s talk about the races really quick. First up is the Imperium. The Imperium is your standard class. They’re pretty well-rounded and it’s no surprise to know that they act as your introduction to space combat. Their ships are moderately fast, decently bulky, and have access to a good amount of artillery. Although they don’t specialize in anything, they’re an effective jack-of-all-trades race. You’ll have the skills to experiment with all kinds of play-styles with this race and see which one fits you. They act a good entry point into the combat of Battlefleet Gothic.
"During the campaign mode, there will be three races you’ll play as that all fight for their own purposes and creeds: The Imperium, the Necron, and the Tyranid. These factions all have their own strengths and weaknesses and will force you to adapt to different playstyles. Although some are easier to get used to than others, they are all pretty fun in their own way."
The Necron are a little bit different but still similar enough that the skills you learned as the Imperium won’t go to waste. You’ll have access to new abilities and although you can still deal good damage, they aren’t as offensively-focused as the Imperium. Necron ships are slow-moving but also have the ability to instantly teleport a short distance away. The cooldown on this teleportation ability is quicker than you would think, so any effective Necron force should be abusing it as much as possible. There’s also an ability to instantly recall any ships to the location of a central flagship which comes in incredibly handy. Overall, the Necron are all about quick strikes and disorienting your opponent. Once you strike, your goal is to do good damage, then retreat somewhere else once your enemy gets their bearings.
And then we get to the Tyranid campaign. These organisms are the bane of the systems and you’ll come to understand why as you play through their campaign. Tyranids are all about overwhelming the opponents. These ships have the ability to quickly rush ahead and can lunge at any point. Tyranid ships always start out their turns in stealth mode and take no damage from flying right through asteroid belts or plasma storms. This means that there is almost no direction safe from a Tyranid attack. You’ll usually find yourself lying in wait for prey to happen by before you strike. You can send out a swarm to eat away at ships nearby or even launch your tongue out to catch opposing ships and bring them in closer to your forces. You’ll feel how gleeful it can be to have an opposing force on the ropes, trying to escape you. Tyranids are a lot of fun, is what I’m saying.
You won’t be limited to these three classes though. In the multiplayer aspect of the game, you can experiment with twelve races, each with their own sub-factions and perks. Each class brings something new to the table and it’s fun to experiment with the different playstyles they can provide. You can have a skirmish with another player or team up for some two-versus-two action. Multiplayer is set up like the campaign battles, with the win conditions either being through destruction or accumulation of points. This is where a lot of your playtime will be spent as you try out each race. Yet even this mode isn’t perfect as there are still balancing issues that were brought over from the first title. The Tau are still a force to be reckoned with in this game and Tyranids can easily overwhelm inexperienced players and steamroll through a fight. But aside from some wonky balancing, multiplayer is a worthwhile time and can easily suck you in for multiple hours.
"In the multiplayer aspect of the game, you can experiment with twelve races, each with their own sub-factions and perks. Each class brings something new to the table and it’s fun to experiment with the different playstyles they can provide."
As fun as the game is though, it’s not without its bugs. During my time, I ran into a few hiccups and a few crashes. There were a few points during play where my cursor would stop working, forcing me to toggle full-screen and windowed mode until it worked again. During the campaign, scripted events would also end up not loading, preventing me from progressing further and forcing me to quit to the main menu. There were also smaller issues, like sound clips not playing or ships refusing to move occasionally. The team at Tindalos Interactive are aware of a few issues and are working to fix them, but I can understand if the lack of polish is a turn-off for players.
Overall, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a great game for fans of the franchise. And for those sitting on the fence, if the concept of guiding a fleet of warships across space, slowly taking out the opposition and building up stronger and stronger forces appeals to you, then this game may just be the one for you. Although the gameplay of Battlefleet Gothic won’t appeal to everyone, those that it does resonate with will find a unique experience from other space combat titles on the market.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Fun, diverse play-styles are available; Engaging campaign mode.
Technical Issues; Some races are less balanced than others in multiplayer.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a treat for fans of Warhammer and the space combat genre in general.