First of all, credit for the above title goes to my esteemed colleague Dann.
As long time readers may or may not know, I am a massive fan of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t played many actual games but I love the setting and the stories. Horus Heresy, Eye of Terror, the various Space Marine legions, codexes, artwork, I love it all. There’s something about the grim determination of the human race against the darkness that speaks to me.
There is one part of the setting that, to my knowledge, hasn’t had as much focus. Almost any Games Workshop player will have heard of the Eye of Terror, the Horus Heresy and the Third War for Armageddon, but I haven’t seen much about the Second War. The Black Library novel Helsreach takes place during that time and chronicles the battles of the Black Templars but, aside from general overviews, there’s not a whole lot of it out there, especially when it comes to games. Well I’m glad to say that has changed with Slitherine’s turn based strategy game Warhammer 40,000 Armageddon.
I started up the game and I was immediately presented with a cutscene detailing the current situation in the universe and the background of the world of Armageddon, and I don’t mind telling you I was absolutely blown away. When developers do their research, especially when taking on an established event in lore, it shows and here it’s plain to see that the developers have done their homework. It only lasts a couple of minutes but it’s a glimpse into the rich world of Warhammer. Every note rings true and the artwork is stunning. I’m already in love with the game.
The story takes you through the entire Armageddon war, from it’s early beginnings when an apparently derelict hulk appears above Armageddon Secundus, drawing the attention of the human population. Despite warning signs, most believe it to be mere debris packed with minerals but a then-unknown commissar named Yarrick believes differently. As the story plays out he is proved correct and the Orks invade Armageddon in force, overwhelming the humans. Reinforcements in the form of the Space Marines are called in and battle is joined.
All of this plays out in the form of missions and scenarios. To most gamers, the visuals and graphics may seem somewhat simplistic, or even dated. Units are portrayed on a hex board, there are very few animations and portraits resemble something from the early 2000s. But, you know, I like it. Remember Warhammer 40,000 is a miniatures game played out on the table top and these depictions of the various units remind me a lot of that. In fact the whole look and feel reminds me of one of Games Workshop’s older projects, Epic 40,000, which had battles on a much larger scale similar to what we see here.
Interaction is very easy as well. You select a squad or a vehicle, you move it to an available space, you attack enemy units with it. It’s that simple. You get information on the health of the squad and predicted outcome of attacks. It’s all very easy to get used to, which leaves more time for you to get on with the important job of killing foul xenos invaders. You have the opportunity to deploy units at the start of a battle and you can purchase more units as you go along. The first few missions act as training missions and, unlike other tutorials I could mention, they actually do a good job of indicating what you have to do. Easy to learn, difficult to master.
You have the choice of playing the campaign story through in order, jumping into different acts, playing specific skirmish scenarios or playing the DLC campaigns. These present the war through the eyes of other factions, predominantly the various Space Marine chapters sent to assist the beleaguered Imperial forces. There’s a further DLC in development – Golgotha – which picks up the story years after the war. Again this is an established event in the Warhammer 40,000 canon, so it’s definitely something I’ll be picking up.
I’ve heard that this game is very similar to another Slitherine game, Panzer Corps, with similar gameplay. Looking at screenshots of Panzer I can see why, but in my opinion it’s their game anyway so why not make it like that? Besides the story it is telling is fantastic, packed with lore and references that Games Workshop fans will love. Most Warhammer 40,000 games tell their own story and their own background and sometimes it can be hard to get invested. Slitherine, however, have chosen the somewhat riskier – at least in my opinion – route of taking a major event in the lore and making a game to tell that story. I may not get very far in this game, but I for one am very glad that it exists.