Welcome to Space Boot Camp

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is an officially-licensed real-time-strategy game based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K tabletop combat game. It’s ship-to-ship combat out in the reaches of space; set during the time of the Gothic War. You are the Admiral in charge of an ever-growing fleet of great space battleships. Your admiral gains experience over time, allowing him to unlock new classes of ships and to field more of them at a time. Your ships’ captains/crews, too, gain their own experience, allowing them to improve their combat performance by investing in new special skills and ship options. Ships that are “destroyed” simply gain no EXP for the encounter, and have to sit out the next couple of battles unless you pay extra for expedited repairs. The game trudges on, win or lose – but losing a confrontation means losing control of a world which could otherwise grant you useful resources/bonuses. You can’t hold them all, so you must choose which bonuses are most important to you.

The Emperor’s TaleIn the Campaign mode, you serve the Imperial cause, defending your territory against incursions by Ork pirates, Eldar Corsairs, Chaos cultists, and even rebellious fellow Imperial heretics. You will deal with your superiors in between fights, upgrading your ships and choosing where to go next. You don’t get enough Deployments each turn to cover all of your bases, so choose wisely which ones to take, and which ones to ignore; a few are mandatory for story purposes, but you’ll know then when you see them. In the Skirmish mode, where you cannot save your progress for some inexplicable reason, you get to choose a faction and go through a series of randomly-generated battles, with no story to get in your way.The game does a decent job of making you feel like you’re part of the WH40K setting. Familiar iconography, consistent writing and attitudes, etc, will make veteran Warhammer players feel right at home.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUGH!

There is no base-building in Battlefleet: Gothic Armada, thus, minimal fear of Zerg rushes. You and the enemy start out on different sides of a starfield (unless you’re on defense, in which case you’re often in the middle and they’re on either end) with random planets, gas clouds (to hide in), bits of debris, asteroid fields, and the like to break things up. It usually takes a minute or so for things to actually get going because of the distances involved, but that just gives you time to fling a couple volleys of torpedoes towards those unidentified red blips in the distance and hope that they hit. You can set your ships’ subsystems – repairs, lock-ons, bombs, emergency warps, shield boosters, etc.  – to automatic so that you don’t have to micro-manage them. You also need to set preferred engagement ranges, targeting priorities, and firing type (forward or broadsides); non-subsystem attacks are automatic, and simply fire of their own accord as soon when their cooldown is done, provided that an enemy is in their sights. You mostly need to worry about manoeuvring, changing orders mid-stream (hit the space bar to slow down time – there is no pausing in this war), or manually triggering subsystems such as torpedoes or escort fighters. Just be careful – friendly fire is on at all times in this game; nova cannons and torpedoes hurt. So do collisions between your own ships…not that I would know anything about that, of course…

 

Each faction fights differently – Orks, whose boats look like they were thrown together just to look mean and nasty, are reckless and aggressive, preferring ramming tactics. Eldar, with their more delicate ships, prefer to focus fire with beam weapons from the prow in a hit-and-run style of combat. Imperials and Chaos minions are in the mix too, with Space Marines and the Tau available as paid DLC (the last two available for free if you purchase before the promotion expires).

Grace of the Eldar

Grimdark and lusciously detailed (perhaps to a fault) – What did you expect? This is Warhammer 40K we’re talking about, here. Armor is over-built, ships look like something out of a steampunk engineer’s wet dream, lots of little fiddly bits everywhere on display; zooming in all the way just makes it all look even better. Even the disposable orbital defence platforms – which look like floating castles straight out of Harry Potter (with the addition of cannon) – and the shot-blocking bits of space detritus even have their own style to them. A mid-range graphics card (this review was done on a GTX 660) can handle things just fine even at maxed-out graphics; just keep an eye on your card’s temperature – mine got up to around 85C in combat until I dropped some of the more superfluous settings down a notch.


 
The Inquisition concludes that you could do a lot worse than Battlefleet Gothic: Armada for forty bucks. The combat is engaging, and each faction “feels” quite different and has their own combat behaviour and visual style, despite some pretty straightforward AI. The ships, orbital fortresses, and even the tiny little fighter craft all have insane detail, and they fit in well with the whole Warhammer aesthetic.
 
Review by Eric Kei
Previously published on DLH.net

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