Hello, reader. Reader, here’s Strategical Showcase. Strategical Showcase, here’s my favourite reader. What kind of cryptic concoction is this? Well, my dearest, Strategical Showcase is a new feature by yours trully. Expertly crafted- afters years of study- to showcase games that might interest you, but I can’t fit it in my review schedule. Strategical Showcase will run alongside it’s twin brother “Wargaming Showcase” where “wargames”, in a more traditional sense, will get the same treatment.
I’m having a writer’s block so let me get the formalities out of the way: I really, really like Battlesector. Why I’m having a writer’s block, you ask? My esteemed reader, allow me to elaborate: I’ve never, ever, played tabletop Warhammer. Or tabletop anything for that matter. But damn me if I haven’t played Warhammer videogames before. Space Marine? Yep. Damn of War I, II and III? Scratch that. Total War: Warhammer I and II? Well, who hasn’t? And that’s not even the eerie bit. The weird slice of this messy pie is that, more often than not, I’ll go on all-nighters listening to Warhammer lore, reading and savouring the ridiculous amount of detail put into every obscure corner of its fantastic universe. Problem is that my small brain can’t handle all the weird names and I end up forgetting everything after a while. What is a Blood Angel? Who was Horus? Did you know Space Marines and Adeptus Astartes are the same thing? This writer from 5 years ago knew all that, but recent me only knows it because, and quote me on this: I’m pleased to say that Battlesector sent me back into long, eye-straining wiki reads to refresh my gold fish memory.
If a game manages to have me explore more of that universe it probably means it’s doing something right, right? Right. Here’s the thing, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector nails so perfectly but I have a weird suspicion the lure is lying somewhere between a visual quality and brutal gore rarely seen in other Warhammer titles and that familiar feeling of X-COM-esque turn-based combat.
Now, you might attempt to scold me for calling it a X-COM-esque combat system but is there a more universal description than that? Your turn: move Units (from now on Squads) using Movement Points. Done moving? Take your shot with Action Points. Most units only have one AC, some have two. And yes, of course there are a lot of modifiers when it comes to using your Action Points. Squads of Agressors can sacrifice their movement to spit more lead down range; use their shoulder mounted grenade launchers to turn tyranids into mush. If push comes to shove, they can trow fists like it’s nothing.
Assault Squads can use their jump packs to cover long distances, sneak in the occasional Krak grenade here and there, maybe even use the chainsword for maximum badass points if the situation is desesperate enough.
Hellblasters sporting plasma incinerators can supercharge their highly electrified rich collection of nuclei and electrons to increase damage while taking some pain themselves. Intercessors are your most versatile squads with frag grenades and boosts to their stats. Who needs more active skills when already bolstering The Bolter?
The preview provided to me by Slitherine had 2 missions and a tutorial. But tutorials are for woosies so I rocket-jumped straight into action. And I had no problem understanding the game’s fundamentals, it’s that accessible. What surprised me the most was that rather then going with the usual “kill everything”, Black Lab Games opted to create multistaged missions with objectives evolving over time. Younger me used to hate this, complaining on how unfair it was that I had to restart entire missions because there was no way that completing the mission was feasable with whatever ragtag bunch I had by then. Older and wiser me of today really enjoys these “unpredictability” (at least in the first playthrough). In one mission, the Astartes were tasked with securing the munitions bunker. Even tho victory came, it came at a cost and most squad took heavy casualties on the ramp leading up to the objective.
Tasked with consolidating the recently obtained position against a counter-attack and with my forces thinned out, perfect positioning was required for a sucessful defense. Low HP units who suffered most casualties were rotated to the back lines to be healed over time while their most numerous counterparts took positions to fabricate overlapping fields of fire. My only fully functioning crew of Agressors serving as a stationary pivot of defense, dictating the flow of the engagement, reinforced by a squad of allied Intercessors as a support fire unit.
On the flank of my main force stood only half a squad of Intercessors to prevent any mischief from the tyrannids. Battlesector also uses a momentum system where units get a certain amount of momentum over time that allows them to eventually pull off inhumane deeds. As to what those are I have no idea. But that’s entirely on me. Why is that? Well, look – I’m mainly a defensive player. My expertise lies on scouting, advancing with heavy fire support, capturing or setting up positions, consolidade those positions. Repeat. So no risqué moves are going to happen in my watch. But I don’t feel that my hability to achieve the mission objectives were hindered in any way by that. Maybe I’ll get the opportunity when the game is released.
To finish this Strategical Showcase I’m not going to pretend I have some deep understanding of The Story. Take it from the developers themselves: “Experience an epic twenty mission single-player campaign that explores the aftermath of the Devastation of Baal. Help Sergeant Carleon and his allies purge the Tyranid infestation on Baal Secundus, and preserve the honour of the noble Blood Angels”. In all honesty, I just want a backdrop to keep those bolts pumping the wrath of the Emperor unto thy foes.