The Necrons are a welcome addition to Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector, the excellent turn-based tactics game from Slitherine that came out last year. It’s fair to say I’ve been rather impressed with the game after publishing article after article and eventually reviewing it with a boisterous 4 out of 5: “Packing smart tactical decision making with meaty Marines sporting astronomically (and disproportionately) large weapons splattering Tyranid matter to kingdom come. It is not only a very good turn-based tactical game but also the best turn-based strategy game to ever come out for the Warhammer franchise. I’m expecting Battlesector to be used as a platform for other campaigns and factions. Get on with adding Ultramarines, Orks, and Necrons. Do it, Black Labs. Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector is also getting slapped with a Strategy and Wargaming Seal of Approval.”
As the name of this DLC might imply, it’s all about the Necrons- the immortal mechanical warrior that laid dormant for millions of years in their tombs have awoken to conquer the galaxy. Right from the get-go, the Necrons feel right at home in the turn-based systems of Battlesector. However, the addition of one of Warhammers’ most interesting factions falls short of its potential. The lack of a propper, scripted campaign and hand-crafted maps that showcased the strengths and weakness of the Necron forces is a disappointing twist. In order to plug this gap, Battlesector is getting a new dynamic campaign that misses the mark by miles.
Let’s get the positives out of the way first: the nuclear-green tomb-warriors are as interesting as their fantasy-lore counterparts. Their presence in the game is done by introducing 14 units that range from trow away flayers that slash and dice at their enemies to powerful space wizards and floating tanks. Warhammer gets around to having an immortal faction by cleverly disguising their battlefield deaths with the need to have their mangled bodies teleported back to their planets. If the Blood Angels had their iconic, frenzy-inducing-gene modeled, it was to be expected that this undying aspect might be replicated in some way. Fortunately, for Necron-loving players, the inability to cease existence is also modeled. Each time a member of a squad perishes, there’s a small chance they’ll get back up and start fighting with a sliver of their health left (by sliver, more often than not it means 30% or more of their HP restored). This seemingly overpowered ability didn’t affect my enjoyment of the faction but it’s easy to talk while you’re in control of these suspected overpowered mechanical meanies slapping inept silicon enemies around. As to how this mechanic will be perceived as overpowered in multiplayer is beyond me to say. Despite excelling at a range, the Necrons’ army list packs a number of meaty units in their arsenal and it was fun to try different strategies around but ended up setting up my forces all the same across the randomly generated battle gauntlet disguised as a campaign.
My go-to strategy at the moment is Lych guards with the shields upfront flanked (Skorpekh Destroyers are also an option but for some reason when they charge the reaction fire from the enemy always stops them midway through a charge. You would assume not fearing death would be motivation enough for having powerful melee units that won’t retreat from a front charge… apparently not) by a powerful Plasmancer and a Necron Overlord with Immortals providing back-line fire. These, in turn, are supported by two units of Deathmarks that can dish out some rough punishment from afar with impunity. If possible, an annihilation barge is in the back for fast relocation around the field of battle to plug gaps in your battlelines in the event those Adepta Sororitas flamethrowers get feisty.
Unlike the two previously existing factions, which can take an insufferable amount of pain and sustain themselves in battle, the Necrons are better at marking great use of their longer “optimal distance”, which allows them higher hit chances at extremely long ranges. As long as your frontline can hold the Tyranid onslaught you should be fine, if they don’t, smaller health bars and lower hit chances at short ranges are synonymous with trouble. The Necrons’ active skills are fine, I guess. Akin to the base game, the existence of these abilities is lost on me and, more often than not, games are over before there are propper opportunities to use them.
One thing that, in my eyes, can be annoying is that the Necrons don’t have such a clear-cut style of battling as the Tyranids and the Blood Angels. While the fights against the first play out as you would expect i.e. holding out against insurmountable odds. Against the Blood Angels things eventually delve into shoot-outs and with the range advantage of the Necrons, it’s easier to just press the end turn button and place everybody on overwatch because as soon as they get into the range of your troops their time left on this plane of existence is accounted for.
To round my impressions of the Necrons off I would they are a welcome addition to a fantastic game, but the lack of a campaign seriously hurt lonewolfers that would rather duke it out against artificial foes. 3 Out of 5 for this DLC as it stands, a great faction hampered by the absence of a dedicated campaign. I love the Necrons, I’m just afraid there isn’t enough to keep me around for long. The Necrons DLC will be out on April 21st.
Now, with the formalities out of the way I want to let it rip on the overreliance on a dynamic battle generator the game generously calls a “campaign” to dish out on-demand content. The reason I’m breaking this review in half is that this update is free for those that already own the game.
You see, what made the base game so interesting was its single-player campaign that put two very different factions against one another: The extra-galactic Tyranid swarm Vs the elite soldiers of the Blood Angels chapter, a tried and true formula of “Who will win? Quantity or quality?”. The interesting premise paired up with an excellent pace: slowly introducing new units and mechanics had me on the edge to find out what new toys would I unravel the next time my forces deployed to battle. Having everything available to you from the get-go removes a lot of the expectation of unlocking new gameplay possibilities.
The base game campaigns’ hand-crafted maps lend themselves to the use of very specific tactical capabilities. With randomly generated maps there’s no way to tailor the map to your current forces and tactical faculties, in turn, this makes you lose any sense of narrative investment and importance in your actions as you’re basically battling out what is, for all intents and purposes a Warhammer battle from the tabletop. This might sound great for some and if you’re looking for an excuse to duke it out in digital battlespaces, it’s just not my cup of coffee.
As far as I know, the campaign options don’t allow for a lot of customization. If it did, I would prefer a one-on-one Necrons VS Tyranids instead of a four-way affair if one is to count the Sororitas holding out the neutral hexes. Battlesector (and Warhammer as a franchise) is a game that shines when the factions at war are asymmetrical. Opposing forces too similar eventually lead to mindless melees or repetitious firefights.
In the end, the random campaigns are an unnecessary addition and I would rather have 6 to 8 well-built missions focusing on the aspects that set the Necrons apart from the other factions than an endless gauntlet of terrible generated ones.