I’ve always been enamored of the Warhammer universes, particularly the space opera nature of Warhammer 40k. What’s not to love about futuristic knights waging war on foes of unspeakable evil with plasma guns, chainsaw swords and massive walking battle armor? Despite my interest the relatively high cost of the hobby has left me simply as a passive observer. Needless to say I was excited by the prospect of a game set against this richly detailed world.
Unfortunately unless you’re a die-hard fan of the series the game won’t keep your attention for long. The game is a lane strategy title, which for the unfamiliar is sort of an offshoot of the popular tower defense genre. The battlefield is reduced to five separate lanes on which you and your opponent can deploy your forces. The objective is a sort of reverse tug of war. Get enough of your soldiers to the other side and you’ll conquer that lane. Conquer three and you win. There are different resources you can generate that enable basic soldiers or special abilities and balancing your battlefield setup is the best path to victory.
The tutorial does a good job of walking you through topics as necessary and giving some helpful hints to help optimize your strategy but there’s not enough complexity to the gameplay to present an insurmountable challenge. More than anything the game interface itself would prove my biggest opponent as you need to either deploy or bank units for your barracks to churn out more, but the game often seemed unsure as to what I was trying to do and would bank a unit rather than deploy it, which sometimes left me scrambling in a crucial moment to right the situation. Other frustrations with input included triggering the various abilities you can bestow on your troops. To do so, you have to hold your finger on the unit in question and then select an option on a radial menu that pops up. However since there’s no “pause the game to issue commands” option and your units are always moving unless they’re attacking an enemy it can be more trouble than it’s worth to utilize these abilities.
That’s the failure of many strategy games like this. There are a plethora of options and upgrades to select from but it’s just as easy to ignore those functions and simply optimize the number of units you’re churning out. The game never really presents enough of a challenge tactically to force you to utilize any sorts of unorthodox maneuvers or plans. By the end of each campaign I had a plan and stuck to it for every mission.
While the two included campaigns, the heroic Dark Angels and the vicious Orks play differently as the units aren’t the same, it’s not a big enough change to revitalize the experience. There are two additional campaigns available for purchase but I can’t imagine either one breathing new life into a relatively dull game. They do attempt to vary things up with puzzle-like “skirmish” scenarios where you only have a few troops and deploying them in the right fashion is crucial, but it usually only takes one or two failures to get them right.
Graphically the game is a bit of a double edged sword. The troops and buildings are rendered in excellent detail. This may be a bit much for some phones and tablets. Mine was experiencing significant drops in frame rate in later missions when there were a lot of units on the screen at once. Granted I don’t know how my device stacks up performance-wise against some of the other offerings on the market, but if you’ve got an older device or something short on digital horsepower you should be warned.
It’s a bit disappointing to see a game that utilizes such an incredible IP in a lackluster fashion, especially since the Orks are likely the least interesting of all the factions. While the game doesn’t suffer from crippling bugs the experience is too bland and repetitive for anyone who isn’t a rabid fan of the Warhammer 40k setting. There is a relatively simple story presented in dialogue windows before each mission which makes the game something more than just a churning series of battles. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the setting the relatively simple gameplay and frequently clunky UI will probably outweigh its appeal.
Is it Hardcore?
Despite good looks the shallow gameplay is mastered far too quickly for any lasting appeal to set in.