Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real time strategy (RTS) game developed by Windlass Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive. Battlefleet brings you the space battles you imagined as a kid and the iconic factions we all love from the tabletop experience. From the dakka dakka of the Orks to the heavy lances of the Imperium Navy and Space Marines.
From the very first loading screen, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada capturing my interest with its visceral design. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada’s opening screenshot, of an Ork vessel breaking apart an Imperial Navy cruiser capturing that same sense of wonder I had all those years ago as a child. Imperium vessels identical to the Warhammer lore and are the holy churches of war in space. By stark contrast, the Orks looking completely different with masses of disjointed parts, blocks of steel and an over abundance of cannon. The difference in design for each factions fleet symbolises the different attitudes and beliefs that represent each race. For Orks, it comes down to explosives and guns. For the Imperium Navy, dedication and protection from heretical aliens. Comparing closely to such games as Dawn of War and Space Marine, Battlefleet does justice to the lore and makes each race play like they should. Credit needs to be given to the developers for remaining true to Warhammer’s designs.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada also stands out among RTS games for its attention to detail, especially in the midst of battle. Players are able to zoom in and out to see the tiniest of details. From micro batteries firing in a volley to bright pinpricks of light from heavy lances. These details also shown in the effects of damage to specific sections of vessels. From visible fires in the starboard decks to crew members violently ejected into space from the loss of a pressurised bulkhead. All of these details add both a sense of immersion and a great atmosphere for either victory or defeat. These small details and adherence to the lore of Warhammer keep making me come back for a second helping.
I am also happy to report that this attention to detail is also carried through to the combat, too. The unit control is precise enough for calculated strikes with multiple vessels and balanced to ensure no faction had too great of an edge. I also appreciate the simple ship layout and orders menu being in one square box. It isn’t hidden beneath extra menus and this makes it a lot easier to find the necessary orders during batltes. The combat strikes a balance between tactical analyse and tough decision making through fleet points. Different categories of ships cost a certain number of fleet points from 40 to 150. It comes down to a choice on what sort of fleet you want bring to each fight. You might bring two powerful ships costing 300 points between them or a smaller force of 4 to 5 ships. The size of your fleet and its composition the key to winning against certain factions like the Orks or Chaos Renegades.
Orks as an example have highly armoured hulls which are resistant to direct fire but are weak in the rear. Due to their sheer weight and front armour, their favourite strategy is to ram straight into you dealing heavy damage. In a scenario like the one one above against the Orks, one strategy is to have a fleet of highly agile ships that can attack from long range. Making players choose their fleet composition forces them to take an active role in planning the engagement as well as participating in it.
Positioning, more than sheer power becomes important due to directional based weapons. Some vessels have a larger number of micro batteries mounted on the starboard side opposed to hull based lance weaponry. From experience so far, another valid tactic in ship to ship combat can be to switch to hull based heavy lances on the fly to pierce highly armoured vessels. At other times, it can be a great advantage to use starboard or port sized weapons for close engagements. These situations can lead to some nail-biting moments of fleet control, where at times it is uncertain whether you face victory or defeat. All these aspect- fleet control, battle management, tactics and direction based weapons make the game awesome. In my time playing, I could only point out one negative which I found in the campaign. The inability to field any sort of long-range vessels. This becomes a problem as more often than not battles become close range affairs. This limits the tactics you can employ to gain a competitive edge against enemies suited to close range combat.
The other important feature I appreciated as a beginner, was the tutorial mode. This is no doubt, one of the best tutorial segments I have played. It does a great job of introducing you to complex ideas, like fleet positioning, directional based weapons and strategy in a matter of hours.
I am also happy to report that for those looking for a great single player story have it in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. Opening up to the crackling voice of War Master Ezekyle Abaddon speaking about the planned invasion of the Gothic Sector sets the stakes high. The only ship to arrive at an Imperial spaceport from a chaos scouting raid, you, Admiral Spire are tasked with defending the sector and stopping Abaddon’s conquest at any cost. What I loved about the the story is the level of detail in how Chaos are portrayed and the feeling of imposing dread that Abaddon poses.
Reviewing the single player, what struck me was the cinematic moments almost like a miniature movie after each dramatic event. Realising through these short movies, that it was up to me and the small small band of ships under my command to stem a tide of Chaos three times our number. One of the Orks cutscenes showed their ship construction. These were constructed with whatever junk they could find in deep space and only running through constant repairs from Orks and Gretchen. It was fascinating to see this different side of the Warhammer world which is rarely explored.
As of yet I have not touched the multiplayer component, but I am sure it will bring a host of new challenges. I, for one am looking forward to jumping straight back in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada after this review.