Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Fine graphics, passable AI, good interface, captures the feel of Warhammer
Failed Basic: No resources to gain requisition points; no manual for the editor, not as exciting as an RTS
In 1983, Games Workshop effectually created a new universe when it created Warhammer Fantasy Game. This dystopian, i.e. bizarre, universe has engendered games in all media: pen-and-paper, board, tabletop, computer turn-based and computer real time. The computer games have been licensed to different developers with different engines. The latest incarnation is Slitherine/Matrix’s Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. Has the legacy of fun and strategy been extended or have the Orcs finally triumphed? Can a variation of Panzer Corps fit into the Warhammer universe?
Ashes to Jungle
Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon’s graphics team stepped up to the challenge of illustrating an image-heavy genre. Terrain on the planet Armageddon is varied. Vast deserts allow Rommelesque maneuvers while mountains block both line of sight and ground movement. Slopes are quite visible with even gentle ones affecting movement and cover. Seas and lava beds halt movement to everything except aircraft. Volcanic ash slows tracked vehicle, crucial when nearing the scenario’s turn limit. Plateaus and cliff-like position seem 3D with paths and ramps allowing access. Craters may stop vehicles but provide good cover for infantry. Jungles are lush green and come in three categories: sparse growth slows slow movement for all units, normal growth stops vehicles and limits sight, dense jungle blocks everything except light infantry and aircraft. Minor rivers can be waded but major ones can only be crossed by large special units. Settlements and buildings are clearly marked and provide important cover. Fieldworks and fortifications are reminiscent of World War I. Some vegetation is actively aggressive. Grope weed can damage infantry while sifting sand can inflict damage on all units. The Helsreach Monster, looking like the little Tooey from Little Shop of Horrors, can actually devour weakened troops.
Funky units are a trademark of the Warhammer 40K series. Most of over 300 units have more than one weapon system, leading to fascinating configurations. The colors of Imperium forces are a bit boring with units using the dun, red, blue and green of the factions. Orcs, however, know how to be colorful, using blues, reds and yellows on the same vehicle. Vehicle names are equally colorful with monikers like “Shoota Boyz with Big Shoota” and “Flakka-Dakka Gun.” Patch 1.03 introduced a very nice graphic enhancement by a right-click selection of a unit to bring up a close-up with the eight base unit values and six weapon values.
Special effects include different muzzle splashes and explosion. Movement sounds include rumbles, zips and squeaks. The voice acting is great with the Imperium high command sounding pompous, shrill and long-winded while line commanders are terse and valiant. The Orcs have amusing Brooklyn accents, spouting abuse at the “Hoo-mans.” All dialogue is also captioned.
The manual is a bit disappointing as some of the nuances are not explained. This omission is rectified with the five tutorial scenarios. A bigger disappoint is the lack of a manual for the apparently powerful scenario editor. Owners of Panzer Corps can use that game’s editor manual as a guide and non-owners of that game can download the manual at http://www.slithdata.net/files/panzer_corps/Manual/EditorManual.pdf. Still, an editor manual, mentioned in the editor “Help” tab, should have been available for buyers.
Warhammering it Home
Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon user interface is exactly like the Panzer Corps system: a left-click selection shows accessible hexes with white dots and possible targets with red reticules. Moves in a turn may be interrupted by hitherto unseen enemies that fire on interlopers. Small boxes under units show hit points. Infantry units can be assigned transports for mounted movement. Units gain experience and can be carried over from on campaign scenario to another. Other than these basic features, the similarities stop. The weapons and defense factors are, of course, sci-fi but the most notable change is the switch from prestige points to requisition points. Requisition points are set for each campaign scenario; payers cannot earn them or carry them over to the next scenario. Players’ performance is measured by units gaining experience and by glory points. Glory points at this time serve only as benchmarks and bragging rights. Slitherine has hinted that later patches may have more substantial rewards for high glory points.
The game has thirty standalone scenarios and three branching campaigns revolving around the Orc invasion of Armageddon. The way campaigns branch is not a function of winning battles at certain levels but of decisions players make in choosing missions during the conversational interstice between scenarios. Defeat in a mission makes the player re-start the campaign from the beginning.
Missions have many objectives such as seizing or holding victory hexes, capturing Orc war bosses and escorting fugitives to safety. The first scenario sets players’ core units but, as each scenario gets harder, requisition points should be used to upgrade existing units and purchase new ones to fill empty slots. Units are in the categories of infantry, walkers, vehicles, tanks, artillery, aircraft and titans. As points aren’t carried over, they should be exhausted in a scenario. Destroyed units can be replaced at a higher cost during a mission but, because they start on an original deployment hex, new units may not get into battle soon enough, so players should rotate out and reinforce damaged units.
If the UI for this game is like Panzer Corps, then play is like Field of Glory’s tactical approach. Most units have ranged weapons, with many having both ranged and close-in weapons. Ranged weapons are used to lower enemies’ morale, shown by the color of the hit point box going from white to orange to red. The close-in weapons like flamethrower can be used against low morale targets without fear of effective defensive fire. Thus, players should purchase a mixture of tanks, infantry and artillery to first find the enemy, weaken them and then close with infantry. Walkers and aircraft with good spotting abilities can be used for scouting. As the campaign progresses, titans and updates will become available. The update screen has a nice touch with the factors for the update shown side-by-side with the old model. The Steel Legion—players’ faction in the campaigns—will be outnumbered and sometimes outgunned by waves of large Orc units. Their superior morale, however, will triumph if they remember to begin engaging at one or two hexes and use requisition points to reinforce damaged units and employ the “rest and refit” function to boost waning morale, thus restoring efficiency. The AI uses scripted moves for the first few turns of the scenarios but becomes opportunistic as the battle develops, pouncing on weakened units and using terrain very well. The second difficulty level, normal, is challenging and the three harder levels merely feature more Orcs in larger units. Playing the campaigns and all scenarios at high difficulty levels will provide many hours of enjoyment and Slitherine’s easy multiplayer function will keep the game alive for years.
No turn-based game can create the excitement of good RTS games like Relic’s Warhammer 40,000 series. Having said that, Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon captures the flavor and fascination of the Warhammer franchise. The turn-based nature adds a level of tactical thought to play. No gamer can do much wrong by getting this game. In fact, they will be harming themselves if they don’t get it.
Armchair General Rating: 88%
About the Author
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad.