For those not aware, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is an adaptation of the tabletop spin-off game from 40K, which saw big fleets of ships destroying other big fleets of ships. IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE! Technically, it’s an adaptation of the 2003 supplement to the original Battlefleet Gothic, and the hair on my neck grew a full three inches just for having typed that. The first game (not the tabletop one) was resoundingly “okay” by many accounts and Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II has the Tyranid, so I was keen to try out the beta.
Playing as my favorite space bugs? Well boil me down and harvest my biomass – I’m on board!
So far, the atmosphere and attention to detail are what I’m most enjoying about the game. All twelve factions are represented, their ships lovingly rendered with their Imperial glory, foul Xenos livery, and heretical chaos worshipping on full display. The time I had with the beta before it closed was short, only a couple of nights and a smattering of matches, but I had a chance to play most of the factions. With just a few exceptions, depending on how picky you want to be, every faction I played felt as though they were designed with different strengths and weaknesses, forcing players to work around them. This sounds like it should be obvious but these days it’s worth noting different factions feel like more than just palette swapped versions of the same units.
In saying that, there’s also some obvious imbalance that should probably be addressed before release next year. By that I mean the Tyranid are stupidly OP, holy crap, why would I ever bother playing anything else? Yeah, they have a slow turning arc with no way of boosting to turn faster, and their backside may as well be glowing for how much of a weak spot it is. But their assault and boarding weapons range is obscene, with no troops of their own to be murdered by enemy counter-measures. My Hive Fleet is merrily chugging along in a defensive formation, spitting alien interlopers through the airlock of every ship I come across, creating derelicts left and right. As much as I love the Tyranids, these guys are going to need a nerf soon, lest they reach canonical levels of devastation.
“No one can stop us, we’re giant armored space bugs that live in a atmosphere-free vacuum – your exploding toys do not frighten us,” is what I’m sure they’re actually saying when they screech in our faces, which they then eat.
The game controls great, using the standard WASD and MMB for camera control, and while it all runs very nice and smoothly, for the most part, I just wish you could scroll out further. Like, “to see the entire board” further. Being able to zoom right in on battles and panning the camera focus around using WASD feels great, and helps immensely when micromanaging your units. This is especially true when some are mere specks compared to the larger ships. But when there are multiple objective points around a large map that you need to consider, it would be great to zoom out entirely and command from a “satellite” view of the field. When you think about it, this is exactly how you’d be able to see things when playing the tabletop version, so it’s not a weird addition to make. Right now, it just feels a little restricted, and like it’s too easy to forget some of your units when they’re away from the main battle.
There were only two story missions available to play during the beta, and both were introductory tutorial missions. While slow and altogether railroad-y, that’s to be expected of just about any tutorial mission and a game like this does have a lot to keep track of and learn about. If anything, I feel like the missions could have gone a little longer and spent more time explaining some of the functions or mechanics that it didn’t address. The multiplayer battles were where the beta allowed the most freedom, with all factions unlocked and a full roster of ships available. There are none of the game speed controls here, naturally, so it really will be somewhere to go once you’ve finished the campaign and honed your skills some more.
Or just go Tyranid and win every game, forever. All praise the four-armed star lords!
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II is one to keep an eye on for both RTS and 40K fans. I’m looking forward to seeing what the full game will be like, as it seems to be on the right track at this point. I’m particularly keen to play out the events of the 13th Black Crusade, as this has recently been a significant point of focus for the tabletop version of 40K, and I am nothing if not a giant, shameless nerd. I’m also super happy to see that they made every faction available, and every sub-faction. Even if those second ones actually are just palette swaps, I’m sure some players will be glad for the representation of their oft-overlooked armies. There are some minor technical issues, affecting me only twice in nearly five hours of play, and I feel like they’ll be ironed out by the time the game releases next year. The Emperor protects!