Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus Early Access review — Attack of the Titans

In the grimdark future there is only war. Sometimes, this war is fought with giant killer mechs that take turns attacking one another while spouting fake Latin — provided you are playing Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus, a turn-based strategy game developed and published by Membraine Studios, and currently in early access.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus is an adaptation of the Titan Legions tabletop wargame. Titan Legions is in turn a spin-off of Epic, a wargame set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. Compared to Warhammer 40,000, Epic focuses on larger battles and huge vehicles, including the titular Titans.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus
Everyone is getting out the big guns.

This makes Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus a proper Warhammer 40,000 adaptation. It borrows both the setting and mechanical framework for a Warhammer property, whereas the majority of other titles just take the former — not that putting a spin on the mechanics is bad. However, if you are looking for a transfer from tabletop to desktop computer, the many, many Warhammer-licensed games have comparably little to offer.

At this point, Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus has no campaign mode, but offers one-on-one matches against the AI or other human beings. Before a match, you have to assemble your army from a pool of Titan units from both the Imperial and the Chaos faction.

Notably absent but highly requested by the community is any kind of unit customisation. The units already have values assigned based on their armament, so the basic framework for weapons customisation is there. Whether or not this feature will be added remains to be seen.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus
Mind the lines, they are here to help.

Once both armies have left their barracks, the battle starts. The battlefield is something you could theoretically build at home, provided you are blessed with the world’s largest dining table. Players of the physical version of Titans feel right at home. The extravagant size of the battlefield is compensated by the game making all the rolls and calculations while players focus solely on shifting their mechs around.

For the uninitiated, Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus may in fact be a bit too faithful an adaptation. Despite the limited number of units — the Chaos faction is essentially a reskinned Imperial faction — Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus is rather opaque. The game happily provides you with walls of text, but it is not immediately clear what any of those numbers actually mean.

These rows of numbers give Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus the appearance a game with more depth than it probably has. There are only three classes of Titans — Warhounds, Reavers and Warlords. The three classes represent light, medium and heavy units. Army customisation is there, but for the most part you are strongly encouraged not to take too many light or heavy units. Lights units are too brittle and heavy units too slow to reach a map’s victory points before your opponent does.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus
The battlefield looks like a wargame tabletop, deliberately so.

Actual combat is a lot more transparent. When you target an enemy unit, trajectory lines indicate where the shot goes and, thanks to colour coding, tell you whether the enemy is in cover or out of range. The shot itself is still a die roll, but the game makes you feel like you are in control of things.

Movement and attack phases have been merged into a single phase in Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus. Contrary to what one might think, this does not simplify the gameplay. Instead, you have to balance mobility and offence, especially if you want to make sure your Titans spend as much time blasting away as they can. Fail to do so and the game sends you a condescending little message.

Interestingly, melee combat is entirely absent at this stage of development, even though there is melee stat already built into the game. Overall, Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus is advertised as being streamlined, but half of that is the game being opaque. Unless you crunch the original source books, you will never unveil what this number or that statistic actually means.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus
Chaos, Order – the difference is superficial, unfortunately.

Graphically, Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus is recognisable as the adaptation it is, but does not look exciting. The grimdark presentation is a swirl of brown and grey. The Chaos units are merely Imperial units with a different coat of paint but the same model. Combat does not look as epic as the wargame system it is based on.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus has the potential to be an interesting and faithful adaptation of a Warhammer license. At the moment, it lacks content and options more than anything else, even though the framework is there. With some dedication, this will become an excellent game, but the chances of Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus being yet another throwaway Warhammer game are just as high.

Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus is available now on PC via Steam Early Access

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