I’ve been lucky enough to play a few Warhammer games in recent years and the use of the IP often seems quite hit or miss. Some games like Total War: Warhammer are stellar uses for this IP, whilst others like Necromunda are underwhelming, to say the least. After getting a chance to play a preview of Warhammer 40k: Battlesector, I’m not too sure where this turn-based strategy game lands on that spectrum.
For this preview build, I was able to play two campaign missions at different points in the story and, much like most Warhammer games, the plot seems pretty broody. Players take command of the Blood Angels who are tasked with ridding the planet Baal of the Tyranids — who have seemingly devoured or destroyed most of the planet and the soldiers stationed there. In keeping with the theme of the grim, dark future 40k is known for, the bleak and dystopian setting is right out on display, and anyone who has dipped their toe into this world will be pretty familiar with it by now.
The same can be said for the visuals, which do a great job of sticking to the source material and are very well done; But the limited amount I saw wasn’t exactly the most appealing game to look at. Environments ranged from hulking metal structures to huge desserts with little else in between, but these are realised with great graphics and visuals that get the job done. Some nice voice acting also goes a long way to sell the setting, even if some of it drags on a bit. That being said, the developers certainly seem to have captured this mood of 40k relatively well, even from the limited amount I could see. it appears to be a pretty normal Warhammer story, so if that’s your thing, then you’ll likely be happy.
The gameplay is standard turn-based strategy, similar to XCOM and Corruption 2029 with a few bits of unique flair added in from what I saw. After a brief, but pretty detailed tutorial to help me get grips with the game, I dived into the roughly four hours I had to play, with preset saves and unit choices that were provided. Warhammer 40k: Battlesector will feel right at home for those familiar with the genre. Unit positions, good use of abilities and a strategic approach will play a big part in your success with each unit has movement and action points that determine how you can use them, and each had enough variety to make them distinct and useful in their own ways; Or at least I think so, given that this version seemed to be a little too easy to require much thought about how the use my units effectively. The missions didn’t do a lot to show this off either, with one being to move to and control an area for a few rounds, and another to turn off a few switches. It wasn’t exactly engaging. That aside, the game plays more than well enough and was helped by the decent amount of unit types on display and showed off some of the IP’s cooler designs like the tech priests and dreadnoughts.
One of Warhammer 40k: Battlesector’s more unique features comes from its momentum system. This exp/resource is earned by units through a multitude of ways like killing enemies, playing to your factions playstyle, or finishing objectives. Once enough is earned, the unit begins surging, increasing their capabilities in combat as well as offering up some player choice to either surge and gain an extra attack point, or permanently upgrade an ability, which in the full game, carries through the single-player. You’ll also get to use powerful abilities like airstrikes with commands points, which your leader units earn to unleash faction-specific abilities. There are a few other touches and mechanics that give Battlesector some more personality, but even so, it still felt like I was seeing the bare minimum at times. Truthfully, that can be said for the entire preview.
Whilst I wasn’t expecting to see everything the full game had to offer, I never felt like I was getting the best picture of the full game. The gameplay is more than serviceable and provides some good moments, but not a lot was shown that made it unique or stand out other than the momentum system. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It looks like it could be a great game, it just isn’t showing that here. With the full game touting a skirmish mode, full of customization to load-outs, abilities, different factions as well as some other features, it seems like what I got wasn’t the best representation of this game’s potential.
Hopefully, the full release of Warhammer 40k: Battlesector will quell some of my worries and will be one of the better uses of the IP, but we will have to see.