Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2‘s newest expansion provides a brand new Chaos grand campaign. Given that the story is centered on Abaddon the Despoiler’s 13th Black Crusade, you’re given a chance to climb up the ranks as a Chaos Lord known as Malos Vrykan, a member of the Word Bearers. As Vrykan, you’ll be able to gain the favor of the Chaos Gods in your quest to make the Warhammer 40K galaxy burn.
Take a look at the trailer below for the Chaos campaign/expansion:
Battlefleet campaign options
First, let’s talk about the other major addition to Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2‘s single-player campaigns — the new gameplay options. Prior to starting any campaign, you’ll be able to tweak various mechanics. You can increase your fleet capacity and renown gain. You can also change the boosts received by the AI, from their propensity to assault your systems to how often they build defensive structures. There’s even the option to turn off the urgency meter, allowing you to progress through Battlefleet: Gothic: Armada 2‘s campaign at your leisure.
This is part of the free update that coincides with the Chaos expansion’s release. You don’t need the actual DLC itself to be able to use these options when playing as the Imperium, Necrons, or Tyranids.
Next up, let’s take a look at the meat of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2‘s expansion — the Chaos grand campaign. Malos Vrykan starts out with a meager force, not even one that’s worthy of writing about for any Warhammer 40K fan or Black Library author. Your initial engagement is a pitiful escort mission until you encounter the Ultramarines.
Old grudges resurface, and so it’s up to you to remind the Sons of Macragge of their sins. This mission even has plasmic medusae (aka. space jellyfish) that explode in contact with ships or when they’re shot down. Use these to your advantage especially when the Ultramarine ships get close.
From there, you’ll realize that you’re smack dab in the Chinchare system surrounded by Imperium fleets. Not to worry, though, because you’ll remove them from the mortal plane soon enough.
Gifts Of The Dark Gods
For the uninitiated, the Warhammer 40K universe has four Chaos gods (well, five, but the fifth guy turned into “nothingness,” as in he’s no longer canon). Khorne, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, and Nurgle await in the expanse of the Warp to confer their blessings upon Vrykan.
To gain these boons, you’ll have to offer the various planets in the systems you’ve conquered in their name. Each planet you offer provides a “gift” from that particular Chaos God. Each Chaos God has its own unique action you can use:
- Khorne’s Anger will taunt a random enemy fleet to assault an adjacent system.
- Nurgle’s Rot will damage the hull and troops of all ships within a system.
- Slaanesh’s Lies will push away an enemy fleet in a system, making it move to an adjacent allied system instead.
- Tzeentch’s Shifting will call upon a random invasion fleet to attack a system of your choice.
There’s a certain peculiarity when you’re recruiting new admirals during Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2‘s Chaos campaign. You’ve got three different flavors to choose from:
Renegades – These are the weakest admirals of the bunch, with barely any skills upon recruitment.
Chaos Legions – These represent your own brothers from the Word Bearers, as well as the Alpha Legion, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, Black Legion, and the Red Corsairs — Loyalist Space Marines that became a renegade chapter, now engaged in piracy and murder. Admirals recruited from this pool have a couple of skills.
Marked Legions – These are essentially “The Big Four,” since all four legions are blessed by the four Chaos Gods. They also require a gift from that particular god to be recruited.
Marked Legion admirals have an additional skill:
- World Eaters (Khorne) – Bloodletters Parties – the ship launches 10 boarding actions, greatly damaging the troop count of a target.
- Death Guard (Nurgle) – Void-Locust Swarm Cloud – reminiscent of the Void Locust skill of the Necrons, this will heal nearby allied ships while damaging enemies in close range.
- Emperor’s Children (Slaanesh) – Slaanesh’s Promise – deactivates the offensive and defensive capabilities of ships within an area for five seconds.
- Thousand Sons (Tzeentch) – Winds of Change – conjures a gas cloud that follows your ship, hiding everything within its area of effect.
By your powers combined
While playing Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2‘s campaigns back when I reviewed the game, I noticed that I was gravitating towards a particular playstyle — long-range bombardment. Naturally, that meant focusing on whatever Slaanesh and Tzeentch had in store, right? No, not really, since their perks felt underwhelming.
Instead, I focused more on using blessings from Khorne and Nurgle. With Khorne’s Anger, I can dislodge one hostile fleet from a system that it’s defending. Instead, I’d have it attack my forces directly. Needless to say, “divide and conquer” never felt more satisfying. Nurgle’s Rot, which can be used cumulatively, can also obliterate fleets if you have enough Gifts of Nurgle, spamming the action on a system.
The Death Guard and World Eaters admirals are also a wonder to behold during skirmishes. Imagine having a flagship that continuously damages nearby vessels. Then, imagine having one that immediately assaults those vessels, eliminating their troops and turning them into drifting hulks.
The downsides of being a heretic
There are a few downsides when playing as Chaos in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2. These were predominantly due to the design of certain mechanics in this expansion. Again, at no point in time, half a dozen sectors into the game, did I feel that Slaanesh’s or Tzeentch’s unique perks or admirals were necessary. Khorne and Nurgle were, far and away, the better choices.
It also didn’t help matters that the old “whack-a-mole” mechanic of AI invasions remained a nuisance. It’s possible to limit their occurrences prior to starting your campaign via the aforementioned options. Another way of doing that would be by using “battle plans.” You won’t gain these gradually, unlike in the Imperium or Necron campaigns. Instead, you have to look for planets with the “Alpha Legion Infiltrators” trait. Simply get an Alpha Legion fleet to pop up in that planet, and you’ll gain your battle plans.
Still, I wondered why this wasn’t included as an ability for Vrykan and Chaos in this expansion. When the Chaos Gods have mastery over the Warp, you’d think that they’d have a means of slowing down enemy fleets. Instead, all you had were Tzeentch’s plots and machinations.
Last but not least, Vrykan’s story culminated in some spectacular scripted battles. Indeed, there were moments when you felt what the Warhammer 40K universe would be like if Chaos became ascendant. Sadly, it genuinely didn’t feel as though you’re taking part in the bigger picture lore-wise.
Maybe all of the above was “just as planned,” but, who knows? You can find the Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 Chaos expansion via the Steam store page. It’s currently priced at $12.99.