It has been eons since the Imperium of Man had laid eyes on a Warhammer 40,000 (40K) video game that was exceptional. It seemed that for every step forward, there was always a step back. The advances of Dawn of War II were akin to the Great Crusade. However, mankind (especially Warhammer 40K fans) was betrayed by the Horus Heresy known as Dawn of War III. While Games Workshop hands out its licenses to various developers, very few could actually do the 40K universe justice — at least compared to what Creative Assembly and Fatshark have done for Warhammer Fantasy Battles. And so that brings us to Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, a turn-based strategy RPG, from Bulwark Studios and Kasedo Games.
The game will be the first to feature the Adeptus Mechanicus, the cybernetically-enhanced tech-priests, warriors, engineers, and scientists of Sacred Mars and countless Forge Worlds. Majority of 40K games tend to have Spare Marines as the usual protagonists, and so being able to play as an entirely different faction in the Imperium is a treat.
Will Bulwark Studios’ first foray into the Warhammer 40K world become a resounding success worthy of the Omnissiah’s blessings? Or did they lead us down a dangerous path much like Kelbor Hal and the bzzzt… bzz… wrrrrr…
Subject Interface = Enabled
++ [Query = Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus]… Log Date = 0.874.018.M3. Graphical quality = great. Aural signals = good. Cogitator impact circa M3 tech = acceptable. Narrative direction = Counter, Ben. Terran. Remembrancer. Has entered Eldar Black Library.++
++Vessel: Ark Mechanicus. Purpose: Mission Hub. Location: In orbit over Silva Tenebris. Command: Magos Dominus Faustinius.++
Okay, what just happened there? As I was saying, your ship arrives on the planet of Silva Tenebris following a distress signal from another Magos. What would’ve been a routine investigation and salvage operation for technology goes to hell immediately. That’s because Silva Tenebris is actually a Tomb World with millions of Necrons — heartless automatons with a penchant for killing anything that lives (think a Galaxy-spanning empire of Terminators) — slowly waking from their slumber.
Now it’s up to you to find the secrets of the planet while the Necron threat slowly builds up. From your hub in the Ark Mechanicus, basically just a deployment screen, you can select which missions you wish to undertake. The maps themselves tend to be randomized although you may encounter similar layouts every now and then.
You simply click on each room that you’d want to explore. Note that certain rooms will have optional enemies while the ones marked with a gold diamond are the mandatory battles to finish that mission.
A majority of the rooms you explore, however, will just trigger certain events. These allow you to choose from three different options. Each choice will lead to a result — whether it’s something that can grant you bonus resources, damage your troops, or outright give advantages to Necron enemies.
Certain rooms will also have green symbols which mean that they contain a glyph. Choosing the correct glyph will aid your Mechanicus cohort such as healing your troops. Choosing the wrong one, well, it won’t bode well for you. When you’ve selected a particular glyph often enough, they might even light up in bright green hinting that’s the correct choice. It’s possib…
“It is undoubtedly possible to [unknown term: ‘save scum’ <ERROR>] to achieve a desired conclusion. Do note that it is a most perturbatory action. Theoretically, each choice presented, and their respective rewards, are similar regardless of repetition. Minor deviations to these probabilities exist such as presence of additional Blackstone resources. Proceed as advised.”
For instance, one choice could give you 44 Blackstone. Reloading a previous save and making the same choice again might give you 46 Blackstone instead. It’s entirely up to you if you want to keep redoing these choices.
Threat Level Assessment = Critical
The more that you dawdle within each mission, the more the Necrons become a threat. The Awakening level at the top left of your screen will show you just how dangerous your enemies are. Depending on the results, you could have extra enemies or they’ll be the ones to start each turn during battle. At higher levels, they could even reanimate immediately.
What’s reanimating you ask? Necrons are not your run-of-the-mill species in the Warhammer 40K world. Even if you kill them, they’ll simply keep coming back up due to their Reanimation Protocol. You actually need to damage them again while they’re in a downed state to completely wipe them off the battlefield.
That’s not all, depending on the Awakening Level you had at the end of each mission, it will add to your total Global Awakening Level. Once it reaches a certain threshold, it will open up newer and harder activities. At later stages, you’ll encounter more enemy varieties from Flayed Ones, Deathmarks, Destroyers, and more. The named characters you encounter range from a Void Admiral, Lord Astronomer, Vizier, and even a Necron Overlord.
[Viable Comparison = XCOM – Ordo Firaxis of Holy Terra]
Think of it like XCOM’s Threat Meter. Once your Global Awakening Level reaches 100, all other missions become locked out and you’ll need to fight the final battle with everything you’ve obtained up to that point. That’s why you can’t do all of the game’s missions (or earn all rewards) in a single playthrough. So it becomes a balancing act with the missions you pick and how you proceed. You could beeline straight for the main objective/room, or you could try to find some extra resources on the side.
Query = Tech-Priests And Weapons
Knowing the threat arrayed against your forces, how can you expect to counter it? Well, the good thing about the Adeptus Mechanicus is that they’re the brains behind most of the technology of the Imperium. If there’s one thing they’re good at, that’s using a plethora of devices and weaponry to increase their chances of success.
As Faustinius, you’re able to command Tech-Priests who wield an assortment of gadgets and weapons. My favorite choice early in the game was to equip a Power Axe and then a ranged energy weapon. The latter’s self-explanatory — Necrons are deadly from long range, after all. Every time you use a ranged weapon, it builds up its “Machine Spirit” allowing for stronger attacks.
Sadly, guns cannot be used in close proximity. That’s where your melee weapons come in. In battle, you gain an Opportunity Attack as long as you’re within melee range of an enemy (provided you have a melee weapon, that is). This means a free “Overwatch” attack when an enemy tries to reposition itself. Do note that the same also applies to your foes in case they’re melee types (such as Necron Flayed Ones).
At the start, you’ll only have a handful of tech available such as your trusty Servo-skull which reveals enemy stats. As you progress, you’ll find various Standard Template Construct (STC) blueprints. In turn, you’ll be able to equip these provided that your Tech-Priest has enough augmentation slots available. In order to level them up, you’ll need to acquire the aforementioned Blackstone resources from missions.
Tech-Priests can be assigned to different Disciplines (subclasses) that would suit your playstyle. For instance, the Secutor Discipline tends to focus on being the vanguard of your forces. The Dominus, meanwhile, focuses on ranged bonuses. The good thing is that your Tech-Priests aren’t locked to that Discipline forever. You can acquire skills from other branches as long as you have the resources.
++Number of available weapons = plenty. Number of usable gadgets = lots. Color palette swap feature = enabled. Name change = Y. Customization features overall = great++
Cognition Points = <NULL> Skitarii Forces = Unavailable
Now that you know what Tech-Priests and their equipment bring to the table, you’ll no doubt want to know how battles are conducted. In order to be effective in battl…
Transmission received: Unable to increase available forces in sector. Cognition Points = <NULL> Deploy servitor for ‘study’ purposes. +CP +Actions +Success Rate.
… you’ll need to maximize your use of Cognition Points (CP). Think of these as your Action Points (AP) in other strategy games. It allows you to use certain weapons and gadgets, meaning you can take multiple actions per turn. CP can also be used to add or summon reinforcements during battle.
You can gain more CP by way of certain Discipline perks, the choices you’ve made in the tactical map, from pylons in the battle map, and from servitors. The braindead servitors are weak fodder, but every time they’re attacked, they provide you with CP. The game explains this as your Tech-Priests’ attempts to “study” the situation.
In addition to servitors, you are also aided by Skitarii forces — the military forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Some specialize in melee, others have long-range capabilities, and there are those that can stun opponents. You can select which cohorts to bring before each mission and, as mentioned, they’ll cost CP if you deploy them at the start of a battle. Your Skitarii forces are helpful but they’re still expendable compared to your actual Mechanicus adepts. Even taking a small HP loss costs you a fraction of Blackstone at the end of missions just to automatically heal them back to full.
Vox Volume = High. Commence Rites.
Apart from your weapons, gadgets, cohort forces, and utilization of CP, you also have your Canticles. Canticles are Mechanicus chants and prayers that provide you with different buffs. Some add to your movement points, while others allow you to use any weapon without the CP requirement. You unlock Canticles depending on how you’ve progressed throughout the game (such as the number of Necrons you’ve killed).
Overall, the success of your progress will depend on how you’ve customized your forces. Deep customization options allow almost every facet of the Adeptus Mechanicus to be represented (except the Collegia Titanica). Sadly, though you encounter a lot of Necrons, more variety is still needed. Who knows, maybe Bulwark Studios will eventually add more enemy types — or even new xenos factions — via DLC. I sure would love to blast some Tau into smithereens.
Another downside to Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is that battles can end up becoming a standardized affair. Most of the time, it will always devolve down to killing every enemy in sight barring a few missions that change up the tempo. The missions you choose will also depend on the rewards you’ll want to obtain (and some are obviously better than others). It’s not just the item rewards where there’s a clear-cut choice, even some skills — such as gaining +1 CP at the beginning of each Tech-Priest’s turn — are almost mandatory picks. Because of this, Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus’ main flaw is how it will eventually become quite repetitive depending on your playthroughs. New Game+ and harder difficulty options are also conspicuously absent.
Conclusion = Most Satisfactory
Despite dozens of games set in the Warhammer 40K universe — many of which are turn-based strategy games featuring the Space Marines — Bulwark Studios manages to deliver a stellar first outing with Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus.
The characterization is superb! Each Magos even delivers their lines differently thanks to Ben Counter’s writing. The explanations of various features and quirks in the game are even lore-friendly to a certain degree such as telling you what happens when servitors are damaged, how to permanently remove Necrons from play, and why the tactical feed looks like the way it does. It truly captures the essence of this often underrepresented faction of the Imperium.
The visual details for Adeptus Mechanicus units and Necron opponents are admirable. Likewise, the missions are quite challenging early on when you’re building up your forces, and they’re rewarding to boot. The varied customization options also add more depth to an already engaging system. In shor…
“The subject’s emotional core has become heightened owing to the entertainment provided by this M3 tech. Acquire subject’s logical input.”
[Result] Subject provides = 1011010
[Conclusion] Praise the Omnissiah!
End of datastream
I’m a small business owner who’s also writing on the side, contributing in various websites under the Enthusiast Gaming umbrella — Destructoid, Flixist, Daily Esports, PlayStation Enthusiast, and PC Invasion.
My Steam library has 1,131 games at the moment so we definitely have a lot of things to talk about.