Review: Battlefleet Gothic Armada 224 Jan 2019 0
Review: Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2
Released 24 Jan 2019
Early 2016 brought the release of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, the digital manifestation of 40K ships killing each other. It was reviewed pretty well and provided a solid plausible RTS space combat game which took as its narrative the 12th Black Crusade.
Now comes Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 set at the beginning of the 13th Black Crusade, over 800 years later – and your character focus once again is Admiral Spire. The sequel sports all 12 factions from tabletop Battlefleet Gothic, including the Necrons and Tyranids, a tutorial mini-campaign, three full-on dynamic campaigns (Imperium, Necron & Tyranid) and a whole host of refinements and improvements.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was a fairly casual player of Battlefleet Gothic on the tabletop (not surprisingly with a focus on Necrons and Tyranids), so the opportunity to get to play with those bad boys once again was pretty exciting. That wasn’t possible in BGA1, so all the sweeter.
The introductory campaign is unskipable. The tutorial itself is pretty decent at showing you how ships move, how to add waypoints, and how to engage in basic space combat – but it’s very short on telling you about the “why” you might want to do something in particular during combat or even give a particularly good introduction to the fact that every ship has a different main auto-firing weapon or two which have different facings and which thus have different concerns when it comes to maneuver. Don’t expect a single mention of how to use torpedoes because that doesn’t seem to be something they considered worth talking about.
Mechanics of the Map
Each of the campaigns is set up as a series of sectors. In each sector are systems connected by jump lanes and which contain one or more planets which provide resources and be upgraded to add various traits by investing resources. Shipyards which provide repair and hive worlds which increase the rate at which you can replenish your manpower (for things like taking over enemy ships) are a couple of examples.
At the beginning of each campaign sector, you are given orders to complete that segment. Typically (at least as far as I’ve seen) that is to control some number of systems or specific systems.
The macro-strategy part of the game hinges on managing your limited fleet resources and making sure that you have enough power at any given point to focus and take out enemy forces, which will also be reinforcing and spending development points.
Once you’ve selected your battles by moving ships into play on the sector map, you pick one of the battles and move into the actual battlefield. There’s just a short cut scene which shows off one of your ships and then you move to deployment. You can assign ships to control groups and place them wherever you like behind the line on your side of the board.
The most important thing to know is that there’s only one kind of battle map goal and that is to take and hold certain areas on the map long enough to flip the point to your side and thus to accumulate battle points which go toward winning. Alternately, you could just kill all of your enemies – which might be a perfectly reasonable and maybe even better plan given that the AI seems to like moving things around in a big clump rather than something a little more maneuver-heavy.
There is terrain, of a sort – gas clouds can give you a fair amount of concealment until you fire, and asteroid fields can likewise provide the ability to hide with the trade-off of taking a little damage now and then. The asteroids also seem to re-stealth you more often than the gas clouds. Given the layout of most of the maps, you won’t be using the terrain very much because while it is plentiful, it’s not terribly useful. You know up front that you’re going to need and want to capture as many scoring points on the map as possible, the enemy will want to do the same thing, and the terrain doesn’t block line of sight – it only applies to things within it. Given the range of weapons and the fact that everything maneuvers like a ship of the line in the age of sail, I just didn’t find it very helpful.
Of course, there couldn’t be a 40K space wargame without a skirmish mode. It’s about as bare-bones as it can get. Your choices are 1v1 and 2v2, you can invite your friends, and you can select from any of the factions in the game as well as a large number of sub-factions which serve to let you change the paint job. Things then play out exactly like a campaign battle, with the goal being to hold as many of the scoring spots as possible as long as possible until the score pool fills up or you kill every last one of your enemy.
It’s there and I guess it’s okay. I can’t quite shake the feeling that while it replicates the feeling of going head-to-head with your friends on your local table, it loses a bit from not having some more complicated goals. Some sort of varied mission system where you end up having to defend a space station or other single emplacement from an enemy fleet, or simple recon engagement where the goal is to escape from the other side of the map with the largest possible force – anything, really, to break up the gameplay and make it more interesting.
Some maps at random do have things happening to the area which does shake things up a little. In one game, giant asteroids began flowing through the battlefield effectively destroying any ship that remained within their damage radius as they passed through the plane. Keeping your ships out of those areas became very important. Another event involves solar radiation disabling your shields. These bring a little variety but are explicitly random events you can’t really plan for.
Go or No Go?
Buy or Not: Did you enjoy the previous Armada? If so, probably yes. Are you crazy hungry for more 40K space antics? You’re not going to get the experience anywhere else, so yes. Are you looking for a space-based wargame with a solid campaign system and a fairly varied group of factions? This is where things start to get questionable.
Because of the lack of variety in missions and the kind of cookie-cutter presentation, despite the fact that the actual game is really very pretty, the bit that tilts the scales for me is the fact that the UI is just a bit clumsy. Lots of buttons, lots of pop over text, lots of numbers, but not a lot of direction. Especially when you get down into trying to understand each faction and its capabilities versus the others, things get murky. I’ve enjoyed my time with it, but it’s not a game that I would pick up for myself.