Warhammer 40,000 Gladius - Relics of War: T'au Review05 Mar 2020 1
Warhammer 40,000 Gladius - Relics of War: T'au Review
Released 25 Feb 2020
Having not played Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics of War since the last big faction DLC, I was blindsided by the newest one. That’s right, about two years after the game launched, we finally got to play as the worst race in the setting; the T’au.
The T’au are technically small potatoes in the universe of Warhammer 40K. Their Empire is tiny, but they’re technologically advanced and they’re befriending every alien race they can. But while they have the power of anime behind them (Mech suits for days), they don’t have God: they’re basically null when it comes to psychic powers and have no access to the Warp as a means of FTL travel.
At the period of the fluff represented in the game, the T’au are launching their doomed Fourth Sphere Expansion to claim worlds outside their surrounded empire. You’re the leader of the contingent on a ship that was saved by the nascent Greater Good Warp deity (the T’au may not have an imprint in the Warp, but their client races do) and thus landed on Gladius.
So, what gameplay gimmicks set the T’au apart from other factions in the game? Well, they can recruit auxiliaries, paying influence to turn wild Kroot Hounds and fresh-to-Gladius Vespid Stingwings to their side. Hiring what amounts to Civilization barbarians to your army? Yes please. The T’au can also use influence to buy basically any other resource (including population), demoralize enemy units and cause disloyalty in enemy cities. This is all to show the faction’s diplomatic bent in a game that doesn’t allow for diplomacy. And when it comes to their Gundam Anime Semi-Giant Mecha Crisis Suits, those can be upgraded with support systems giving various minor bonuses - though there is a limit to what can be stacked together.
But one of the silent and more important faction gimmicks is drones. While the Imperium of Man is distrustful of AIs (which turn to Chaos worship with startling regularity), the weebs love them. That’s why most T’au infantry units can spawn drone units for free (and with no upkeep), but with a ten-turn cooldown. The drones last three turns and there’s a bunch of versions, from the simple gun-drones to shield drones, to shielded missile drones on the redonkulous Riptide. Some units can spawn only one type, others can spawn more.
This is very important as drones not only provide utility such as more pew-pew, throwing down marker lights (without making a unit that could be shooting to do it instead) and so on, but they also act as ablative armor against AI. Gladius' AI loves going after the weakest units first, so you can save many a Fire Warrior team by having sacrificial drones draw aggro. They’re also good for eating overwatch on the advance.
The big downside of drones is that T’au get sad for their death just like with real actual units. However, at least Fire Warriors can overcome morale loss via the Bonding Knife ritual ability. So basically, drones not only serve to double the units you have on the field for free (spawning them doesn’t cost an action and they can act fully right after spawning), but they also up your army’s survivability for a negligible cost.
You may actually need that, as T’au aren’t the beefiest of sorts. Quite a few of their units, even the base Crisis Battlesuits, are somewhat of a glass cannon. Up close, even an Ork Killa Kans can give them trouble. For the smaller infantry a souped-up unit of Ork Boyz can cause some serious damage. But here’s the thing: it takes the ork player a few turns to churn out a unit of Boyz. It doesn’t cost you anything to just keep a line of ablative drones between you and the enemy. And when you’re not getting punched in the face, you can easily pop a unit a turn with overcharged ion rifles on Pathfinders (who hurt themselves that way) or Ghostkeel suits.
Speaking of power: the T’au heroes leave something to be desired. Sure, the Cadre Fireblade isn’t that special on the table top (but, then again, 40K has seemed to be more focused on Crisis Suits for a long time) and the Etherial is even worse at combat (and he doesn’t even have any particular morale-tanking effects on death!). However, the Ethereal has probably the most silly healing effect in the game. He doesn’t just heal a single unit, he heals every unit around him. So you can surround him with Riptides, have them use Nova reactor (trade HP for bonuses) every turn and make an artillery base the likes of which the Gods have ever seen.
As you may have gathered, the T’au may have some balance issues. The campaign missions may also have balance issues as well - hello, Chaos invasion right next to my primary city - but that has always been one of the main issues with the game.
However, the T’au campaign mission text is where the Gladius writers show their writing chops once again. The dark history of Fourth Sphere Expansion freaking about the Warp influence on their auxiliaries and murking them all? The shadowy sinister influence of the Ethereal caste on the rest of the T’au? The way races-which-never-had-models help the Empire? All of it is present in subtext if not actual text in the mission briefings and research/building/unit fluff. The Gladius team nails it once again.
I also noticed some quality-of-life improvements that may have less to do with DLC and more with patches. It seems that Gladius can now have unit barks set by units and not by faction, which is something I always wanted. You can also freely rename units as well - no need to rely on the random name generator to kick in via unit level ups. These are small things, sure, but they’re big for enjoying the game.
And you know what makes Gladius even more enjoyable? Messing with the text files that house most of the important data in the game. For example, the T’au auxiliary recruitment ability. You know what every right-thinking T’au fan has wanted for ages? Human auxiliaries - The Gue’vesa always mentioned in the fluff, never appearing in plastic. Well, I soon found a way to make neutral Guardsmen spawn in the field and be recruitable by the same ability. Too bad they don’t seem to get any of the necessary unit mods, but that can probably be fixed via more modding. The next plan would be to give that recruitment ability to Chaos Lords, to allow them to impress wild Chaos Cultists into their service.
All things considered, Warhammer 40,000: Gladius’ T’au DLC is a must for anyone who plays Gladius in TYOOL 2020. If you dislike the race (you should), you will at least appreciate them as enemies and find use of their various racial abilities for modding. The question now remains if we’re going to get the rest of important races - like both flavors of Eldar - in the DLC cycle, or will they be saved for a sequel?