Review: Warhammer 40,000 Gladius - Relics of War: Tyranids DLC11 Feb 2019 0
Review: Warhammer 40,000 Gladius - Relics of War: Tyranids DLC
Released 15 Jan 2019
Tyranids are the space locusts of Warhammer 40,000's grim and dark future. However, their modus operandi makes them a little hard to place in your typical strategy game beyond making them an incredibly tough NPC race. But by God(Emperor) did they do it for the Tyranids DLC for Warhammer 40K: Gladius – Relics of War.
Unlike Orks (the best alien race) or Necrons, which can pop just about anywhere, Tyranids are a bit harder to place. They are the ground-based spawn of biological ships, there to quell the last of resistance before reducing all biological matter into nutritious slurry. Having an entire Hive Fleet carry out an overwhelming planetary invasion in a 4X game like Gladius would be a tiny bit unbalancing. That's why these Tyranids are escapees from yet another Imperial research station, and why their story is told via the notes of an observer who watches as they consume the planet.
There's some handwaving to explain why Tyranids actually have buildings and “cities” in the game, but it's nothing egregious. Like all of the races in Gladius, their take on resource extraction is bit different. Namely, they only gather biomatter, research and influence, the latter of which represents the hivemind's control.
But synapse creatures, walking nodes of control and command, are in the game. When outside of synapse range, Tyranids revert to their instinctual behavior. Sadly or gladly, it doesn't mean anything too drastic (same as on the tabletop these days, really). For example, the Lurker instinct of Termagants represents their shirking, secretive nature by draining their morale when outside of synapse range. This isn't that crippling. Hormagaunts – the xenomorph take on the velociraptor – are hunters. This means that their health slowly drains when outside synapse, probably representing the brood either turning on each other or getting into hunting accidents.
So this makes Tyranids a lot more reliant on heroes, but not overwhelmingly so. In a pinch, you can override instinctive behavior for three turns by paying influence, which isn't that bad, since Tyranids have little in the way of influence-consuming global abilities. Tyranid Alpha, the most basic one, is a souped-up Tyranid Warrior, and deadly in close combat. Soon you'll unlock a Tervigon - a monstrosity that can heal your units every turn and spawn free Termagants every three.
Malanthrope occupies an interesting spot in the game as it provides various utility powers outside of its function as a city spawner. It gathers research from nearby enemy kills and it can strip a hex bare to give you an instant hit of sweet, sweet biomatter. It's really good to keep them around, though not on the front line. By the way, Tyranid cities strip the hexes they occupy clean, meaning that territory reconquered from them is a lot less useful than normal.
You can also have cities consume your units, returning some biomatter to you. However, outside of some limited utility from free Termagant spawn, it's really not that useful in a game where a basic unit takes four turns to build and costs nearly nothing.
What are the downsides of playing nids? Well, their start is hard due to the constant morale loss on Termagants and Hormagaunts' suicidal tendencies. Your units hit hard, but they are really bad at ranged combat. Once you run into a blob of... well, anything, you will be losing stuff to overwatch. Basically, you should make like Tyranid and soak those overwatch volleys with your gaunts and have the less expendable units go in next.
What the DLC does surprisingly well is nailing the writing. Dawn of War 2 stepped on the rake when it gave “campaigns” to every race and stumbled backwards into another rake when trying to give the Tyranid campaign a voice. The swarm doesn't have personality and no part of it matters, so having an outsider talk about them works really well. The descriptions of Tyranid buildings are very evocative, too, catching their alien nature in a way that the usual unit blurbs can't. This bit of work was especially well done.
Warhammer 40K Gladius’ Tyranids DLC is the best piece of game content concerning my least favorite race I’ve seen in a while. They play well and feel authentic, which I imagine was no easy feat, and they slot into the overall narrative and structure of the game more seamlessly than I was expecting. They could have been a bit more creative, perhaps, with the use of instinctual behaviors, but it’s a great effort, none the less.