Review: Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus16 Apr 2019 0
Review: Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Released 15 Nov 2018
Despite the pleas of fans from every corner of the hobby, Warhammer 40,000 is generally unwilling to step into the turn-based tactics arena these days. There are exceptions, of course, and it’s one of these rare novelties that’s the subject of today’s review.
In Mechanicus, you take on the role of Magos Faustinus, a venerable member of the Adeptus Mechanicus. These Techpriests of Mars are the sole power entrusted with the knowledge of technology in the Imperium of Man. And now, he's setting out on an expedition to a long-lost colony. Guided by a distress call from a long-dead Magos, Faustinus arrives into orbit above the planet – and discovers the soulless metallic Necrons awakening from slumber.
This game was ported to the Nintendo Switch in July 2020. For our dedicated Switch review, please go here.
There's no research, nor any base management that you'd expect in a game reminiscent of XCOM. Neither do you respond to random hotspots appearing on the campaign map. Rather, you choose the missions offered by Faustinus' underlings. Each of them has different roles in the expedition – and each has different priorities in the mission. By leading your junior techpriests to battle (Faustinus is always safely resting in orbit), you will earn Blackstone shards, find new gear and weapons, and increase the power of your expeditions in other ways.
The missions themselves are split between node-maps – which offer you challenges in the form of single-paragraph dilemmas presenting you with three choices – and tactical combat. Your luck on the node-map may determine the conditions on the battlefield. Will all of your troops start out intact? Will you have a ready reserve of cognition points to draw on? Who will have the initiative – you or the enemy?
Once you’re on a battlefield, the units – yours or the enemy’s – take turns individually. When the time comes, your techpriest (or one of the expendable troopers) can take as many actions as he is able. On a fully loaded Magos, that means one melee attack and two ranged before you get to abilities and powers. You can move and stop as many times you want (provided you have movement allowance left) – take that, XCOM, and your two actions-per-turn!
There’s not much to be said about shooting the enemy, as you don’t have to bother with cover, hit modifiers (attacks have 100% accuracy) or morale. You main worry here comes from armor. Enemy units can be armored against physical or energy attacks – but you don’t know which one or how much (or even how much HP they have). To lift this fog of war, you need to send a servo-skull – each techpriest is accompanied by one - to check out the foe. However, doing this means that you won’t be able to use your floating memento mori buddy next turn. And a skull that’s scanning enemies is a skull that’s not collecting cognition points.
Ah, cognition points. That’s the sole mechanic that keeps the techpriests from just crushing any obstacle under their power-armored boots. Collected mainly from regenerating battlefield features or fallen enemies, the points are the currency you pay for your priests’ abilities. Most abilities and weapons require you to expend at least one point. Oh, and you need them to deploy your non-techpriest buddies. CP management is going to be one of the biggest challenges for at least half of the game.
The Necrons will diminish in danger, too. First, you will unlock abilities that reveal the enemy armor without wasting servo-skull time. Then you’ll get to the point where weapons do enough damage for armor reduction to not matter. Will Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus still be fun at that point? Yes. Finally getting to feel powerful at the end of the game is a great. However, you still won’t be invincible, as it’s hard for your techpriests to stack armor or increase health that much.
However, as you pay Blackstone shards to raise the level of your named characters, you will be making them more potent in battle. Five advancement tracks are always open to any priest. Each has 10 tiers alternating between ability (or power) unlocks and implants. You can specialize in one tree or dip into several simultaneously, the game doesn’t care. You will, though: Getting the “grants one CP if the CP gouge is empty at the start of his turn” power is of great help in the early game and the best leg implants are just two tiers up the shooting-magos tree. Oh, and all the implants as well as such gear as mechadendrites are represented on the model, which is great.
The individual Necron types don’t get more powerful as the game progresses, but they have two things working in their favor. For one, they’re working with the entire roster of units available in the table-top and even dipping into Forge World. The other bit is the awakening timer.
When it advances as you move through your mission’s node map, it signifies this specific portion of the tomb becoming aware of your incursion. The first level means nothing. However, from the second on you will be met with increasing number of enemies or shortened Necron revival times (humanoid Necron just collapse into a pile on death, and you need to hit them again to prevent regeneration). Outside of the mission, each level of the timer contributes to the campaign timer, tracking time until the Tomb World fully awakens and everyone dies.
Thus you can’t really camp or farm. You must always be moving. There’s no overwatch in the game (except for Necron Deathmarks, the cheeky teleporting buggers) and your troops only have one reaction attack they can use on enemies trying to flee from melee. Most of them time, you’re very actively going on this Quest of Knowledge (Via The Deaths of The Alien, Mutant And Heretic).
The game looks good, too! Each of the five tomb complexes has its own ambience, especially the rotten, Flayer-virus infested Ubajo. It’s a pleasure to see your techpriests change and accrete implants and gear. The simple act of observing how Magos Leonardus turns his torso to bring forth a mechadendride held weapon to fire is very pleasing. The 2D art is great, as far as character portraits are concerned. Faustinus and Rho are probably the best looking Magos out there.
However, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the writing. Whoever planned out and wrote dialogues for the characters did an amazing job, without which the game would be that much poorer. You can definitely get the feel for characters as they converse during your missions, be it Scaevola, who nearly speaks in HTML or Faustinus, who strives to strike the balance between man and machine.
It’s a bit meta, but Necron lords are the only actually voiced characters in the game. The Mechanicus priests all have their own digital mumbling and while its filled with character, it still makes them strangely impersonal when compared to soulless robots.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a great game that I will always recommend to anyone. It’s a novel spin on the whole tactical RPG genre, and it’s a breath of fresh air as far as 40K games are concerned. Now, if only the studio got to remake Chaos Gate…