The end of the year 2018 was rich for the video game adaptations of the Warhammer 40,000 license. The October title Space Hulk: Tactics by Cyanide Studio was a disappointment. On the other hand, Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, released on November 15 on PC / Mac and developed by the French studio Bullwark, was a hit with the press and fans of the futuristic universe, created by the Games Workshop brand. . Almost two years later, it joined the catalogs for Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch consoles on July 17, 2020. Let’s find out together if this RPG adventure, only solo and centered on tactical turn-based combat, keeps all its promises on our Xbox One.
In search of the lost Magos
We are in the 41st millennium. The Imperium of Man claims the galaxy in the name of the Emperor-God and leads an endless war against the Xenos and other extraterrestrial or mechanical forces. The Imperial armies must also fight the heretics within the Imperium itself.
If the universe and the bestiary of Warhammer 40,000 are very rich, the video games inspired by the license have very often brought to light the same belligerent forces. This time, forget the traditional Space Marines, you are at the heart of a plot concerning the Adeptus Mechanicus. This Mars-based organization worships the Machine God and supplies the Imperium with its most powerful engineers, scientists, and weapons, made in gigantic foundries known as Ironworks Worlds. Its followers constantly search the galaxy for technological relics from humanity’s glorious past.
- An intercepted transmission marks the beginning of the adventure
In this new adventure, you play as Magos Dominus Faustinius and lead an expedition to the newly rediscovered planet of Silva Tenebris, to investigate the disappearance of Magos Rhesak from the previous expedition. This planet contains Necron tombs and you will have to face these unexpected mechanized enemies who seem to be about to awaken.
Therefore, a race against time begins to prevent the awakening of the machines or at least prepare the Imperium to counter this new threat. About fifty missions await you and must be completed before the alarm clock reaches 100%.
A deep and exhilarating freedom in the strategic approach
Within the Caestus Metalican, your Imperial Ark Mechanicus ship, you are advised by other Magi, each specialized in a specific field: the sciences and the study of necrone civilization for Scaevola, the religious inquisition for Videx, management Skitarii support troops for Khepra or flagship for Rho or “impossible missions” for Captrix.
A sixth Magos directs you to put out a rebellion within your giant ship. These additional missions are part of the “Heretek” DLC, released late on PC / Mac and included directly in the console versions of the game.
- You go on a mission knowingly
After a few explorations which serve as a tutorial and as a presentation of the scenario challenges, each of your lieutenants offers you a mission linked to his personal quest. You choose one according to your roleplay but also according to the difficulty, the types of enemies expected and the rewards offered. To achieve your objectives, you can select from 6 to 10 units depending on the mission among your Tech-priests (6 maximum) and Skitarii units available.
- The Seven Specialization Trees
A good preparation of your Tech-priests is crucial for the rest of your adventure. Each technopre can move towards 7 different classes which each have 10 levels of improvement. Among these classes, you find among others melee or ranged fighters, healers, explorers or engineers. You are free to specialize your unit on a single class or to diversify it, provided that you cannot reach the high levels of the developed skill trees. Indeed, a level crossing requires an increasingly expensive payment in black stones. These serve as currency and accumulate during your explorations.
- Good equipment is essential
Knowing that an unlocked level offers a tactical bonus depending on the class and a place to add a weapon or a technological implant, the possible combinations are exhaustive and exciting. Regarding weapons, the more powerful they are, the more skill points they require to consume during battles in exchange for their use. Sacrificing a location with a weak weapon that does not consume resources remains a very relevant choice and will save you the bet more than once.
You thus benefit in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus from a great freedom in the strategic approach which is really a strong point of the title and accentuates its replayability.
A “book” in which you are the hero
Once you go on a mission, exploring the place brings back tasty memories for book lovers in which you are the hero. You will wander from room to room and regularly perform one action among three proposals. Your decisions often result in bonuses or penalties for the remainder of the mission until the final combat. These sequences are purely narrative and can bring frustration and disappointment to players avid for frantic action.
However, this choice of design of places to explore is justified and superbly assumed by Bullwark. The French studio is young and has limited human and financial resources. Mechanicus is their first game to release on platforms beyond the mobile gaming ecosystem. A disproportionate ambition would have served the game. The developers therefore sought to sublimate these narrative passages by pragmatic and intelligent subterfuges.
- you can walk different paths when exploring
As Dominus Faustinius, you are never in the field but always in the command room within your ship. It is through remote communication and the field presence of the Reditus Servo-Skull that you supervise and direct your troops. Seeing Faustinius leaning over a hologramic plane subtly embellishes and gives credibility to these exploration sequences.
The awakening of Necrons as you explore the tomb rooms increases the pressure. A counter increases with each action. The more you hang around in the maze, the more enemies you face in battles. The choice is painful between facilitating the success of the mission or recovering all the black stones, equipment and skill points by searching the entire area.
- If you choose “Consistency” go to page 138
All these elements promote immersion and serve the storytelling, but most of the latter is based on the quality of the writing. For this, the studio relies on the pen of Ben Counter, one of the most popular and prolific authors of the Black Library. This asset will please fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and brings real added value to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, neophytes risk getting lost in the meanders of numerous dialogues and often obscure for the uninitiated.
It remains to dissect the heart of the game, the tactical turn-based combat, as this type of gameplay is the closest to the original experience of the board game.
Dynamic and fun tactical fights
The fight scenes are quite large and tortuous. Moving platforms create shortcuts to quickly reach remote areas. The graphics of the units and sets are very basic. In return, the visibility of the scene is excellent. You can zoom and rotate to improve it. At the start of each fight, you are free to place your tech-priests in a defined starting area. Your Skitarii add-on units will appear later depending on your strategy. Depending on your narrative choices during the exploration, one or more different objectives will be required to win the fight. This ranges from traditional killing all enemies to fleeing the area or destroying technological equipment in the scene.
- Simple but effective art direction for combat
Each turn of the game brings with it an order of passage of the combatants, visible at the top of the screen, which facilitates your thinking to be the most effective and to perform combos. For this, you have a limited gauge of skill points available per turn for your entire team. Start a fight with the empty gauge Corsica entry difficulty. Fortunately, the skill points collected during the exploration of the tombs phase are stored. In addition, some of your elite units will be able to recover points during a game turn via elements of the scenery or special abilities. You can also use “hymns” during combat which will give you a major bonus but limited in time. As you can see, no action point is present in the game. Each fighter during his turn is free to use all his skills, subject to having the skill points available. Excellent management of these is therefore essential to achieve your goals.
Other big differences to the traditional turn-based combat mechanics of sci-fi games, there is no cover fire or hit percentages. The game forces you to be offensive and favors melee especially against opponents fighting from a distance. Indeed, a response is free in skill points if a fighter tries to take his distance, knowing that a long range weapon can absolutely not be used in melee. Surrounding this type of enemy is a very effective tactic.
- Starting a fight without skill points in stock is to be avoided
The numerical inferiority of your troops makes the fights rather difficult even if your Tech-Priests will quickly increase in power. This difficulty is accentuated by the fact that Necrons often need to be touched up one last time after execution or they will revive. The fight is lost if all of your Tech-priests fall on the battlefield. The mission failed, but you do not lose your elite soldiers for good, unless you chose the “Permanent Death” option at the start of the game.
However, the title allows you to change the difficulty level among the 4 available at any time and even offers the luxury of customizing many elements, such as movement costs in skill points or the maximum number of hymns per mission. An “Iron man” mode is also available, which will prevent you from saving / reloading at any time.
Finally, the soundtrack composed by Guillaume David, a mixture of industrial and religious sounds, perfectly accompanies the crusade led by your troops of the Adeptus Mechanicus. It is accessible in its entirety via the central menu of the game. In addition an exciting and beautiful 200 page artbook is also available and will satisfy lore fans.
- The artbook is a treat for enthusiasts
Hunter’s Corner: Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus features 34 achievements for a total of 1000G. Defeating the various bosses, completing the game in certain modes (Iron man, Permanent death) or difficulties, fully developing your skill trees or unlocking certain units, are all part of the process to obtain all the achievements.