To my extreme great disappointment, Black Lab Games wasn’t the team tasked with bringing
Battlefleet Gothic to the video game arena. After all, they are solid space-game devs. However, their skills could not elude GW’s IPs for too long, so now I’m looking at a very early preview of Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector.
First things first: the title “Warhammer 40000 Battlesector” is very lame, but that’s GW for you. I also profess a great degree of hatred for Tyranids whichever way you slice it (lore, rules, players), though I also admire the solid designs among their troop units. I’m not a fan of Primaris, either, and this is a game where we get Cawl’s early adoption treats: no Outriders, no Assault intercessors, just whatever you could find in the Dark Imperium box. The game is cool, tho,
Look, my hatred for alien bugs papered-over the flaws in Space Hulk: Deathwing – no mean feat, as I’m still angry at Streum-On for EYE: Divine Cybermancy. Meanwhile, Battlesector not only features one of the best Space Marine chapters (the Blood Angels), but also relies on you wiping out entire squads of ‘Nids per turn, and also treats us to decent unit barks! Amazing!
In a sense, it’s like more polished version of Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach, the previous best 40K TBS title. Unfortunately, it carries its sins as well, mainly mono-weapon squads (even if that’s appropriate for Babby’s First Primaris) that feature no customizable sergeants. On the other hand, the actual gameplay is sound, with stuff like different units having different optimal overwatch ranges, while your characters are dead-killy in melee when it comes to single targets… which logically makes them less than ideal at tackling swarms of gaunts.
Aside from regular attacks (shooting, stabbing, sometimes both), units have certain abilities. A lot of the squads can boost their own power in exchange for becoming vulnerable to a type of damage (like Intercessors boosting ranged fire in exchange for taking more melee damage – you want them out of melee range anyways, so that’s nice). But other abilities are wilder, like jet-pack equipped units going on WHEEE rides not seen since Dawn of War. God, I love Assault Marines (even though they have less HP than Intercessors – maybe the studio hasn’t gotten the “all Marines are now 2W” memo yet).
During the mission, you can earn command points which are then spent on Command Abilities. The full game will have some rather weird ones (spawning an Assault Marine squad – kinda feels like it cheapens Marines), but the current one is a powerful strafing run. It’s quite effective, and the screen zooms out for you to witness the show. Unfortunately, it features Stormraven Gunship, the ugliest piece of shit flyer that the Marines have – and that’s a high bar to cross considering that every flyer outside of the Thunderhawk looks dumb as hell.
Probably the (relatively) most easily fixable issue that I have now is that Intercessors and Hellblasters just can’t do melee, which goes against the concept of “Marines are good at everything.” It is especially egregious when you’re playing Blood Angels, which want nothing more to get stuck in. Granted, this is, alongside “no variation within a unit,” basically a genre-standard sin.
All in all, I enjoyed my brief time with Warhammer 40000 Battlesector. The game seems like a good spiritual successor to Sanctus Reach – but with improved visuals, actual voice acting and unit barks, and a more connected campaign. I just hope the Nids don’t get a campaign down the line.