Friday, 01 March 2019 05:37

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 Review

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Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Glory to the Immortal Emperor of Mankind! Screaming on burning engines into 2019, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is another title to be added to the list of video games based in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. Following its 2016 predecessor, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 puts you in command of monolithic warships in the distant future as humanity battles for its very survival against a host of predatory alien races and the all-consuming claws of the demonic Chaos. Choose your faction in a handful of unique campaigns or enjoy the staggering opportunities in multiplayer and prepare to repel boarders.

Wrath and Glory

In Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, you take the role of a fleet commander set in the macabre universe of the 41st millennium. Mankind stands teetering on the edge of extinction, clinging desperately to a fool's hope of survival, with only their faith in the God Emperor and their sheer will to endure. The galaxy is host to dozens of horrors, from the many alien Xenos races to the corrupted forces of Chaos who have sold their souls for the promise of power in the name of thirsting Dark Gods. It’s up to you to decide who you will fight for, and that’s certainly not going to be an easy choice. Where the original title carried six factions in total with its DLC, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 has released with double that number — one fleet for almost every major faction in the 40k universe. Each of them is a distinct force of their own, visually different from the others, although some with similarities to allied fleets. Be it the rampaging bio-monster Tyranids or the technologically-superior Tau, there’s a little something for everyone.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a fleet battle simulator. You will take command of your vessels and lead them into battle amidst a variety of mission options. You are offered a variety of options that allow you to manage your fleet, be it setting the ships to manage themselves and follow a simple but effective set of orders, or taking full command and micromanaging each vessel down to the minute detail. There’s a lot to consider in the void warfare, with some distinctive situations that add life to the grim universe: Has your light cruiser lost morale and the ship captain is a coward? Execute him and get that ship back in the battle! Has your vessel been all but destroyed, with the crew slaughtered? Scuttle the vessel by overloading the plasma core to engulf nearby enemy ships in a devastating explosion! Veterans of the previous title will find themselves settling comfortably into the controls with relative ease, but there’s a fresh host of new mechanics (like crew population) to keep track of now as you wage war with several thousand lives on the line.

Black Crusade

The design of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is absolutely one of the key selling points. Warhammer 40,000 is self-aware of its over-the-top destruction and grandiose characters. It’s a universe where life is naught but misery, with only war. It’s just so ridiculous that it’s impossible not to enjoy every moment of it. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 exemplifies that grim darkness of the 40k universe in all its macabre glory. Tindalos Interactive does a fantastic job of immersing you in the setting by presenting you with a phenomenal and oppressive soundtrack while you revel in the joy of vast, kilometer-long warships waging war in the black sea of space. The attention to detail of the setting is certainly worth it for veteran players, as it stays true to the universe’s lore, but it isn't so opaque that newcomers would be unable to grasp the story. Every ship feels finely detailed and accurate to their faction, with a breathtaking backdrop of space for them to sail across on the battlefield.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is broken into two primary components of play: campaign and multiplayer. For now, the campaign has three distinct factions available to you outside the prologue missions that get you up to date with the state of the galaxy. (Hint: it’s not going good!) Of course, there’s the poster child, Imperium, allowing you to take the reins once more of Admiral Spire from the previous title. Alternative to the Imperium are the ancient Necrons made of living metal, and the ravenous Tyranid fleets who will eat basically anything… including metal. This is honestly a breath of fresh air for 40k titles, as any campaign that does not follow the Imperium faction in some capacity has almost always chosen the Eldar or Orks instead. While they lack the story depth of the original title, they're still engaging, with their own unique fleets and personalized campaign rules, ensuring it’s not a slog to play through any of them.

Only War

Multiplayer is ultimately where many players will look once the campaigns have been beaten, but there are some flaws. While there are shining moments of heart-pounding battles, where you give commands as quickly as possible to counter the enemy fleet or press the attack to earn a hard-fought victory, this is, admittedly, not always the case. The pacing feels off. It often takes a minute or two from the start of the match before ships even engage with one another, which would be fine, except that it simply becomes a dog pile that's over in a few minutes. With the complexity involved in how much you can do with each ship, the speed at which they act can feel disconnected from how a behemoth of a ship should move. It’s not enough to spoil the fun, but it can certainly feel a bit jarring at times.

Playing random battles with AI will often be enjoyable enough, but balance needs to be improved when it comes to multiplayer with other players. No small number of players coming to Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 are die-hard 40k fans and veterans of the first game. Newcomers will quickly find themselves outclassed and outgunned, with little chance of victory, and there’s no solid ranking system to appropriately pair players with someone of equal skill. So, while one match might find you pitted against a player of similar abilities, offering you a fun and balanced time, the next match might just as easily see you annihilated from the board without your being able to killing so much as a single enemy escort. Factions are clearly imbalanced as well, like the Drukhari Dark Eldar, and even some of the new mechanics are now easily abused, with the crew population factor now allowing Space Marine ships to just swarm your 300-point battleship and spam boarding pods to termite through your crew in a matter of seconds, until your prized vessel is now a lifeless husk floating in the void. This problem rarely presents itself when facing AI, but against players who know what they’re doing it’s an ever-present concern.


The Verdict: Great

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a great sequel to its predecessor and a proud addition in the line of 40k games. Though not without its flaws, the void fleet battle simulator has a great deal to offer. It's a must-buy for 40k veterans and die-hard fans, and is certainly worth a look for newcomers who are just dipping their toes in the 40k universe or are simply interested in spaceship warfare.

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Alexander Leleux

Alexander grew up with a controller in his hand and remains the annoyance of his gaming friends for being ‘that guy’ who continues to use one even when he’s playing on his PC. By day, he is a graduate student in medieval literature and a freelance writer. By night, he is an avid gamer, hobbyist, and victim of an unhealthy Warhammer addiction. With a passion for stories of all kinds, he firmly believes that video games are an excellent means of communicating a narrative and hopes to one day make his own mark on the Gaming Industry.