Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is due for release in the next few weeks and those of us who have pre-ordered get to try out the beta until then. Of course the whole game isn’t available in the beta, but you do get to try out a lot of the features including the campaign prologue and the 1v1 multiplayer skirmish mode, both of which are extremely enjoyable.
When it comes to an RTS, the audio and visuals are extremely important and in Battlefleet Gothic they don’t disappoint. Focus Home Interactive and Games Workshop perfectly recreate the ships from the Warhammer 40K universe and if you’re a fan you will enjoy seeing your favourite ships animated in the game. The graphics are flawless and even in the lowest graphical settings it looks beautiful. The first time one of my ships was destroyed I was too busy admiring the effects to realise I was down a craft.
The sound effects are equally as good. Each shot of the Nova Cannon from the Imperium ships I controlled sounded perfect and suited the game and the atmosphere. One thing that could have aided the game is perhaps some warning sounds. For example, in the Wargame series, any unit in difficulty produces an alarm noise and you can quickly locate the unit. Due to the lack of warning sounds, in Battlefleet Gothic it can be difficult to notice a ship that is having difficulties, especially in large battles where perhaps there are multiple skirmishes occurring at several locations across the map. This is an easy addition but I don’t feel it would change the gameplay or the experience.
The campaign is a large element of Battlefleet Gothic and if multiplayer isn’t for you then you will be pleased to know you can enjoy the game without touching it. From the moment you launch the campaign you are welcomed with a spectacular introductory video that would get any Warhammer fan excited. It sticks to the 40K universe and most fans would be pleased with how it is represented in Battlefleet Gothic.
The story follows one Admiral Spire of the Imperium as he tries to maintain control of the Gothic section during the 12th Black Crusade and prevent the advances of Abaddon the Despoiler of Chaos. This may be lost on non-Warhammer fans but don’t fear, I’m not a huge fan myself but I was immediately able to follow the story and get immersed in the 40K universe. The campaign is extensive and seems to allow for a lot of decision making about how to approach the story once the prologue is completed. You are free to play the way you want using strategies that you have developed and refined through several engagements allowing for a unique experience.
Getting your strategy right is extremely important in both the campaign and in multiplayer. Ships that survive combat can be upgraded allowing for unique skills to be added to each craft. The range of skills and abilities for each ship is large and you won’t be able to unlock all of them for one ship without neglecting the rest of your fleet. This therefore encourages you to only unlock those that suit your style of play.
Perhaps you’re the kind of person who wants to get up close and personal with your foe, then you may upgrade the power of your close range weaponry and your armour. If you’re like me, you may enjoy ramming your enemy ships so a strong hull, advanced engines and a micro warp drive will be your upgrades of choice. Whatever your play style, there is a skill for you. This does give you a sense of self preservation. In other RTS’s you may go full steam ahead without care for your losses. In Battlefleet Gothic keeping your ships alive is extremely important in order to get the best upgrades and the ability to play to your style.
Perhaps one issue with this method of upgrading is that low levels are restricted to their play style. This issue is most apparent online and a quick look through the forums shows it to be a popular complaint. However, I personally disagree. Giving players all the play styles initially would encourage players to pick one and stick with it. Fighting through difficult battles to claim victory and find out what works is more rewarding than being handed everything from the start.
The multiplayer itself can be very tense but victory is rewarding. Coming from Focus Home Interactive I expected the multiplayer to be similar to that of the Wargame series, large long battles of up to 10v10 with deep strategies. At first Battlefleet Gothic disappointed me as it didn’t seem to live up to this. The low level battles of two ships against two seem tiny and lost in the large maps. However, this is allows for new players to be eased into the multiplayer. Once you begin to level up you get more points to get larger ships and many more which could lead to the 2v2 battles quickly becoming very large skirmishes.
On launching the multiplayer you must first pick your force, I chose the Imperium but in the full game version you can also choose Chaos, Ork Pirates and Eldar with Space Marines being added in the first DLC one month after release. At first the levelling system does seem to restrict gameplay but you are matched with equally restricted players which allows for you to learn the mechanics and find your play style. Once you’ve played a few matches you gain enough renowned to upgrade your ships and decide how you want to play so you don’t have to wait too long before deciding on your strategy.
The multiplayer skirmishes contain all the modes from the campaign including a defend mode and an escort mode, although in the beta it seems you mostly get the simple skirmish mode. I would have liked to have been able to choose what mode I was searching for when joining the matchmaking to prevent this, but perhaps that will be added in the full game. Overall, the multiplayer was simple but worked. The mechanics were the same as the campaign when it came to ship upgrading and commander levelling but playing against real players created a real challenge. I found it extremely hard to come to a victory and was surprised about the large amount of tactics I saw being used by players. Despite the difficulty, the multiplayer is rewarding and I found myself returning to the game repeatedly, determined to get my victory. When I did it was extremely rewarding.
Battlefleet Gothic is a great game and the beta has shown that it has great potential. I have enjoyed every aspect of the game so far and look forward to trying out the full release version later this month. It’s not without its flaws, but it is currently in beta form so there is time for changes. If Focus Home Interactive are able to iron out the issues and listen to the forums then Battlefleet Gothic will be brilliant come release. If you are a fan of Warhammer, sci-fi space battles or RTSs’ then you should look at picking up this one.