I will start this review by telling you the hard truth : Battlefleet Gothic : Armada (BG:A) is a game that makes me feel ambivalent.
Now you may ask yourself, or for that matter, me, why I am sitting here with my mixed feelings. So let me start at the beginning.
The first time I saw the announcement about BG:A, I was ecstatic. My mind started to go crazy, dreaming of the release day when I would be able to command my fleet of Imperium Cruisers and cleanse the universe from the filthy Chaos !
And, as soon as I could, I pre-ordered the game to get into the Beta and start enjoying this game.
My initial feelings when I first delved into the game was of shear excitement. I can still remember how great it felt when I got a look at my first fleet, to play through the small campaign introduction and to play my first skirmish game against the AI.
And, with some reserve, I am still enjoying BG:A. So, what happened down the road...
Why can't I make my recommendation for this game to all players out there?
I will try to answer by the end of this review.
First, let me introduce you to the game as it is and what you will get when you purchase it.
What do you get?
Battlefleet gothic is a Real Time Strategy game (RTS) set in the Warhammer 40K universe. The game offers you many game modes that make it really attractive:
- A campaign
- 4 different races: Imperium; Chaos; Ork; Eldar
- Fleet management
- A multiplayer mode with a cooperative option and with a persistent fleet.
- A skirmish mode without a persistent fleet.
- The Campaign
- The Races
The game has four races: Imperium; Chaos; Ork; and the Eldars. Each of those races have their own design and lore. Of course, the capacities and competence of your captain and crew will be different from one race to the other.
- The Fleet management
Every time you play a game, you will earn some experience that you will be able to use to buy more ships in your fleet, plus you will be able to upgrade your ship systems, weapons, perks, and crew. There is a little bit of disappointment here. Some of the competence you can add to your ships are really nice and necessary, such as sending bombs away or improving your armor or gunpoint cannons.
- The multiplayer
As I said before, this game was clearly designed to make multiplayer the core of the game. Unfortunately, the game is still suffering from some early matchmaking issues. And, it is not very rare you will end up fighting against an Admiral with a full fleet of ships under his command, while you will only be spawning with one or two of your ships, since they are under repair at the dock after a previous defeat.
The multiplayer lobby should be better at calculating the 'real' number of allocated points to spend for deploying both sides. At least it should do it based on the ship's availability of the weakest.
One of the things though I would love to see in this game, and that is missing at the moment, is a Coop Vs AI with persistent fleet management.
While multiplayer will appeal to a lot of players, the truth is that a lot of people also enjoy Campaign mode in Coop, and there is a demand already for a skirmish mode in a coop mode.
You are the Admiral, so...
At first, the game starts easily enough. A couple of ships, max three, and a few competencies for the ships. Not much to do. You setup the max/min range of your engagement, and then you go on with the mission.
The combats are incredibly beautiful. The ship models are just perfectly rendered and the effects and sounds are just immersive.
What is very important to remember, though, is that when you play, right-clicking your target to attack is pretty useless. As I said previously, you'll set the rules of engagement, click on a sector where you ship will travel and then you will have to trust them to act. The fact that you can select an enemy ship and define it as a priority target, together with subsystems such as the drives, armor, bridge, weapons etc, makes you learn very quickly to trust your Captains and their decisions in combat.
Of course, while your ships have been sent to an area, you can always change those orders.
I do believe the intent of the developer was to make the player really feel like a fleet Admiral.
And that is what may be a little bit misunderstood for RTS veterans or people expecting combat gameplay such as in a game like "Nexus:The Jupiter incident" or "Homeworld".
... act like one!
Your role will be to activate competencies/skill for the ships to attack, send boarding parties, buff your ships or counter the enemy. And, of course, to set the course, as previously said, and to withdraw from the battle if necessary.
The captains and their crew will do the rest. They will keep firing at the closest enemy ship or upon the ships you have selected as a priority target.
This is a very nice setup IMHO. It reminds me of this Sci-fi book I read not so long ago, Ark Royal from Christopher Nuttall. The Admiral, still sits in the CIC, but he will not take over the captain role. He will decide on the global tactics, but ultimately the crew and the ship is the captain's responsibility.
Battlefleet Gothic really does a good job of detaching you from the feeling that you are a Captain. You are the admiral, and for this very specific reason, you should be the one in control of the global decisions, not the close decisions.
Remembering in time what cooldown you had been triggering earlier and keeping an eye on each ship status and competence bar can become horrendous...
Battlefleet Gothic : Armada is a good game, well made, and extremely polished.
I do like it...
The learning curve can really be steep for newcomers.
The game will not explain all your gameplay options at first. You will have to learn and to be defeated in several ways before you understand all the feature the game offers you.
Recommendation for the other players who like to think about their action and take time building up their tactics, I will advise to look at the WEGO game Star Hammer The Vanguard Prophecy, another space fleet combat game.
Developer: Tindalos Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Official Game website: http://www.battlefleetgothic-armada.com/
Available on: STEAM