I’m always a bit nervous when it comes to playing a new Warhammer game whether it be fantasy or 40k. Games Workshop seems to be quite liberal with handing out licenses, leading to many disappointing games over the years. Thankfully, Battlesector is one of the better titles to carry the licence and although it’s not perfect it certainly sets the standard of how to convert the tabletop game of Warhammer 40k into a compelling video game.
A quick disclaimer before I dive into the review proper. I haven’t played the tabletop game for years and therefore I am unfamiliar with how accurately Battlesector represents the rulesets. It does, however, feel like a really strong representation of a tabletop battle on a PC.
Watch the Battlesector release trailer below:
You take on the role of commander of the Blood Angel Space Marines as they attempt to defend their homeworld, Baal, from a Tyranid invasion. You start off with a meagre force as you attempt to gain a foothold before finally pushing the invasion back. There is a fairly decent backstory running throughout to give the missions some meaning and there is some great back and forth between some of the lead characters. I’m not massively into the detailed lore of the 40k universe but for those that are, this back story is a nice touch.
The battles take place across maps that seem to grow bigger, as does the number of units you can deploy, with each mission and before long you will fielding a mighty army to take on the Tyranids. To start with you are limited in choice and can only deploy three unit types plus a hero but after each mission, you will unlock a new unit type that can be added to your army in the next mission.
Missions themselves vary from ‘go here and do this’ to surviving waves of attacks or taking out specific targets within a given number of turns. This gives each mission focus and although the mission types themselves don’t vary a great deal, the addition of new troop types both friend and foe offer enough of a variety to keep things interesting.
When I first started out I thought Battlesector looked ugly but then I discovered photo mode and realised just how wrong I was. When zoomed out you don’t get to appreciate the level of detail that has been put into creating each model but once you do the results are amazing. All of the screenshots in this article are from my own in-game photos and I feel they show off just how gorgeous the models are, it almost feels like you’re looking at an actual tabletop battle at times.
Unit types have their own strengths and weaknesses and as your roster grows you will need to experiment in order to get the most out of your army. You could also choose to tailor the army to your own playstyle as, so far, I haven’t come across any caps limiting the number of each unit you can deploy.
Between missions you get to tinker with your army, adding or removing units as you see fit and also upgrading your characters. All of the characters have a skill tree where you can spend points earned from completing missions on upgrades and new abilities.
The battles themselves are clearly where the true magic of a game like this lies. For the most part, they are fantastic and allow you to flex your tactical muscles. Flanking and outmanoeuvring your foe is encouraged and gives you a massive advantage in combat. Using your troops effectively also makes things easier with the opposite being true. In some parts of missions, it pays to be a bit more defensive and the opportunities for setting up ambushes and bottlenecks are plentiful. Overall the battles are fun, engaging, make you think and can be very frantic at times.
Battlesector also includes two different multiplayer modes. The first is a standard heads up skirmish with a live player at the other end. The second is similar but doesn’t need the other player to be live at the same time. Each of you can take your turn whenever time allows which is then uploaded to a cloud, you will then be notified when your opponent has taken their turn and so on. This is a great addition to this sort of game and should become the standard.
So far so good but there are also a few things that I wasn’t a fan of. Oddly the first is the battles, or at least how each one ends. Every single mission I’ve played so far ends in exactly the same way regardless of what the mission has asked of you. Before you can complete the mission and move on you have to clear the map of any remaining enemy forces. At first, this didn’t seem all that bad but after ten missions it got very tiresome.
My second gripe is that the game does nothing to make you care about your troops. Whilst this may be a deliberate attempt at portraying the grimdark nature of 40k it would have been nice to feel invested in my troops. Your individual units don’t progress in any way whatsoever and whilst you obviously don’t want to lose any units in battle it was never personal. It would be nice to see some way of customising unit types, as you can in the tabletop game in order to give some sort of personal attachment.
Overall, Battlesector is a really great addition to the catalogue of Warhammer games already out there. It looks good and the battles are genuinely engaging on a fun and tactical level. If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40k tabletop and/or turn-based strategy games then I would definitely recommend you give the game a try. I hope the game is successful enough to allow the developers to push out DLC including new races to further expand an already great experience.
Warhammer 40k Battlesector was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd Developer: Black Lab Games Release Date: 22nd June 2021 Reviewed On: PC