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Warhammer Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector - Space Marines vs Tyranids turn-based strategy

Mefi

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Scanning the reviews so far seems like what I said way back holds up. In the main, apart from a couple of idiots doing performative reviews - we've all done them but surely save them for the true abortions, positive reviews about the gameplay itself but more divided on whether there's enough there for $40. Complaints about unit veterancy are also fair although it's definitely not by oversight, there's a deliberate decision there for whatever reason.

For Slitherine's dad gaming audience, prices based on relatively few sales, this is definitely money well spent. Campaign is 25 to 30 hours for most people and then whatever you get from replaying it and skirmish and/or MP. I can blitz the campaign in under 10 hours now but that's hardly representative of someone coming to the game new. If your budget is a bit more restricted then it's certainly a more difficult decision for a game which falls between pixel art and AAA prices. Not going to lie, a full Sisters of Battle roster (even just for skirmish and MP) would have gone a long way for me but I suspect that may be their link to further expansion down the line. At the end of the day, there's worse reviews than 'we liked it but we'd like bigger portions'.
 

Mefi

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Been work on optimisation before and since the demo build, just wasn't in it. Can't compare though as I didn't get to touch the demo build. It's certainly more demanding than Sanctus Reach, and I think they'll be doing ongoing work to the game as they get more insight into a larger number of systems. Well outside my knowledge in whys and hows of those kind of things.
 

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https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/warhammer-40000-battlesector-review/

WARHAMMER 40,000: BATTLESECTOR REVIEW
A strategy game that gives its space marines personality.

Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is turn-based and about space marines, which means it'll rile up those who want more 40K games to be real-time and action-packed, as well as those who are sick of every 40K game being about space marines. Thing is, the last 18 months have given us games about the setting's bounty hunters, giant robots, punk gangs, fighter planes, and fighter planes but with orks. Thank Games Workshop's free-and-easy licensing for the variety, which is why I'm fine with Battlesector reprising one of the more classic themes.

I'm also fine with it being turn-based, because I remember the days when every 40K game was real-time and we complained about that instead. For everything there is a season. It's a little-known fact that when The Byrds sang Turn! Turn! Turn! they were actually singing about turn-based strategy.

Battlesector isn't purely about marines. You can play the dinobug alien tyranids in skirmish mode or multiplayer—online or hot-seat or even over email—and in the singleplayer campaign you unlock a handful of Sisters of Battle to join your army. (The space marines are the setting's warrior monks, the Sisters of Battle are its warrior nuns.) Plus, Battlesector isn't about generic armored lummoxes, but one of the more interesting flavors of space marine: the Blood Angels, who are the space marines you get into if you watched Hammer horror movies when you were young. One of their codex books even has Christopher Lee on the cover.

The Blood Angels suffer from an affliction called Red Thirst, which makes them literally and figuratively bloodthirsty. In Battlesector this means they get more momentum points, which are normally earned for kills, the closer they are to enemies. When a unit gets 100 momentum points they begin "surging", gaining a movement bonus and the option to trade in those points for an extra action or a single empowered use of an ability.

Non-marines earn bonus momentum points in ways that play to their personality too. The hive-minded tyranids score more if one of their queen-bee synaptic leaders is within range, encouraging them to move in clustered swarms, while the Sisters of Battle earn momentum for taking damage as well as dealing it, like the masochistic martyrs they are.

At first momentum doesn't seem like a big deal, but as armies get bigger there are more opportunities to rack up huge amounts over the course of a level. Its effect on some of the late-game skills is dramatic too. My psyker, whose ability to create an image of a real scary face sounded kind of underwhelming, used an empowered version of that to drop six close-grouped tyranid units at once.

It's tempting in games like this to go into overwatch on every turn, and overwatch can be powerful in Battlesector. To emphasize that, it drops into slow-motion so you can see every shot go off and all the numbers flying out. But activating overwatch costs momentum, which pushes you to be sparing with it and instead commit to risky advances, getting your commander with the jump pack and thunder hammer leaping into hand-to-hand with some giant monster that gives birth to swarms of smaller enemies or vomits acid.

The other thing that discourages hanging back is that cover can be unpredictable. Sometimes a unit behind cover can shoot through it without penalty, but then at other times it blocks them and you'll try to shoot down from a gangplank only to hit the railing with every bullet.

The Blood Angels' curse is double-pronged. As well as the constant Red Thirst there's the rarer Black Rage. Those it descends on spiral toward a berserk state that'll eventually kill them. They paint their armor black and form a separate unit, a Death Company who take on dangerous missions in the hope they'll die doing something valiant. The first time you see a Death Company in Battlesector's campaign, they're engaged in a fight that's been going for days, swinging chainswords while knee-deep in a river of blood. Your bonus objective in this mission is to help five of their units die.

In moments like this, Battlesector is goth as hell. It takes place on a moon covered in red deserts, ruined cathedrals, and factories whose main item of production is apparently giant statues holding goblets shaped like skulls. Between missions your HQ units narrate with tough-guy lyricism, saying things like, "On this hallowed ground, every one of us fought with tooth and bloody nail for the chance to become angels." (Only the techmarine Croginax is more prosaic, crankily muttering, "That's enough poetics from you.") It's a vivid portrayal, one that benefits from familiarity with Warhammer 40,000.

The story also expects you're up to date with the unfolding metaplot of 40K's recent years, throwing around names like "Archmagos Cawl" and "Indomitus Crusade". An opening cutscene explains the basics, and why there are newly created primaris marines—even more transhuman than the regular variety—joining you for their first taste of battle. But if you haven't read the books or played the tabletop game lately, you'll have some catching up to do.

Though the campaign's opening act is ostensibly about the old firstborn marines making peace with their even more bulked-up replacements, the primaris don't really get to talk. Their presence is felt in battles rather than between them, which meant I never really connected to the overarching story linking it all together. Much as I enjoyed the tactical play—responding to venomthropes who fart poison into the ground by sending in tanks who don't give a damn about it, or spacing units so they could shoot from the range their guns were most effective at—the connective tissue of its superstructure didn't click for me.

That's not just because the story kept me at a distance, but because units are entirely replaceable. While HQ units have skill trees, a squad that's been with you from the beginning is the same as the limitless fresh ones you can pick. There's so much character in the rest of the game, it's odd to find it missing here. Plus, the Blood Angels lend themselves to a progression system, veteran units getting tougher but potentially succumbing to the Black Rage each time they're used. In Battlesector, the Death Company is just an option you select if you've got enough points for them.

Meanwhile, the points limit of each battle is a number you only learn after you've left the army management screen, which means either going back to edit your list after the pre-battle narration has begun, or having to delete excess squads to get the math right while you're choosing where to deploy them.

That's kind of a quibble, and while I've got a few more of those—I got sick of hearing the same tyranid screams over and over, and of hunting for the last enemies on each map after completing the main objective—this is still a thumbs up. Battlesector is an evocative take on 40K, and a pacey tactics game that sometimes made me scratch my chin and consider flanking manoeuvres, and sometimes made me go "fuck it", activate the jump packs and spin up the chainswords.

THE VERDICT
74

WARHAMMER 40,000: BATTLESECTOR
A better Warhammer game than the last few.
 

Kruno

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Can any real fans of the 40K universe tell me if this is any good? Reading the drivel that is games "journalism" tells me nothing.
 
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It is an improved follow up to Sanctus Reach with a very weak strategic layer (though the fact that the strategic layer is even present is incline). It is also the first (well, I guess you could also count Battlefleet Gothic 2) game set in the current 40K timeline and featuring the primaris marines, the lore side of things is handled very well and the choice of topic (integration of primaris marines into the Blood Angles chapter) is pretty interesting, though I dont think the game will go all that deep into it (I am only a few missions in so far, in any case the internal tension within legions/chapters due to the influx of outsiders is a pretty cool topic that was explored in some of the early Horus Heresy novels for example and as a huge 40K fan, I appreciate this type of thing).

As for the gameplay - if you liked Sanctus Reach, you will like this even more, it is a decent smaller scale tactics game that would be interesting even outside of 40K frenchise (ie the systems are solid on their own). The price tag is quite high though.
 

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I think one of the reviews nailed it on the head how dull it is that each mission ends with you cleaning up the 'nids. Really doesn't serve any purpose because you probably are not in a position where you could fail anymore at that point. It's just annoying busy work. Did the mission where you kill the Tyrannofex. After killing it I still had to wait for 3 more turns as each turn a group of 2-3 'nid mooks would spawn. Really boring and devoid of purpose. Not really sure why or how this got past the beta phase, or why the devs even thought this was good design to begin with. Another gripe I have is that there's no sound when I move the Land Speeder. Dunno if this is a bug or not. Otherwise it's a fine game. It is indeed much better optimized and I have no issues with that. I really hesitate to call it an improvement over Sanctus Reach, more of a side grade for me really with some things it does better and others worse. I think it is worth the 34€ tho and I look forward to more factions being added, hopefully with campaigns that do not have the clean up phase..
 

Mefi

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Some design decisions were held onto in spite of beta feedback, same as is always the case. I can see why to some extent, in terms of mission objectives and them scaling back mission design because of beta and external complaints that it was too hard and too confusing to have complex objectives. 'Shoot the big nid' may be simple enough but it does bring in the problem that critting plasma is going to be mission over as soon as you're in range.
 

Alpharius

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I liked the Tyrannofex mission more than the previous ones at least there was some challenge, lost like half the army there on max difficulty. (and lost 0-1 models in previous missions)

This game is kinda strange in that it doesn't matter how much of your forces you lose in a mission because each mission has an army cap that can be filled with whatever units you chose(each has its own value). New units are free, unlimited and dont gain any xp. So a new assault squad is just as good as the one that survived the previous mission. Only thing that matters is global upgrades that cost special hq points that you gain each mission. ( I've got a ton of them for completing some kind of bonus objectives that weren't shown anywhere, 1 base and 5 bonus for tyranofex mission. :o)

So its more like a series of skirmishes against an AI instead of campaign. There weren't even turn limits of any kind so far. Which is not neceserially bad, if the devs balance each mission so that even with a brain-dead AI one can barely complete it losing most of the army in the process, or make some kind of tactical puzzles. But the first 3 missions had such a game journalist difficulty that i was tempted to drop the game. 4th one was fine, if only because you start in the corner of the map with endless hordes of temagants coming from all sides.
Not sure how it will go after this mission but i'm catiously pessimistic so far. :negative:
 
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Galdred

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I think one of the reviews nailed it on the head how dull it is that each mission ends with you cleaning up the 'nids. Really doesn't serve any purpose because you probably are not in a position where you could fail anymore at that point. It's just annoying busy work. Did the mission where you kill the Tyrannofex. After killing it I still had to wait for 3 more turns as each turn a group of 2-3 'nid mooks would spawn. Really boring and devoid of purpose. Not really sure why or how this got past the beta phase, or why the devs even thought this was good design to begin with. Another gripe I have is that there's no sound when I move the Land Speeder. Dunno if this is a bug or not. Otherwise it's a fine game. It is indeed much better optimized and I have no issues with that. I really hesitate to call it an improvement over Sanctus Reach, more of a side grade for me really with some things it does better and others worse. I think it is worth the 34€ tho and I look forward to more factions being added, hopefully with campaigns that do not have the clean up phase..
I had the same impression during the demo: the cleanup phase was really uninteresting.
I also had an issue with casualties having zero consequences. It is a big step back from Armageddon and the former games, like Chaos Gate and Final Liberation.
It already triggered me in Dow 2 campaign, but the campaign felt more like a tactical RPG about the "heroes".
 

Hobo Elf

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The bonus objectives not being visible is really strange. The lack of destructible environs also sucks a lot and keeps hammering home just how "static" the game's campaign feels overall. The game feels like a step forward and a step backward from Sanctus Reach. The things they improved on the most are graphics and perhaps UI (not really since Sanctus Reach has more detailed info, but I guess it looks better for casuals), but honestly how many wargamers who play these kind of games are actually put off by lesser graphic qualities? In general it feels like a lot of the design decisions in this game were done to appease people who aren't really into these kind of games.

The game's performance also went to shit for me after I finished the 1st act, when I did the mission where you get ambushed by 'nids and have to kill 3 of the long range "cannon" units. I hope it gets better and the devs didn't just improve the 1st act to bait people into not refunding it due to lame performance.
 

Zboj Lamignat

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I don't care about their reasoning for it, if someone completely drops unit xp, army-building and resource-management then they fail to understand one of the basic layers that makes such games appealing. Especially when it's about spehs maureens ffs.
 

Mefi

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Depends a great deal what game you want to make, no? They probably will add veterancy, as they did with Battlestar Galactica, to some degree but I'd be very surprised if it was particularly more substantial than in a Fields of Glory: Medieval's campaign. That's really where they're coming from. Where I think it's weak , and a reflection of scope/budget, is that if you're going for that TT-ish feel of 'only this battle really matters' then cosmetic customisation becomes increasingly more important so that units feel like the player's own (at least when given this presentation). So it's not Squad 7 of 8 getting splatted by an exocrine, tant pis, but a unit you've invested some time in making look how you want. Not a game crippling loss but something you still will try to avoid. Can see a vague handwave to that argument made in the purity seals added - here's something to care about if you want to and it's all you're getting at this stage of development.

Coming from the more battle focused side of things also is where I believe some of the other decisions follow. You don't normally have a clean up phase because stuff routs, which is thematically absurd in this game so it becomes more difficult to find the right cut off point short of 'kill them all', and there's an absence of desire to tell players 'no, you've fucked this one up, start again' in missions and a preference for 'if you want to fight several dozen nids because you slow assed your way around the objectives you can'. Would say that I rarely have more than 6 to 8 nids to clean up even on the bigger maps and I wonder how much of it may be down to reinforcements being set to 'high' while players are still diiscovering things. Which may be solved by rebalancing the amount of reinforcements on the setting.

Not sure on Hobo's point on performance. Place of Challenge was one of the first maps to be optimised so it may be more related to being early if there is something to the map itself. I'm not seeing anything crazy with it to even sneak a bug report in.
 

Hobo Elf

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My FPS tanked until I dropped the settings to Low. It's super smooth on that setting. I'm not sure what's causing it, probably some poorly optimized shadows as usual I suspect.
 

Mefi

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Doubt you'll be alone then, there are obvious other issues raised on Steam (RTX GPU common factor?). I do know there's ongoing work they're doing related to specific areas of maps which can cause big fps drops but those are temporary rather than constant and still on the outer edges of my understanding of anything technical like that.
 

Galdred

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Depends a great deal what game you want to make, no? They probably will add veterancy, as they did with Battlestar Galactica, to some degree but I'd be very surprised if it was particularly more substantial than in a Fields of Glory: Medieval's campaign. That's really where they're coming from. Where I think it's weak , and a reflection of scope/budget, is that if you're going for that TT-ish feel of 'only this battle really matters' then cosmetic customisation becomes increasingly more important so that units feel like the player's own (at least when given this presentation). So it's not Squad 7 of 8 getting splatted by an exocrine, tant pis, but a unit you've invested some time in making look how you want. Not a game crippling loss but something you still will try to avoid. Can see a vague handwave to that argument made in the purity seals added - here's something to care about if you want to and it's all you're getting at this stage of development.
What I don't get is that the carry over of units was one of the things players complained the most about in Sanctus Reach (you had veterancy, but you couldn't know which of your units would be available in which battle), and they made it even worse. I understand the balance issue of it (if losing veteran units is a huge stepback, things can snowball one way or another), but it could be addressed by making veteran units cost a bit more (or making the bonuses minor, or let them be upgraded into another unit, like in Rites of War).
 

Zboj Lamignat

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Depends a great deal what game you want to make, no?
Shrug. No amount of rationalization will change the fact that building your own collection of tin soldiers that you maintain, upgrade and take through missions always was and always will be a big pull for these games. The fact that this one is about commanding an elite group of extremely valuable supersoldiers makes it dumb on top of that.
 

Mefi

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Shrug. No amount of rationalization will change the fact that building your own collection of tin soldiers that you maintain, upgrade and take through missions always was and always will be a big pull for these games. The fact that this one is about commanding an elite group of extremely valuable supersoldiers makes it dumb on top of that.

It's certainly one way to make them. I don't get upset when a unit of levy archers dies in Field of Glory though I do get pissy when the cavalry vanishes off the map chasing routers. Think where I'd agree, as I said in the part you cut out of the quote, is that 40K does lean heavily into customisation as a minimum. I'll pass on the stupidity of trying to marry lore with gameplay. Something gives even if it's handwaving away your Dante model dying in a battle yet again or the twentieth terminator you've thrown at a hulk getting its backside kicked.
 

Galdred

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Shrug. No amount of rationalization will change the fact that building your own collection of tin soldiers that you maintain, upgrade and take through missions always was and always will be a big pull for these games. The fact that this one is about commanding an elite group of extremely valuable supersoldiers makes it dumb on top of that.

It's certainly one way to make them. I don't get upset when a unit of levy archers dies in Field of Glory though I do get pissy when the cavalry vanishes off the map chasing routers. Think where I'd agree, as I said in the part you cut out of the quote, is that 40K does lean heavily into customisation as a minimum. I'll pass on the stupidity of trying to marry lore with gameplay. Something gives even if it's handwaving away your Dante model dying in a battle yet again or the twentieth terminator you've thrown at a hulk getting its backside kicked.
It is true that the tabletop itself always had trouble aligning with the lore. I did send my terminators in suicide missions countless times, and wasted whole space marine companies to take objective markers on a map.
I still don't think going out of their way to make casualties meaningless was a good call. You keep referring FoG2, but their other flagship series, Panzer Corps, does rely on pokemonizing your units (and evolving your panzer 3 into King tigers).
 

Mefi

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What I don't get is that the carry over of units was one of the things players complained the most about in Sanctus Reach (you had veterancy, but you couldn't know which of your units would be available in which battle), and they made it even worse. I understand the balance issue of it (if losing veteran units is a huge stepback, things can snowball one way or another), but it could be addressed by making veteran units cost a bit more (or making the bonuses minor, or let them be upgraded into another unit, like in Rites of War).

As said when discussed before, it was something they actively wanted to avoid doing for release to the extent of reducing elements which could be used as some sort of progression. Balance is an obvious thing to consider but it seemed to run far deeper than that and into not wanting players to feel constrained in how they used most of their units. A lot of the early feedback they were getting was from people who played the game like XCom - creeping along with overwatch fire and being extremely risk averse - that's obviously not going to be happy days if you really want people to charge in with chainsword waving units with a death wish. For what it's worth, I argued quite extensively for other things because I think the customisation at least has to be in place at some point, some mark of veterancy playing into the story of the Primaris progressing.
 

AdamReith

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Played a bit of this yesterday.

Mostly feels like a Sanctus Reach dlc for the blood angels which is no bad thing. I like the fall back actions especially.
 

Galdred

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What I don't get is that the carry over of units was one of the things players complained the most about in Sanctus Reach (you had veterancy, but you couldn't know which of your units would be available in which battle), and they made it even worse. I understand the balance issue of it (if losing veteran units is a huge stepback, things can snowball one way or another), but it could be addressed by making veteran units cost a bit more (or making the bonuses minor, or let them be upgraded into another unit, like in Rites of War).

As said when discussed before, it was something they actively wanted to avoid doing for release to the extent of reducing elements which could be used as some sort of progression. Balance is an obvious thing to consider but it seemed to run far deeper than that and into not wanting players to feel constrained in how they used most of their units. A lot of the early feedback they were getting was from people who played the game like XCom - creeping along with overwatch fire and being extremely risk averse - that's obviously not going to be happy days if you really want people to charge in with chainsword waving units with a death wish. For what it's worth, I argued quite extensively for other things because I think the customisation at least has to be in place at some point, some mark of veterancy playing into the story of the Primaris progressing.

I stopped taking part in Slitherine betas because I felt they didn't listen enough, and rushed their games too much, even though they could have benefited a lot from some more polish (especially Armageddon and Sanctus Reach), but they still implemented some of the suggestions, and eventually made the game better (but it probably was too little too late).

But Chaos Gate did feature a lot of melee combat, and had veterancy (that mattered a lot for melee units actually), so it could still work. In Chaos Gate, you didn't really have much choice given how pitiful bolters were, you had to send the Assault marines in to take care of these pesky heavy weapons, and then wish them good luck after they jumped unsupported in the middle of the enemy lines, unless you were OK with letting the chaos marine snipe your own marines with a laser cannon.
 

Mefi

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I stopped taking part in Slitherine betas because I felt they didn't listen enough, and rushed their games too much, even though they could have benefited a lot from some more polish (especially Armageddon and Sanctus Reach), but they still implemented some of the suggestions, and eventually made the game better (but it probably was too little too late).

But Chaos Gate did feature a lot of melee combat, and had veterancy (that mattered a lot for melee units actually), so it could still work. In Chaos Gate, you didn't really have much choice given how pitiful bolters were, you had to send the Assault marines in to take care of these pesky heavy weapons, and then wish them good luck after they jumped unsupported in the middle of the enemy lines, unless you were OK with letting the chaos marine snipe your own marines with a laser cannon.

One thing which I did wonder was how far the remake of Chaos Gate was influencing things but that is pure idle speculation on my part - the reasons are far more likely to be scope, budget, and trying to figure out ways round players' expectations/assumptions coming into the game. I think Chaos Gate, if it gets it right, is going to sell like hot cakes because of the direction it's set out in. Black Lab have gone a different way so I use a different reference point to compare across to. And Byzantine Games themselves have slowly been improving on how persistency/veterancy of units fits into campaigns - compare Sengoku Jidai with FoG2.

I didn't ever feel not listened to but... will think how I can say some things more politely. One thing I feel safe in saying is that for Black Lab the actual team is really nice but the beta definitely is a beta and changes at that stage are going to be minimal. As I said, this game could easily have been released (optimisation aside) a few months back by another publisher.

edited to change brainfart on maker of FoG's name. Also Sengoku, not Sidoku. Too hot. Brain fried.
 
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