Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector Review – Who Gave that Coffin a Gun?
Developed by Black Lab Games
Published by Slitherine Ltd.
Available on PC
There comes a time in every person’s life where they have to realize some harsh truths about themselves. For me, it took 31 years to realize: I do not know how to play real-time strategy games. I did my best, I really did. I am not militarily-minded enough to figure out how to be good at this type of game. It doesn’t help that I also have no knowledge of the WH40K universe. I had to send out a desperate plea to company owner Ted Hentschke to get a crash course on 40K lore.
With lore in my head and determination in my heart, I proceeded to do absolutely everything wrong as it pertains to warfare. I was setting up firing lines like the British during the Revolutionary War. It’s a tactic that was soundly defeated by not standing in a straight line, yet I continued to do it. “More soldiers facing the enemy means better coverage, right? I’m hopeless. Thankfully, Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector had me covered.
If you don’t play real-time strategy games, don’t worry. Battlesector understands and will lead you along. The interface can be a bit confusing, but the core is there: You need to move your army around and shoot things. It’s very straightforward in its presentation. In my 10+ hours with the game, I rarely came across a mission that delved any deeper than “do a shoot until it is done”. I didn’t mind that at all. It gave me an opportunity to deliver my ultimately failed military mindset. You’ll play as the blood knights, which, according to my understanding, are vampires. Their vampirism doesn’t feature in the game that I saw, but it’s a nice bit of lore.
The variety of units is awesome. I had a walking coffin with chainguns. They’re called dreadnoughts and they’re probably the coolest thing in the world. It’s a dead soldier stuffed into a walking coffin. Neither dead nor alive, they’re doomed to stomp across the earth, talking about how their duty will only end with death. It’s heavy stuff. As I understand it, the universe of Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, and WH40K in general, is just heavy stuff. Everyone is some kind of tortured forever soldier longing for glory, and absent that; death.
There are little mechanics that make the game easier for novices like me. The overwatch command is fantastic. It’s a button that essentially says, “if it moves. kill it.”. It allowed me to arrange my soldiers and not worry about selecting each one to fire off their own little volley of bullets. In overwatch mode, they’ll just shoot anything that even once had the fleeting thought that it might be possible to dunk on a blood knight. You’ll start with one commander, with their own upgrade tree, that affects the units nebulously assigned as under their command. I say nebulously because for some reason the lieutenant is in charge of assault teams, but the priest is in charge of inceptor teams. Maybe it’s a Warhammer thing.
As you play through the game, you’ll recruit new commanders that will be in your army for each battle. Each commander has their own upgrade tree to fiddle with, which provides stat increases, new abilities, and weapons to your units. The only issue I have with this system is that the upgrade points are shared between all of the commanders, meaning the deeper you go into the game, the more you’ll have to decide on a playstyle. It shuts down your ability to improvise and goof around with all the units.
Another small issue is the voice lines. My god the voice lines. Units are quick to scream themselves hoarse over any perceived action on the battlefield. It got to the point where voice lines were covering each other up. It formed so many layers of grunting, screaming, and calls for violence that it was akin to an annoyance lasagna, with plenty of cheesiness. These are small complaints. I overall really enjoy the game. It gives you an interesting story about giant hulking soldiers and their living coffin buddy investigating the return of something called The Leviathan.
The unit models in this game are probably the closest I’ll ever come to owning those little miniatures that people paint. They’re lovingly detailed, with subtle and not-so-subtle differences between each unit type. During the action, you can zoom in to watch them do their dark work from right over their shoulders if you’d want. I liked seeing the little details on all the models. The walking coffin does in fact contain a body. I don’t know if it’s against the rules of Warhammer, but I’d like an option to paint the armor a color other than red. The blood knights might need red armor or something, I don’t know, and the game isn’t telling me.
You’ll be fighting Tyranids – which are just the bugs from Starship Troopers – for the majority of the game. Later on, you’ll run into some more interesting enemies. Starting out, the Tyranids are easy cannon fodder. Occasionally they’ll bring in a big bug that’s akin to artillery for Tyranids, and you get to shoot it to pieces. The enemies are actually a bit uninspired. They don’t exist for inspection any deeper than, “is not wearing 4,000 lbs of armor. Kill it”. It seems much more care went into the design of the units you direct. That isn’t a bad thing, since I have to see those units all the time.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector will actually hit you with a lot of terms from the outset that, unless you’re a fan of the property already, you will have no clue what they mean. Primarchs, Omnissiah, inceptor, techmarine, and about a hundred others. Battlesector doesn’t much care to teach you these terms. It just assumes since you’re playing the game, then you must know 40K lore. In a certain sense, that’s true. This is a game for Warhammer fans. The only complaint I’ve heard from a WH40K certified knower-of-things, is that the game may be too easy for veteran RTS players.
I liked what I played. The writing is heavy, grim, dark, and goofy. I think those are traits you’d want in a 40K game. It takes itself seriously while never committing to fully taking itself seriously. If you’re looking for an RTS that plays nice for new players, then you’re in for a treat with Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector.