Seems you can never have too many Warhammer 40K startegy titles, and Battlesector is the latest in a long line of turn based strategy games to try and bring as much of the tabletop experience to your screen as possible. Does this attempt from Black Lab Games succeed? Lets take a look.
Battlesector takes place on the now desolate planet of Baal, ravaged after years of war, in the aftermath of it’s devastation. You’ll be tasked with helping Sergeant Carleon and his allies purge the Tyranid infestation on Baal Secundus, and in doing so preserve the honour of the noble Blood Angels.
Story here is generally presented with some nice artwork showcasing the planet or current situation with fully voiced dialogue for the few main characters played out, fans of the franchise will appreciate the fleshing out of some more lore in the universe. The campaign is a good length too, around 25 hours depending on how thorough the cleansing of Baal is, and doesn’t really drag on or fall short. Outside of the campaign you get the usual skirmish mode, as well as a multiplayer offer of the same ilk, with an interesting hot-seat multiplayer for those on the same system. Pretty standard really, but enough to keep one interested for a while.
If there’s one thing these turn based strategy’s tend to get right in the 40K universe, it’s the presentation. The numerous Blood Angel units are detailed pretty well here alongside the xeno scum, leader units also have enough individual flair to be noticeable, and the various effects and gore during the combat can leave many a corpse ridden battlefield. The battlefields themselves are also good given their enclosed nature, atmospheric at times too, with plenty of obstructions and structures like on the tabletop – there was a little more variety to the stages than I was expecting too
Variety doesn’t quite make its way to the audio. Music is good, the effects boom as you would expect and it’s surprising just how much of the game is voiced. Here is the issue though as your units tend to only have a few phrases and a long drawn out battle will have you wanting to purge heretics by hand. Luckily performance is really good at the moment, my system (R51600/16GB/RTX 2080ti) made easy work of the game at max settings for 4K/60. Unfortunately couldn’t test on my laptop as the GPU is kaput, but given the specs required some tweaking could yield playability for lower systems easily enough.
If you’ve played Sanctum Reach from the same publisher, then you may find some similarities with this game – though it doesn’t quite seem as in-depth as that. Whilst Battlesector can feel a tad more streamlined, it does still go some way to offering a faithful adaptation of the tabletop game. You’ll generally find yourself up against those pesky Tyranids in a last man standing skirmish, so efficient use of your units here is key to victory as reinforcements are not always guaranteed. Each unit has their own movement & action points, as well as stats and abilities, so tactical use of each units strength will generally see victory – even at higher difficulties. You will also have momentum on your side if built up, allowing a unit to ‘surge’ and string attacks. Bolstering your units in the management HQ, as well as upgrading leaders, is all in one place thankfully. I mentioned that it’s streamlined before and this simple army management setup and the fact the game can be played almost entirely with the mouse goes some way to showing that.
There are a couple of issues with the game that prevent it from routing the xenos’s, and that is enemy AI and unit balance. Sure the enemy does occasionally use more advanced tactics and will flank etc., but all too often they’ll just charge your overwatched choke points to get thinned out. This also bleeds a little into unit balance. Sure there’s plenty to unlock as you play, but most will eventually become useless as progression is made – the Aggressors used early on for example are not worth using after a few missions if you improve other units, as you can field more of them or they have better damage output. These things are mentioned in the post launch roadmap for improvement, but for now they stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise superb showing. The roadmap also has additional factions listed, at the moment just the Blood Angels & Tyranids are available to play, which is a must as only 2 will tire fast.
Warhammer 40K Battlesector does plenty of things right, it manages to streamline things enough to be welcoming for those outside the tabletop realm as well as offering enough tactical depth for veterans – all whilst looking & sounding just right for some xeno purging on Baal Secundus. Some issues do crop up that affect the gameplay for the moment, mainly in AI and unit balancing, but these are at least on a post launch roadmap for improvement. Warhammer fans will likely already have this in their library, but those interested would be wise to keep an eye on Battlesector as there’s a fantastic game here once tweaked & added to
Manages to hold the Tyranids at bay, but without a decisive victory gained the fighting must continue