Warhammer 40k: Battlesector – suit up Space Marine
Let’s get the release details out of the way before we discuss what you can expect from the newest and upcoming entry in the Warhammer 40k oeuvre.
Release date: May 2021, unfortunately the specific date has not been confirmed at the time of writing.
Developer and Publisher: Black Lab Games are doing the development, and while they haven’t released many games, their most recent release, Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, did fairly well on Steam. Publisher Slitherine ltd. has some experience with Warhammer 40k Gladius and Sanctus, and they also published a little gem we did a review on in Stirring Abyss.
With the release details out of the way, we can discuss what type of game you can expect when playing Warhammer 40k: Battlesector.
Gritty turn-based strategy
The publisher provided us with two playable levels from the campaign, each showcasing different aspects of the strategic layers of the game. Each mission provides you with an army that you can deploy and control to achieve the objectives of the mission. We probably have to qualify what “army” means in this context.
It certainly isn’t armies at the scale you can expect from the Total War games, so I guess that means it’s more of a force. But it also isn’t nearly as intimate and small as a squad from say the XCOM games. It is somewhere in-between. You probably have questions pertaining to how it plays then? Well, we would say that while you command different squads of units (and sometimes single-unit squads), the game plays as if you are controlling single entities. In other words, it plays more like XCOM than Total War.
Each squad in your army has the normal things you would expect from a turn-based game such as movement points and action points. You spend these to move around (very important) and attack or use abilities (also pretty important). There is no initiative and Warhammer 40k: Battlesector works with turns. During your own turn, you can move and attack with any of your squads until you are happy with your moves. Once you decide to end your turn, the enemy will have theirs and this cycle continues until you achieve victory or crash to defeat. Momentum is any interesting mechanic. You gain momentum while engaging in combat, encouraging a slightly more aggresive approach to your tunr-based tactics.
Bloody satisfying combat
Warhammer 40k: Battlesector does not innovate much on the turn-based strategy front, but it packages the experience in a bloody and shiny wrapping. Combat is flashy with enough particle effects to light up the world like a Christmas tree. Bolters fire a satisfying stream of blue projectiles that melt away at the health of enemy squads while your heavier units bombard the enemy with explosives or mini-gun fire.
Corpses do not disappear during the mission, so you can see where you had epic battles. Apart from the corpses, there is also a generous helping of blood to mark the area. This all means that it feels impactful when your forces clash with the enemy. Speaking of the enemy, the missions we had to test were not light on enemy squads and you can be sure that missions will be action packed.
Satisfying combat in turn-based games requires a decent variety in the ways you can engage enemies. This was on show in the missions we had to play, as each different squad type had unique ways of engaging the enemy. There is also a good mix of melee and ranged attacks, giving you ample strategic opportunities.
We can summarise by saying that combat felt solid and was satisfying throughout the experience.
We couldn’t choose the difficulty of the experience and played on what we assume is the normal difficulty setting. For many of you who enjoy turn-based strategy games, having a decent challenge is very important. The normal difficulty was surprisingly punishing and was especially hard on bad movement and formation. We actually failed the first level as we spread our forces too thin, and as a result we could not complete the objective in time.
In the retail version of the game, you should find more than enough challenge in the experience!
Do we need another Warhammer 40k game?
We are not the first to ask this question, and it certainly isn’t a new question. In 2015 PC Gamer was of the opinion that we need more and in 2016 Kotaku felt we had more than enough. We love the dystopian world and lore of the Warhammer universe, and we believe that there is still a lot of life left in it. Of course there have been a few terrible games with the Warhammer 40k sticker on them, but it is such a rich vein to draw from that we stay optimistic. While Warhammer 40k: Battlesector won’t revolutionise the turn-based strategy genre, it provides an enjoyable experience for turn-based fans.