There’s a very real danger that Black Lab’s new Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector could get lost in the flood of Warhammer games being spewed forth from every corner like a liquid plague of mediocrity. As Games Workshop hands out the license like a supermarket handing out free biscuit samples we’ve had to deal with a hugely inconsistent deluge of quality, and so absolute gems like Battlesector can get easily drowned in the tide. But Battlesector deserves to fight to the surface because it’s a great turn-based tactical game with some fun ideas.
Having spent quite a lot of time in hospitals the idea of being a doctor never really appealed to me. Plus, all the illnesses looked super boring. Cystic Fibrosis? Pfft. What’s cool about that, man. Luckily, Two-Point Hospital understands that real illnesses kind of suck and don’t involve anywhere near enough unscrewing people’s heads or patients dying in the corridors and becoming obnoxious ghosts who scare the other patients. Being a doctor is cool again!
This latest digital adaption of the Warhammer 40k universe is being handled by Black Lab Games, the same folk behind the rather good Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock. With this established pedigree, I went into Battlesector with excitement and came out the other side feeling reasonably hopeful. The future is…well, I mean, the future is mostly brown with a lot of blood and violence, but by Warhammer standards, that’s pretty good. Due to launch next month, I got a chance to get hands-on with this new turn-based tactics title set in a universe of dirt, grit, sweat, blood and massive armour. How’s it shaping up?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a bunch of old games being brought back, like how Streets of Rage 4 resurrected a long-dormant franchise or how Crash Bandicoot 4 brought back an iconic character. Now it’s the turn of Evil Genius, a strategy game from 2004 that had you taking control of a Dr Evil style villain and carving out a lair in which you could plot the downfall of the world. The critical reception was fairly middling but the game earned itself something of a cult status. Now, after years of careful plotting and planning, Rebellion has given us the sequel that the original game so deeply deserved.
Admittedly, at my advanced age of 29, it doesn’t take much to make me feel like an idiot these days. These young ‘uns and their complex games full of buttons and icons are so damn hard to keep up with. But one game released in 2020 in particuilar made my brain hurt, made me agonize over every little chance, made me question my every move. And it was a game that was a surprise, a sequel that arrived years and years after the last entry. Yes, Desperados 3 takes hom the highly coveted, hugely sought after award for The Best Game of 2020 That Made Me Feel Stupid.
Before We Leave is built on the basic principles of the classic 4x genre, except it’s actually more of a 3x game. It eschews combat an violence entirely, focusing solely on the other three Xs: explore, expand and exploit. It describes itself as a “non-violent city-building game set in your own cosy corner of the universe.” But can we really enjoy a strategy game without the ever-present threat of war and annihilation? Can we truly be content living peacefully? I mean, how will I be entertained without chainsawing someone in half?
Alder’s Blood certainly has an awesome setup: mankind has killed God, and now His corpse is corrupting the world, unleashing unrelenting horrors in the form of savage beasts. As the game opens you control Duke, a Hunter seeking the body of God in order to hopefully end the torment. But Duke’s reward is instead a haunting vision of horror that leaves him blind. You then swap over to Chief and his band of Hunter’s as they find Duke and set off on a mission to find the body of God, deal with the monsters and hopefully survive this bleak world through turn-based stealth and monster slaying.
When Firaxis brought back the venerable XCOM series from the dead nobody could have predicted how damn good it would be, its turned-based tactical mayhem creating a palpable sense of tension. It was difficult, too, demanding that you contemplate every move or else lose your soldiers forever. XCOM 2 had a rough launch, but it still managed to improve on Enemy Unknown, refining various parts of the core gameplay. Unsurprisingly several companies have attempted to leap onto the bandwagon. Shock Tactics happens to be the latest game trying to capture the magic of yelling at virtual soldiers because they missed a 90% chance to hit. It’s also not that good.
From the screenshots Urban Empire presents itself as a city builder in the vein of Cities Skylines, but in reality it’s more a political game infused with the story of your chosen family through their decades of rule. The actual city construction and management is quite light compared to other games, and thus a lot of Urban Empire is waiting around for your city to grow. Arguably it’s too simple, its lack of precise control and more in-depth options making it feel as though you’re merely poking the city from time to time with a large stick from a great distance while arguing with a bunch of people about poking it again.
Right now the human race is pondering ways of achieving ways to leave our solar system and colonize other planets. Theories on how to terraform Mars or to set up a base on the moon are thrown around constantly. Despite the fact that we’ve yet to sort out our own planet, we already want to travel through space and seek out new planets and life. Stellaris, the new strategy game from genre veteran Paradox, lets you take control of humans or an alien race who embarking on their first forays into the universe, guiding them through the process of setting up a galactic empire, building a military, colonizing new planets, researching powerful technology, handling diplomacy and declaring way. It’s big and flawed and sometimes ugly, but at its core Stellaris is a compelling experience.