On January 15, everyone’s favorite race of intelligent xenos joined the world of Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, read our review right here in which I gave it a 9 out of 10 for being a tense and dynamic 4X game with wildly varying gameplay based on which of the four available races you choose to play as.
Now that you’re up to speed, let’s talk Tyranids! Adding yet another new style of play to Gladius, the Tyranid expansion pack allows you to play as – or against – Warhammer 40k’s much-storied gun-wielding bugs. If you’ve played as more than one of the original races of the game before, you may have recognized a basic formula to your armies and cities. You make buildings and structures that earn different types of resources, expanding your city or cities on hex-based maps and exploring with varying units. Units include basic infantry, close-combat fighters, units that can fly/jump over harsher terrain more quickly, vehicles of varying stats, hero units and so on. While these basic ideas all recur with Tyranids, they stand brilliantly apart from the others.
The dynamic nuances that made the Necrons, Orks, Space Marines and Astra Militarum feel so unique return again with the ravenous insects. First, Tyranids consume the tiles on which their cities are built just as much as they inhabit them. Each city tile’s statistics, which are shown on mouseovers, now include a stat for biomass. Should you choose to expand your city to a chosen tile, the biomass resource will affect your ability to build new structures and units.
Second, if you need a biomass boost in a sticky situation, you can instantly “reclaim” one of your units, recycling them into the precious resource that fuels Tyranid domination. This may sound a bit counterproductive, since there’s always a challenge in leveling up your units, but if you find yourself in a losing battle surrounded by enemies and you’re going to flee anyway and nurse your wounds for six or eight turns, why not just break your troops down and start anew?
Third, once you’ve begun to adjust to this new facet of city management, there’s the new out-and-about components to learn. For example, many Tyranid units struggle with the game’s existing morale stat, which affects accuracy and damage. Morale is affected by the flow of a battle, and your infantry units start with such a limited number of maximum points that they can go from full accuracy and damage to 33% in a matter of minutes. Luckily, you can spend resource on morale-boosting stats to keep your xenos running and gunning – if you plan ahead properly, of course. Infantry traits and stats are also affected by the Tyranid hive mind, which spreads around a radius from the high-ranking troops you can deploy. Think of your stronger, heroic units like wi-fi hotspots and the infantry (Hormagaunts, Termagants, etc) like laptops. So long as you keep a tight-knit formation near the hero units, the foot soldiers behave and have an easier time following orders. Let them run wild, however, and soon they’ll be attacking allies and screwing up your entire campaign.
What’s even better is, just adding this one race of 40k creatures into the mix makes for a whole lot of added play time. You’ll be lucky to even begin playing competently with these xenos after spending four or five hours alone with them, and you’ll be happy with every minute you spend getting that far. Never mind the fact that even a single small/easy match in Gladius can take several hours longer than that. This is no re-skin; it’s literally a game changer.
If there’s one impression I got from the Tyranids expansion pack that I can leave with you, it’s this. In the base game, I felt as though the Space Marines, Astra Militarum and Orks were armies marching to conquer lands and subdue foes. They didn’t all play or feel “the same,” but there was a kind of dependable consistency there. The Necrons, on the other hand, felt like an invasion of an ancient, grudge-bearing race hoping to reclaim its land, and I loved how different that felt. Now that the Tyranids are upon us, we have a third radically unique play style. This is an infestation, people. It’s like Aliens mixed with Starship Troopers. I feel kinda funny rating an expansion pack, so instead I’ll say that in this reviewer’s opinion, Gladius’s first major DLC is definitely worth the price of admission if you already enjoy the game.
Disclaimer: AIR Entertainment was provided with a free copy of the Tyranids DLC pack for review.