My laptop specs:
Chassis: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Series (7567) w/ 15.6″ 1920×1080 LED display
Processor: 7th Generation Intel Quad Core i7-7700HQ at 2.8GHz
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti w/ 4gb GDDR5
RAM: 16gb, DDR4, 2400MHz
Hard Drive: 1TB 5400 rpm + 128gb SSD
OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
On January 24, Tindalos Interactive launched their new outer space RTS Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2, which is set in Games Workshop’s wildly popular Warhammer 40,000 universe and published by Focus Home Interactive. In the interest of saving my fingers some trouble, I’m going to shorten it on down to BFGA2 for the rest of the article.
Obviously, BFGA2 is the follow-up to Tindalos’s original Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, released in 2016. In case you’re not familiar with this particular type of RTS, you take command of several fleets of warships and send them into combat on a large battlefield against enemies. The size of your fleets depends on a maximum number of points available to a battlefield – smaller ships cost fewer points, larger ships cost more and you’ll need to find a healthy balance in order to maintain an effective military force. Maneuverability is slow and deliberate, with an array of commands you can give to individual ships or groups. For example, deploy different types of weapons with different ranges and speeds of fire to take down enemy ships’ shields or hulls – you can even focus fire on different parts of enemy ships like engines, weapons, etc. – but they won’t go down easy. When you take damage, you can initiate repairs on your ships or boost away from the fight at the cost of a different system’s effectiveness.
I mentioned you can ram ships, right? No? Okay. So if you have a ship that’s clearly larger than an opponent’s (or you don’t mind sacrificing it for the greater good), you can chart a collision course and go full speed ahead and just plow right through the enemy. It’s glorious.
In BFGA2, there are two kinds of battles: you either strive to annihilate the fleet entirely or control a majority of strategic areas, which accumulate points towards a maximum goal. However, these skirmishes aren’t just stacked in a row for you to play. The outermost interface of the game is a galaxy map grouping together as many as a dozen solar systems. From the outset of your campaign, your fleets have control over one system. You must move them one star system at a time to take over new star systems and dominate the given sector of the galaxy. Some systems are occupied by enemy forces and you’ll need to run a battle against them; other systems are empty and ripe for the taking. Each system also has points of interest in it – planets, gas clouds, moons, asteroid fields, etc. – that you can level up over time to earn you more resources and funds or higher repair speeds to grow your fleets and keep them fixed up after battles. In addition, once you take over a system, if you have enough resources you can build defenses up to thwart enemy fleets invading your systems while you’re off in another part of the galaxy. Lose too many systems and your economy comes to a halt – no more repairs, no buying new ships/fleets, etc. This makes BFGA2 as much about resource management and city growth as it does large-scale space battles.
The game features solo and co-op campaign modes and a quick battle mode against an AI or other players online. If this sounds a little thin, buckle up. For starters, there are three full campaigns with separate stories and fully-voiced cutscenes (at least for now; a fourth campaign is due out later this year). You can play an Imperium campaign with multiple allied imperial factions, a Tyranid campaign and a Necron campaign. No word yet on the fourth campaign, but I’d put money on Chaos or Orks. Also, each campaign plays and feels different, as one would expect from the varied races of Warhammer 40k. Ships have drastically different abilities and weapons from one faction to another, star system management is unique and leveling up your military throughout each campaign unlocks different skills and abilities to keep things fresh. I didn’t have the chance to play the co-op campaign mode for this review, but Tindalos just announced that it’s still technically an early release portion of the game so I wouldn’t feel comfortable grading a work-in-progress anyway.
The quick skirmish mode is immense as well. Simply titled “Battle,” it offers players the chance to jump right into a fight with several chosen parameters. You can choose from any one of the 12 original Warhammer 40k factions: Imperial Navy, Adeptus Astartes, Adeptus Mechanicus, Chaos, Corsair, Asuryani, Drukhari, Orks, Necrons, Tyranids, T’au Protector Fleet and T’au Merchant Fleet. And those factions aren’t just re-skins, either. They’re all wildly different in play style and appearance. Each of the 12 factions has between six and 11 sub-factions to choose from as well. Overall, there are a total of eight unlockable skills to choose from, which serve as special weapons or ship powers for a skirmish, and 10 unlockable upgrades, which provide stat boosts. You can equip two skills and two upgrades per skirmish, and you unlock them by leveling up your factions. Once you’ve navigated all that, you can select a prefab fleet or create your own custom fleet, then customize your battlefield with different terrain options (gas clouds provide stealth cover, asteroid clusters damage ships that pass through them, etc.) and get the fighting underway.
And holy crow, is this game a looker. The sense of scale is apparent from the beginning – your entire outfit will take up just a small portion of the battlefield, but zoom in and you’ll find enough detail on your ships that suggests the smallest ones are the size of skyscrapers and the biggest ones are massive floating cities. The backgrounds feature starry expanses, enormous planets and drifting planet-sized architectural ruins. Ships blow up in beautiful explosions, EMP-style mines detonate and cause visual distortion around affected ships and weapons leave epic trails behind them as they seek their targets. Ditto for the sound department. The voice acting is very convincing, the music is dramatic, the foley effects are spot-on and it just sounds rich and full every minute you play. I’m kind of amazed it ran on my laptop, which is just over the advertised minimum specs, considering how great it looks and sounds. I did have the occasional slowdown or hiccup, but keep in mind that’s because I was running it at all its highest settings. Anyone with a stronger PC or who’s willing to play on slightly lower graphical configurations should have no problems with it.
So what’s the catch? There are just a couple small things that keep BFGA2 from being a perfect title. The biggest issue I had is that the game absolutely pours information about its controls and features on you from the start. Tips and notifications pile up on the right side of the screen and more than once I found myself missing something I needed to know because of the ongoing voiceover dialogue and sheer amount of incoming info. Overall, I got it, but I think I’d have a better handle on the game’s intricacies and techniques if it hadn’t all flown by at once. Second, as of release, there are still occasional bugs even after both its betas. In one instance, the first dialogue box/voiceover of a scene didn’t load and I found myself starting mid-conversation. In another, I caught an error about a menu not existing on a loading screen. I’m sure these things will get patched, but it wouldn’t be honest of me to sweep them under the rug today. Finally, and this is a silly minor quibble, the ships and the things that happen to them (the aforementioned EMP distortion fields, near-invisible stealth modes, explosions) are so beautiful I wanted to zoom up all the way to watch them happen but there was so much else going on I found myself having to pull back and keep an eye on all my ships for virtually the entirety of each engagement. You’re probably thinking “Well duh, of course; you got buttloads of ships to manage,” and I understand that’s part of the genre (call it a necessary evil) but I wish there were a way around it like a little corner pop-up window so I could see the destruction while still maintaining my other ships or something.
Despite those hiccups, Tindalos Interactive’s Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is a lovely behemoth. It looks and sounds terrific, it plays great, there’s so much to explore and do and it seems to have a lot of upcoming post-launch support and new content coming to keep us playing for years to come. I’m happy to give this a 9 out of 10 and I recommend you go buy it.
Disclaimer: AIR Entertainment was given a free copy of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 for review.