[Review] Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus – Nintendo Switch

Written by Akio Kahoshi
  • Developer: Bulwark Studios
  • Publisher: Kasedo Games, KalypsoMediaGroup
  • Release Date: 17/07/2020
  • Price:  £34.99 / $39.99
  • Review code provided by Kasedo Games

INTRODUCING: WARHAMMER 40,000 MECHANICUS SWITCH REVIEW

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is an interesting take on the tactics genre. Taking place in the brutal far future of Warhammer 40k, it focuses on a faction that often appears in other games but is rarely given center stage: the Adeptus Mechanicus. Having played this game, I suspect there is a reason for them usually being supporting actors. Still, the focus on them allowed Bulwark Studios to create a game that is both different narratively and gameplay.

THE CULT OF THE MACHINE

The Adeptus Mechanicus is the religious orginization within the Warhammer 40k universe that supplies the Imperium of Man with much of their technology. It makes sense then why they are present in most Warhammer 40k games in some capacity. Here they take centre stage, which I actually found to be fresh. At least at first.

Even as a general fan (though by no means an expert) of Warhammer 40k lore, I quickly found myself feeling overwhelmed by the dense lore terminology thrown constantly on the screen. The unique way the characters, many of whom are more machine than man, speak was interesting. It may cause the causal gamer to find the story hard to follow, however.

But worse, the general lack of humanity among the characters left them feeling robotic (which is, aptly, the goal of the Adeptus Mechanicus). While the story presents a heavy amount of danger to the involved characters and Imperium as a whole, I felt no tension during game. The Necron enemies never felt like a real threat, despite an early battle where the player is thrown against a nearly unbeatable enemy.

Between the lack of tension, and not terribly friendly to new players lore, the story ends up being the weakest part of the entire game. Thankfully, the gameplay is not a total write off.

EXPLORING THE TOMBS

From the battleship that acts as the home base for Mechanicus, the player is given different missions they can choose from. Each with different difficulties and rewards. Once a mission is chosen, the player picks which of the main units (tech-priests) to deploy, and which of the weaker cohort units to deploy alongside them. While I did not seem to be forced to choose all my tech priests, there was minimal incentive not to given how much stronger they were than the other units.

The actual game play consists of two parts. After deploying for a mission, the player’s chosen squad appears on a holographic style map. Moving the squad between the various room can trigger different situations, ranging from Rogue-like scenarios with different possible outcomes, to battles. The longer it takes the player to get to the final battle, the higher the Necron alert level and thus higher the difficulty.

COMBATING HERESY

Combat is separated into rounds, with each unit getting one turn per round. At the start of each round, the player chooses what units to deploy. The tech priests are deployed at the beginning for free, but any additional troops require cognition points to deploy. These points can be earned through the random events for use at the start of the battle, or through various means during the battle.

These cognition points are really the key to every battle. Not only are they used for the reinforcements, but they are used for any power attacks or special abilities beyond the basic ones. Tech-priests can generate them through standing near special pillars, or special abilities gained by levelling up. They can also be obtained by other means, such as the servator unit which generates one when hit.

Balancing use of the points, and choosing when to deploy units, is how battles are won. Moving around the grid map carefully is the only way to get units into attack range, with tech-priests being able to spend a cognition points to move twice as far. But if they do not have enough points to attack, this can leave them vulnerable.

Positioning also plays a vital role, as moving away from a unit will cause that unit to perform an attack of opportunity. Given that the standard Necron units are ranged only, forcing them into melee range is a must strategically. This also means the player’s units would have to move and provoke an attack of opportunity to perform ranged attacks.

For players that like tactic games with lots of moving parts to consider, Mechanicus delivers. The complexity does not end in combat though, as the performance of the tech-priests is determined before the mission even starts.

BUILDING A BETTER TECH-PRIEST

The tech-priests, up to a maximum of six, are the primary unit as mentioned before. They are the only units that can be upgrades, both through equipment and skills. Using “blackstone” earned during missions, new skills can be bought from a number of tech trees. Each unlock levels up the priest, and gives them an additional equipment point to use.

This equipment ranges from weapons to accessories, all of which are unlocked during missions. Choosing the most powerful weapon for each slot is not necessarily the best strategy, as these weapons also have the highest cognition cost. Since a tech-priest can use as many of their skills/attacks as they want during each turn, balancing cognition use allows a tech-priest to maximise their effectiveness during their turn.

Different cohorts to bring into battle and different canticles, which act as once per battle super abilities, can also be unlocked and used to customise each battle. One thing Mechanicus is definitely not lacking, is player choice.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus offers a lot of density for a tactical game. This means there are tons of ways players can customise their experience, and thus experience the game in different ways. Unfortunately, the story left me wanting and will likely act as a barrier to players not already fans of the universe.

PROS

  • Lots of player choice
  • Different take on the tactics genre

CONS

  • Incredibly dense lore
  • No narrative tension


Verdict
For fans of the 40k universe, Mechanicus will offer an interesting tactical experience. Otherwise the game leaves much to be desired.

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