Ok, after spending some serious time with the "open" Beta I can say this is the Wh40k game I waited decades on - mostly.
Huge wall of text incoming...business as usual with me, I am sorry but I cannot be concise even if my life would depend on it
Disclaimer - Beta Scope:
The beta only let us use Chaos and Imperial fleet which is ok since the original Miniature Game started with those two factions as well but as they are mechanically way too similar I cannot vouch for the kinks and twists Orks and Eldar Fleet will offer past release. I have a sizeable Eldar miniature fleet so I know that they play vastly different then the Imperial or Chaos Faction.
For what I could see from the Campaign mode I am totally won over. If anyone played Dawn of War 2 (and to a much lesser extend the 2 expansions Chaos Rising and Retribution) you might feel right at home with that Strategy Meta-Game. You are presented with a part of the galaxy map with lots to do between missions. One thing Dow 2 nailed perfectly was the intensity of the Metagame. The ever rising menace of the tyranid invasion. i believe this will play out here similarly. You have lots of planets to cover and when things will pick up (anyone familiar with the lore around the BF Gothic lore will know it will) you will have to make difficult choices...save this Hive World or that Agrar World. With limited deployments each day I am sure we will have to make tough decisions later on who to support and who to feed to the dogs. As each different planet has different (useful) boni it will be a dilemma which bonus to loose in the long term.
Also as this is a resource based game the choices what to do with your fleet (its a persistent game so fleet-upgrades do cary over to the following missions) will have a great impact on your performance as well as playstyle...
For example I could slot my precious few Cruiser slots with ships heavy on Torpedoes or heavy on Novacannon-armament or go for a strike-craft heavy setting using lots of "Carrier" Cruisers. If I want to switch focus/playstyle mid campaign I would either have to scrap experienced crews (you can level each ship crew on 5-6 different criteria), skills and upgrades for a newbie vanilla ship or wait for another slot to open up to put a ship into that slot with desired stats. As this slots are handed out sparingly as you level up (and given the skirmish / MP-progression this slots are scarce and far between to begin with), this may be a tough cookie to swallow. At least it was for me during my skirmish and MP games but more to that later.
As you gain slots to fill with ships to your liking (the ships are basically free and don’t cost resources - don’t confuse resource cost for upgrades with point value for fleet roster) for different ship classes (light cruiser, cruiser, battlecruiser and battleships) there is lots and lots of possibilities to macro-engineer your fleet as well as micro engineering it (Skills, Crew leveling, Upgrades)
Also they have a neat system to reward careful planning/ strategic thinking here. Loosing ships during battle has several negative effects, they spent time in dry-docks for repair, also it takes time to re-train new crews for the ships. So several turns you may have to fall back on your second tier-ships – which will make the next couple of encounters more difficult. So careful play or accepting a defeat early and bow out to fight another day will be rewarded in this game.
Thankfully that does only apply to light Cruisers and above. Escort ships (Frigates and Destroyers) are handled as throwaway options and can be included as you seem fit. No penalties if they are destroyed as they can be replaced without any penalties from an infinite Escort Ship pool. They can be customized as well but here you customize a whole class of ship not ships individually so the options are a bit toned down, which is ok.
Later after release there will be further customizing ships with different colors and hull parts and gimmicks for more unique looks.
Nothing much to add, anyone familiar with games like Homeworld or any WW2 Ship RTS feels right at home on the battlefield. They may be a bit sparse on details on the battlefield (space clouds and asteroid fields at the moment only) which either hide or damage your ships. So they might be positioned differently each time and reward strategic play or setting up the fleet clever will reward you in some way but aside from that the battlefield is a bit …boring.
However they pulled out all other tricks. The different ships are beautifully to look at and move quite as expected (in other words quite graceful….slow as heck)
Bearing has a huge impact on gameplay (dorsal /frontal or broadside armaments have quite different stats, firing arcs and ranges as well as armor plating can be better/worse if different parts of the ships are hit). You can also set your ships to favor frontal attacks /broadside attacks at a specific range. So you can migate a few of the micromanagement options and let the ships try to find the perfect position to open fire. Also you can set up your weapons to target specific targets on the other ships. So targeting subsystems like engines, deck or generators will have different effects and can be immensly helpful in some missions where the goal is to prevent enemies to gbreak trough or run away.
All skills are handed differently from the tabletop version. Some skills are universal for each ship but share a cooldown together so if you “Brace for Impact” you can’t use any other associated general skills for 2-3(!) minutes.
The customized skills have individual timers and can have quite the impact on gameplay. One time I used a sneaky micro-warp jump to reposition my ship for a timely focused heavy attack on my Multiplayer opponent’s crippled Heavy Cruiser which I wanted to take out of the game permanently before his superior shields would be up again. The plan backfired on me because I positioned myself near another ship of my fleet. The micro-jump has a short delay. With great horror I came to realize that my opponent has set his eye on my other ship. He first threw a stasis bomb on my other ship and launched a huge barrage of torpedoes from several of his ships (which were lined up perfectly for that maneuver ahead of time) which I could not flee due to the bomb. So I had just served him two ships on a silver platter….bad luck for me but thinking ahead is rewarded greatly in this game. I believe I lost the game in that 15 seconds, as I was moderately sure about my victory before that happened.
Even without skilled/teched out ships there are lot of options from the get-go. Torpedo Attacks, Nova Cannon (long range Aoe), Lances, macro Cannons, Teleport Attacks, Boarding Attacks, Bomber Strike Craft and ramming (!). You think I am kidding? I won a game by suicide ramming myself into another ship. Both ships went down in flames but I prevented him from fleeing the battle with that ship (which was his objective to begin with).
One big + for me is that the games can be played by people not from ultra-hardcore RTS background (or South Koreans apparently if you ever watched a professional Starcraft tourney) micro management helps and split second decisions may be sometimes necessary but you don’t have to click madly like you want to break a Guinness Book record or something. Also you can slow down gameplay to a crawl to assign orders in peace or see your plans come to ruin in slooooo-mooooo. This can be applied to multiplayer as well (!) but you have a resource cost assigned in MP. After “pausing” the game in MP a bar appears which gradually empties. If you run out of bar you cannot pause again for that match, same applies for your enemy. I find this quite well handled, as both players get a quick breather and it helps if you really need to give a crucial command chain and want to do it right without fearing to fumble trough it because you need to time it perfectly.
While the battlefield can be a bit dull to look at thankfully the mission types are quite varied. Cruiser battles (kill em all), Convoy missions, Blockade runner, Assassinate missions (Kill that one specific ship), Data Rescue missions (something like capture the flag) can be either played as Attacker or Defender, so the game offers quite the reasonable different options to not boring / repetitive at all.
Also warping out ships to save them from being completely destroyed has many often overlooked benefits. You may lose the fight but you have a less crippled fleet overall, also you prevent your opponents winning points as success is also measured how many ships you have crippled and/or destroyed. Of course the opponent won’t let you do as you please. I learned the hard way that running into the battle ahead of my fleet support then trying to warp out 20 seconds later to prevent full loss of all hands is quite the bad idea. Warping out takes 10 seconds, the enemy is aware of you trying to warp out and also can (and will) try to prevent that via las-second boarding/teleport attacks.
Fleet setup is usually done and balanced that way that each ship has a different point value assigned and you have the option to bring few heavy hitters or try to swarm him with a throw-away zerg or something in between. There is also a risk/reward setup here. Feel superior? Go and win with only 200 points dispatched from the allowed 300 you Elitist you! If successful you get the 100 point difference as an reward after the match ends.
Also for players with bad luck or slow learning the ropes-> even losing gives you small rewards so you won’t be crippled in either MP or SP with a losing streak, just slowed down.
Talking about MP:
There are 3 modes currently available. SP Campaign, SP Skirmish against AI and true MP. They are completely separate from another and you start out small in each of them. No “End of the World” 2000 Point Battles right from the start. You start with small 200 point fleet roosters with one or two main Ships available and work your way up. So playing many Skirmishes and MP battles levels you up and gives you more options for your fleet. The Community is divided about this “feature” in MP but I quite like it. The “Gimme me everything NAOW!” faction can go to hell for all I care. Small scale battles can be quite fun and “forcing” you to do the scenic route trough small cruisers up to the battleships forces you to learn the ropes and differences. In the original Miniature game I was quite the fan of Light Cruisers but was miffed about their survivability. Here they are perfectly balanced and suite my playstyle quite well. Matches usually are resolved after 10-20 Minutes so including set-up you can get in 3-5 games in an hour if you want.
Currently pre-release the only option is 1vs1 which will be joined by 2vs2 later on as well as private matches. I was sad that there was no head to head directly (my brother and I were playing the miniature game since release so we wanted to go head to head) but with a bit of luck and synch joining the MP queue we got lucky and played a few games directly.
The game is a bit rough on the edges I hope it will be a bit more polished for/after release. I had some game crashes but nothing too bad. Your mileage may vary as the forums on steam paint a picture of some problems getting the game to run but It worked like a charm for both me and my brother.
Totally biased and unprofessional complains:
-What I miss is a bit more inertia in ship collisions. Ramming other ships had a bit too much feel of auto scooter or pool billiard.
-Ships need to go down in flames….no really! While the visuals in the game are really nice - I really liked the Homeworld 2 final moments of capital ships. You had a flash and shockwave when a warp drive gave his last sigh and the effects could be heard, seen and felt on the other part of the solar system in the game. Nothing like the feeling of despair or victory when something huge collapsed there. I miss the forced moaning of steel (Yes in space you can’t hear sounds I know - now go play over there with your looser friends you realism-nerd you) and short lived stars from HW2. In Battlefleet: Armada the final moments of a ship are a bit….underwhelming….
-It is played on a 2D plane...which is fine if you have the Minature Game roots in mind....but come on...space and 3D and stuff....
The game is a wet dream for space fleet combat nerds (me, myself and I) with tons and tons of customization both in SP, AI-skirmish and MP. 4 different factions at release, wide array of mission types, persistent fleet and resource management as well as no twitch-reflex skills necessary it is by far the best game in the Warhammer 40k Setting for someone like me. It’s fun, it can be toned down to slow-mo for giving commands, you have the rich and colorful Wh40k lore if you care for it (beginners may not understand the references but they are a bonus cookie not an requirement. A bit rough around the edges but nice too look at.
If you liked games like Homeworld, Haegemonia or Conquest:Frontier Wars or similar games like Sins of a Solar Empire or any WW2 Fleet Real time Simulator you may not look further.
This was the game I hoped Sid Meier’s Starships was meant to be (only turnbased)
Last edited by Private Prinny
on Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.