At an early press preview, Wargamer got to play with the final faction for the upcoming RTS Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin, the Disciples of Tzeentch. Our main takeaway from an afternoon spent testing the game’s army painter, roguelike Conquest Mode, and two-v-two multiplayer, was that unleashing Tzeentch’s ultimate ability utterly slaps.
If you’re not yet familiar with Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin, think of it as a Warhammer fantasy version of Dawn of War. Players scrap for control of mission-critical objectives that are your ultimate route to success, and resource-providing arcane conduits. You’ll need those resources to summon new units into the fray, upgrade your forces, and activate unique unit abilities.
The game was first announced with two Age of Sigmar armies, the stolid Stormcast Eternals and sneaky Orruk Kruleboyz, while another early preview revealed the ghostly Nighthaunt. With the forces of Order, Destruction, and Death accounted for, Tzeentch rounds out the lineup with a Warhammer Chaos faction.
Tzeentch is the chaos god of magic, schemes, secrets, lies, and ambition. The faction is weighted towards ranged combat, with low defense. The starting hero – a Tzeentch magister – is primarily a ranged damage dealer that can buff the effectiveness of Tzaangor heavy infantry. Pink Horrors are ranged attackers that should break down into smaller Blue Horrors, but either that ability was locked behind a research upgrade I missed, or the preview build glitched out, as we never saw that happen.
Once a unit is engaged in melee with an enemy in Realms of Ruin, they’ll fight to the death. You can hit the “retreat” button at the cost of some reinforcement points, but being stuck in combat killed our Magister far more frequently than any other hero that we’ve tested. We suspect that Tzeentch will require more micro-management than other factions; some upgrades to resource gathering structures provide targetable, activated abilities, which are powerful but require attention.
What isn’t “micro” about the Tzeentch faction is their top tier unit, the Lord of Change. This utterly massive daemon dominates the screen. It’s not immune to damage but it can put out a frightening amount of punishment if it gets the chance. It has two cool-down abilities: Rod of Sorcery, the lesser of the two, goes off like a hand-grenade of glowing magic nastiness.
The greater ability, Infernal Gateway, is a nuclear bomb. It costs as much to activate as constructing several units, but that’s okay, because it will eat anything it touches. The visual effects of this are simply stunning: the daemon opens a hole in reality directly to the Realm of Chaos, and a beam of concentrated unreality pummels the target area, melting through enemy units’ health bars like a blowtorch through a scented candle.
Playing two-v-two multiplayer with another journalist against QA testers was inevitably fun, thanks to the camaraderie of a shared battle, but the Tzeentch nuke was the highlight of both our games together. It’s a spectacle, a fireworks show, the kind of joyous overkill that hasn’t really been part of RTS games since Red Alert two’s super-weapons. Perhaps the high cost, high cooldown, and late game availability balance it, but it felt almost impolite.
We also got the chance to test out the Nighthaunt faction for the first time. The spooky ghost boys were fast, had fear effects that would repulse enemy units, the ability to turn invisible, and powerful magic, including the ability to summon a high level unit directly into battle. They feel like another tricksy faction, but with their reliable infantry hordes they’re perhaps a little less reliant on late-game power than Tzeentch.
The army painter was easy to use; I created a fetching teal and pink Tzeentch army. It labels all the colors with the same names as Games Workshop’s real life paints for miniatures, making it easy to reproduce your tabletop paint scheme in game. We didn’t get to tinker with the previously-revealed map editor, or the scene editor, which will apparently allow you to select individual animation frames to fully tailor dioramas of virtual miniatures.
We also tried out the single-player, semi-roguelike Conquest Mode, but we got our arse handed to us roundly twice in a row, so we didn’t get to see any of the promised features that will alter games with unique effects. We can at least say that the AI will provide a challenge (and that the QA testers went easy on us during our two-v-two games).
After several previews, Wargamer is stoked for the Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin release date. We’re sorry if your favorite Age of Sigmar army isn’t available at launch – we were rather hoping for Kharadron Overlords and their flying boats. There’s always DLC, of course.