With the plethora of 40K titles available on steam, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Can Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus really make a mark, or will it end up being falling victim to heresy?
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus gives us a glimpse into one of the darker and more sinister outfits within the Imperium Of Man, the Adeptus Mechanicus. In a bold move, the team has chosen to step away from the franchise flagship of the Space Marines, with the Imperium’s super-soldiers not making even a cameo. Even titles like Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr that focus on other elements of the Imperium Of Man feature the space marines as key side characters. It’s a bold move dropping the figurehead of the franchise, but it’s a move that’s really refreshing to see.
Instead of the general focus of the Imperium against literally everything possible, the narrative takes more of a focus. Mechanicus focuses on the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who are – for those who don’t know – effectively religious cyborg mechanics and scientists. Their antagonist? The Necrons. A race of aliens that gave up flesh and blood for metal and fluids. See why the Imperium hate them? The tech-priests have been in titles in the past, players of the OG Dawn of War titles will remember these guys as the ones who’d fix their structures and armor, but they’ve never been the heroes of the story. Until now.
But just what kind of title is Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus? Well, it falls into the ever saturated realm of squad-focused, turn-based strategy titles rather shamelessly influenced by the popularity of XCOM. Fortunately, Bulwark Studios and Kasedo Games have done enough to separate the title from the ever saturated market, making this one of the more refreshing entries into the genre that we’ve seen in recent years.
The first, and the most notable difference between Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus and its competitors is the lack of cover mechanics. While the majority of titles in the genre put an emphasis on moving from cover to cover, the emphasis here is placed on aggressive, tactical engagements. Now to regular players of such titles, the concept of having no cover is somewhat terrifying. There’s a different emphasis here, and that’s on positioning, and unit usage. You’ve got different units on offer, and more importantly, the ability to spec your units differently. Oh, and believe me, you’re going to want to.
The way Mechanicus encourages you to use your units is, shockingly, tailored towards their equipment set. This is oftentimes a feature in other titles, but never really to the extent to which it is here. You can often shoehorn characters into places they don’t belong. No such thing here. If you’re set up for melee combat, you better be charging in head first and getting those hits in. Those set for more ranged endeavors, will, of course, want to hold back. While the utilization cover isn’t a direct system it still plays a role. You’re able to move, shoot, and move again. so you can effectively pillar cover, much akin to an FPS title, peaking, and diving. The real fun, however, is had up close and personal. Getting in the face of a Necron Lord, and landing some crippling blows.
All of these elements in combat are enhanced by Cognition points. These can be earned in several ways, from the bodies of slain enemies, claimed from enemies with items, or farmed from nearby pillars. These points can be used to increase your movement, allowing you to close the gap, flee, or use a stronger, more devastating weapon. These weapons deal an incredible amount of damage, and with the sporadic location of the Cognition points, you’re further incentivized to move about, and not sit on your hands behind a low wall.
One of the biggest standout features is the emphasis on Grunts, and utilizing them as only the Imperium would. Cannon fodder. While the tech-priests in your unit are valuable individuals in their own rights, each of them can bring along a small outfit of disposable troops. Starting out as servitors, essentially lobotomized criminals with cybotic enhancements, and later Skitarii, trained soldiers who are more than willing to die for the cause. Oh, and they’ll die. In fact, their death is generally paramount to the survival of your squad, which adds another dimension to a genre that is usually so heavily focused on the survival of everyone.
With combat being more focused on getting up close and personal, you’ll want to get to know the types of enemies you’ll be facing. While there isn’t a huge amount of units, the Necrons are not one of the races within the Warhammer universe that plays on multiple unit types, but there’s enough here to give you challenge and force you to be considerate about your prioritization. Do you take down the squishier enemies first, or focus on the Lord? You’ll also have to be considerate of the pesky little Scarabs that will not only damage you but more alarmingly, repair their Necron masters. Oh, and in classic Necron Fashion, you’ll need to ensure you put the blighters down, or they’ll come back to life. Again and again.
While combat is the mainstay of Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus there are two other key features within the title. The first being the Ark Mechanicus, the ship you captain and where you’ll be going between missions, and where you’ll be able to organize and spec your squad before embarking on expeditions. This will be flooded with Dialogue, which unfortunately you’ll have to read your way through, as voice acting is replaced by a series of noises. While this might well fit the lore, it’s a little jarring when played, and slows down the title considerably, not to mention puts the dampeners on the immersion factor.
Second, and most important is the aspect of dungeon crawling. As you pass through the halls and rooms of the Necron world, you’ll be hunted by the Necron Lord of the Dungeon. There’s a ticking clock as you go, steadily increasing the risk your team is under, as more Necrons get added to fights and eventually, you face the Necron Lord in a final battle. You can try to avoid disturbing the dormant enemies, or you can antagonize them, destroying the artifacts you find, or taking them for your own research. There’s a lot of choices here, but again, it’s all in a menu with no spoken narration, which can really disconnect you from the experience.
Overall, Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a great title even in its Early Access form. Those who are fans of titles like XCOM but after something genuinely unique will love the combat on offer. Warhammer fans will relish in the setting, with a unique protagonist faction and a rather under-explored enemy to sink their teeth into. I’m excited to see how this title develops throughout its early access cycle, there’s something really special here that deserves to be seen by fans of Warhammer and turn-based squad tactics alike.