Much like the Warhammer 40K universe itself, Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is not all sunshine and rainbows, but that being said it’s a pretty fun play and is almost impossible to put down. Everyone knows Turn-based strategy RPGs are owned by the XCOM series, but Mechanicus is a damn fine game!
From the get-go Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is everything a Warhammer title should be! The visual style and writing come straight from the Black Library itself, thanks in part to Ben Counter’s involvement in the title. The opening sequence sets the stage perfectly, showcasing everything the game has to offer and delivers beautifully. The character dialogue is fantastic, Scaevola’s especially as he speaks in computer script and logic processes. The rest of the crew’s devotion to the emperor and Adeptus Mechanicus is just as prevalent, characteristic and well scripted, but it’s Scaevola’s communications that stole the show for me; The cold, calculated and analytical comments were completely devoid of any regular human traits, displaying his near perfect ascension from the flesh.
While the opening sequence is pretty perfect for establishing the game’s narrative and visual style, the gameplay segments are equally well designed and rendered. The character and unit models are immaculately well detailed and would not look out of place amongst a dedicated Warhammer fan’s miniature cohorts. The Tech Priest’s adaptive visual design is nothing short of impressive, as you apply various different combinations of augmentations and equipment, their models change significantly. It’s minor details like these that really allow Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus to shine. Even the evil xeno forms of the Necrons are impressive, or as impressive as they can be for filthy xenos. Even the particle and weapon effect details are completely in-keeping with the aesthetic of the Warhammer universe, complimenting the atmosphere of the game perfectly.
When it comes to gameplay, the XCOM titles will forever reign supreme amongst turn-based strategy RPG shooters; They designed and perfected the formula and it would be unfair and unjust to refer to Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus as a stripped down XCOM, but it could certainly benefit from a cover system or more clear guidance on Line of Sight. There are a few niggles and qualms with the way Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus handles, for the most part, the gameplay is great- treading that fine line between just brutal enough to be challenging but not so difficult you want to cry.
The tutorial is fairly comprehensive and expansive, it gives a pretty good understanding of most of the base mechanics. What it doesn’t do is cover the concept of Line of Sight or cover, which is a little frustrating when you think your unit is concealed behind an obstacle only to get shot in the face by a Necron railgun. The Line of Sight rules in-game need to be clearly defined so as to know just how vulnerable or exposed your units really are, usually it is quite obvious but there have been many occasions where I’ve pulled a wounded unit back to “cover” only for them to get shot and killed anyway. Sure they might be expendable grunt units but that’s not the point, needlessly wasting their lives is… well needless.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is unique in a number of ways, one of which is the way it handles combat damage. When firing upon an enemy you will always hit them and they will always hit back, it’s a question of just how hard they hit and how much damage mitigation you have. The Tech Priest units are highly upgradeable, being able to boost their armor against certain weapon damages quite highly. This is an important factor as without these armor boosts, late-game weapons are almost guaranteed to be dealing huge amounts of damage in single hits.
It just feels a little odd knowing that missing isn’t a thing, no matter how badly you want it to be, but damage can be absorbed and if RNGesus has your back, the enemy can sometimes roll a 0 for damage. Equally, he could want to smite you and the enemy will crit and kill one of your most valuable units, invalidating an entire upgrade tree and leaving a gaping hole in your line. Not that that happened or anything… Sure the mechanic can essentially culminate in a miss, but why overcomplicate the matter? They either hit for a number within a range, or they miss. Don’t make the miss a matter of “Well you have 4 Physical armor and they hit for 5, so you take 1 damage.”, it’s unnecessary.
That being said, they’re my two largest gripes and in all fairness, they aren’t even that bad. When it comes to unit movement, the system can be amazing but also really annoying at the same time. Double click to confirm is a nice feature and can be an absolute lifesaver, but it gets a little annoying every two seconds like the game is making you second guess your moves. Being able to carry out as many actions per turn as your unit is capable of and has the cognition points to do is a liberating feature, knowing that if you’re really in trouble you can spend as many as you have/like in order to get the hell out of dodge. It’s a little annoying that going even one square over the remaining movement range costs a whole cognition point that then gets wasted if you choose not to move any further, the automatic transition can be annoying but it’s really not too bad.
For the most part, there aren’t any serious and glaring flaws in the gameplay. The difficulty curve can be more of a spike in some places but that can be easily addressed with better planning and equipment. The Blackstone resource used to upgrade units and purchase reinforcements to join you in battle can be quite sparse for the first few missions, making it feel quite overwhelming and making the enemies represent more of a threat than you appear capable of dealing with. However this quickly catches up as the missions become longer and more involved, the rewards are naturally more abundant.
When it comes to running missions into the Necron tombs it feels a little constrained. As you explore the Necron awakening meter ticks up and continues to tick up every turn in combat. This resulted in me taking the quickest and most direct route through every mission, blitzing towards the objective and getting it over with as fast as possible. What’s disappointing is the lack of reward for finishing a mission quickly and with few to no casualties. The longer spent in the tombs the harder the missions get and the quicker the Tomb World full awakens and becomes overrun with Necrons, ending the game. Due to this, it felt like I could never fully explore an environment or mission as time was a resource I had precious little of.
Despite the points above, Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus is actually a really good and enjoyable game! This review may paint it in a bad light, but I can’t stress enough how little these small flaws feel within the grand scheme of the game. The time constraints lend a sense of urgency that you have to incorporate into your strategy. Deciding on the best way to quickly and successfully complete a mission is all part of the game’s charm. It challenges you to push yourself and take risks you maybe wouldn’t in another title where time isn’t so precious.
Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus can often seem quite overwhelming and unfair at first glance but with some careful consideration each situation can turn out to be surprisingly simple and nowhere near as daunting as they first appeared. There is never a moment where the game pulls off some bullshit chicanery to wipe out your units, your mistakes are your own and not some flaw in the machine; Units die and are often expendable, make your peace with it, get over with it and get on with the mission.
For those looking to pick up a solid tactical turn-based strategy RPG then look no further than Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus, a title which would make a great addition to your library, whether you’re a 40K fan or not!