Review based off of experience playing Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector on a Xbox Series S.
In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war. These words are as immortal, as they are true. Humanity is beset on all sides by untold billions, and it is down to super powerful, semi-immortal, pseudo-deities to fly around in intergalactic cathedrals and bring the Emperor’s Judgement down upon Xenos, heretic, and ner do wells. It’s dark, it’s brutal, and it’s captivated the minds of millions the world over.
Battlesector Is Bringing Back 40k, Baby!
With a setting so rich – so steeped in badassery, chaos, and heroics, you’d think video games would be a natural fit. Whilst there have been a fair few standout titles, such as Dawn of War, most games in this setting kind of suck. The question is, does Battlesector carry the light of the Emperor, or does it stumble into the Eye of Terror? I’ll try and keep nerd stuff to a minimum.
In Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, you play as the legendary Sons of Sanguinius – the Blood Angels. Set a few hundred years before the current 40k timeline, the Blood Angels are recovering from a devastating siege by Hive Fleet Leviathan – an offshoot of the monstrous alien race, the Tyranids. Aided at the last by Space Jesus (not an exaggeration) who brought an army of SUPER, super soldiers to reinforce the dwindling First Born, the war ended, and now it’s up to you to do the cleanup.
Not all is as it seems on Baal Foura, and what was originally thought to be remnants of a diminished hive threat, quickly turns into a race against time to weed out a powerful synaptic conduit – and more. Throw in distrust, lack of loyalty, and a smidge of disgust at the “false” angels Space Jesus brought, and you have yourself a party.
From start to finish, the plot in Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is fairly engaging, but not overly new or innovative. This is a fairly basic 40k plot, set in the 40k universe, and honestly, that’s fine. It doesn’t go all-in on the nerd stuff so it won’t alienate newbies, but enough is here to tickle one’s fancy. The game is lacking when it comes to cinematic recounting, but it makes up for it with top-notch voice acting and narration.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector is a large-scale, turn-based strategy romp that pits your ever-growing legion of Blood Angels against an ever-growing swarm of space gribblies. For the most part, it’s a pretty darn good one too. The campaign is lengthy, and during it, you’ll have the pleasure of designing your perfect 40k army in an attempt to overthrow the Xenos and complete objectives. Maps are large, enemy numbers are larger, and the amount of ammo you will expend is larger still.
Each unit in the game has a number of action points (usually between one and two), and a set movement distance. You can move and shoot, shoot and move, or even move, shoot, and then move again. It’s incredibly easy to pick up at first, and as you progress, new ways gubbins open up, giving you more things to play with – such as explosives, and really big explosives.
Plenty of Variety
Unit variety is what makes Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector so darn appealing. Sure, you are mostly controlling big burly blokes wearing big burly armour, but every unit is unique, and every unit has a purpose. You are weaving an intricate tapestry of threat ranges, durability, speed, and abilities to best combat any threat. One dude with a gun might look like another dude with a gun, but let me tell you, that other dude’s gun glows blue and is designed to kill quadrupedal bio-titans.
Everything in Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector has armour, and every weapon has an armour piercing value. This is the crux of the game’s target selection, and target priority systems. Your standard rifle will mow through hordes of mooks, but those mass-reactive shells will bounce off the hyper-thick carapace of the bigger creatures. Similarly, weapons capable of punching a hole through reality are fantastic at chewing through the big guys, but low accuracy and rate of fire make them useless against smaller units. You can’t just throw out waves of gunfire all willy-nilly and hope to succeed. It’s like rock, paper, scissors, but with more steps.
Not to mention, you are always outnumbered in Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector. You may have a pretty large force of super-soldiers, but the Tyranids are seemingly endless at times, and you are often on a timer. Staying still and shooting in every direction is not only inefficient but will lose you the game. There is a real sense of momentum – or a feeling that you are pushing against the tide. There’s nothing better than punching a hole through the enemy lines, taking an objective, and then digging your boots in and holding off as titanic monstrosities and endless swarms beset your lines.
This momentum is also a fully-fledged system. The more proactive you are with any given unit, the more momentum they gain. Once they gain enough, they can perform more actions for a turn, or they can upgrade one of their abilities to be even more devastating than usual. Things like staying still and holding your ground simply won’t cut it.
Then you have abilities, which change up how most units function on the battlefield. Assault Marines brandish pistols and chainswords (which are exactly what you imagine them to look, and act like) whilst flying through the skies using high-powered jetpacks. Pop their ability, and suddenly they can fly behind enemy lines, and disrupt, distract, and destroy whatever they want. Aggressors can shred enemies at close range with their boltstorm gauntlets, unleash a missile barrage at a distance, and wrap their fists in eldritch-lightning and splat whatever stands in their way in melee.
As the game goes on, you will unlock new abilities for every unit, further expanding their usefulness. Even your basic troops will gain multiple special abilities that drastically increase their efficacy in a scrap. Throw in vehicles like the nippy Landspeeder or the neigh-indestructible Dreadnought, and you have yourself a potent soup of things to do every turn. I never felt like I was on auto-pilot – I was constantly engaged in what my army was doing, and why.
Even More Things To Fiddle With
Topping off the tactical package are the characters. These beauties can buff your team, heal your allies, repair your vehicles, rend your foes, and call in airstrikes. They are potent pieces of your puzzle that can turn a failed offensive on your eastern front, into a resounding victory. Finally, you have extra bits like Overwatch, reactionary fire, melee combat and a huge array of enemies – each with their own bits and bobs – so you have yourself quite the treat.
As you complete missions, you unlock tokens to expand your army, as well as a different set of tokens to upgrade your characters. These can range from simple army-wide buffs, to specific unit enhancements, to full-on airstrikes and artillery barrages. You are always improving in Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector. Every mission results in something new to play around with in the next, and it’s intoxicating.
My only real gripe with the gameplay is how slow it all is. There is no way to increase the turn speed for you or the enemy. This can cause missions to drag on for a smidge too long. When the enemy force has 50 or so units to mess around with, there’s a lot of waiting around for your turn. Also, every mission seems to end with a final objective that boils down to: kill everything.
Outside of the main campaign, you have the Skirmish Mode which allows you to not only replay campaign missions but create unique scenarios for your Blood Angels to battle through. With multiple game modes, game sizes, and maps, there is a lot to customise here. That’s before you delve into army creation and the ability to play as the dastardly Tyranids. Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector also has online multiplayer, which takes Skirmish, and pits you against a real human. It was difficult to find a game, unfortunately.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector isn’t the prettiest game around either. Blood Angels are an iconic Chapter, but their love of red turns out to be one hell of a detriment when the vast swathes of the game are set on a red planet. Sure the Tyranids stand out with their classic Leviathan colours, but a bit more variety would have been nice. Fidelity is also not the highest, with environments being fairly bland, and the character models being mostly average – if on point in terms of design.
Thankfully, the game’s audio is fantastic. The sounds of gunfire, explosions and stoic battle cries are all excellent. Even the weakest of weapons sound devastating, and the devastating ones sound apocalyptic. In a universe where your standard rifle fires God-blessed explosives, you have to nail the weight and heft. Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector succeeds.
Is Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector Worth Playing?
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, despite its flaws, is a surprisingly great turn-based strategy game. A lot of its appeal will come from the universe it is set in, however, it’s more than capable of providing an engaging time for those who have no preexisting history with the franchise. It has plenty of content, its systems are well implemented, and it’s absolutely worth a gander.
For notifications when the latest article drops, follow me on Twitter @gameswithtoasty. Alternatively, you can join the Games With Toasty Facebook page or follow my Podcast. I even have a YouTube channel and Stream on Twitch! Happy gaming.