As a universe, Warhammer 40,000 - or Warhammer 40K - can be a little dense to get into. It has a ton of rule books, hundreds of game pieces and dozens of novels which hold the rich tapestry of the Space Marines versus alien scum. The rich universe is why the video games are usually well received on consoles and PC. However, someone at Eutechnyx had the idea of making a cross-platform Warhammer 40K game for Steam, iOS and Android with unattractive results.
It is still in Early Access, so some things may be fixed before general release.
You pick a side - the Dark Angels, an offshoot of the Space Marines led by Grand Master Belial or the Orks led by Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Thraka. If you have ever read Warhammer 40K-associated material, you will probably have seen one of those names as they are amongst the most famous in that universe.
The game works well enough with the mouse, which is literally all you require. Being a beefed-up mobile game, the specifications are only just above what a smartphone has, so of course the graphics are very basic. The models are 3D, but the levels are hardly pretty. The sound effects and voices get annoying pretty quickly as they never vary from a handful of phrases and grunts. However the music is pretty good and suits the game, building nicely towards the end of levels.
The storyline is told between levels with characters discussing how they need to defend, or attack, whichever area is next. Both Belial and Thraka take a prominent role in the story, though if you want them to take part in the fighting you will need to level up a fair bit first. What they say can get a little dense to the uninitiated; the Space Marines are warrior-monks, so they speak in a very proper manner with talk of prayer and sacrifice for the greater good. The Orks are imbeciles, so they speak as if they are really drunk and didn’t actually bother to learn English. Both are perfect translations of how both sides act in the associated materials.
As for the gameplay it is very basic, especially when compared to other lane strategy games. You build something along one of five lanes, creating units to attack your opponent and destroy the building they have on the opposite side. By destroying the building, you unit takes the lane. There are special As you progress, you level up and are able to purchase upgrades, which are either unit upgrades or HQ upgrades. Unit upgrades can be either things like grenades or completely new units like Gretchins. HQ upgrades are either vehicles or psychic powers.
The strategy comes into play with these upgrades - do you take the time to add jump packs or just grenades? Should you send in seven Gretchins or a couple of Orks? If you misjudge your five buildings, you can spend ten minutes with the enemy on your doorstep slaughtering your men before you gain a foothold - or fail the level. The difficulty curve is fairly unforgiving.
There are Skirmish levels, where you have a limited amount of troops to kill the attackers and no buildings, specials or taking lanes. These are fairly straightforward, fun changes from the battering the campaign mode gives you.
The multiplayer mode, with this being an early access, is barely populated. However, the game does offer you an AI opponent so you can get XP and level up. The gameplay is exactly the same as the campaign levels - take over the opponent’s lanes. You gain XP just as you do in the campaign, allowing you to upgrade. The AI has no limitations on it’s upgrades, as I imagine the living opponents won’t, depending on how much time you spend playing online multiplayer.
I will be interested in seeing how the multiplayer handles when the opponent is using a mobile device, but the game is fairly basic. The only thing that holds my interest is seeing how the legendary Battle Of Piscina IV works out, given its status in the mythology as a turning point in the Third War For Armageddon.