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Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin Review

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin Review

The Warhammer franchise and its 40K variant are infamous for having amazing lore and characters, but being as approachable as the Marvel and DC comic universes, with almost as much reading! I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the series, but have had trouble finding a way to really get into the world. Though games like Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide and Total War: Warhammer have helped in this effort, they have always felt like offshoots of the real deal, like playing Persona and dreaming of Shin Megami Tensei: close but not quite the same. It is due to this long-winded explanation that I was beyond excited to try out Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin; will this finally be my gateway to WAAGHS and Blood God jamborees, or will the title be an ominous sign of things to come?

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin (Realms of Ruin henceforth, because that is one long title) is a real-time strategy title where you command a force of units representing one of four factions with the goal of completing objectives and controlling key resources, much like the tabletop wargame it is based on. The player will have to actively manage their units in the field, both their resource management and generation, and keep an eye on the enemy, not to mention victory points; I’ve not had to focus this hard since my A-levels!

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A lot of info, but also a lot of space!

The four factions are as follows: the Stormcast Eternals, the Orruk Kruleboyz, the Nighthaunt, and the Disciples of Tzeentch. Though each faction has unique units, they can be boiled down to general classes: ranged, melee, defensive, and special. Melee and ranged units are more or less self-explanatory, representing units that fight at range or in your face, whereas defensive units can take more punishment but may be slower in turn. Special units are more varied and consist of the game's heroes and champions that, while maybe not tougher than a normal unit, have skills or attributes that set them apart and require some skilful playing. Realms of Ruin utilises a combat triangle system, where one type of enemy is strong against another but weak against the last; defensive units can get peppered by ranged troops for days but are vulnerable to a good sneak attack in melee. Said melee attackers are in trouble, however, if a ranged regiment gets the drop on them. Special units exist outside this paradigm and are strong or weak on a case-by-case basis.

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Ok, so back to the factions. The Stormcasts are basically demi-gods created by the God-King Sigmar tasked to wrangle the mortal realm from chaos to order. Though the concept of “good” is better left far away from Warhammer, these angelic humans are probably as close as you can get. They consist of varied troops and offer heroes with buffs and crowd control, though they are costly and a bit slow. The Orruk Kruleboyz, representing the beloved orks, thrive when ambushing or defending. Though the units are cheap, they may struggle in the early game due to a lack of strength, but make up for it in spades when they field their more destructive monsters! Also, they’re funny.

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The Stormcast leader, Sigrun, is basically the "main character" of the campaign

The Nighthaunt is a slightly different faction, consisting of an army of the dead. These spectral servants of Nagash rely on swarming enemies and strength in numbers, going as far as bringing back fallen units! They are weaker than most, though, and a good crowd-controlling enemy can ruin your Halloween-esque victory. The final faction is the Disciples of Tzeentch. Serving the Lord of Change, these eldritch warriors use ranged combat and spells to dominate the battlefield, though their defensive options are a bit lacking.

The game offers three ways to play: the single-player story Campaign, a Skirmish mode for individual 1v1 or 2v2 matches against other players or AI, or Conquest mode. In the Skirmish mode, you face off against your enemy in a small arena, with both building nodes and victory point objectives. The goal in these matches is to gain the most victory points, which is achieved both by having the objectives under your control and defeating your enemy’s units. As the combat is real-time, this becomes an intricate dance of strategy and planning… or just getting your lads in one big pile and hoping for the best. The Skirmish mode is this, but slightly larger, as instead of fighting one match, you take on multiple matches with different end goals and conditions. Each battle is selected from a larger map and may have modifiers, called Twists, that spice up the gameplay.

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That's... a lot of orruks

To me, the major draw to Realms of Ruin was the single-player campaign, as I hoped it could give me some insight into the world and its characters. Taking place on Ghur, planet of the beasts, the campaign follows a detachment of Stormcasts that have been sent by the forces of Order to support the local settlement. While on this task, the leader of this detachment, Sigrun, learns about a powerful artefact that could change the tide and naturally sets off to retrieve it. What follows is an episodic story following Sigrun and her forces, each mission having its own goals and stories to tell. I liked this approach, as it slowly introduces the different units you have and the abilities you can use. Fret not, however, as the campaign also lets you try out the other factions in separate missions, making the campaign a good place to get a feel for the different playstyles.

The missions themselves are varied and offer enough in terms of different challenges and goals to not become boring; however, I noticed the difficulty curve seemed more like a rollercoaster. One mission, in particular, had me grinding my teeth and taking heavy losses, while the very next one was a walk in a park, though this may be due to my own style of play. The campaign does give some minor information on the lore and setting, though it is clear that the game assumes the player knows at least something about the world and its history. Luckily, the game offers a glossary of sorts that explains the common concepts. You don’t really need to know what a Stormcast is or who Tzeentch is, but it does add some sense to the otherwise slightly confusing plot. To be honest, the plot missions are playable, but nothing too outstanding, acting more as a primer on the game itself. This is not a bad thing per se, but just different from what I had assumed, and like I said, it's definitely a good way to learn the basics.

Speaking of, the combat mechanics of the game are both basic and complex. As you command multiple units, you will have to manage each of their skills individually. While this makes sense on paper, it felt like a lot of hassle in the chaos of combat. For example, one of the early units has a shield ability, which, on activation, gives them a bit more health to work with, in addition to some damage resistance. As they are basic units, I had a few of them at once, leading to me either forgetting to use the skill for every unit or completely forgetting which unit I had used the skill with. The AI also seems to be a bit… preoccupied, as more often than not, my units completely ignored hostile enemies unless I specifically ordered them to attack, making defending multiple buildings a nightmare. While I did get used to this, it always felt a bit unintuitive and stressful. The game has a habit of relying on button combinations or keys instead of clear menus, meaning a longer break from the game was bound to become a prolonged “uhm” fest while I frantically hit keys looking for the build menu!

Now, about that all-important lore. As I mentioned, I know next to nothing about the world of Warhammer except that things are miserable, Orks are actually magic, and giant rat people will bring the end times. With that disclaimer out of the way, Realms of Ruin didn’t really bring across as much grittiness as I originally expected. Sure, there is loss of life and uncertainty about the validity of the choices the main cast makes, but all in all, it’s surprisingly… well... Bright? The two “main” characters seem pretty cheery, in addition to the Stormcast being clad in literal gold. But, on its behalf, magic and other arcane arts are depicted as very mysterious, unpredictable, and unpleasant powers, which is very much Warhammer. If nothing else, the game offers some nifty art you can add to your in-game profile! In terms of teaching newcomers what this world is all about, the game does not do as much as it could, though you always have the encyclopaedia if you really want to check the details.

In terms of visual design, the game looks decent. While possibly not having the most beautiful characters, the scenery and effects were suitably flashy, and especially the Nighthaunt units moved with fitting ghostly sways and undulations. The characters, as mentioned, may not look amazing, but I do respect the decision to make them look more like their tabletop counterparts: the basic units, especially for the Stormcasts, have that bulky look that Warhammer figures often have. One feature I will praise to the moon and back is the Army Livery editor, where you can customise your armies using the actual Citadel paints available in stores! It’s such a nice touch and nod to the game's roots and fans that I can’t help but love it. There's also a map editor, which I looked at but was intimidated by; if nothing else, it looked like someone could whip up something amazing with it!

To summarise, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin is a fun and complex RTS that tries to bring the tabletop wargame into the medium of videogames with mixed results. Though the units and levels are pretty spot on, as far as a newcomer can say, the slightly stupid, friendly AI and the unintuitive controls made it hard for me to get as much out of the experience as I hoped. If you enjoy the Warhammer world and want a modern RTS, this may be the game for you! It may also be a good title to play with a friend or challenge others online, but be warned that the game demands a high level of concentration.

6.00/10 6

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

A good RTS with four different factions with distinct playstyles. If you want a taste of the Warhammer world, this may be a good place to start, though watch out for frantic combat and demanding action!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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