Sunday, March 20, 2016

Screenshot of the Week #76: Warping in!

                Strategy games are already surprisingly well represented this year and by playing the Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Multiplayer Beta Test I feel like one more quality game will join their ranks. At the limit between RTS and RTT, Armada’s gameplay is a combination of tactical gameplay with a heavy focus on micromanagement and a deep strategic layer.
                The gameplay goodness begins by choosing between Skirmish and Multiplayer subsequently followed by creating an admiral for either Imperial Navy or Chaos, the two races available in the Beta. Each admiral starts with a small fleet of varied ships. By playing more games you can advance in rank and gain resources to get more ships into your command and upgrade them the way you want. The upgrading system is quite in depth providing multiple options through ship and crew upgrades, skills and favours. The upgrades are the strategic component of the game directing a certain play style and expanding its possibilities by changing the capabilities of each ship.
                The matches are pretty straight forward. There are few types of objectives, some more balanced than other, and a system of points which restricts the number of ships a player can deploy. The game is micromanagement heavy with tons of abilities and commands for each ship requiring a keen and constant attention. But despite being so focused on units control and having matches that rarely last more than 10 minutes, Armada is still as tactical as a game can get courtesy of its RTT roots. The space maps representing a plane platform are filled with debris, gas clouds and traps which diversify what otherwise would have been a simple combat zone. But despite so many elements adding tactical layers to the game it is the combat system that pumps up the tactical level to eleven.
                An accurate depiction of the combat is a keel’s battle in space. Most of the ships have more static than mobile weapons making the engagement and positioning vital. The ships movement is slow so each decision is felt immediately and has a bigger impact than expected. These hulkish machines of space war can pack a punch but can easily be rendered useless through a detailed damage model that makes each of their functions tied to one of their internal components.
The vast number of commands makes the controls terrifying but learning how to use them transforms the game from a clunky chaotic battle to a game of chess filled with mind games and tactical finesse. Skill shots, timed abilities, tricks, traps and many other elements melt together into forming an engaging and rewarding combat made thrilling by an innovative system which amplifies the effect of every win and loss.
                 Playing a match of Armada is like taking a visit into real time tactical heaven. There are so many elements in place and so many factors to consider from such a small number of units that is actually hard to believe how different the game plays compared to how it looks in the videos. There are sure a lot of balancing problems that have been discovered through this Beta Test and that’s only for two of the factions. But the developers are taking the players suggestions and complaints seriously and are already making changes to make the experience as balanced as possible while still respecting the setting’s canon.
                I’m having a blast playing the Beta and I’ll keep doing it until the last day. But it gives me great joy thinking that Battlefleet Gothic: Armada will launch with two more races (later on three, through DLC), an elo system and a singleplayer campaign against Abaddon the Despoiler. I’ve been wrong before, but it seems rather hard for this game’s multiplayer to fail considering its current state. I only wish the campaign rises up to the level of epicness it promises, and if that’s the case, the race for the best strategy of 2016 is getting edgier by the month and we are still in March.
The Imperium fleet has arrived!

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