Tindalos’ Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 picks up where the first game left off, portraying grand space battles with a real-time strategy formula based on the Warhammer 40,000 source material. Out on Steam, we played the game on a PC.
I’ve loved real-time strategy since the Warcraft 2 days, and after a period of Command & Conquer also spent countless hours playing Homeworld. Seeing that specific brand of deep space strategy reappear in the first Battlefleet Gothic: Armada game immediately had me intrigued, and I remember meeting with Tindalos to get a sneak peek at the game. What struck me at that time is still true for Armada 2 – it’s an absolutely gorgeous game to look at, and combat’s a bit more slow-paced than in a game like Homeworld (or most of the classic RTS titles).
That, combined with the Warhammer license, makes Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 a bit of an acquired taste in which tactical maneuvering matters just as much as fleet management, with echoes of the 4X genre sounding through in between your battles.
The Warhammer backdrop means that Armada 2 comes with a lot of source material, ranging from a tabletop game and countless expansions right down to a lot of printed lore to help shape the world the game takes place in. While it’s not strictly required to have knowledge of any of this, it does help if you’ve played the first game since the tutorial isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been.
While all the factions from the tabletop version have been included in the game, the three narrative-driven campaigns focus on the Tyranids, Necrons and Imperium factions. Even without much knowledge of Warhammer lore, it’s easy to see how they differ even just by looking at their names, and their stark contrasts make for a good amount of replay value as the campaigns actually feel different in terms of gameplay. Story-wise, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 also draws inspiration from the recent story arc developments in Games Workshop’s new story development dubbed “Gathering Storm” – again, not something you need to be familiar with to enjoy the game, but nice for loyal Warhammer 40,000 fans.
Gameplay-wise Armada feels like a direct evolution of the first game rather than a revolutionary new direction. The scope of the battles is slightly larger and the process generally feels more streamlined, but these (gameplay tweaks) are the kinds of changes that were also gradually introduced through patches for the first game. Everything just feels a little sleeker, shinier and better tuned this time around – making it the kind of upgrade that fans of the first game were waiting for. At the same time, there haven’t been any major changes that are likely to draw new players in.
The pace at which the game unfolds (as was also the case with the first one) won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s also part of its strength. The slow buildup and emphasis on tactics leads me to believe this isn’t a game that’ll make it to consoles (a game like Halo Wars works much better there), but it’s an excellent middle ground between turn-based strategy and the classic real-time strategy formula. What helps is that everything is rendered beautifully and accompanied by a soundtrack that makes Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 one of the most atmospheric strategy games you can find. You might want to dive into the previous game first if you haven’t done so already, but Armada 2 is a worthwhile follow-up.