Review – Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II

A new year, a new slate of Warhammer games. Following years of stingy use of the license, Games Workshop has since opened the floodgates to developers, with most of them sadly most failing to impress. The original Battlefleet Gothic: Armada was one of those games with a decent idea, great gameplay, but let down by a repetitive campaign, only a handful factions, and bugs galore. Unlike most other developers though, Tindalos Interactive learned from their missteps, and not only does Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II deliver on the original’s promise (and more), but it’s one of the best uses of the Warhammer license, period.

The base gameplay is simple. You field a custom fleet from one of twelve factions, comprising every single army from the tabletop game, against an opposing force in either 1v1 or 2v2 battles. You achieve victory either through destroying your enemies for a Elimination victory, or capturing and holding command points on the field long enough to reach a Strategic victory. The game is set on a 2D battle map set against the glory of space, with plenty of obstacles such as asteroids and space clouds to hinder the enemy and be used to your advantage.

While the multiplayer gives you access to many ships big and small, some of the extra special ones such as the enormous fortress-monasteries are reserved for special single-player missions.

The original game did perfect this part, and here it has only been improved. Ship speed is the perfect balance between playable, as nobody likes controlling slugs, and capturing the feel of commanding these megalithic ships hurtling through space launching squadrons, torpedoes, and lasers into the dark ether of space. When your ship is going full speed and rams head-on with heretic ships, you can feel the impact. If you thought pulling off a successful cavalry charge in Total War was the greatest feeling a person can have, wait until you try this.

A standard battle: your ticket counts at the top, and a clear view of all control points on the field, color coded to tell them apart easily.

Combat is a balancing act of managing your shields which do regenerate, your hull which does not, and each ship’s morale which can spawn a crew mutiny if it drops too low. Your weapons all target one of these, and as commander your job is to use them where they’re most effective. Boarding actions damage the crew so they’re best used on ships with small crews. On the other hand, when facing off against ships with larger crews hull obliterating torpedoes which ignore shields are your best bet. Manually destroying their shields and then sending squadrons of bombers to take them out is always a valid strategy as well. The number of ships for each of the twelve factions, race specific upgrades and skills, and stances available make for a jaw-dropping amount of combinations, allowing you to play the way you want to.

Space Wolves are the only Space Marine Chapter worth playing as. This is 100% bias free information of course.

Each faction has it’s own upgrade leveling system, as does every multiplayer game these days, with upgrades and skills unlocking the further you progress in a specific faction. No ships or sub-factions (sets of skins for your ships based off factions within factions such as Space Marine Chapters) are locked behind the leveling system. If leveling through PvP fights against max level players isn’t your thing, then you’ll be relieved to see that Battlefleet bucks the trend for allowing XP gains in AI battles. Now you don’t have to be annihilated for hours to finally unlock everything and play the game, you can destroy AI bots instead!

Single player fans, don’t worry: unlike the first game, you were not forgotten here. There’s a total of three campaigns this time, one for the Imperium (made up of the Imperial Navy, Adeptus Astartes, and Adeptus Mechanicus factions), the Necrons, and the Tyranids. There’s also as a small prologue which introduces the game’s mechanics while setting up the story for the main campaigns.

Necrons have been enjoying a bit of a resurgence in 40K lately, and I’m really enjoying it. Who doesn’t love space mummies?

These campaigns are night and day compared to the last games. Featuring full voice acting that’s actually well done, a mix of in-engine and handdrawn cinematics, each of the three campaigns tells a unique story from that factions POV following The Fall of Cadia as told in the Prologue. Each race comes with a different Sector map, different victory conditions, unique campaign mechanics, and their own unique fleets and upgrades. Modeled after Grand Campaign strategy maps such as Total War‘s titular mode, you will be warping from system to system defeating enemy fleets to capture systems, building up each’s defenses and strategic buildings, and fielding multiple fleets all across the sector trying to complete your faction’s goals.

Each faction requires different worlds, some of which will prove particularly difficult to conquer.

It’s an experience very similar to what Creative Assembly did with Total War Warhammer II’s Eye of the Vortex campaign, blending grand strategy gameplay and strong storytelling for a narrative driven strategy game experience. I think it’s the best thing to happen to strategy games in years, giving you the kind of storytelling you’d expect from an RPG or action game in a grand sandbox strategy campaign. The best of both worlds.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II isn’t just a great Warhammer game, it’s a great strategy game. The flawless strategy gameplay is supported by a strong multiplayer showing with all twelve factions and lots of customization, with a fully fleshed out single-player mode with three full campaigns with unique mechanics, stories, and sectors. Very rarely does a game in this IP come along that’s not only a joy for fans of the franchise to enjoy, but can stand on its own legs for newcomers to experience.

Graphics: 8.0

Gorgeous ship models, flashy particle effects, and epic backdrops are only let down by an ugly UI and garish markers.

Gameplay: 9.0

In depth, feeling, and variety of options Battlefleet stands as one of the best not just in Warhammer games, but strategy games period.

Sound: 7.0

Well done voice acting for the campaigns offsets music that barely rises above the “average” grimdark.

Fun Factor: 9.5

Whether enjoying the three well written campaigns, or playing as one of the twelve factions in multiplayer against either other players or AI, there is a way for everyone to enjoy the incredibly satisfying and strategic combat.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Battlefleet Gothic Armada II is available now on Steam

Reviewed on PC

A copy of Battlefleet Gothic Armada II was provided by the publisher.