In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only boredom.
Over the course of my lifetime I try not to think about how much money I’ve “invested” in Games Workshop.The venerable miniatures company persuaded me to part with a considerable amount of pocket money during the 90s and come the point where I had a disposable income, well, that just made matters worse. My cabinets proudly display Stompas and Terminator Captains, the products of many hours spent delicately gluing futuristic weapons to diminutive heroes before lovingly finishing them with tiny pots of paint.
So what hurts about Storm of Vengeance is that even I, a grown man still at his happiest when rolling a literal bucket full of dice and surely the target audience, can find few positives in this uninspiring, branded game.
Calling itself a “lane strategy game” we see the worlds of Plants v Zombies and MOBAs collide. Your battlefield is made up of five horizontal lanes, on one side of which sit the noble Dark Angel Space Marines and on the other the brutish Orks whose appetite is only for destruction. Buildings are constructed at the end of each lane to provide supplies, upgrades, and, the life blood of the game, troops. When sent out those brave souls march down a lane looking to storm the opponent’s defences, facing on the way any units sent out in retaliation. On paper it sounds like an interesting extension of the formula that Pop Cap found so successful; rather than simply defending against a horde of shambling attackers, why not take the fight to them?
Indeed, early signs show promise. Though only starting out with basic foot soldiers, your Tactical Marines cut an imposing sight as they stride towards the Ork lines, bolters firing as they go. There’s little to these initial stages as it explains the basics and enemies will be defeated easily and speedily. After a few victories, however, you’ll gain access to the game’s tech tree. Offering powerful weapons and more dynamic troops it hints at the level of strategy usually synonymous with the 40k universe.
There are multiple options, all available for cherry picking every time you level up. Spend a point to unlock the Assault Marines, close-combat specialists who swoop down in gunships before disembarking and hacking at anything in their path. Pull out the big guns with hulking Devastator Marines carrying guns so sizeable you’d swear they’re compensating for something. With those at your side there are then specialist grenades and abilities for all Marines to learn, plus further options to call in barricades and dreadnoughts. It’s a veritable buffet of destruction and it appears to cater for a host of play styles and approaches.
Take your new recruits on the battlefield and it’s easy to see how they fit together. Bog-standard marines are still the cheapest and quickest unit to produce and so make up the bulk of your force, but throw in a handful of supporting heavy weapons to lay down fire from the back and you’ll feel immensely powerful. The might of the Emperor knows no mercy as greenskins are crushed under foot time and time again.
The only thing that progresses throughout the bulk of the campaign is the story; everything else seemingly remains contently static. Looking back on the first score of encounters I struggled telling them apart bar the occasional background swap. There is no perceptible difficulty curve, no distinctive variety in the opposing forces, and nothing to shake up the formula. Storm of Vengeance all too quickly settles into a rut of repetition.
Looking back on the first score of encounters I struggled telling them apart bar the occasional background swap.
This would be perfectly serviceable if there was reasonable scope for experimentation but the upgrades never feel as effective as each Marine does in their basic form. Swapping out a bolter for a more powerful plasma gun adds costs, a delay to their readiness, and a longer cool down time between firing. All are fair balances yet the benefits you see from this special weapon are never apparent from your lofty position. There’s no juicy feedback, no satisfying explosion of super-heated plasma as it explodes off the side of an Ork Trukk, simply a tiny red number lost in the mix of other tiny red numbers. The lack of any tangible advantage sees you keeping costs down, production up, and a vanilla force on the field.
Awkward controls for special skills and grenades further hamper thoughts of pimping your army as unintuitive buttons float round still advancing troops. Chasing a menu down a lane is not very becoming of a chapter master. It’s an odd choice which shows that developer Eutechnyx clearly are primarily focused on tablets and have made no concessions in bringing the game to Steam.
Offering some salvation is an alternate Ork campaign, retelling the story from a race prone to grunting and ending most of its words with the letter ‘z’. After commanding the po-faced Dark Angels the opportunity to throw forward a tide of green savages sounded wonderful, especially because their unit and tech tree structure proves significantly different to the humies’. It’s not simply a face lift with a few numbers swapped out underneath, the Orks build workshops generating all manner of mechanical madness and psychic towers ready to pour mental torment out onto the plains below. Creating a whole new way of playing definitely refreshes the formulaic clicking, handing you a new set of units and structures to explore. Sadly, however, as a faction they are incomplete and unbalanced.
Compared to the genetic superhuman across the way, Orks are brutish, relying on sheer numbers for victory. Set your lanes to pump out Boyz non-stop and you should stand a chance, washing over the Dark Angels in a green tide. Consider swapping any of your Ork production houses for upgrade shops or maybe to push out weaker Gretchin and then it’s as good as over already. When your psychic towers hurts you equally as much as it does your opponent you begin to question why it even exists. Each new combination I tried was systematically dismantled by the Marines’ superior strength with nothing proving as useful as simply putting another Boy on the field. With all the options on offer there seemed only one recipe for success and the formulaic clicking began again.
What feeds into the problem, exacerbating the situation, is the poor AI. Rather than considering all lanes with equal potential the AI is intent on only countering in the lanes you have chosen to attack. There’s little flanking or surprise attacks across the way, only bottlenecks. The lack of a deft touch turns most battles into an arduous slog as Orks and Marines butt heads in a war of attrition.
The only relief to this is the occasional optional mission featuring scripted waves of enemies and only limited units with which to push them back. These set-pieces are effectively puzzles requiring the right use of your resources at the right time and they offer a brief glimpse into Eutechnyx’s intentions by highlighting each unit’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s here they get closest to having something but it’s too easily lost in the churn.
For the Emperor
- Two different factions
- Lots of potential
Against the Emperor
- Unbalanced units
- Repetitive scenarios
- Lack of polish
Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance PC ReviewStorm of Vengeance is not a pretty game. A dull palette of browns greets you on ugly, oversized buttons with every boot, and although that shouldn’t affect the standard of the game the lack of any refinement is enough to sow the first seed of doubt. Even on the battlefield there’s a lack of polish as rudimentary soldiers trade blows with little flourish or personality.
This is a long way from the love shown to the franchise by Relic in Dawn of War and anyone expecting a similarly fulfilling, tactical experience will be disappointed. There is potential in the basic concept. A lane strategy game offering a host of customisable unit types and two distinctly organised factions sounds very promising. However, the balance and the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Ultimately play turns into a monotonous cycle of clicking and dragging, forcing the same troops to trudge to victory time and time again with little challenge or joy.
You don’t need to wait for the far future for something grim and dark.
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