By: Justin Redmon
Truth be told, the Warhammer 40,000 universe has always been an interest of mine. That being said, it’s been an interest that’s existed, for the most part, at arm’s length. Every now and then I’ve happened across miniatures used in the tabletop game, and for quite a while even watched friends obsessively play the computer RTS’s.
There was no shortage of opportunities to be sure, but with Eutechnyx’s release of Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance, I guess there’s no time like the present to be ushered into the Warhammer universe. Sadly, as first impressions go, Storm of Vengeance is a poor introduction.
Now, first things first, Storm of Vengeance is a bit different from what you’d normally expect from a Warhammer game, mainly being that this time around it’s a “lane strategy.” Think Plants vs. Zombies and you wouldn’t be too far off. What that means when it comes to controls though is that pretty much everything is mouse driven, and that the most complicated action you’ll be performing throughout will be nothing more than clicking and dragging.
The only real downside to this setup is that unit abilities are activated by the same clicking and dragging action, but doing this while they’re marching down the lane toward your enemies can be a bit cumbersome, especially when time is of the essence. Otherwise the setup works fine.
In presentation, however, Storm of Vengeance is extremely lacking. Character animations are shoddy and repetitive, carrying a jerky quality due to how your troops will stop to shoot then go back to walking down their lanes. Level backgrounds repeat constantly, rarely changing, and visual detail holds a “just enough” quality to get by, but it’s far from extraordinary.
Even basic effects like explosions and gunfire are unimpressive as well, with the soundtrack offerings during gameplay being nothing short of completely forgettable. The entire setup is indicative of its mobile roots, none more so than the UI, which prominently displays oversized buttons and the like commonly used on the platform, instead of being retooled in some way for PC use.
Now as said previously, Storm of Vengeance is a lane strategy game, so starting a level will see you and your combatant overseeing five lanes of battle, where winning a level tasks you with marching your troops across the battlefield and taking out a minimum of three of your opponent’s lanes. Winning a level will hinge on your management of your factions resource (Dark Angels use Redemption, while Orks use Teef), which can only be generated using resource building constructed in one of five plots for your corresponding lanes. Other than that, constructed buildings generate units, which can then be placed in any of the five lanes, who then march to battle.
Depending on your faction, you can choose between three different units, each generated by a different structure. Dark Angels build grunt marines with Drop Pods, Assault Marines with Ravens, and Devastators with Rhinos. Each unit has their particular specialty, and as your opponents’ units closely mirror your own, there’s a basic rock-paper-scissors approach to battles and how you handle your units.
Battles do have you collecting another resource, Resolve, acquired by ceasing production of troops in a troop generator building, which lets you activate other abilities like setting up protective towers in a lane or calling in special units. Outside of battle, skill trees let you level up base units with special abilities and items, as well as unlock different Resolve powers. All and all, the groundwork is set for, at the very least, a decent strategy offering, but even with its meager offerings, Storm of Vengeance just doesn’t work.
First and foremost, Storm of Vengeance doesn’t do much to really earn the “strategy” half of its chosen genre. Skill trees let you upgrade and change troops, but in doing so, increase the time it takes to spawn them, meaning longer queues, time that your enemy will spend flooding your lanes with troops of their own. Any option that would add variety or strategy to your units turns out to be for naught, as extra time spent waiting for one upgraded troop is better spent just spewing out vanilla offerings.
Resolve turns out to be a useless resource as well, seeing as you have to stop troop production to acquire it, which once again, means you either have to get it when you have a massive lead, making it useless, or face an onslaught from your opponent to scrape enough together, meaning your next Resolve attack is a do-or-die endeavor and therefore not particularly worth the risk.
All this culminates in levels that feel exactly the same, as without the ability to properly experiment with your troops you’ll undoubtedly find a winning strategy, and then rinse and repeat that strategy for the foreseeable future. In fact, it’s only necessary to change up for the few short missions that limit your resources, and even then they only really have one solution; so it’s a short and uneventful break from the status quo.
Difficulty is bare minimum and only really changes when the AI decides to pump out trains of enemies faster than they should at intervals when they really shouldn’t. All of which goes to reinforce the idea that you should be spamming troops as fast as possible with as little thought as well.
There’s multiplayer, but it’s honestly nothing to write home about, and after the few matches I was able to find, it played out as about expected. We each rushed to spam out as many vanilla troops as possible, hoping to overwhelm a single lane, as losing any lane cripples troop production, winning you the game. Really the only interesting bit of the game was switching over to play as the orks, but even this was only a few minutes of fun in what was a decidedly dull and uninteresting experience.
Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance leverages speed over any form of strategy, and sadly ends up being an uninteresting and repetitive experience because of it.