Welcome to the 41st Millenium, where the galaxy’s favourite pastimes include war, war and more war. For those unfamiliar, Warhammer 40,000 is a grimdark setting where humanity has expanded beyond our solar system and into the largely hostile galaxy as well as becoming a xenophobic and fanatical race that hates anything that’s not exactly like them. One such
faction that works to preserve the technology of the long since forgotten ‘golden age’ is the Adeptus Mechanicus, individuals that are so obsessed with machinery that they forego their flesh to better connect with their machine god. As a Magos, it’s down to you to discover the secrets of ‘Silva Tenebris’, a forgotten planet discovered by your party during a voyage. You’ll soon find that the planet is home to more than just battered ruins and alien hieroglyphics however…
Mechanicus at its core is a tactical, turn-based strategy game that will have players take control of a multitude of units from the Adeptus Mechanicus, ranging from the spongey Servitor all the way up to the tanky Kastelans. You’ll also be taking command a roster of Tech Priests, who serve as characters that the player is able to customise and equip with different loadouts and abilities to better serve roles on the battlefield.
In Mechanicus, your choices ultimately affect the larger picture and how your units fare on the battlefield. When exploring the planet, you’ll find that there are multiple different routes and events that you can uncover, each with their own effects and outcomes which can mean help or hinderance. Before this however, you’ll have to choose a mission on the hub screen, which in this case is the bridge of your warship orbiting the planet. Each staff member on board will present a mission for the player to complete, with each of them varying in difficulty and
risk/reward. As you complete more missions and upgrade your units, the missions begin to scale with your progression.
Once the player has selected a mission and units, they will begin the ‘Exploration Phase’, where they are presented with a tactical map of the tomb and their units, showcasing different pathways and points of interest. It’s here where the decisions come into play, with each pathway leading to a randomly generated event that can either reward the player for their inquisitiveness or end up benefitting their adversary by piling on a status effect which comes into play during the combat phase. One thing to note is that while this does encourage strategic decision making, there are moments where I was left frustrated by the seemingly endless amount of negative status effects I was uncovering during an expedition.
Machine Vs Machine
After the exploration phase and once the player makes it to their main objective, they will begin the ‘Combat Phase’, where the turn-based element comes into play. The battles are
structured around initiative, with each of your units being assigned into the queue based on their value. Depending on different buffs, status effects and debuffs you uncovered in the exploration phase, you may find that your units seize the initiative and go first in combat
unless your adversary has a higher value.
Fans of XCOM will be extremely familiar with how combat is handled, with each unit being
taken control of individually and given orders on their turn. Depending on the unit, the player is able to give them special commands and orders based on their strengths. For example, early on the player is given access to a unit called a ‘Servitor’. Normally in games like this, your units are extremely precious and should be kept alive at all costs. In Mechanicus, this isn’t the case for the Servitor. Keeping on the theme that the Adeptus Mechanicus are cold, calculating machine-men, they’ll sacrifice their lesser units to make sure that their Tech Priests can survive the day, meaning that the Servitor’s main function is… to die. Some of my favourite moments came from sacrificing some lower level units to ensure a successful mission completion, even if it meant that 5 servitors had to take a gauss cannon to the face to ensure my Tech Priest would live to file another report.
Pimp My Priest
One of the most enticing aspects of Mechanicus is the ability to customise the Tech Priests in your arsenal, kitting them out with special gear and abilities that decide their role on the
battlefield against the Necrons. Your available gear is determined by how much you unlock from successful mission completions, with the higher-end goodies getting drip fed to you as you progress through the game.
The different weapons and armour have a cosmetic and a gameplay effect with heads, torsos and lower body attachments that can be mix and matched to allow the Priests to equip better gear and perks. You begin the game with a small amount of gear points, but can increase the available amount by levelling up your Tech Priests and unlocking more skills on their
Unlocking and upgrading new abilities is dictated by the amount of currency the player obtains through completing different missions and exploration events, called ‘Blackstone’. This is the currency that you’ll be using over the bulk of the game to upgrade your units.
I enjoyed my time with Mechanicus, as a fan of other games in the genre I felt right at home with the familiarity of the gameplay loop and the way I was able to tailor my roster of units to each specific situation. I do recognise that players that aren’t as familiar with the turn based strategy genre may struggle to pick up certain concepts, although the game does its best to introduce the way combat is handled as well as tutorialising the customisation system to
introduce to the player how they can ensure their roster of Mechanicus units will beat back their adversaries as they traverse further and further into the tombs of the planet.
I’ve certainly developed a more of a liking towards the Adeptus Mechanicus, way more than I had for them before I decided to spend a fortnight clearing out xenos tombs with them, and I fear for the irresponsible financial decisions towards the tabletop I’ll no-doubt make now that I kind of like their faction.