The first 4X strategy set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is coming later this year, and we got a hands-on with the game! So let’s get stuck in with Gladius – Relics of War… just don’t expect us to have done well. Like, at all.
If there’s one thing that’s conducive to good strategy game play, especially good 4X play, it’s picking up from someone else’s save, with a faction and game you’re unfamiliar with, with a limited time to play. Oh, and in a crowded room, too. So I did what any player would in these circumstances – I threw caution out the window and vowed to immediately and fruitlessly annihilate all my enemies, as well as anyone close to being enemies, or allies that I’m suspicious of, or just anyone that looked at me funny. I won’t win, but it’ll be a laugh.
I took command of the Necrons, the robo-skeleton army, and headed out into my city on Gladius Prime only to find myself immediately surrounded on all sides. Well, that’s just great. I won’t pretend I remember who was on what side, but I’m going to take a wild guess at Orks in the South, Astra Militarium in the East, Space Marines in the North, and plenty of gigantic wild animals in the West.
In the centre of all this was my capital of Szar Agorek, and fortunately a decent invasion force. Plenty of infantry, some cool basic vehicles, a couple of Doomsday Arks, a Monolith that saved my bacon far too many times, and a Cryptek (Necron wizard guy). My only real goal was to upgrade the Cryptek to Level 3. Spoiler alert: I never accomplished this.
Gladius is laid out in a traditional hex format, giving cities a honeycomb appearance. Turns consist of an action for each one of your units – with possibly a bit of movement along with an attack, and some new production or research if you need it. I will say that, considering I’d never played Gladius before and was thrown into the game after any sort of tutorials, I was impressed by how easy it was to pick things up. While there was clearly a lot of depth I missed out on, and didn’t really have to time to get used to anything or learn what Research was good or not, I still managed to get stuck into the game and annihilate my enemies without too much bother. Well, from the game anyway.
To quickly note the graphics, this is one of the most attractive 4X strategy games I’ve ever seen. The world and all the units are incredibly detailed, and even better is the zoom function. You can view the entire battlefield or zoom right down to a single infantry unit’s toes. From above it could be any old hex-based strategy, but get closer and you see how much work developer Proxy has put into making Gladius Prime as gorgeous and detailed as possible. And so colourful! It’s a wonderful contrast to the “grimdark” greys that most of the factions use.
My first attempt at Gladius saw me explore in several directions and get overwhelmed, but the East was most interesting since it appeared like the Space Marines and Astra Militarium were clashing before I got there. When I continued later I left them to their own petty squabbles, and lo and behold – I got no trouble from the East. Excellent. The Orcs mostly kept to themselves in the South, apart from a minor attack on my city which I swiftly deflected, so I left them alone – a decision I might have regretted later, but hey, I never got to that point.
West was blocked by a river, with just a few Catachan Devils (big centipedes) to deal with, so I spread out upwards and sent my growing armies north of Szar Agorek and a few units alongside the river to deal with any threats there. We encountered a few infantry units, a few tanks and some gun emplacements, but nothing a few well-placed rounds from the Monolith couldn’t deal with. Shame it moved so slowly.
Then we started hitting the problem. The Astra Militarium had set up a city and a number of decently-defended outposts over all of the northern regions… and I ran my forces straight into them. Oops. My Cryptek died quickly (so much for that objective) and slowly my other forces too, despite my attempts to warp a few in from Szar Agorek. As my Monoliths crumbled and my previously unstoppable Doomsday Arks blew up, I began to think that maybe I should’ve taken things a little more slowly and carefully. Oh well, next time.
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War currently doesn’t have a release date, but is probably out this year. The demo we played seemed pretty complete in terms of features, anyway, so it can’t be years away. Check out the Steam page here for more information.
It’s astonishing to think that Gladius is the first Warhammer 40K 4X strategy game, but Proxy and Slitherine have clearly been working hard to make sure it’s worthy of the wait. It’s certainly looking great, and I don’t just mean graphically. Considering I only had about an hour with Gladius and had to rush things somewhat, plus I started without a tutorial or any sort of introduction to any units, buildings, abilities etc, it’s a testament to the game’s good design that I still had a lot of fun with it.
4X strategy fans and Warhammer 40K fans are certainly in for a treat. While undoubtedly we’d need a lot more time with the game to judge it, the little chunk I played already has me longing for more. Which makes it doubly annoying that Proxy and Slitherine haven’t announced a release date yet, or even just if it’s coming out this year. I want to get excited about it right now!
Most Anticipated Feature
Being able to try out the other races, naturally. And hopefully not suck at them as badly as I did the Necrons.