Pain is an illusion of the senses, despair an illusion of the mind
Five years after the Warhammer Fantasy title Mordheim: City of the Damned, Rogue Factor is back to the unique 3rd-person TBS genre with an Warhammer 40K game. Set in one of the massive hive cities of Necromunda – giant self-sustaining spire cities home to billions of people – Necromunda: Underhive Wars puts you in charge of one of the many underground gangs that fight for supremacy in the lower levels of the Underhive.
The game is divided between multiplayer and singleplayer portions, the latter of which includes a multi-mission story campaign with pre-made characters and a “Create Your Gang” mode that lets you customise one of three factions and includes content such as Operations and Skirmishes. The game recommends you play the whole campaign to learn the basics before creating your own gang, and that’s absolutely the way to go.
Like Mordheim, Necromunda: Underhive Wars has an interesting gameplay system – each unit is controlled and moved in third-person, one at a time, in turns. Every round, you choose a unit and the enemy chooses a unit, and the one with higher initiative moves first. You’re free to walk around using your Movement Points – which cleverly recharge and recalculate if you travel back – and take actions with your Action Points.
Each unit has a backpack that can carry items looted from enemies and chests in the environment, and each class can equip an assortment of weapons ranging from melee blades and lascannons to pistols and snipers. Shots are often executed through a general 30AP aiming at the target or a 40AP focused shot that lets you target which part of their body is getting shot at – great at helping you hit an enemy’s head with a 89% shot when their body behind cover only gives you a 30% chance.
The balance is a bit stringy, with way too many abilities and some ludicrous costs (crouching costs more AP than reloading your weapon while picking up a single dropped item costs the same as leaping down four levels, for example), and the battle balance is a bit weird – it’s virtually impossible to have a fight without getting damaged, as every enemy takes SEVERAL bursts to the face to die.
Personally, I blame both of those issues on too much numbers – games like XCOM 1 and 2 managed to avoid that by simplifying the health system from 150 health to 8 and weapon damage from 34-45 to 3-4, and that makes a hell of a difference in keeping the game tight and focused. Necromunda battles’ way too often result in an enemy left with 1 to 4 health requiring you to waste a full 50-damage 30AP shot to the face to wipe them out, which I find is bad game design based on outdated RPG practices.
But the biggest problem with Necromunda: Underhive Wars is definitely its pacing – it’s not just slow; it’s glacial. Every single round starts with a 5-second “PICK YOUR CHARACTER” pop-up that locks you out of the game until it goes away, meaning you will waste 30 seconds per turn just staring at the screen. Given missions take several turns and often last easily half an hour, a good 5 minutes of every hour of playtime are spent on a redundant “PICK YOUR CHARACTER” reminder that you’ve seen 15 times in the past 10 minutes. It’s made even worse by the fact you are forced to watch every AI soldier do their actions even when they’re not near you, meaning you lose 5 more minutes every turn watching Random Soldier #5 crouch and stand up thrice before using an AoE ability on himself.
Similarly, the whole AP/MP system stays in place even outside battles, meaning you navigate the environment for loot and exploration in the same staccato and restrictive pacing that you would in a dangerous battle that must be approached with caution. I feel a system like Corruption 2049’s where exploration is real-time and turn-based only happens during combat would be a much more natural and modern way of handling that game concept than what Necromunda ends up going with.
On the good side, the game does have a fair amount of tactical options. From different kinds of weapon shots and multiple grenade types to buff/debuff abilities and a way to convert MP to AP, most situations are actually approachable from a few angles – though you are occasionally restricted by the large and static AP cost of abilities. I quite like the 3D map that lets you scan the battlefield for enemies, ziplines, and extraction zones – a lot of games have a habit of making 3D maps hard to navigate, but Necromunda sure didn’t.
On a technical level, however, Necromunda looks pretty nice. The graphics and level design are very 40K and high-quality, and units have a fair amount of variation – even animations aren’t half-bad, creating a game that is kinda easy on the eyes if you ignore the abhorrent scum of a setting it takes place in. Voice acting ranges from serviceable to hit and miss, and the performance was fine on my machine – I heard several reports of bad performance, but aside from the AI being a bit weird at times, I ran into no issues.
Necromunda: Underhive Wars is an interesting game. I have to admit it’s not my cup of tea – even though I love strategy and play way too much of it every single day, I got used to games that are a bit more dynamic and which actually worry about pacing. Necromunda is a capable strategy games full of tactical options, but the glacial pace will put more people off than draw them in.
NECROMUNDA: UNDERHIVE WARS VERDICT
Necromunda: Underhive Wars is a capable strategy games full of tactical options, but the glacial pace will put more people off than draw them in.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Sniping a pesky soldier from across the map with a Focused Shot after someone else hitting him with unlimited handmade grenades.
Good amount of tactical options
Third person system is quite unique
3D map is nice
AP and MP costs are too restrictive, and I feel they should be a bit more dynamic and offer more player choice
Seriously, it's very slow
Seriously, it's REALLY slow
Voice acting is sometimes downright annoying
About Marcello Perricone
Passionate, handsome, and just a tiny bit cocky, our resident Time Lord loves history, science, and all things that fall from the sky.