Libra is our “first impressions” series. These are generally spoiler free, but may reveal some base plot points and mechanic details.
Before there were virtual RPGs, there were tabletop RPGs, and one of the largest names in this playing space was- and still is- Warhammer. This massive tabletop strategy franchise actually comes in two flavors: traditional Warhammer, which leans much more heavily on fantasy tropes while still possessing its own unique concepts, and the 40,000 variety, which is a fascinating science-fiction universe featuring hyperbolic representations of mankind’s lust for progress. One example of this are the Adeptus Mechanicus, a group of tech-mages who are so enamored with research that they’ve replaced parts of their bodies with machinery for “maximum science.” They build things for people, too.
The Adeptus Mechanicus are the stars of their own tactics game in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, a turn-based strategy title that draws inspiration from some real-time mechanics in order to present a deviously twisted, grim experience that possesses a great deal of freedom, at least in terms of branching mission structure. Based on what I’ve seen so far, the game looks like a pleasant alternative to many of its brethren from the strategy sub-genre, which at times feel stuck in the dark ages.
The Adeptus Mechanicus have received a transmission from a deceased member of their organization, who seemed to have stumbled upon a cache of highly valuable scientific
horrors discoveries. The Mechanicus, being the tech-fiends that they are, decide to follow the transmission and have their Tech-Priests investigate, only to find that they have stumbled upon- and jump-started the awakening of- a Necron tomb. The Necron, if you haven’t already guessed, are sort-of undead robot creatures wielding tech far beyond that of any other species, even the Mechanicus themselves. But what is the awakening of an entire planet of soulless, death-worshipping machine creatures other than an opportunity for research? And so, the Mechanicus set their sights on uncovering the secrets of the planet, the Necron, and the solution to the problem they have technically caused.
Mechanicus features a sort of “hero-focused” strategy system, where your most customizable units come in the form of the Tech-Priests. These multi-classing, equipment-bearing cultists feature weaponry far more substantial than a grunt unit, but they often require tech points in order to attack. Tech points can be accrued outside of combat from dungeon crawling, a nice way to begin a battle with a strong sense of momentum, but when engaged in a skirmish, you can collect this valuable resource by scanning specific objects in the environment, either by standing adjacent to them or at a range with your servo-skull. The other method of gaining tech points is by harvesting them from a fallen Necron, though this can prove risky due to how they can self-repair and reactivate, leaving your Tech-Priest vulnerable. Tech points have various uses, from extending the range of a Tech-Priest’s movement to the activation of their weapons. The battle cannot be won by these brainy individuals alone, however, and given the number of skirmishes you’ll enter, it is key to bring some grunt units planetside to act as meat shields and subjects for the Tech-Priests. Grunts are often highly specific in their function, and if syngerized properly with a Tech-Priest or combination of other units, can offer some impressive offensive capabilities.
The reason you want your grunts out on the field as soon as possible is because when Tech-Priests die, they die forever. Usually. Honestly, while I’m playing through the game on its normal difficulty setting, the challenge can be amped up or down in a variety of ways via an in-game menu, allowing for a highly approachable and enjoyable experience. If you’re daunted by how Mechanicus might look or play, these options are so versatile, there’s almost no excuse for a newcomer to feel unprepared for the tech-nightmare they’re about to unleash. Despite this, the basic difficulty feels like a moderately reasonable challenge, once you figure out the balance between tech points, equipped weapons, and your individual Tech-Priests.
Even so, the game can be daunting due to the perpetual timer ticking upwards towards annihilation. With each mission you complete, you activate more of the Necron tomb, and if you spend too much time twiddling your thumbs, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. The game does offer opportunities to lower this in-game timer, but if you’re the sort of person who gets overwhelmed by this sort of information, you might find Mechanicus a bit much. The game presents pleasantly from its over-the-top perspective, but dungeons look a bit sparse due to their wire-frame depicition, with skirmishes being the highlight of the show. Mechanicus has so many lovely unit types, but they appear smeared with vaseline if you attempt to utilize the game’s zoom-in function, which is hindered by an aggressive depth of field filter.
It’s hard to rag too hard on Mechanicus, however, especially since it nails its sound design and soundtrack. The humorous and most-certainly over-the-top members of the Adeptus Mechanicus will banter back and forth, their dialogue instead replaced by synthetic whirs and buzzes, as they’ve likely removed their vocal chords for their inefficiency. This is contrasted with how Necron units are able to speak, meaning the choice was intentional, and brilliant, at that. The soundtrack is this bizarre mix of haunting choral harmonies, church organ, and electronic sampling, which makes for an extremely distinct aesthetic experience that makes Mechanicus truly feel like it’s in a league of its own.
- Unique setting and bleakly charming characters
- Inventive strategy mechanics and difficulty options
- Outstanding aesthetics
- Camera zoom is a bit wonky
- Turn-order can be slow
- Camera zoom is a bit wonky
- Turn-order can be slow
As I continue my playthrough of the game, I’m eager to see what new horrors the Necron can unleash upon the Mechanicus, just as I can’t wait to see how I can further deepen the skill set of my Tech-Priests and combine their abilities with grunt units. Mechanicus might not be the most fast-paced title- there are no options to speed up movement and attack animations, as far as I know- but battles are given their proper weight within the importance of the mission structure and always feel fun. We’ll have final impressions of this solid strategy title for you later this month, so stay tuned!