Given the grand lore and well-crafted history of the Warhammer 40,000 experience, it’s little wonder it’s been the focus of a plethora of video game adaptations over the years. Now, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide joins the ranks of the likes of third person shooter Space Marine or the popular RTS battler Dawn Of War, and it brings with it something that’s at once surprising but also reassuringly familiar.
Perhaps closest in style to the strategy gameplay of Relic Entertainment’s Warhammer series, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide once more puts players in control of the familiar armies of the famous tabletop miniature game as they wage battle in their seemingly never-ending war. While Dawn Of War played like virtually every other RTS game on the market at the time, players here will find their battles restricted to classic – yet gloriously embellished – 8×8 chess boards. Sound like a bad thing? Well, it’s absolutely not. In strict terms, the small-scale is a literal restriction, but players can expect to find as much scope for chaos and carnage within these battles as in the likes of Dawn Of War.
The fact that this is possible is certainly no mean feat; I’ll admit I was a tad skeptical about the chess-inspired gameplay, but the Warhammer 40,000 brand was an attractive enough pull to make this game worth a look.
Taking hold of the iconic Space Marines or the cruel and destructive Orks, players are quite simply tasked with navigating their way to battlefield success in the two modes. The Chess Mode is essentially as basic as it sounds, with players following the rules of the classic game while watching the whole thing play out with a gloss of blood and gore. In the titular Regicide Mode, however, the game of chess is expanded and evolves to include extra turns per player as well as brand new unit types, abilities and changeable objectives for different battles.
In truth, players will more than likely find themselves playing in Regicide Mode most of the time. Although the Chess Mode will sometimes make for a nice break from the intensity of its partner, it’s in Regicide Mode that this game truly excels. While your units in this mode will regularly move and position themselves like traditional chess pieces, their added abilities and skills mean that each one has numerous ways of helping you to succeed in battle. Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is forgiving enough to easily identify what chess pieces each of their unites relate to, but in the more in-depth game mode it’s really only in the movement phases of each turn that this becomes vital.
Once the movement phase of each turn is finished, players will enter the Initiative Phase, where the real fun begins. Yous start each of these phases with a default of three initiative points – though certain abilities can allow more to be granted – which they can use how they see fit each turn. Early in the game, for example, players may opt to chip away at the health of enemy units by using their pawns’ snap shot attacks before opting for more vicious assaults when the action heats up around the middle of the board. The tactical nous required by Regicide mode is really what sets this apart from a basic game of chess.
That being said, I’ve also never witnessed a game of chess that’s anywhere near as spectacular in its gore and brutality. Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is gorgeously brought to life. The ambient atmosphere of each battle remarkably evokes the dark worlds of the Warhammer 40,000 universe; the sounds of battle are appropriately aggressive and each of the available boards will bring familiar planets into the experience. The visuals of the battles themselves are also superb, with the units presented with the painstaking detail that players of the tabletop game have been aspiring to for years. Kill animations and combat phases are a real highlight, as well, complete with exploding body parts and some truly gruesome fatalities.
While the visuals are stunning for the most part, I did experience a couple of frustrating bugs during my time with the game so far. Occasionally, I found that ability names weren’t showing correctly, which led me to miss out on some useful tactics at key moments. I did also feel like the element of chance – which influences how likely your units are to succeed with their attacks – was a heavier influence than it should be given that this is never an issue in real chess games. This is not a major gripe, however, as the advances this title makes to bring a chess-based formula to the battlefield more than justify its inclusion.
Ultimately, the only large failing the game may have is in attracting enough players to the experience. A chess-based video game is a bit of a hard sell if you don’t learn the extra details early on, and I’ve already talked about how the Warhammer 40,000 branding was what stopped me missing out on this one.
Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is, for me, an absolute treat. If players can get past its misleadingly basic premise and a bit of a slow start, then they will be rewarded with a unique and satisfying battlefield experience. For its meagre price, the game offers a wonderful experience, and I truly hope that there will be room for growth as the developers capitalize on the other factions of the Warhammer 40,000 game. Heck, I’d even welcome it as paid DLC!
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
The latest in a long line of Warhammer 40,000 games brings a great new strategy and a gorgeous appearance to its chess-based battles. It is an immensely satisfying experience.