Warhammer 40,000: Regicide
Reviewed on: PC
Chess is the original turn-based strategy game, so I was happy to see that Hammerfall Publishing has applied Warhammer 40K’s nightmarish aesthetic to this gaming granddaddy. In addition to taking control of Space Marines or Orks in a game of classic chess (with heavy bolters and krak grenades added to the mix—more on that later), the game’s Regicide Mode plays more like a level from turn-based tactics games like X-COM: Enemy Unknown. If the idea of dropping cash on a digital reinvention of the oldest game on Earth doesn’t seem like the best investment, just hear me out for a minute because Regicide is beautiful, gory fun.
As a huge fan of the nightmare-fueled sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40K, I was pleased with the the way that Hammerfall has superbly captured the cold, hyper-violent aesthetic of the original tabletop game. The translation is so seamless that it’s easy to forget that you’re playing chess. The board has been integrated into each map, making it feel like the grim battlefields that Warhammer 40K is known for. Though there are only three maps to choose from in Skirmish mode, day and night cycles can be applied to mix them up a bit. Each set of pieces has been stunningly rendered—both Space Marines and Orks are meticulously detailed, and their combat animations are blood-drenched and satisfying. Each different unit functions like traditional chess pieces. Bishops are Devastators, queens are Librarians and so on. Each unit can move and kill other units based on chess rules, but players also get an initiative phase after each movement phase. This is what makes the game tactically exciting. During this phase, each unit has a few nasty abilities that they can level against the opposition. For example, the Space Marine Librarian has the ability to drain hit points from an enemy unit in order to replenish his own. While these abilities present a fresh strategic aspect to classic chess, the game still relies on bare-bones strategic placement. Victories that come from killing the enemy with classic chess moves reward the player with a viscerally grim animation that leaves a dark splotch of blood on the game board.
When players want a break from classic chess, the game offers a single-player campaign that puts players into combat scenarios with different objectives. Typically, these scenarios need to be completed with a limited number of troops, which should make fans of the turn-based tactical genre feel right at home. Single-player maps also have cover built into them, which provides advantages against the gunfire or grenades of the opposing team, but not against legal chess moves—those still leave a maimed corpse in their wake. The one aspect of a turn-based tactics game that makes or breaks the experience is that the system has to feel fair to the player. In the case of Regicide I noticed that the AI’s supplemental attacks seemed to connect way more than mine did, which was a teensy bit aggravating.
A Warhammer 40K game wouldn’t be complete without a bit of customization, and Regicide gives players the ability to customize their armies with different colors and armor embellishments. These are earned through playing the campaign or earning enough profile points to purchase them. Currently, I don’t see an option to spend actual money on these customizations, which is refreshing. As the game continues to be on the market, I’m hoping that Hammerfall will add some DLC packs that include some of Warhammer 40K’s other factions. I can only imagine how much beautiful violence could be added with the inclusion of the Chaos Marines. Regardless of a few hiccups here and there, Regicide is a great purchase for fans of any Warhammer 40K property. It’s bleak, violent and gorgeous.