Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus (Switch) Review
Around two hours into Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, things started to click and I began to dig it. Now, let me say that I have not, in the past, been a huge Warhammer fan. I’ve played a few of the games, like Dawn of War III, but I never took the time to learn the rich and detailed lore of the franchise, which is undoubtedly impressive and has legions of fans. So when I first started playing this latest turn-based strategy game, now on Switch from Kasedo Games, it felt a lot like other titles I’ve played in the genre. But it got better as I played it, and the narrative began to grow on me.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus indeed has a lot in common with other turn-based strategy games, and for the most part it doesn’t re-invent the formula. You’ve got battles laid out with squares, you take your turn and move your units, make ranged and melee attacks, then wait to see what the enemy does. Your strongest units, the Priests, form the backbone of your force. They’re assisted by varying numbers of lesser units – first the expendable Servitors, then unlocked upgrades starting with the Skitarii Vanguards. Your opponents are the Necrons – robot zombie aliens who guard the tombs you and your Adeptus Mechanicus cohorts are trying to exploit for their valuable technology.
There’s the usual strategic concerns of placement. Playing Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is as much about where you leave your units as what you do with them. That was expected. What I also started to really appreciate as the game went on, though, was the vast array of customization options that became increasingly vital to my success. Each Priest has slots in which you can equip augmentations – extra mechanical arms that each bring different abilities and weapons. There’s a dizzying array of choice in creating the build you want to take into battle, adding a lot of extra depth that I appreciated.
You learn to use your units more effectively as time goes on as well. After some initial struggles, I figured out that Servitors were best suited to close-combat swarming of the enemy, and their special ability to draw enemy fire made the difference in many a fight. I also got more shrewd in holding some units back, letting the cannon fodder do their meat-shield thing while my Priests absorbed valuable CP (Cognition Points, which are like action points) behind the front lines. Over time you’ll find the layers of choice and strategy make Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus more of a Chess match than a slugfest.
Further enriching this engaging combat is the superb writing. Writer Ben Counter creates a cast of characters that will entertain you with their idiosyncratic personalities. Tech-Acquisitor Scaevola is the quintessential technocrat, cold and calculating, even in her speech which resembles a computer spitting out code. Lector-Dogmatix Videx is the polar opposite; he’s a True Believer in the Adeptus Mechanicus religion, and as expected he clashes with Tech-Acquisitor Scaevola often. There’s the hilariously-pompous Prime Hermeticon Caprix, and also Sub-Domina Khepra, the voice who fights for the common grunts who have to do the fighting, and dying.
Their whole running narrative sadly unfolds in dialogue-text only, but if you have the patience to read it you’ll be glad you did. There were likely a lot of Warhammer references and details that were lost on me; but still, even if you are not a longtime Warhammer fan I think you’ll find the writing and the story in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus to be enjoyable, and something that makes you want to keep playing.
That’s a good thing, because I am not sure the strategy gameplay is enough to sustain the experience on its own. Like I said, once you learn tactics and get into the story Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a good time. But I wouldn’t ever say that I loved it, and it did feel like I was doing the same thing over and over as time went on. I killed Necrons, then moved on to the next Mission, where my objective was to kill more Necrons. Merely being able to unlock new units didn’t add enough new to the experience, and my enthusiasm waned at times. And the gothic music was well done but the “Grimdark” visuals were a bit too grim and dark for my aesthetic tastes.
Aside from the combat, I was also a bit disappointed in Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus’s exploration elements. In theory, tombs have many passages that you can explore, and in many rooms you can make choices that can bring either benefits, like more hit points, or they can hurt you by, say, making the Necrons stronger. But I found in practice that the results of almost all my choices brought negative outcomes. I found myself simply avoiding any passages but the ones that offered a direct route to the tomb’s main objective, and I don’t think that is ideal.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a good game, once you take some time to learn strategy and tactics. The upgrades to your Priests also help a lot in the middle to late game, so although it starts out tough things get better over time. I just wish their were more variety to gameplay and enemies, and I was disappointed that exploration seemed to almost be discouraged by the unfair RNG-generated outcomes of choices. The great writing and characters will appeal to any player, but I think you’d need to be a Warhammer fan to love the dull, grim visuals. Check this one out if you’re looking for a change from XCOM.
** A Nintendo Switch game code was provided by the publisher **
- Lots of upgrading
- Deep strategy gameplay
- Great writing
- Needs more enemy variety
- A bit too grimdark
- Exploration is discouraged