Review: Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon - Da Orks (iOS)17 Aug 2016 0
Review: Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon - Da Orks (iOS)
Released 17 Aug 2016
Panzer General must be the hardest working horse in all of wargaming. Its engine has spawned a number of variants, set across wide gulfs of time and space. Yet one of the more peculiar is a planet called Armageddon in the 41st millennium. Here, instead of Nazis and Soviets, it's all-out war between the Imperium of man and the brutish Orks. It's Games Workshop's Warhammer 40k millennium in the palm of your hands.
Armageddon: Da Orks isn't the first time the Panzer General formula has been to this exotic setting. Previously, in Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon, we played as the Imperium. This outing, as the title suggests, gives us the chance to instead play as the grammatically incorrect Orks across three new campaigns and a number of scenarios. You don't need to have played the original to enjoy this: it's a stand-alone title in its own right.
For those unfamiliar with the engine, it's classic hex-based strategy. Units have a variety of stats and capabilities, modified by terrain, and your job is to leverage those to best effect. Prying infantry units out of a building is like opening a can: trying to do it with the wrong tool can lead to serious self-injury. Rushing in headlong and trying to beat the enemy with force of numbers is equally as suicidal. Win conditions vary by scenario but are typically to take and hold certain victory hexes.
What's striking about Da Orks is how well it tweaks this format to represent the bleak yet colourful 40K world. There's a wide variety of units, way beyond the typical infantry, artillery and armour you'd expect. Huge herds of horrible fungal aliens called Squigs bring close-combat terror to undefended foot soldiers. Towering mechs called Gargants bring terror to pretty much anything except enemy units their own size.
The secret of this success is that each unit has a unique attack roster, often made up of several weapons. Often these have a mix of range, damage and armour penetration, just like in the tabletop miniatures game. To win you'll need to learn how to work these combinations for best effect, trying to bring as much effective ordnance to bear as possible while minimising your own vulnerabilities.
At this point, the game hits an unfortunate snag. Although stats for each unit are clearly displayed on the right of the screen, there's not an obvious key to the iconography. So learning demands recourse to the manual. This was a problem with the predecessor game, which smelled a bit like a rushed PC port. It's unfortunate that it wasn't corrected in this follow-up.
Indeed slavishly following in both the good and bad footsteps of the original game is a problem throughout Da Orks. Armageddon was also man vs orks. In some of the stand-alone scenarios you could even play as the aliens, just like you can here. So the newer title actually brings little that's genuinely 'new' to the table. There’s also no advance on the bare-bones animation and sound of the older game.
The main draw is the chance to play a drawn out campaign from the Orkish point of view. And in fairness, they do play rather differently from the Imperial troops. Orks are all about getting up close and personal which encourages an entertainingly aggressive play style. There's also some brief cut-scenes with amusing over the top dialogue.
Another noticeable difference is in the level of difficulty. The previous game felt like an accessible light strategy game all the way through. This one has some sharp difficulty spikes. While that might be considered a cause for criticism in some circles, it feels like an engaging challenge here. It makes you pause and look harder at those things that make this game unique: the plethora of units and their plethora of weapons.
Beyond the core campaigns there's a big selection of scenarios plus a multiplayer mode. It should be enough to keep you busy for a good long while, so long as you don't tire of the cookie-cutter mechanics. Playing on a pre-release Testflight build there were some infrequent crashes, but since the game auto-saves your progress that's only a minor issue, even if it's not fixed in the final build.
Armageddon: Da Orks falls into the unfortunate sequel trap. By ensuring all the fun stuff from the original stays intact, it fails to add enough that's novel to make it truly compelling. Fans of the original should lap this up. Anyone new to the franchise can swing either way and find plenty to enjoy. But perhaps there's a certain edge in Orkish aggression over Imperial drudgery.
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