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Game Info:

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II
Developed By: Tindalos Interactive
Published By: Focus Home Interactive
Released: January 24, 2019
Available On: Windows PC
Genre: Real-Time Tactical
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Price: $39.99
(Humble Store Link)

Many thanks to Focus Home Interactive for the review copy!

Battlefleet Gothic II is the sequel to Battlefleet Gothic: Armada from 2016. It's a game of combat in the void, of massive spaceborne warships blasting away at each other as they vie for supremacy in the space between the stars.

The latest video game successor to the original tabletop game Battlefleet Gothic, this game looks and plays exactly the way one would expect as a veteran of the tabletop days. The player controls one or more starships of the Imperial Navy as they seek to enforce the Emperor's will on a massive and chaotic galaxy, crewed by loyal and worthy... Okay, I admit it's hard not to slip into a narrative voice as I describe it. The narrative in this game is one of its main features and it's far more engaging and compelling than the previous title. Now, that's saying something because the previous game was very immersive as well.

Battlefleet Gothic II begins its story near Cadia, a world that serves as a bastion of defense against the Eye or Terror, a rip in space from which the forces of Chaos and their daemonic allies occasionally invade the galaxy. For ten thousand years Cadia has held the line against these invasions, but in the opening campaign of the game, the player takes on the role of a variety of starship commanders as they attempt to repel the largest invasion from the Eye anyone has ever seen... the 13th Black Crusade. I have to say, as a longtime fan of Warhammer 40,000 it was incredibly fun to play out these events, especially since the Fall of Cadia represents the largest forward movement in the 40,000 lore in a long, long time. As a dedicated Black Templars player I squeed when I got to command the Phalanx for a little while. Oh, and you get to see the Vengeful Spirit, too. All of this is in the game's Prologue, which serves as the tutorial for the game. (May I just add, the most amazing tutorial of any game I've ever played, hands down.) The tutorial culminates in the destruction of Cadia... Even as Imperial troops continued to fight desperately on the surface. It has been said the planet broke before the Guard did, and my beloved Black Templars were among them.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent graphics, engaging narrative, smooth controls
Weak Points: Doesn't make use of all 3 dimensions, cutscenes are a bit long
Moral Warnings: This is a battle game set in a universe with evil gods, xenophobia and genocide

So let's talk about gameplay.

The game controls are much improved over the previous game. The buttons in the UI are larger and the icons much easier to see. Overall the controls are simplified and the game flows much more smoothly. I didn't feel overwhelmed with things to do, even in engagements between multiple ships on both sides. It also helps that ships can be given specific tasks, stances and go for specific targets (even ship subsystems) and then left to their own devices. By specific stances, I mean that the ships can be in different modes, to put more emphasis on defensive maneuvering, absorbing damage, accuracy in attacks, etc. Grouping and ungrouping ships is easy and intuitive, using the mouse to draw boxes around the ships to be grouped, and the Ctrl key to add or remove ships from a group. Of course, individual ships can also be given auto control as well. The game's UI has also been streamlined so that it doesn't take up as much space, making it easier to see what's happening. That may sound contradictory. How can the buttons be larger but the UI takes up less space? It's because of the streamlining and more efficient use of the space.

The graphics are gorgeous. Zoomed-in ships look fantastic and particle effects really convey the feeling that these vessels are being blasted by devastating weaponry. Background visuals are beautiful, and more than once my ships took more damage than they should have because I was distracted by the scenery. I didn't notice any trouble with the graphics on a Windows 10 PC though when I zoomed in for extreme closeups on the ships I could clip through the ship's skin.

The audio was a big factor in the immersion as well. Ambient ship sounds, explosions, the roar of the guns and orders shouted by commanders all felt real (to the extent that imaginary space combat from 38 millennia in the future can feel real). I also liked the background music much better than the previous game. It was a bit more energetic and faster, and made me wish my ships moved a little faster so I could get my teeth into the enemies of Mankind... (There I go again... slipping into the narrative.)

The narrative is so awesome that it made me want to play more, not just watch cutscenes, and the game is heavy with cutscenes. Normally that's a good thing if you're into narrative play, but these do such a good job of making me want to get back in the Captain's chair that they felt a little long. Also, when the Silver Dawn battlegroup went straight after the Vengeful Spirit in the prologue, I didn't want to watch them go in, I wanted to PLAY it.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada II
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 72%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 9/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

My one big complaint about Battlefleet Gothic games in general is they're still played on a two-dimensional grid in an environment where three dimensions are available. At one point I found myself thinking in terms of the same tactics I use when playing the sea battles in a game like Empire: Total War. I like that kind of play, but it feels limiting in a space game. To be honest though, I can forgive it because the gameplay is so smooth and intuitive as it is that adding a third dimension would feel tacked on at this point.

Multiplayer consists of setting up one-on-one fleet battles, but you can only play against friends. There does not seem to be a way to arrange matches randomly. The scope of the battle can be set, with both sides evenly matched.

In terms of morality, this game is consistent with other Warhammer 40,000 titles. Sexuality is not an issue here, language is mild if it exists at all, (I didn't notice any), and because this game takes place at the scale of massive starships, there's no visible bloodshed. At the same time, the scale works against it in that the size of these ships means a destroyed vessel represents the loss of tens of thousands of lives. In one moment during the prologue, it is reported that one of the ships is heavily damaged and has lost over 65,000 people, all in a matter of a few seconds. We don't see that loss of life onscreen directly, but we know it's happening.

The game's dialogue is aggressive. Even when there's no action, characters in 40K, Space Marines especially, love to smack talk. It can get fairly intense and graphic at times.

This setting is also heavy on occult references. Chaos represents evil deities, aliens and psychic powers are common. Also common is sorcery (explained as psychic power tapping into the Warp, but it's treated like magic) and there are demons... lots and lots of demons. They don't appear directly in gameplay, but they are a large part of the 40K setting and can be seen in cutscenes. Even the heroes of the story worship the Emperor of Mankind as a deity, often exchanging the greeting "The Emperor Protects," which is eerily similar to "Jesus Saves."

Overall, Battlefleet Gothic II is an improvement over its predecessor, which was itself a great game. If you like Warhammer 40,000 you'll really get into this game for the story even if you're not that interested in space fleet battles. If you are into space battles, then this is a must-have game even if you're not into 40K as such. Because of the content and feel of the game I wouldn't recommend it for the kiddies, but older players can really have fun with this one.

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ArcticFox

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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