Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus Review

Just like Pokemon, Dr. Who, or Star Wars, Warhammer has a rich canon with extended continuity. When Pokemon Go came out in 2016 and all everyone talked about for a while was how popular it was, it was all the rage. It was so engrossing that people were actually camping out in public spawn spots and walking into traffic or off of cliffs. I didn’t jump on board the bandwagon with all of my friends and coworkers, because even though I thought it was cool and looked like fun, I didn’t (and still don’t) know the difference between a Squirtle and a Caterpie, or know what a “gym” does and how it trains a Pokemon. From what I saw and heard the majority of the people who played Go daily had a relationship with the franchise going back years, and small subtleties in the experience meant much more to them than I, as an “outsider”, would be able to comprehend or enjoy.

Those same differentiation’s apply to Warhammer. I live down the street from a Warhammer store. The shopfront is always awash with dioramas of interesting and anachronistic battle scenes, of over-muscled warriors armed with swords and guns duking it out with tanks. It always captures my interest and when I go in to look around what’s in there is even more entrancing. There are models and miniatures, guides, books, painting supplies, and more.

The person inside always welcomes me warmly but then wants to talk Warhammer. It makes me  feel like an imposter and a fraud, an invader into a sanctuary built exclusively for grognards and diehard enthusiasts. The Warhammer universe has multiple properties broken down into even more sub-properties, and all of them are chock-full of lore, histories, religions, and idiolect. Even so, I’m always compelled to buy and play Warhammer games on my Xbox. The visceral art style and violence inherent in that vein is so compelling. Normally Warhammer games don’t delve too deeply into the lore and the entrance requirements are light enough for them to be accessible to everyone. Until Mechanicus

Hold on though. While Mechanicus, a grim turn-based tactical strategy game developed by Bulwark Studios, dives right into the action, the Warhammer mythology is done in such a way that the player is ably brought along for the ride. I think that’s partly because the game’s storyline is written by Ben Counter, a prolific writer of over 40 Warhammer novels. The story broaches each new facet of Warhammer’s mythos using gameplay that eases the player through the setting, and what could potentially be confusing and stay in the lane of exclusivity to only Warhammer diehards is instead very approachable and fun. I won’t delve into the story, but the premise of the game is a quest to plunder ancient catacombs to obtain long-lost data and technologies. Along the way (fairly early actually) your techno-priest gains the ability to deploy an upgradable squad and the action is immediate and fun. 

The difficulty of both gameplay and story development slowly ramps up over dozens of levels but never becomes overwhelming. If the lack of a background in Warhammer is a hurdle to dipping a toe into Mechanicus, it shouldn’t be. In fact, the opposite could be said, that if anything appeals about Warhammer, Mechanicus is a great introduction into the universe. I don’t feel as much of an outsider now that I’ve lived in the world, learned some of the terms and some the rich diversity of character types, weaponry, skills, abilities, mobs, and more. There’s something to be said to getting indoctrinated and becoming an insider. It adds to the overall experience.

Conclusion

As  I mentioned earlier I’ve played everything Warhammer from the Xbox 360 on and I can recommend most of them, but this is the first title I can recommend for both Warhammer enthusiasts and novices alike, as there’s enough story and lore content and plenty of interesting and challenging gameplay to satisfy both groups.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Visually and aurally appealing with an overall grim-dark aesthetic
  • Fun turn-based gameplay that scales well
  • Great introduction into the Warhammer universe that also caters to players that are more entrenched in the lore
  • Dozens of catacombs to raid
  • Nothing really to not like
Bad
  • If turn-based games aren’t your scene, this won’t be on your radar. If you don’t play because you find them difficult, it’s worth trying
8.5
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 8.5
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 8.5
Written by
I was gaming way before it was cool or accepted, when games were sold in ziplock bags and gaming clues required a letter and a SASE to the actual developer. I’m not saying that like it’s a credential or an odd badge of honor, but as a statement that video games can be fun and engaging independent of graphics, the number of player choices allowed, or game mechanics. I felt the same sense of joy and exhilaration with text-based games of yore as I do playing the most advanced games of today.

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