Preview: Warhammer 40K Goes 4X With Gladius - Relics Of War

Explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate in the grim darkness of the 41st millenium with this new take on the Warhammer 40K franchise!

Its always a total toss-up as to what you might get with this very hit or miss franchise when Games Workshop decides to throw their name at the dart board of development teams. For every Vermintide 2 or Dawn Of War there's a host of half-assed mobile games and random excursions into other genres that don't quite work as well as anyone hopes.

The breadth of styles offered in Warhammer games has exploded over the years, as we've now had real-time strategy, third-person action-adventure, action RPG, MMO, and even first-person shooters in the 40K universe.

Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics Of War (boy that's a mouthful) again shakes things up on the genre front, which is always a gamble. Will Gears Of War work as a cutesy POP game? Can Fallout survive chasing the trend of online survival mode? These things are always just so hard to tell ... 

But now we're finally landing on the turn-based 4X genre with Gladius, and I'm very pleased to report that so far, it's a much better fit than some of the subpar recent Warhammer offerings.

Note: We're currently evaluating an early preview build of the game that only features the space marine campaign. Some elements will change and Gladius will launch with access to the Necrons, Orks, and Astra Militarum factions on July 12. We'll update this article into a full review once we get the complete release version.

20180625104530-84def.jpg Heresy detected!

Translating The Imperium Of Man To A 4X Strategy Game

At its core, Gladius is complex like a 4X game should be, but while still being manageable. A helpful red button in the corner reminds you of what can be done each turn so you don't accidentally waste any time without researching, requisitioning new units, claiming tiles, and so on. However, there are still lots of ways to mess yourself up if you don't figure out the strategy.

You'll be juggling influence, requisition, population, energy, research points, and expansion versus avoiding conflict while trying to tame a planet besieged on all sides.

It's easy to get overwhelmed if you are ranging too far afield and trying to grab everything without building up a solid defensive line first, as enemies will chase you back to your base and annihilate you in huge waves.

Along the way, as you run your space marine chapter, you will choose new abilities for your heroes and select equipment upgrades that will be familiar to Dawn Of War players.

20180625114737-5b375.jpg This big guy and his group of enginseer heretics annihilated my paltry two squads of space marines

An Indie Offering In AAA Wrapping

In general, this feels like a big-budget 4X game. It isn't missing any of the elements or polish that typically plague indie excursions (the map scrolling is frankly better than Civilization 6 had at launch). On the other hand, there are a couple of animations and unit models look noticeably on the indie side.

Killer music and sound effects ramp up the atmosphere, like bullets and lascannon blasts pinging off robotic armor. Fans of the lore will also be pleased by the presence of enemy types you don't see much on other 40K games, such as the Enslavers.

Four factions are available at launch, which obviously is quite a bit fewer than in your typical Civ entry, but if they all play as well as the space marines then I'm looking forward to trying out the other three and playing them into the ground, with hope for more factions as an expansion in the future.

Masochists who only want that stupidly complex 4X experience that takes weeks to learn and months of reading to master might be disappointed by the simplified nature of Gladius, but anyone else will likely love this take on the genre. It's complex while still being accessible, and the 40K motif is undeniably awesome.

20180625122721-a9658.jpg ...but it's not like you will be lacking in resources to juggle!

The Bottom Line on Gladius - Relics Of War 

Gladius is essentially Civilization meets Dawn Of War, and that's as epic and awesome as it sounds. 4X fans and 40K fans are going to want to pick this one up immediately.

This is one of those (exceedingly rare) instances where Games Workshop throwing the Warhammer license at an unknown team resulted in a smash hit success that was well worth the risk.

Now that we've finally gotten a 4X entry that's worth playing I'm going to have to keep repeating this mantra over and over until it happens -- next up we need a single player RPG in the vein of Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. This universe is ripe for that sort of experience, so get it on it already GW!

Published Jun. 25th 2018

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