Sanctus Reach: Classic Tabletop Warhammer in a Digital Package
In the grim-dark reality that is the 41st millennia, there is only war. And in the midst of this eternal conflict, the Space Marines, the most powerful warriors the Imperium of Mankind have to offer. They stand ever-ready to kill all aliens, mutants, and heretics that would oppose them.
There are a lot of Warhammer games out there to play and I've played quite a bit of them myself -- being a big fan of the Dawn of War series of games. So, what about Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach sets it apart from the number of other games?
In Sanctus Reach you take control of one of the coolest chapters of Space Marines, the Space Wolves, who take the fight to the vile green-skinned Orks on Alaric Prime -- a planet in the Sanctus system. The Space Wolves are pretty much the equivalent of Vikings if they were clad in high-tech armor and genetically augmented bad-asses. Seriously, this is a Space Wolf Marine:
Also, keep in mind that the average Space Marine is roughly 7'-8' tall due to the hormone therapy they undertake in the initiation. So now that you have somewhat of an idea of who you're playing as, let's look at what makes this a great game.
The first thing that really jumped out to me about Sanctus Reach is the very tabletop feel of the game. Unlike the Dawn of War - Dark Crusade games, this is a turn-based strategy. You have limited movement points and action points that your units can take every turn. And, true to the tabletop game there are army points that act as a squad cap for battles.
Speaking of the armies, this is by far the most diverse unit selection I've seen to date in a 40K game -- with over 22 different Space Wolves units to choose from. In addition to that, we get to play some of the campaign missions as legendary hero units from the Warhammer lore which is pretty epic.
Currently, the game has 2 campaigns at its initial release -- Stormclaw and Hour of the Wolf. Stormclaw is a 25 mission campaign and is the easier of the 2, while Hour of the Wolf is proving to be rather challenging with 20 missions of its own.
Another area the Sanctus Reach excels in is that it has an editor mode built into the game, which allows you to build your own campaigns. I'm personally looking forward to the creativity of the Steam Workshop on this one and really hope that modding support is added for the game for a few reasons.
This is far from a perfect game, even if I do find it really, really fun for a handful of reasons. The first issue I have with it, while not a major issue, is the voice-acting. It's really not that great and can even be rather cheesy at times, bordering on slightly obnoxious. It's not exactly a deal-breaker as it's fairly commonplace in Warhammer titles.
My next issue is the enemy AI. While Orks are not widely known to be the most intelligent of Xenos they do have at least a general knowledge of tactics and strategy. This seems not to be the case in Sanctus Reach when the Orks basically walk past the victory points -- spots on the map that must be controlled to win the game -- just to hunt down my hunkered down units.
I was literally down to the last 3 turns before I realized that I had to actually be on both victory points of the map in order to win. So I send my fastest unit, my Bloodclaw Marines, towards the furthest point. And the Orks basically just let them breeze on by while they kept moving to flank my main force. I mean, they didn't even fire on the Bloodclaws that spent a turn standing in the open, no cover at all.
Now, while the AI is a bit slow it is more than made up for in sheer numbers. There are a lot of Orks per mission and I mean a lot. I remember playing the first mission and crushing about 5-6 units of Ork Boyz and Shoota Boyz only for more to come out of the fog of war the next turn. I was easily outnumbered 3-to-1 and it really gave me a sense of dread/accomplishment every time I repelled a wave. There is one last negative about the game for me though that I have to address as it was the most obnoxious part of playing the campaign and that was the victory points.
I mentioned above that I needed to hold both victory points in a mission for it to be considered a success, and for that mission it made sense. The problem is that most of the missions revolve around capturing and holding victory points. "Escort these transport vehicles and while you're at it, take these victory points." Or, "Stop the Orks from taking supplies and, oh yeah, hold these victory points."
This is hands down the biggest annoyance of the game as it basically takes units out of the fight because you have to hold these points on the map. I've also noticed that, for the most part, the Orks have completely disregarded these strategic points in favor of getting mowed down by chainswords and bolter fire. There is a lack of tension and drama in capturing and holding these positions with the only real bonus being the ability to call in additional forces to turn the fight into a real slugfest.
Speaking of slugfests, and wanting to get back to some more of the great points of this game, Sanctus Reach does have some very satisfying fights. There is just something magical about watching Space Wolves in Terminator armor crushing Orks under foot. Or the really satisfying sight of watching their morale go into the negatives while they get cooked by my heavy flamer squad. It honestly almost makes up for the rather lackluster campaign mode of the game in its own way.
The Final Verdict
Sanctus Reach, as a whole, is a really good game that is close to being a really great game. While there are a number of minor issues with some of the mechanics and modes the game is still more than the sum of its parts.
- Variety of unit types
- Enjoyable fighting
- Great price
- Weak campaigns
- Voice acting needs redoing
- A bit more polish on the UI
All of this considered I still recommend this game to fans of the franchise as well as for fans of turn-based strategies. The game is currently available on the Steam Marketplace for $29.99 so if it sounds like something you'd be interested in I'd urge you to pick it up.
Note: A copy of the game was provided for review by the developer.