Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War
The least diplomatic 4X we’ve ever played
THE WARHAMMER 40,000 UNIVERSE seems like a good fit for a 4X game. There’s lots of traveling across dangerous distances in enormous ships, plenty of deploying troops, loads of diplomacy.... Actually, there’s no diplomacy. 40K is all about the war, and filling the alien menace full of holes, so the four Xs in this game are explore, expand, exterminate, and exterminate some more.
The planet on which our four factions (Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Orks, and Necrons) find themselves is a hostile place, divided into hexagonal parcels of land. Dangerous creatures roam the landscape, which has dangerous plants, Necron tombs, and the artifacts of previous colonization attempts scattered about. Everything is out to kill you, so you hit back in the only way the setting knows: massed ranks and laser fire.
That setting is key to the game. It dictates the units, their roles, their weapons, and how much you’ll like it. If you’re a fan, you’ll lap it up, even when it diverges from the letter of 40K lore. The four playable races are nicely differentiated, with two (Imperial Guard and Orks) being a source of massed, cheap units, while the others send out fewer, more expensive, but more individually dangerous, squads. Neatly, the two “superior” sides hit a resource limit that can see them swamped by their more numerous foes. It’s a shame not to see Tyranids or Eldar, but we guess you have to save something for a sequel or DLC.
Each faction gets a storyline, played out as a series of missions. Wipe out every enemy base, and you win, so seeing a plot thread to its very end can mean keeping a vestigial nuisance faction alive for as long as it takes to complete the final mission. The AI prefers to defend than make serious attacks on your base, so it’s possible to do this. The bases are your production centers for not just units but certain resources, too.
Gladius captures much of the strategy of the tabletop game, but little of its excitement. Units, even those equipped with jetpacks, react stiffly, reshuffling every time they lose a member, and somehow regenerating losses when set to heal. There’s little sense of impact from heavy weapons fire, while the Imperial Guard’s laser rifles seem so ineffectual, it’s a marvel they kill as much as they do. The Guard makes up for it with a fun array of tanks, but the downside of fielding a large army is that the constantly repeating soundbites begin to grate.
It’s a novel use of the 40K license, but for a 4X game to dump one of its tropes so completely means the favored strategy— in this case combat—must be very good indeed. With its unsatisfying AI and limp gunfire, the thrill of watching the tabletop game in motion is short-lived. Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War
EMPEROR Nice shake-up of the 4X; tank rushes for days; the thrill of commanding Space Marines.
HORUS Drab looks; stale AI; so much grim darkness it begins to get you down.
RECOMMENDED SPECS i5 or equivalent; 8GB RAM; GTX 660 3GB/R9 270X 4GB.
$40, www.slitherine.com, ESRB: T
There's no attempt to hide the hexes the maps are built on.
The planet is infestedwith numerous deadly organisms.
Imperial Guard armies have many walkers and missile launchers.
Claiming a hex that contains a relic grantsyour faction bonuses.