Impressions of Warmachine Tactics Early Access from Whitemoon Dreams, Inc. – Heavy Metal Tactical Combat
I was a pretty early adopter of the Warmachine tabletop tactical game. While Warhammer has grown on me over the years, at the time Warmachine’s sleek aesthetic and smaller unit count made it a much more attractive option to me and so I bought a couple of armies (Menoth and Cygnar, I believe) used and got to painting. Well, some. As of this time (many, many years later) the Menoth army is painted, but that Cygnar army still isn’t. I did get to play a few games against a buddy who bought the Cryx army and I really liked it, but I also learned that I am not built for organized play in public spaces in any fashion. I love the idea of gaming leagues, but I really dislike the idea of playing against strangers.
Given all of that, I can fairly say I was interested when I saw that Whitemoon Dreams was working with Privateer Press to make Warmachine Tactics. I didn’t buy in immediately, but I read this rather good article over on Dread Gazebo yesterday and thought ‘You know, I really should throw some money at that.’ And so I did, gaining access to the Early Access version of Warmachine Tactics.
First, I tried out the Singleplayer Campaign. I soon realized that I was out of my depth in terms of the controls of the game. I was particular displeased to find that I could not freely rotate the camera with the middle mouse button. The left and right buttons work fine, but it did throw me off for a bit. Similarly, you can’t move the camera side-to-side with the middle mouse button, either, instead scrolling to the edge of the screen or using the keyboard. Before long, I turned off the single player game and watched the three tutorial videos available from Whitemoon Dreams on Youtube. The controls aren’t hard, but it was helpful to be reminded of some of the rules to Warmachine. Warmachine Tactics is not a one-to-one analogue for the tabletop game. With that said, from my memory of the game, it seems to capture the essence of the thing pretty well. Hardcore tabletop players may disagree, but it certainly feels like Warmachine to me and, while it may not be the perfect port some were hoping for, that’s a good first step.
Warmachine Tactics is, at least, turn-based and seems to honor many of the tropes of the tabeltop game: Each player controls a Caster that assigns points to different Jacks (the warmachines in question) as well as possibly partnering with human troops as well. Everything looks great so long as your computer can push it on High or Awesome video mode. Below that and, frankly, the whole things looks like a blurry mess. My computer, which handles lots of games just fine, could rarely get over 20 FPS and, in the heat of battle, tended to hang around 15. I also had some pretty mild input lag and there are still some things to work out in the UI, for sure, but the game is still in Early Access, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I did have one instance where it wouldn’t recognize me telling a unit to stand up until a deselected and selected it again.
That said, the core game experience seems incredibly solid to me. Everything looks alive (as mentioned before), you can customize your army (the ‘base’ game comes with the four ‘main’ armies: Cygnar, Khador, Menoth and Cryx, with each army giving you twelve or thirteen units (some of which are still coming soon), which should give you a lot of army building flexibility for each of them, for $39.99. There is also a Digital Deluxe Edition that includes enough Mercenaries to make a Mercenary Army (or plug them into your other configurations) plus the War Jacks and Casters from the Apotheosis expansion. Each turn in the game I played took about five minute.s I would strongly recommend that, if you’re going to wade in, you create your own army first. My base Menoth Army (with two human units) was utterly unequipped to take down my opponent’s all-Jack Cygnar army. It was a solid facepunching I took. Of course, maybe I’m just awful. That said, I had quite a good time. The map I played on had some cover on the edges but was mostly wide-open and the game took an hour or so to play. As mentioned, everything looks cool, and the game feels very tactical. You need to be careful to keep yourself in cover (if you’re a melee-heavy army like mine, especially, my massive Crusader got shot to death as it tried to walk across the battlefield – I should have kept to the outskirts) and how close you are keeping your Jacks to your Caster so that you can assign them points for bonus attacks or to power them up. Each Caster has their own set of spells and a one-per-battle super ability, too, and many units have their own special attacks as well. The base set, as mentioned, gives you a bunch of units to play around with. Honestly, the biggest thing I’m looking forward to at this point is asynchronous play (basically a necessity for this type of game in modern days) which is a promised feature for the future. Once that is in, I imagine I’ll be logging a lot of hours in Warmachine Tactics. Another nice point is that, as new multiplayer maps are released, they will always be free (meaning you can always take your base set units and fight on whatever maps are available) with units and singleplayer campaigns being available as DLC (the initial release will include a 21 mission singleplayer campaign which looks like it will be out around November from what I can find). I may have gotten whooped the one time I played, but I’m definitely looking back to getting into it and playing more once it is not such a huge time sink in a single setting. I love the vibe of Warmachine and Warmachine Tactics gives me the feel of playing the tabletop game (including army customization) without having to go into public. That’s a win for me.
That said, the price is a bit of a stick-wicket for those that didn’t back on Kickstarter. As mentioned above, the Digital Deluxe Edition is $65, which is pretty expensive. Am I enjoying it? Absolutely. Plus, earlier complaints that only the Digital Deluxe version was available are now allayed, since I understand the Standard Edition at $39.99 that will be the final retail price. Once asynchronous multiplayer and the campaign are added, Warmachine Tactics looks like it should be a pretty rad game. Right now, it still has some bugs to work out, for sure, and final pricing for DLC is not set from what I can find, but I enjoyed the game of it I played. It looks nice (on High or Awesome) and it is a reasonably-faithful recreation of the Warmachine experience, if not the actual rules of the game itself (I particularly miss the shutting down of systems on the Jacks as they are damaged, but not enough to effect my enjoyment).