UPDATE: After this review was completed but before it went live, we received an update from the developer about some of the issues. Please look at our scoring info below the main review for more information.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is an excellent strategy game set in a fascinating universe, with cleverly written dialogue, a wealth of character customization, and freedom to choose how to tackle the many included missions. Sadly, before you praise the Omnissiah, I think you should avoid it for now.
Set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the story starts with Magos Faustinius leading an expedition of tech-priests to the world of Silva Tenebris to investigate a missing tech-priest. Silva Tenebris is a tomb for the powerful Necrons, and they are waking up after millions of years to subjugate the galaxy. Along with the included digital art book, little bits of lore are dropped throughout the story and provide more insights into the background, so you don’t need to know everything to jump into and enjoy the game.
After picking a mission and your team, you can direct them from aboard your ship, the Caestus Metalican. A holographic projection shows paths connecting rooms to your final goal. Some rooms have an event indicator. An image will appear with some text describing what your team sees.
There will be three choices, and each will lead to an unknown consequence. For instance, you find a strange artifact glowing eerily that could provide you with a benefit. Do you cautiously study it from afar, grab it off the pedestal to save time, or destroy it for the Xenos blasphemy that it is? The consequences of your decision could give you Blackstone, the game’s currency for upgrades, unlock some tech, cognition points, or one or more of several penalties. Little decisions raise the stakes in every mission.
Spending time exploring during a mission is another risk/reward mechanic. There is an awakening gauge that gradually increases. Among other problems, this causes more Necrons to spawn in your future fights or respawn more quickly after you have disabled them. When a mission ends, that total is added to an overall counter that shows how long until the Necrons awaken entirely.
The turn-based, tactical combat is the meat of the game, and Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus doesn’t disappoint. You’ll start by positioning your team inside the beginning area. Once placed, the level will start, and you can begin to move across the grid-based map to attack. A bar at the top of the screen shows the move order and health of characters. The map’s visual theme is different depending on which part of the tomb you are exploring, but I did see the same level back to back a few times.
Each character will have a set distance you can move during a turn and a range for whatever weapons you’ve equipped. (More on equipment in just a second.) There are skills and tech you can employ to damage or defend as well. Throughout most of the levels, you can collect Cognition Points to allow you to perform better attacks, move farther, or activate abilities. You can acquire them by standing next to them or with your handy Servo Skull, and collecting and controlling them makes the difference between life and death.
Failing a mission doesn’t stop the game. Assuming you pass the level objectives (which can change on the fly), you’ll receive Blackstone to power up your tech-priests. There are seven different tech trees with different abilities and pieces of armor to unlock. Some unlocks increase the range of your weapons or heal a point of damage during your turn. They also unlock the ability to use more equipment slots.
There are so many options when choosing equipment. Beyond molding your character with skills and armor, other pieces of tech are gradually unlocked during or after a mission, and you’ll see what each mission will unlock. There are items to absorb damage in an area. You can make a character invisible and unable to be targeted until you attack. You will slowly expand your team of tech-priests and troops over different missions to craft the team you need and fits your style. You have a ton of options for tweaking the difficulty of the game too, and I’d love for more games to include this feature.
Canticles are little ability cards that can be used once per mission, and three of these can be selected. I was eventually able to heal a character, give myself cognition points, or increase the damage for my next attack. I did have trouble selecting the cards I wanted for some reason, so once I had a good set for my style, I stopped trying.
The presentation is another place Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus shines. It isn’t going to rival console exclusives for polygon counts, but the art style is great, even though there are visual slowdowns here and there. Despite the overhead camera, you can zoom into to see the detailed models of friend and foe.
The music has a very satisfying mix of synth organ and choir, and you can listen to tracks from the main menu. It’s a great soundtrack. Strangely, the overall sound was quieter than many of my other PS4 games, so I did have to turn up the volume when I played.
The writing is also interesting in the way it portrays the dialogue between the Magos and others, and you can see the machine-based thinking of the Adeptus Mechanicus faction expressed as speech while the individual human personalities are not suppressed. It’s very clever, and I enjoyed reading it.
I wish I could stop the review here, but there are some technical issues. I experienced a huge number of crashes in the game. I would estimate the game was crashing an average of once an hour, causing me to lose some progress every time. I began saving often to minimize the damage. Once, the save confirmation dialogue box didn’t disappear. I was able to keep playing until the game crashed again.
The Heretek levels tell a side-story about a faction of rebels on your ship. It’s cool. When I went to take on their boss, the game completely froze on at least three attempts. Other times, crashes would keep me from finishing the level. You don’t need to complete it to beat the game, but it’s disappointing.
I don’t know if others had these same issues, but a review is about my experiences with the game. I hope I’m an outlier, and please see if other reviewers mention these problems. As much fun as I had with the game and as good as it is, and it is very good, I have adjusted the score accordingly. It was important to me to tell you why I felt the need to score it this way after praising the game, and, without these issues, the score would be much higher.
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a great strategy game in a compelling world with deep character customization and player choice. There are dozens of missions and plenty of Necrons to destroy on Silva Tenebris. Unfortunately, the most formidable enemy is the game’s technical problems, and these keep a great game from living up to its potential.
No score, here’s why:
I reached out to the developer when I initially started to encounter some of these bugs, and they responded immediately to investigate. A day before this review was to go live, they responded to let us know a patch is in final testing to fix the errors.
To be fair to our readers, we’ve decided to run this review with the problems still listed, because we know some of you will be buying the game at release. I would strongly recommend you play the game with the patch. I was able to brute force my way to the end, but it wasn’t the way I would want to experience it.
For now, we’re not scoring the review. There’s a lot here, and a number doesn’t tell the whole story. If the patch fixes my issues, the game is fantastic, and I would give it a full recommendation. I’ll be checking back sometime after the patch to give it a go, and I’ll update the written review.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.