Chess is a game that’s been played for thousands of years. Be they young or old, rich or poor, royalty or not-so-royalty, all have at some time come together to play the first real strategy game. But for the past millennia, there’s been something missing from the classic game… but now, chess is finally complete. Chess can now transcend its biggest obstacle and become the perfect game: You can find opponents online! No longer will you have to find a friend who’s just as classy as you and only slightly worse at the game! Oh yeah, and Warhammer: Regicide came out today. That’s a thing too.
Warhammer 40K: Regicide is the first major release from indie developer Hammerfall, based in our very own Sydney. The game takes place, naturally, in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and pits Imperium of Man’s Space Marines against the Ork hordes… on a chess board. Not the combination you would expect, but it’s the one we got nonetheless. Does the game play well? Not really. Chess is a very finely balanced game, and throwing other things into the mix only serves to complicate matters. Is the game fun? You bet your edible-excrement-making Space Marine arse it is (no seriously that’s a thing they can do).
At its core, the game is chess. Each piece has specific movement patterns, and they must do battle on a board against an enemy king. However, what Regicide brings to the board is juicy violence. Space Marines driving chainswords clean through greenskins, Lasguns melting through Librarian armor and cooking the skin underneath, Bolter rounds pummeling away at an Ork Warboss’ mechanical augmentations, this game is chock-full of lovely gory violence. And I love it. This magnificently brutal violence is either presented on the board, or in really cool battle animations that play if a piece takes another in close proximity. They get tiring after a while, sure, but they’re refreshingly skippable and are genuinely great to look at. Gratifyingly, the weapons all sound exactly like they should. A common gripe with Warhammer 40K games is their poor sound design. The weapons never feel like the heavy-handed (literally) boomsticks they are. Regicide takes a leaf out of Relic’s Space Marine title and gives each weapon an incredibly satisfying and distinctive sound. Bolters sound like goddamn Bolters, and it’s amazing!
The game currently boasts three modes. There is the single-player campaign, which tells the story of a regiment of a Space Marine chapter called the Blood Angels (anybody who plays the tabletop game will know exactly how freaking cool that is) being called to eliminate an Ork ‘Waaagh!!’ from the remote world of Hethgar Prime. This is honestly a very gripping story and I highly recommend experiencing it for fans of Warhammer and newcomers alike. Then there are the two multiplayer modes. The first, Classic, is Chess with explosions. The second multiplayer mode is Regicide, where the game truly becomes its own. In Regicide mode, an extra phase is added to turns: Initiative. After you move a piece, just like in chess, your pieces can also use various weapons and abilities on whatever poor sap happens to be on the receiving end. These abilities all cost Initiative Points (IP), the more broken abilities costing more IP to use. Some of these abilities are well-implemented and balanced, while others fall into a ‘use or toss’ binary: they’re either incredibly useful or just plain useless.
The game also suffers from the same frustrations as the tabletop game, or any other game that uses an element of luck, especially in multiplayer. All too often, my precious Librarian (the Queen) was blown to pieces by a Krak Grenade that landed a critical hit. But when the odds work in your favour, Warhammer: Regicide becomes a very fun game indeed. Just don’t expect to have fun all of the time. The single-player consists of 50 chess puzzles that must be completed in order. These are all quite varied and interesting, as each puzzle has different objectives and available pieces. The atmosphere of it is superb, and even brings back many voice actors from the Dawn of War series! In fact, the entire game is the dev team’s tear-stained love letter to the Warhammer license, and their love for the license really shows and adds to the game’s enjoyability. The models are incredibly well-detailed, but while players can unlock more Space Marine chapters or Ork tribes to use (fuck yeah Space Wolves!), it’s disappointing that there are only two factions to play. The game would truly have benefited from a playable Tau Empire, Eldar or Tyranids, but this is understandable given the size and nature of the developer.
While Warhammer: Regicide doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s at least a nice distraction. Great atmosphere, a well-executed campaign and an honestly interesting way to play chess fall victim to its own reliance on a dice roll its and the small size of the developer not allowing more playable factions in this rich universe. However, it’s a far cry from a bad first title and I’m looking forward to what the studio has in store for us. But for now, the countdown to Total War: Warhammer begins.