Warmachine: Tactics is in its early stages right now, with a beta via Steam's Early Access that offers limited maps at this point, but gives players a really solid idea of where the title is headed. The gameplay itself is quite polished for this stage of development, with a focus on turn-based tactics leveraging the Unreal 4 engine. The end result? An attractive, deep strategy game that should impress when it eventually releases.
The stated end goals on the Early Access page shows just how far Warmachine: Tactics has to go before it is considered complete. The full version of the game looks to contain:
• An epic single-player campaign featuring 21 missions and an engaging storyline that will immerse you in the world of the Iron Kingdoms.
• Three multiplayer maps.
• Four factions, each with two warcasters, four warjacks, and multiple warrior units.
• A point-based squad customization system that allows you to decide exactly what units and strategies you take into battle.
• A revolutionary unit coloring system offering nearly unlimited visual customization of your squad.
• Play-By-Mail functionality
• Hot Seat mode, allowing multiplayer on a single computer.
• Team up with or fight against computer controlled AI.
• Special game modes like Take and Hold, Teams and Onslaught.
• Online Ranking and Leaderboards
• Expand your experience with regular releases of new units and campaigns, available for purchase through the Steam store.
• Multiplayer maps will be released regularly, always for free!
While the state of the current beta offers:
• Four armies representing the four core factions of the Iron Kingdoms. Each army contains one warcaster, multiple warjacks, and multiple warrior units
• One multiplayer map
• One single-player scenario that introduces new players to the game before diving into multiplayer.
That is a substantial ways to go, but the good news is the foundation appears quite solid and the gameplay absolutely holds up. The character models and scenery look great, with interesting strategic gameplay that reminds of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Being based on a tabletop game, it is nice to know that the game itself has that same sort of flow and feel to it. The allure of both multiplayer and single player content is certainly appealing as well, though in its current stages there is not a lot of variety to be had here.
That is unfortunately what brings us to a handful of the negatives. The single player AI is not the sharpest opponents I have ever faced, and there is a real lack of maps and overall content at this point. As such, it would be hard to run out and recommend this version of the game to people right now because of the fairly hefty $65 price tag. Of course, it comes with a lot of future content, delivering what will be the Deluxe version of the game. I see a handful of people riled up about this point, but I currently do not see the issue. Each person will determine if having an early say in the game's feedback, plus the promise of what is to come, is worth it now or not. I am sure that there will be other pricing structures available when Warmachine: Tactics does finally release, but until then I just want to make it clear to people what they are getting - a well-designed game that is in its early stages and therefore has rather limited content.
Now, back to the game itself. At this stage you have your commanding unit, who tends to quite powerful and a good deal more flexible than the other units. Think of him or her as a combination of the queen and king in chess - powerful, but also invaluable as their defeat signals the loss of the match. Additionally there are large mechs that have various skills, but the focus points your commanding unit has can also be spent on the mechs, giving them extra turns or additional bonuses to their calculated attacks (raising hit accuracy and/or power for example). Additionally, there are foot soldiers who have weapons such as grenade launches and rifles for ranged attacks, and bayonet blades for melee.
The environments themselves factor heavily into the calculations, with advantages going to soldiers at elevated levels and line of sight proving invaluable for ranged attackers. The end result is a fairly deep, tactical experience that should prove very exciting in both single and multiplayer.
One thing that I am still unclear on, but hopeful about are persistent elements. Because Warmachine: tactics is currently bound to a single map, there is no indication if success or failure in the campaign mode might roll over into other maps, but I have always enjoyed persistent hooks such as experience/levels/new unlockables and so on. My initial gut feeling is that these elements will not appear, but it is too soon to tell.
All in all, Warmachine: Tactics looks like it is moving in the right direction. It still has a long ways to go, but I have high hopes that it will prove worth the wait.
Preview by Nick