Get introduced to Grukk Face-Ripper up close and personal in the new Sanctus Reach game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

This incarnation of intellectual property sets us into the Sanctus Reach system where the Space Wolves (one of our personal chapter favourites) are facing off against the bestial and savage orcs.  The final game will reveal two long story-driven campaigns “Stormclaw” and “Hour of the Wolf” in which the player will command a host of Space Wolf units as they explore the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  We played the preview, so a lot of the options were restricted (obviously) for the sake of the final game.

Warhamnmer 40,000 Sanctus Reach

Courtesy of Slitherine

However, something we did enjoy (and we know this is a preview but we were particularly happy with this point) was the ability to spend and use points to build out the army list with almost complete freedom to do so (from a large and varied list that included tanks, land speeders, terminators, blood claws and other Space Wolves units).  It’s a feature that we haven’t seen in the few Warhammer 40,000 PC games we have played and a feature we hope others replicate.  It was exceptionally hard not to be taken back to our tabletop playing days where we would spend hours debating over the right unit combination and choice.  Then remaking it depending on each failure and success of said army list.

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Our playthrough of the demo resulted in utter failure (possibly?) and obliteration.  We took in a land speeder squadron, four blood claw squads, one terminator squad, three captains, a dreadnought and a few other bits and pieces.  Something you quickly learn in Sanctus reach is to not ever split your forces.  Ever.  Our first playthrough resulted in us thinking we were being clever and dividing our numbers to swing around at the enemy from two sides in a pincer movement once we destroyed the two small elements that we were facing off against.  Nope.  As soon as these elements were destroyed and we pushed forward with our plan, we realised the game keeps a LOT in reserve in an oddly human-like manner.  As our forces were split in half, triple the number of the original orc forces closed in on both of our separated lances.  Not good.

We thought we were saved when, mid-game, we were delivered a Titan, whose massive cannon, chain sword, ability to squish enemies and huge morale impacting presence would turn the tide.  This is when we learned another great thing about Sanctus Reach.  Numbers matter.  As the Titan tried (and did not succeed) to cut a swath through the green-skin forces, two orc dreadnoughts, as well as four squadrons of orcs, closed in on our swing around force.  Safe to say the swing around force was quickly obliterated under concentrated fire.  The South driven force fared much better against two dreadnoughts and one squadron, as three captains, a land speeder and a rhino took them down quickly…. Only to come around through a gate and be met with what appeared to be a missile turret that took down two of our captains.

Warhammer 40,000 Sanctus Reach

Courtesy of Slitherine

Obviously, the game is in beta at the moment, so we can’t say too much about the quality of the sound, the graphics or anything too specific. However, what we saw we admired.  The combat menus look to be quite useful and intuitive, quickly allowing you to either fight close combat or at long range.  The unit selection is a touch confusing, however, still being in the beta stage, we imagine this will be quickly improved to cease multi-unit selection when single-unit selection or de-selection was the intention.  The interface is extremely useful with hover-overs showing detailed terrain and unit information (tile strength, cover provided, unit weaponry and defences).

We were curious how units would carry over (since we can only play the demo mission we can’t be sure) but the Slitherine site states that XP will matter and units can be moved into the next campaign mission – and if that’s the case it will create an exceptionally strong bond between players and their units.  You tend to lose care factor when you’re given a whole bunch of new units from mission to mission.  The ability to grow and mould your forces and develop a fondness for them will make each mission matter – and we can see many saves and reloads occurring as each player fights to keep their treasured units alive.

Multiplayer will be interesting – with everything being turn-based we’re exceptionally intrigued as to how Slitherine will manage the time one side takes for their turn versus the patience of the other online player.  Someone steps out for a cup of tea knowing that the game is turn-based and leaves their counterpart there to sit and wonder – doesn’t sound too enthralling.  But we’re waiting with baited breath to see what Slitherine pull out of their hat on this one.

This does actually look to be a game that Warhammer fans might finally eat up.  There is still a whole lot of talk that the Warhammer 40,000 universe is still far too generous with whom they dish out their intellectual property to, and a lot of games are doing the world a disservice.  You will come across that, however, when the majority of your fan base have been playing this game for decades, not just a few years, and want to see the world perfect and pristine.  Sanctus Reach may just be that game.  We’re extremely curious to see where they take it and we will certainly be jumping back into the demo to try another play through with a completely different army list.  Kudos, Slitherine, it looks like you are onto a good thing here.

Get some more information about the game over at Slitherine.com