Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin looks great. I’m no veteran of the genre, but it’s the first RTS game I’ve played with such well produced cutscenes, fully voiced characters who speak in more than just grunts, and production values that supersedes most of what’s come before it.
Warhammer has a grand history with the RTS genre – who’d have thought that people who enjoy directing plastic troops around a tabletop would love doing the same thing in digital form? – and it’s about time Age of Sigmar got in on the action that’s been dominated by Fantasy and 40K for years. Much like its tabletop counterpart, Realms of Ruin looks to increase production values and make the genre more accessible to newcomers, but falls far short of classics Dawn of War and Total War: Warhammer.
Stormcast Eternals have long held a reputation for being faceless and soulless, simultaneously poster boys and hated mascots, and Realms of Ruin does well to mitigate this throughout the campaign. Good, varied vocal performances sell you on the characters and, while it doesn’t reach XCOM levels of caring about your grunts, the major story beats, mostly told via cutscenes, are all engaging. I’m also glad that Tzeentch finally gets its time to shine after too long spent in the shadows when it comes to Warhammer video games.
Note: While the Stormcast are more personable than their tabletop counterparts, the same can’t be said for the Realm of Ghur. The setting for Realms of Ruin is consistently bland, lacking the high fantasy magic that makes the Old World tick
The same can’t be said for the battles, however. In its attempt to simplify the RTS genre and make the game approachable for console players, combat is messy and imprecise, often to the point where it gets frustrating.
There is no way to automate units’ actions, something sorely needed in the campaign as you spend your time carefully repositioning ranged units while your close combat monsters mop up in the centre of the action. The closest thing is telling your unit to engage in combat if it comes close to an enemy, otherwise it will waltz straight past any engagement in order to reach its goal.
This lack of precision is detrimental to the whole idea of RTS, and while Realms of Ruin is almost definitely easier to play on Xbox than Dawn of War, that doesn’t make it a better experience. It’s a shame that piloting units is so finicky, because gameplay is an interesting evolution of the genre’s usual fare.
Instead of base building to facilitate unit production, you gather resources through capturing strategic magical objectives. This forces you to play proactively and discourages defensive strategy, which works well in the campaign, but really comes into its own in multiplayer.
Realms of Ruin’s multiplayer feels somewhere between Total War and Counter-Strike. With objectives being a prerequisite for power, early skirmishes can shift the tides of battle before sustained pushes can pull things in the other direction. Matches are often close fought contests, and the four playable races keep things interesting. However, multiplayer fights are still bogged down by the unreliable selection tool and vague control scheme.
This isn’t a single-player experience with multiplayer tagged on to sell battle passes – if anything, it’s the other way around. I found playing other people more fun than fighting the AI, despite all the triple-A quality cutscenes aimed to curate a perfect experience. But Realms of Ruin goes to show, no matter how stylish your Lord of Change character model is, no matter how well rendered its feathers are, games are nothing without deep gameplay systems and precise controls to back it up.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin
Reviewed on PC
- Great cutscenes and voice acting throughout
- Fun multiplayer with an engaging iteration of RTS PvP
- Imprecise controls make battles a pain
- Dull setting
Score: 3/5. A Steam code was provided by the publisher.
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