Hey there everybody! Thank you for stopping in! Today we’ll be diving into Storm Ground, the newest Warhammer game and the first video game to be set in the Age of Sigmar. It was developed as one of the first projects for Vancouver studio Gasket Games, by a team that included veterans of the hit Dawn of War series. I’ve been a fan of the Warhammer universe for a while, so I’m excited to dive right in and smash some heads!
What Is It?
So, first off, let us discuss what this game even is. Simply put, it’s a turn based, top down tactical game, wherein you move a group of fighters across the map to defeat the enemies on a hex based grid system. Not dissimilar to XCOM, Final Fantasy Tactics, or other such games.
On top of that though, it’s also a roguelike! For plot reasons all of your characters can canonically come back from the dead, so they take full advantage of that. Every time your group gets wiped out in the campaign you’ll have to start the entirety of the campaign over again. Fortunately however, any experience, gear, lore, and other such collectibles you gather stays with you. This means that each time you go in you’re likely going to be better prepared than you were the last time, though it also means there’s going to be a lot of grinding. If that’s something you’re not into…fair. We’ll talk about it more later.
What’s It about?
So, Age of Sigmar: Storm Grounds has three campaigns to it, based around three of the four major factions of the setting. The first campaign and faction you’ll have are the Stormcast Eternals, super-soldiers made by the God of Order Sigmar, lead by a female champion as she strives to liberate a fortress from the forces of Nagash, God of Death and Lord of the Undead. After progressing far enough in her campaign, you’ll unlock the other two. One let’s you play as the Nighthaunt, and army of the undead, while the other let’s you play as the Maggotkin, devoted servants of the Plague God. Each have their own mechanics and playstyles, as well as motives-the Nighthaunt seek to overthrow a city of the living, while the Maggotkin are on the defense against invaders.
And…that’s more or less it. The game’s lighter on the story than others, though admittedly neither tactical games nor roguelike games require the most intricate of plots. If you’re not familiar with Age of Sigmar as a whole you’re going to be a bit confused, because the game barely explains anything about its setting and plot, but at the same time its not going to stop you from understanding the gameplay and motives of the campaigns. So whether or not that’s a deal-breaker is going to be up to you.
So, since video games are a largely visual and auditory medium, the presentation matters more than it does when we talk about a tabletop game, let’s get this covered before moving on to the gameplay.
Visually, Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground is…fine. Character models are well designed, though the very zoomed out camera during actual gameplay means you’re really only going to notice the details when you’re in the management screen before and between battles. The landscapes of the battlegrounds are likewise well designed, if rather bland and homogenous. Honestly nothing really stood out to me about the presentation, but that also means that nothing was bad about it either.
And on the sound design, things are likewise fine. The voice acting is distinct and overall rather good. I can often tell what unit’s talking by the sound of their clips. Admittedly, said clips are kind of repetitive, and there’s not a different set for the single player, resulting in AI controlled units addressing the non-existent player controlling them, but that’s a nitpick in the grand scheme of things. And the rest of the sounds of the game are also fine, though less good than the voice acting.
Nothing really stands out to me about the game’s presentation honestly. But, like with plot, a tactical game doesn’t need the best presentation. It’s always a bonus, but since we’re talking about a digital board game, more or less, here the looks and the sounds can take a backseat to the gameplay. Speaking of which…
Each level of the campaign starts more or less the same. The enemy’s already on the map, and your job is to summon your champion and one weaker unit, the former of which can move on the first turn. With each subsequent turn the amount of energy you have to dedicate to summoning grows, allowing you to summon stronger units, though there’s a limit to how many units you can have available to summon overall. There’s a second set of energy, used to power the special moves of the units, but I’d be lying if I said I found most of them particularly useful in the early game. Some of them most definitely are, like taunting or laying traps, but others have a charge time meaning you have to predict the enemy’s movement and if you guessed wrong then you’ve wasted an attack, and others don’t do damage they just push the enemy back.
Now, sometimes pushing an enemy back is useful. But the problem is that Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground follows the tabletop game in that your unit cannot attack on the same turn it moved…mostly. Melee characters can do this, but only by moving directly onto the hex where the enemy is. If your movement range is too short by a single hex, all you’ve done is move into convenient hitting range for the enemy. This is, admittedly, somewhat mitigated by the retaliation mechanic in which your unit will hit back when attacked (and vice versa), but it’s still a rather frustrating mechanic. I don’t want to get too upset, because it’s a result of the adaptation, but it’s still frustrating. And it can cause problems with ranged, when you move a unit into range, then on the next turn the AI moves out of range again.
And on top of all of that, the game is hard. You’re going to die. A lot. Hell, at the beginning of every campaign the game warns you of this, and tells you to not get discouraged. On the one hand, there’s not any major penalty of dying. You keep everything you got and lose nothing…except for progress and time. Every time you die the campaign map changes, so you’ll never really know what to expect. And that’s where one of my biggest problems with the game lies. It can be very frustrating to sink a couple of hours into a campaign, then hit a wall and have to start from square one. But then again, that’s the nature of roguelikes. I don’t know that the mashup of styles works well for me, personally-the strategic nature of everything doesn’t really mesh well with the ‘keep throwing yourself at the wall until you break through’ nature of the difficulty in my opinion. But, if you’re a fan of roguelikes and don’t mind the quirks of the combat mechanics, this might be a good game for you!
Bugs And Issues
Now, I’ll say upfront that there were some technical issues I experienced while playing the game (I was using the PS4 version). Certain tutorials didn’t activate, the game crashed a couple times, and some more minor hiccups were present as well. However, I’m not going to harp on them too much, as I got a review copy and played before release and the day one patch.
That being said…the AI’s kind of dumb. It has a tendency to not think before it uses Area of Effect attacks, or to walk right into charged attacks. It’s not the absolute worst, it still provided a meaty challenge, but this is far from perfect, or even smart, enemy AI.
Ultimately, Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground…is not necessarily the game for me. The roguelike elements and the difficulty overall left me more frustrated than pleased. But, that does not mean that this is a bad game. For a licensed tactical game made by a smaller developer, this was a good game. And I think people who like roguelikes, or even just a very hefty challenge, will enjoy it. Same with people whose preferred flavor of Warhammer is Age of Sigmar.
This game was not for me, but there’s still plenty to recommend it. I don’t regret my time with it, and I think I will probably give it a second try in the future!
Images Courtesy of Focus Home Interactive and Gasket Games
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