Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon

For all the baroque brilliance of the Warhammer 40k setting, no-one has yet managed to capture its essence in a video game. Not for lack of trying - you can find licensed games on every platform.

Except for mediocre MMO Horus Heresy: Drop Assault, mobile was lagging a little behind. Now there's another contender in the shape of PC port Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon.

Developer Slitherine are masters of re-using resources and this is no exception. It's built on a re-skinned version of the Panzer Corps engine. The underlying game plays quite differently, however.

On the surface it's yet another turn-based, hex-based, strategy-based affair. But it's got a couple of unusual tactical twists that should interest veterans of the genre.

Look before you shoot

The first is that you commit to where you're going to move before doing so. There's no creeping along, hex-by-hex and then reconsidering your options if you encounter enemy units.

You either charge headlong into the fray or scout the ground by slithering slowly forward. Given that most of the scenarios are under grueling time pressure, getting the balance right is a key part of the challenge.

The other innovation is that most units come armed with multiple weapons which have different ranges and damage profiles. That won't come as a surprise to fans of the 40k miniatures game, but it's unusual for digital strategy fare.

This is where the real meat of the game lies. Learning to use the enormous roster of different units effectively. The ideal match up is being able to hit enemy units hard while keeping just out of their range.

Of course, under battlefield conditions the ideal is just a pipe dream, and it's all about making best use of what you've got.

Don't rush in

The trouble is that this iOS version makes that task a lot harder than it should be. The original PC version drew some flak because it was difficult to get hold of unit information when you needed it.

Not only is that still an issue here, but it's exacerbated by a lack of tooltips.

The tutorial will helpfully tell you that you can find the range, movement and other stats of a unit in the sidebar. But all you see there are icons and numbers, and no explanation of what means what.

It's also a very ugly game. Strategy titles are not renowned for their graphical wow factor but even so, Armageddon is a bit of a disappointment. Most of the playing fields are an identical drab brown. There's little animation - units literally glide from one hex to another.

The voice acting is good, but the sound is otherwise unremarkable.

So what we have here is a solid strategy framework slightly spoiled by what smells an awful lot like a rushed port. But Armageddon has a simple extra selling point that ought to keep it as a wishlist contender.

It's a 40k game that really feels like a 40k game.

Authentic action

Quite how it manages this is something of a mystery. The campaigns and scenarios that come with the game only deal with two of the 40k armies, Orks and Imperial Guards.

The mechanics are nothing like the tabletop game. The intimidating diversity of units might be accurate but most are far too similar to each other to be interesting.

No, Armageddon feels like 40k mainly because of the narrative. There's not a lot of campaign structure. A couple of branch points and a few bits of dialogue between missions. Yet it's enough to suck you in.

Whoever wrote it understood the rhythm and appeal of the language of the setting. It feels like a game by fans, for fans.

So on the whole, a qualified thumbs up. Slitherine have taken to porting a lot of their games to iOS so you might have hoped they'd have learned more care.

But it you're happy to read the manual and you love the miniatures game, this is by far the best way to translate your passion to mobile.

Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon

Fun, accessible and gloriously evocative of the 40k universe, but far too obviously a PC original