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While pleasing Warhammer Age of Sigmar fans by including just what they expect could be reduced to a box ticking exercise, Realms of Ruin is clearly going far above and beyond this and is trying to make sure that the upcoming RTS feels like a true love letter to the tabletop game.
It was with this in mind that we recently got to have another hands on with the game just a few weeks removed from our recent preview at Gamescom. Here, we were introduced not only to the game’s latest faction reveal, but also a wealth of customisation options that will be available to players when the game launches, all drawing on the similar touchstones that have made the Warhammer series such a popular pastime.
Let’s start with that newest faction, the Disciples of Tzeentch. Apart from the hard-to-pronounce name, this faction are eldritch warriors who are masters of the mystical arts. This is perfectly reflected in their units – they’re a little less sturdy than the other forces we’ve seen so far – compared to the Stormcast Eternals who rely on strength. However, their magical attacks can hit pretty hard and they can cause some havoc with their status effect-based offence, poking some key holes in your opponent’s defences – especially if they’re left unchecked to deploy their most powerful units.
We got to play with this faction across both the Conquest Mode and in some 2V2 multiplayer, and we found them a fun, chaos-causing faction to play as. Our first units included the Horrors of Tzeentch – units which, when killed split off into twice as many of themselves, and then twice again when those die (to offset this, they can’t be healed). So as you can imagine, they’re terribly useful for quickly throwing some heavy numbers at the enemy. As you move up the chain you can start playing with units like the ranged Flamers of Tzeentch – which shoot powerful flames, but like most of the ranged enemies – can only fire while they’re stationary. So it’s about getting them into a good position, but this same feature also makes them super useful for putting them in strategically important parts of the map to defend, such as around your Bastions.
While we lost the first battle as we got used to how the new faction played, after a bit of guidance from the developers – and with help from our team mate to shore up our defences – we soon had resources pouring into the base, allowing us to upgrade our capture points, and also unlocking the highest tier units. The Lord of Change is a Hero unit that is not only strong in itself, but can create a Beacon of Sorcery that both increases the damage of allies around them, but also silences enemies, leaving them incredibly vulnerable to your attacks. There’s a great satisfaction at leading an army into battle with the Lord of Change at its centre and watching them tear through units like butter.
As for game modes we got to try out then – Conquest mode is a great twist on a classic skirmish mode – but rather than just random battles, you fight across a map with a series of these battles across a larger map, with a final boss to challenge you at the end of the run. The other major twist comes in where sometimes these skirmishes might have some kind of modifier or twist that gives an extra challenge – for example, maybe all units are moving faster, or they can only see a shorter distance in front of them as usual. It’s a great way to spice up proceedings, and as you won’t always know what to expect, we can see this being an area single-player fans will be spending a lot of time after they’ve finished the campaign. 2V2 Multiplayer, meanwhile, is pretty much what it says on the tin – but lets you play as any of the four factions – letting you test your skills with friends, and the previously established rock-paper-scissors like gameplay between Attack, Defense and Ranged makes matches easy to understand and fun to play – and giving you the opportunity to intuitively work out what sort of units you’re meant to counteract your opponent with, even if you’re playing against someone who’s much more experienced than you are.
As mentioned at the top of the preview, we also got to look at some of the customisation aspects of the game – which again really nod towards the tabletop origins. Naturally, being able to paint your units had to be a big part of any game based on Warhammer, and we’re pleased to say that the Army Livery allows for just that. The amount of freedom is welcome – as is the ability to set yourself a palette to give some form of uniformity to your designs. But hey, if you want to break that and have different colours for each individual unit type, the editor allows you to do that too. Even better, there’s even official Games Workshop colour schemes, for those who really want to remain true to what’s available in the real world.
Then you’ve got the Map Editor and Scene Editor – we’ve linked these two together, because not only are they both incredibly powerful, but we can see these being what keeps players coming back to the game long after credits have rolled. Budding map creators will have almost the same freedoms the developers had in making the scenarios – including biome selection, terrarium painting, object selection and more. And then once you’ve made these maps you’ll have plenty of options – whether you want to play with them on skirmishes or even online multiplayer across both PC and console. (That’s right, even PS5 and Xbox Series X|S owners will get to enjoy custom maps thanks to an in-game Workshop feature.
And for those who just want to show off their creativity, you can use the maps in the Scene Editor to make your own custom scenes – together with your customised units from the Army Livery – and make your own scene of carnage and destruction, right down to individual battle frames and then share the resulting pictures online with your friends -, just like the tabletop version, without all the mess of having to clear everything away again and put it back in the box when you’re done.
So while our previous preview was focused mainly on how well Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin will play as a strategy game on its own merits come the game’s November release date, it’s already shaping up to be more than just a marriage of convenience to fans of the tabletop game too. Whether it lasts – well, we don’t have long to find out when the game launches in a month’s time. But if our latest preview is anything to go by, the honeymoon after the launch nuptials is already looking pretty promising indeed.