Fans of Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus have been waiting since November of last year for an expansion of Mechanicus, with the very active developers, Bulwalk Studios, delivering “Heretek“, a side story to Mechanicus that adds plenty of new enemies, maps and items.
The story of “Heretek” occurs concurrently to the story of Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, which shows the Adeptus Mechanicus, the tech-priest of Mars, searching for knowledge on the planet Silva Tenebris and trying to recover as much data and technology off of the planet before the Necron awaken.
“Heretek” centers on uncovering the unrest taking place on the Caestus Metalican ship during the story of the base game, with a heretic group of Tech-Priests forsaking the Omnissiah and attempting to take over the Caestus Metalican in collaboration with the Necron.
This review is my first experience with Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus or any Warhammer 40,000 game for that matter. For the sake of this review, it’s hard to separate the base game from the expansion content since it is so seamlessly integrated. On the base gameplay mechanics, Mechanicus is a solid turn based strategy game that presents ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ gameplay. I found the UI overwhelming but the tutorial does a great job of holding your hand as you learn the basics. The dungeon crawling segments were interesting enough with a decision making system reminiscent of Faster Than Light, especially in the way that sometimes seemingly careful choices cause you the most damage. It’s unfair, but it keeps the game feeling unpredictable
For current players of Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, “Heretek” requires you to create a new save game to try out the five new missions. The expansion delivers almost identical gameplay to the base game, with the biggest difference being that you’re now facing off against other Tech-Priests who have the same units as you do. Additionally, there is a new discipline tree to level up in, named Xenarite, which specializes in using xenotech. The new discipline adds a few new abilities, including a self-resurrection in combat.
The missions open up in segments at points throughout the base game story, but the largest change to the base gameplay is that it has replaced the basic dungeon crawling of Mechanicus with the decision making system controlling your movements around the Caestus Metalican, which delivers more story and detail on the ship, but takes away some of what little control the player already had in the dungeon crawling segments.
“Heretek” looks graphically solid, with graphics that aren’t necessarily impressive, but graphics that will hold up in a decades time. I enjoyed how the nice the attack effects looked in the game and the levels are visually interesting and solidly helps with the games worldbuilding. I was especially impressed with brilliant look of the ship’s main gun level along with the Aetherium Thalamus level in the expansion.
I did find myself wishing animations would go faster and I wish they would add a way to skip the animations. After playing for hours, waiting for the same animations to end can get daunting and breaks the flow of gameplay. Especially walking animations, as it feels like half the battle is taken up by you waiting for your units to move.
Audio was the one element to Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus and “Heretek” that deeply disappointed me. I enjoy hearing epic music when playing a strategy game and this game has music so unnoticeable that I didn’t notice it until I actively listened to it. Some may argue that since the game takes place in space and space is silent, the game accurately matches the decor. Sure, but I believe the lack of the grand and epic music doesn’t make the game feel as grand as it could.
Another element of audio that I was surprised by was the lack of voice acting. In a dialogue heavy game like Mechanicus, you’d expect at least the main characters to have vocal lines as it can become a drag to read pages and pages of story. The voice acting during the cinematics is great, so why hasn’t it been expanded to the rest of the game?
With a 90% positive review on Steam for Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, developers Bulwalk Studios needed to deliver an expansion that met or exceeded expectations of the base game. I believe they’ve done that. For fans of Mechanicus, “Heretek” doesn’t fix any of the shortcomings of the original game, this expansion delivers more of the game they love, and especially at the low price of US$9.99. More levels, more enemies, more gear, a new tech tree and more story. A great example of expansions that many strategy game makers should take note of.
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