Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus comes to us as a blend of rogue like and turn-based tactics. Explore tombs, fight evil (?) robots, blow yourself up by accident, and purge the planet of the scourge inhabiting it, all from a comfy orbital ship. Now, if you’re like me and have very little (read none) knowledge about the warhammer universe, fear not! Mechanicus does a good job of introducing you to what you need to know plot wise.
Essentially, a group who worship technology and “mechanizing” religiously have arrived at a planet following the last known coordinates of a cohort. Upon arriving, they discover that the planet is “inhabited” by Necron, who contrary to their name, appear to be fully robotic being that don’t really die, but are warped away upon “death”. Cue a sort of religious purging between the two groups, as the Adeptus Mechanicus want to get rid of the Necron, and the Necron view the Adeptus Mechanicus as an affront to their robotic being. The Necron are in a sort of stasis within tombs on the planet, and after the Adeptus Mechanicus investigate a tomb, they begin to wake up.
It is your goal as commander to guide your “tech-priests” into battle in order to stop the Necron from taking over the planet. You do this by investigating tombs at the bequest of your aides and subordinates in the form of missions. But be warned, as the Necron are waking from their stasis, and prolonged time in a tomb just allows them to awaken faster.
You are joined on this expedition by two primary aides: Scaevola and Videx, essentially a researcher and priest respectively. Scaevola has forgone the majority of their human self, now speaking in programming code, and has a very hefty interest in analysis and research into the Necron and their technology. Videx, on the other hand, is fully committed to the religious aspect, opting in favour of a “fire purge” or even ignoring something that could be useful if it has relation to what is viewed as abominable or heresy by their religious standards.
This gives an interesting dynamic, as these two main advisers are more often than not bickering or going against each others plans or ideas, giving the leader, Faustinious, a load of grief. Missions between the two tend to be similar in content, but have very distinctly different narratives. For instance, Videx may have you explore a tomb and bring along an escort able device in order to broadcast their scriptures in binary across the tomb. No, I personally did not believe that would help, but the rewards for the mission were good so I went along with it. Scaevola, on the other hand, basically has you on the cusp of being labeled a heretic purely in terms of what they’re willing to do for research. Needless to say, these two don’t exactly mesh well, although that just adds more to the story and background information.
So what is this all about in regards to exploring the tombs then? Well, this is where the roguelike element came from. Upon selecting a mission and enetering the tomb, you take a sort of commander role, guiding your troops through rooms on a tomb layout map. Upon entering a room with an event, you are usually requested to make a decision regarding what’s in the room. Sometimes this results in nice things, like more resources.
Other times it results in things like losing half your health. Unfortunately, the results are rather arbitrary, so it can be quite detrimental to your cause if things go the shape of the pear. In fact, I lost so much health and time on the Necron awakening counter that I soon just started rushing for the finishing tile, especially since unit health isn’t healed between combat.
Which brings me to the point that my rewards were almost never worth the cost of interacting with a room, especially given that the in-tomb counter for awakening level gives bonuses to the enemies, and then that counter gets translated to global awakening level after tomb completion. It also doesn’t help that Mechanicus employs quite literally the most awkward method of selecting a destination room I have ever seen.
So how about the combat then? Well, the combat is where we pick back up again a little bit. Combat is done through turn-based play on a grid, where faster units go first in a turn, and slower units go last, with each unit getting an action during the turn. You have a number of tools at your disposal, between physical and energy attacks, as well as how you have outfitted your units will determine your battle strategy. You can run up to enemies to prevent their ranged weapons and hit them, or you can shoot at enemies from a distance.
As you use your weapons, they can gain “machine spirit” that will give them a one-off buff. Also to take note of is “cogitation points”, which are required for heavier hitting weapons, and will allow you to deploy extra troops or to move further across the map. The points can be accumulated either by camping out near obelisks, or by defeating enemies and stealing a point off their bodies. Speaking of, Necron are kind of immortal, so you need to attack them after they die to get rid of them, otherwise they will just heal in a few turns and come back to life.
Before beginning a mission, you have access to a few cantrips you can set, as well as the opportunity to augment your units with blackstone, giving them better stats and unlocking new equipment types and abilities. There are multiple “skill trees” you can go through, and you also have the opportunity to go down multiple if you wish to. I chose the minion enhancer and melee specialist when I first started upgrading.
As interesting as Mechanicus is, I have to say it felt super clunky. Menus felt awkward to navigate, some parts of the upgrade system were a little confusing at first, and I didn’t even figure out how to use the cantrips for longer than I’d like to admit. The roguelike aspects tend to be more annoying than anything, and I found they offered well more detriments than I had reason to pursue the events in each marked room.
Combat is acceptable, but nothing truly special. Honestly, I found where this game shone wasn’t in the gameplay, but instead in the storyline. This felt like more of an interactive book, similar to those Animorphs choose your own adventure books I used to read as a kid, with a decent helping of turn-based tactics to keep you entertained enough to continue. The storytelling was by far the best part, while the combat was fairly average, and the “rogue like” sections more annoying than anything else.