Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something comes along showing you otherwise. From Rogue Factor and Focus Home Interactive, Necromunda: Underhive Wars is the latest Games Workshop Warhammer IP to hit both the consoles and the PC. Having just released, this turned based, third person “action” shooter is one that while not entirely accessible to start off is a fair amount of fun.
Like a lot of Warhammer IPs, there’s often a lot to take in from both the lore to the gameplay mechanics if you really want to know what’s going on. In the case of Necromunda, you’ll get a rough idea of what’s going on and as for the why? It’s clear. Everything has to be fought for and if it means killing your own faction’s people? It’ll be done. It’s “the how” that’s going to take a good deal of time to get accustomed to and honestly? Even hours in you’ll often be wondering if what you did was the right move.
Necromunda has several main modes. The first is a story based campaign that will see a story evolve through the points of views of different people and factions. The second mode allows you to create your own clan to play a series of missions with loads of objectives to make them more fearsome and help in their customization from the ground up. Finally, the third allows you to go online and either fight with or against other real life players. In each case, the action is brutal, the choices are not easy, and if you’re not prepared or paying attention to damned near everything, you’re going to both die and lose the match(es). Repeatedly.
Like any good strategy title, there’s things you need to know from the beginning and then there are things you need to learn quickly enough. Finally, there are things that make you wonder about your own place in the universe as you see another player or the CPU pull off some fairly illegal moves, or so you thought until you figure out how to do them yourself. Necromunda at its core is a turned based strategy that will see two groups facing off against each other. Suggesting that you play through the campaign first, it quickly becomes clear as to why as there’s a fair amount to learn and the learning curve is high. This is not a newbie friendly strategy title and I’ll be honest that even I had a hard time with it having to restart what seemed to be an easy mission several times over just because I really didn’t see something coming.
Broken into teams, Necromunda will have you select a unit to play out a turn not unlike most XCOM like or Valkyria Chronicles like strategies. Once you’ve selected your unit, you can then start to move about the field. Where things are vastly different, is that in Necromunda when you select a unit to play, so does your opponent. Breaking this down into initiative, the unit with the higher initiative goes first and then can move about the field as they see fit. If you were about to get the killing blow and then run away, you just had to revamp your entire strategy. If you were just short of dead and they go first? You lose your turn. They can also go about wrecking havoc and destruction on the rest of your team or regroup with their own and building barricades or placing traps to make your life that much harder.
This is really what makes Necromunda hard. There’s only so much you can prepare for until control is finally back in your hands. Enemy units will be moving all over the place and what seems like a good idea one second becomes a horrible one on the next. When on your turn, more in the vein of XCOM, only units prepared to fire under Overwatch or Ambush will attack while you run around. This can obviously put a damper on your plans as not only do you lose health on an overwatch attack, but if the ambush happens, you become locked into combat which is really where things can get “spicy”.
All units, regardless of their class, have both Action and Movement Points. Movement Points allow you to move around or to use special abilities like Entrench to give you more Action Points. Action Points are what you’re going to need to use to attack other units with guns, swords or other warhammery weapons (ex: chainsaw swords), set up for Overwatch or an Ambush. More than this though, Necromunda sets up an interactive environment that can be toyed and messed with in multiple different fashions making all the rest of your actions that much more potent, or rendering them absolutely useless.
Set on a field with levels, units can jump down to other available spaces, use ziplines to make their way up, use elevators or use their own personal device if they have one to Elevate a few levels up for safety to to perform a potential dirty move like Death From Above. Each of these has an Action Point cost and while not many, maybe 5AP to call an elevator, 5AP to jump down, 5AP to use a zipline, most attacks depending on the weapon type are 15AP for one hand, 25-30AP for two and with generally 50/60AP to play with, without entrenching if you haven’t move too far, you’ll only be attacking once that turn. Doubling down on the hardcoreness, you’ll also have to worry about ammo count / reloading as well as having to fix your weapon because it’s jammed or overheated and can’t be used without another 5-15AP to get it into working condition.
There’s so much to worry about and that’s before having to check where each enemy is either with the overlay not unlike the one found in Gears of War, or the giant map that shows you all of the floors, walls and troops placements emulating a table top look. Being caught in an Overwatch, being caught in an ambush, setting off traps or trying to use something that has been sabotaged. Each of these will only help to kill your unit faster and sometimes, you won’t notice a few of these while running by because the cost looked clear, unfortunately, there was a sharpshooter just waiting for you to pass that one little area.
Now, as brutal as everything else, certain features just make the experience itself more brutal but in an agonizing way. Loads times, at least on the XB1 are long. Cutscenes can only be skipped once they are about halfway through, not entirely. Finally the gameplay itself? It cannot be sped up meaning that if you were re-doing a mission or just REALLY wanted to get to the point? It’s not going to happen anytime soon especially when playing against a CPU where you can actually see it think before it moves and sometimes? That can take upwards of a minute for it to play its turn because it always has the need from the looks of things to use ALL its available points even if it meant running all over the place just to return to where it was originally standing without actually having done anything.
So overall, Necromunda: Underhive Wars will not be for everyone. The price of entry is high and the cost may be too much for budding strategists while veterans should find plenty to challenge them through the three modes. Otherwise? The hardcore strategy and the addition of a 1v1 initiative factor really changes the playing field making a lot of well known and used turned based strategies useless and this the perfect ground to test your mettle if everything else has been seeming too easy for you.Score: 7.25 / 10