XCOM With Steamy Robots: Warmachine Tactics Demo

I think this was the game Jim suggested I try out a while back, given it’s an XCOM-like with steam-powered magical robots. I like XCOM. I like robots. Steam’s okay, I guess. Sadly, a few hundred nights of being repeatedly screamed awake had destroyed my ability to remember anything at that point, particularly when it came to the exact name of a game with ‘war’ in the title. Fortunately, today brought news that there’s a free demo of WARMACHINE: Tactics, prompting my bruised brain to offer a sleepy “hey, yeah, man, that might be it, y’know?”

This is based on a tabletop game of the same name, and as such has a heavy multiplayer focus, but the full version does sport 21 singleplayer missions. You get three of those in the newly-released demo, plus the somewhat oxymoronic “full access to multiplayer (with limited squad building options)”.

Response, from fans and non-fans alike, has been mixed, but broadly it seems to be onto something. I’m going to give it a proper go as soon as I get the chance, although I should probably make the just-out-of-early-access Frozen Cortex my turn-based priority right now. I did fire up the demo but it was about 20 seconds before I forcibly quit out of a long, unskippable cutscene with atrocious voice acting. Just don’t do it, games. Don’t do it. When I went back I went straight to skirmish, and brief dabbling suggested a rather pretty game (Unreal 4, donchaknow) with a very Games Workshopy aesthetic. It’s even got plague dudes with visible green buttocks, which are particularly eyecatching when it does its action camera follow shots:

Its steambots, meanwhile, bring to mind 40K Dreadnoughts. It’s visually a lot of fun, basically.

What I played seemed tactically interesting/complicated, though hamstrung by by a clunky UI to some degree, plus I seemed to hit a bug that was stopping me from controlling anything, forcing me to hit End Turn prematurely and thus witnessing all my guys die in the enemy’s one. Oh well.

Quite liked it otherwise, though it’s far too soon to tell. One day, I shall return. Let’s make our eyeballs point themselves at a trailer in the meantime:

The demo’s out, via Steam, now. The full version of Warmachine Tactics, plus assorted DLC packs with new units and factions, is also out already.

24 Comments

  1. TomxJ says:

    I used to run a RPG game in the same universe (Iron kingdoms) and I used to really like playing the table top version of Warmachine. It kinda felt like a card game with miniatures. Not sure what beast it has become now looking at thier website!

  2. Hex says:

    So…I’m unfamiliar with any bugs which prevent you from using your dudes, but there are some ludicrously unclear UI elements for new players which can make it seem like you just can’t do anything.

    This is probably the game I most regret backing on Kickstarter. They “released” the game months ago — not Early Access, but as in “the game is done, let’s sell it.” It was in an abysmal state at the time.

    The devs talk very frankly about the unfinished state of the game, and their commitment to continue development until all the stretch goals are met, yadda yadda. They still started selling a beta as a fully released product.

    I have a reasonably robust gaming PC — nothing super high-end, but it runs games which (I assume) should be more taxing than this thing without a problem. This game suffers from crippling frame rate issues on my machine, rendering it almost unplayable at times.

    I haven’t checked it out for the last update or two, since one of the “performance improvement” patches resulted in the game running more poorly for me than at any time previously.

    All that said, whenever I got lucky and could play the game, it was pretty fun. I stuck primarily to single-player, and it would be nice if there were campaigns for any of the factions other than the lame “good guy” team.

    Bleh. Anyway. If you want an Xcom-alike, I feel much more comfortable recommending MASSIVE CHALICE over this game.

    • Reapy says:

      Yeah I backed this and also bounced pretty hard off the first ‘release’ of it. The UI really bothered me and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in the game. I have no experience with the warmachine system, but I guess I continue to dream the dream of a 40k like turn based wargame hitting the PC so I could actually experience what one is like to play.

      • Hex says:

        From what I understand, the rules in WM:T are pretty different from the tabletop rules. I checked out their forums a couple of times are when I first got beta access and there was this hilariously angry grognard blowing up their message boards about it all the time. He was not pleased.

        Just faffing about and checking out your options in some skirmishes should really be enough of an introduction to figure out how everything works, though. One key element of the game is that cooperative skills — like having your soldiers set up for a combined rifle attack, or your stormblades (or whatever they’re called) coordinate a combined melee attack — make all the difference in the world. They have a huge impact on both chance to hit and damage, and it’s wiser to use 3/4ths of your squad’s units to put down one serious enemy threat than to spread damage around across all of the enemy forces in range.

        I just wish my PC could run the darn thing. :(

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Well, if you have the patience for it you can use VirtualBox (think of it as a grandiose emulator) to create a virtual machine running Win98 which will then allow you to play the likes of Chaos Gate (a WH40K XCOM) and Rites of War (a WH40K hex based tactics game with persistent units and some RPG elements).

        Its fiddly but in a way worth it.

        • harmlos says:

          You don’t need DosBox or a Win95/98 virtual machine to play Chaos Gate – it works on Win7 if you change the string “PlazPistHit.wav” to “PlazpistHit.wav” in the file “WeapDef.dat” in the “Data” folder. If you don’t do this, the game will crash as soon as a cultist fires his laspistol at you. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I got this solution from, so I can’t give proper credit).

    • DrManhatten says:

      While Massive Chaliice gave me a better first impression I also don’t feel it gets anywhere close to XCOM. The idea with the death and arranging your blood line of heroes is good but the execution lacks. As you hardly can use your hero in more than two maybe three combats before he grows to old or dies. Having no cover system is a major problem too so basically you go full out melee in most combats. Combats feel all very repetive at the moment, I am afraid this game will end up as most Double Fine games great ideas but not so great execution

  3. malkav11 says:

    I’m a little surprised you haven’t drawn a bunch of people going “Hey no this is Warmachine, Privateer Press, nothing to do with 40K, completely different.” Which they are, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not completely dissimilar aesthetics.

  4. Frank says:

    Huh, I can’t find the demo. Usually there’s a button on the right, right?

  5. Wytefang says:

    I got in on Early Access but knew better to try it until only recently. It’s getting better but I don’t think it’s THAT good-looking of a game and the UI is gawd-awful, for the most part. The explosions or fire effects are horrifically bad, imho, for a modern game. I like the idea of it but I think it’s just average at best.

  6. Baranor says:

    Well… the release was knackered… the devs admit that. They had to release because ‘someone’ said so. But they are, in fact, working very hard to meet all the stretch goals, pump out extra content and update the game. The patches flow on a weekly or bi weekly basis, and the latest patch added a new faction, again. We now have six.

    And yes… there was much rightfull and just screaming at release… whitemoon is a small software house, this is an ambitious project. But they are working very hard.

    • Hex says:

      Oh shit, 6 factions, now? Last time I booted it up there were only 4. I guess I’ll have to check it out again and see what’s what.

  7. Chillz says:

    I remember reading about this two years ago and being really hyped. Two years is enough time to realize hype is a path that leads to the dark side in the gaming industry but I still hope this one turns out o.k :)

  8. kwyjibo says:

    This raised over a million on Kickstarter, went through Early Access and actually released some version. And it got zero reviews.

    Did they fire their PR guy after the Kickstarter? Compare that to Citizens of Earth, which failed their modest Kickstarter, but picked up Atlus as a publisher – reviews everywhere.

    • Hex says:

      They may have the best PR guy in the biz. I can’t imagine anything reviewers might have said at the time of “release” would have lead to any sales….

    • Olddan says:

      It was almost entirely tabletop players wanting the exclusive models backing it though, the game was just an added bonus.

      • malkav11 says:

        As someone who wanted a computer version of Warmachine so I wouldn’t have to worry about expensive paint-and-assemble-yourself models, this kind of baffles me. But hey, they got what they want, and I’m getting what I wanted, kinda. (I gather Tactics differs in important ways from the tabletop rules, but it’s far closer than Games Workshop is letting anything get to 40K, and I don’t actually play tabletop, so meh.)

  9. strangeloup says:

    I want this to be good. But it’s a ginormous download and my internet is a bit rubbish, so I might just stick to the tabletop game.

    I think I prefer the Hordes side of Warmahordes anyhow (Hordes is more fantasy-ish and Warmachine more steampunky-tech; you can play them against each other, and the different factions are fairly balanced for that) but the fact that they’ve just added Retribution of Scyrah, my Warmachine faction of choice, makes me tempted to check it out.

    • malkav11 says:

      Originally, not being a miniatures gamer, I had assumed that Warmachine and Hordes were the equivalent of the Warhammer 40K / Warhammer Fantasy split – a lot of common ground but one’s fantasy-tinged SF and the other, well, fantasy. Then I looked into it a little more and realized that actually Warmachine and Hordes are in the same setting, it’s all fantasy, and the split is that Warmachine represents the “civilized”, machine-and-city-building factions, and Hordes the biotech-based more “primitive” factions. Hopefully we’ll get a Hordes: Tactics once the Warmachine version’s a bit more solidified.

  10. DrManhatten says:

    Well I am sorry to say but Warmachines is at best mediocre it has nowhere near the addiction factor or level that XCOM has. And I too was looking for something that filled my XCOM graving (I eventually switched to Xenonauts). So I backed this thing back on Kickstarter but I am slightly disappointed. Reasons are there are plenty of bugs the camera navigation and movement is aweful. The squad movement UI is awful. The single player campaign is pretty boring. The concept sounded great the execution is more meeeeh. But I haven’t checked it for two months now so maybe things have improved I am happy to hear if that is the case

  11. Bfox says:

    Why is the Demo 26GB large??

  12. Baranor says:

    Oh the camera has improved a lot and the demo is 26 GB because its simply the full game minus a few unlocks.

    Despite the 26 missiom SP campaign WMT is aimed at multiplayer, its real strength lies in the MP matches. Its not a 1 on 1 translation of the tabletop but rather a game that has many resemblances to the tabletop but is different in many respects… kind of like a new evolution for computer.

    I find it fun, but I dont have the ‘hugely addictive’ feeling yet. Im looking forward to play by mail though.