Skip to main content

Frontier's Warhammer RTS has fast, frantic tug of war multiplayer battles, and I want more, please

Ahead of its open beta, we've played four rounds of Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin's 1v1 mode and came away impressed

Two Stormcast Eternals ready themselves to battle a Troggoth in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

This Friday on July 7th, Frontier Development's Warhammer RTS Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin is holding its first open beta test for its 1v1 multiplayer mode. Players will be able to go head to head with two of the game's four factions - the golden fantasy knights of the Stormcast Eternals and the sneaky green stink lads of the Orruk Kruleboyz - giving us our first taste of how they'll handle in battle, and the kinds of powerplays we'll be making with their respective (and rather handsome) tabletop miniature recreations.

And having played four rounds of its 1v1 matches already at a press event last week, it's quite the thrill - and I say that as someone with no real attachment to Warhammer or Age Of Sigmar's specific lore legacy. The Stormcast Eternals and their flying hammer brutes are just as devastating as you'd imagine, while the lads lads lads and their Killaboss Kruleboyz are challenging late-game bloomers that will give even hardened strategy game veterans plenty to sink their teeth into. Both factions are great fun, and I'm very much looking forward to jumping back in this weekend.

Watch on YouTube

Back when the game was first revealed, Frontier told me that Realms Of Ruin's multiplayer matches are designed to last around 30 minutes - an assessment that held up during my preview session. If anything, 30 minutes is perhaps on the long side, as some of my matches were done and dusted in a brisk quarter of an hour, while the longest one tapped out around 25 minutes. It's a good length, as matches felt like they were a constant push and pull as we wrestled over its three main Victory Points, and they rarely fell into that turgid kind of stalemate where both of us were just chucking units at each other without really getting anywhere.

That's partly because in addition to the trio of Victory Points, there's also a plentiful supply of Arcane Conduits to fight over as well. These lesser capture points are what fuel your economy, providing an important resource called Realmstones that you'll need to power up your units, upgrade your tech tree, and make use of your units' special abilities on the battlefield. These Realmstones are only doled out in small, fixed buckets with every successful capture, however, so you'll need to keep fighting for them to ensure a steady supply - a lesson I never quite got the hang of during my preview session.

Liberators and Orruks clash in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Orruks capture an arcane conduit point in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Frontier Developments
A battle ensues between Stormcast Eternals and Orruk Kruleboyz over an arcane conduit point in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Arcane Conduits will become frequent battlegrounds as you and your opponent vie for resources. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Frontier Developments

You can, for example, strengthen your conduits by building extra structures on top of them - including a mine to pump more Realmstones out of it. You can also build healing posts, watch towers to expand the fog of war, and attack statues on them, too, provided you have enough resources. The latter can be particularly formidable if you stumble across one of them underprepared, and mounting an offensive against them under my opponent's nose was quite the challenge. You'll need to completely destroy any kind of bastion attached to a conduit point before you can seize it for yourself, which can be tricky if your opponent also has their own units stationed there at the same time.

But the challenge is all part of the fun, even when you're on the backfoot as I often was, scrabbling to claw back some semblance of a lead. Like Company Of Heroes, Halo Wars and no doubt countless other RTSes before it, Realms Of Ruin's 1v1 matches are all about holding as much of the battlefield as possible and watching your opponent's point score dwindle down to zero. Capturing and defending the three Victory Points is the fastest way to do this, but if you're losing and you spot one that's undefended, making a last ditch attempt to seize it can sometimes be all it takes to start turning the tide in your favour - or at least give you some precious breathing room to stem the bleeding a bit and give you time to regroup.

A close up shot of a Stormdrake Guard attacking Orruks in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Realms Of Ruin lets you zoom in right up close to see your units fighting in all their gory detail. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Frontier Developments

I spent most of my time playing as the tricksy Orruk Kruleboyz - a decision prompted partly by absolutely wiping the floor with my opponent when I played as the Stormcast Eternals the first time round, and also by my opponent staunchly refusing to play anything other than said Stormcast Eternals for the duration of our preview time. So I thought, why not mix it up a bit and get to grips with this decidedly harder faction to see what Realms Of Ruin is really made of? And yes, the Orruks are rock hard to play as, and probably harder to win with than the Stormcast Eternals, I found. The Orruks come into their own quite late on in multiplayer matches, and their early units seemed noticeably flimsier than their Stormcast counterparts. As a result, I found it quite difficult to plan and execute those longer-term plays with the Kruleboyz, as I never seemed to have quite enough firepower to counter either the bastion-defended conduit points or my opponent's bigger, more powerful units, such as the devastating Stormdrake Guards and hammer wielding Celestial Prosecutors.

But the important thing is that I was still having a great time. Even with defeat staring me square in the face, the tools to fight back were always available to me. It was just a matter of working out how best to deploy them - and it's something I'm looking forward to getting to grips with in a more comprehensive fashion during this weekend's open beta test. After all, the purpose of the open beta is as much to balance the two factions as it is to stress-test Frontier's servers, so I'll be intrigued to see if the Orruks receive any buffing afterwards to stick a bit more meat on their bones.

An Orruk Killaboss fights a Stormcast Eternal hero in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Frontier Developments
A Stormdrake Guard fights a large group of Orruks in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
A group of Liberators run past a pack of Orruks in a multiplayer match in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Frontier Developments

In truth, though, I'm mainly just looking forward to getting back into the thick of the Orruk's excellent battle barks, too - with my archers screeching "Time to leg it!" as they belt it back to base in a retreat, and my Killaboss belching out "Wharrrrrs!" and "Time to do some bossing!" as they charge into the fray. My favourites, though, are the cries of "We got more know-wots!" when a new bit of tech gets researched, and "They're stealing our magic thing!" when conduits come under attack. I love this stuff, and it takes me back to playing Warcraft II: Tides Of Darkness as a kid and continually poking my orc peons to get a rise out of them. More daft barks, please. They're good.

So yes, I'm very on board with what I've played of Realms Of Ruin so far, and would strongly recommend trying it for yourself this weekend as part of the open beta. You can sign up now over on the Realms Of Ruin website, and it's all due to kick off on Steam on July 7th at 11am BST, with the final bell ringing at 11.59pm BST on July 10th. There will also be a further open beta test later this summer, too, so if you're reading this a week from now and have missed out, know there'll be another chance to play it in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Read this next