Thoughts on Gladius: Relics of War

Warhammer 40,000 Gladius: Relics of War came out last month on July 12th, so this may seem a little late, but I have at this point, put quite a bit of time into the game and figured it was time to say a few things about it.

July was an incredibly busy month for me and I didn’t even pick up Gladius for a week after it came out, because I honestly didn’t even realize it was out. It came out with what I thought a fairly silent release, despite it being fairly well received. Once I did get it it was easy to dive into and sucked me in instantly. The game is well-crafted and reminiscent of the 4X games that it shares a category with.

What is 4X?

Well to get the easiest explanation I turned to Wikipedia (yes shame on me) and here it is; The term “4X” originates from a 1993 preview of Master of Orion in Computer Gaming World by Alan Emrich, in which he rated the game “XXXX” as a pun on the XXX rating for pornography. The four Xs were an abbreviation for “EXplore, EXpand, EXploit and EXterminate”. So there you have it, a game that has you exploring the environment, expanding your empire, exploiting the world, and exterminating your enemies. It plays out on what essentially looks like a board game looking like this:

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Factions

So for release we see only four factions for Gladius, them being Astra Militarum, Space Marines, Orks, and Necrons. This is a decent spread for sure, and is quite interesting that we see Necrons, and not something more common like Eldar. This is a good thing though, as I am sure fans of Necrons are rather happy to see their living metal buddies in this game. As is usually the case with 40K there are no good guys or bad guys really, all seek to accomplish their mission through their own violent ways. They also have their own research trees that allow for different ways to unlock units, unlock buildings, unlock abilities, to upgrade existing units, etc. This allows you to further differentiate yourself from your enemies showcasing your faction’s specific strengths. Also each faction has a really sweet opening video when you start a game with them.

 

Game-play – General

So the general game-play is very typical for a 4X title, build units, and expand your territory as you deal with native threats, as well as your rivals. To start off there are quests present for every faction that can range from you eliminating enemies, to doing research, that all net you sometimes very useful bonuses that give you an extra edge.

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There are both melee and ranged units in Gladius that have their own benefits, and true to the nature of 40K units will sometimes possess both types of weapons. This means there are scenarios that will let you shoot as you run in for melee damage, or shoot over-watch at enemies. That is right there is over-watch, so when a unit doesn’t act in their turn, and a hostile enemy goes into range of their ranged weapons, your unit will open fire upon them. This sometime allows you to set-up deadly ambushes that will devastate enemies, or unwittingly find yourself eating free damage from an enemy you didn’t know was in an unexplored area. As I mentioned there is research to be conducted that allows you to advance yourself in many different aspects, which again is a key element in this type of game. Then there is the lack of diplomacy, as to be expected in something based in 40K as There is Only War. This upset some people, but I think it is more than fine since the AI you have to do diplomacy with in the 4X games are more often than not, irritating jerks that do things that make zero sense, then blame you when it doesn’t go their way (I am talking about you, bloodthirsty Ghandi of the Civilization games). Different factions have different elements when it comes to expanding, that I will cover in greater detail for each faction, but regardless of who you play expanding territory is incredibly important. You must find land to exploit that gives you the resources you need, like ore, electricity, food, influence, loyalty, and research. Between these resources you will have to use some more than others, pending your faction, but all are important to gather. The more cities and higher population you got, the more loyalty issues you will have with your cities. Loyalty functions a lot like happiness from the Civilization games giving your cities penalties if you have a negative loyalty, so you have to build buildings, and do research to combat this issue. Territorial expansion isn’t just about building new cities, but about capturing outposts that give you faction-wide bonuses to your resource collection. These outposts give you added bonuses if they are in a city’s territory, making them useful to settle near.

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Which exploiting the correct kind of resources in incredibly important as it allows you to build more and better units enabling you to fight more effectively, as well as supporting the upkeep that buildings will also bring. Another thing that Gladius does differently is having certain buildings be able to build simultaneously instead of a city sharing all production.

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This allows you to be building units and key structures at the same time, giving everything a nice pace. Lastly, there are relics all around that you can capture that provide a faction wide bonus to all your units or cities, that can make for some deadly combos when put together.

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These do not come without challenge however, as your rivals will gun for them and there are neutral enemies that defend them.

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Enemies like this guy will seek to deter you from relics, and from moving around in general, they can be quite the challenge to start, but act as good deterrents to your enemies as well. All in all Gladius has the typical things that a 4X game would, but makes these mechanics its own and excels at this.

Game-play – Necrons

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To start off I will say the Necrons retain their core trait of survivability being very sturdy (for the most part) and having an additional ability that allows them to heal themselves when you are in need.

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 They also can only build “cities” where there is access to a Necron Tomb.

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This makes it quite an exciting aspect to find these tombs and makes you ensure that you find them and secure the area before anyone else. The tombs also make it so where you can expand is limited, but since you don’t have to worry about food the most typically inhospitable places are typically more than fine. The standard array of Necron units is here from Warriors, to Monoliths, you will have access to your favorite Necron units to make your Dynasty the best.

Game-play – Space Marines

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What would a 40K game be without the stars of the show? The ever present Space Marines of the 40K franchise. Bringing their devotion, and sturdiness to Gladius, they feel quite at home, a big bonus is their bolter sound effects are actually on point. Their units are quite strong, and are hard to take down (early fights between them and Necrons sometimes feel like a wet noodle fight). What makes them unique is they can only have the one city, since it wouldn’t make sense for Space Marines to be building cities everywhere.

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The next key feature is them being able to build forts next to outposts that grant them bonuses as if said outpost was within a city’s territory.

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These are decently strong and can be used to hold the outskirts of territories that you might be worried about defending, or just to acquire more of a certain resource. These Fortresses of Redemption get progressively more expensive, and also have a cool-down between calling them down, so they just can’t be spammed. Space Marines also make use of requisition instead of ore or food, streamlining what they need. This makes it really easy to get a lot of units early, as long as you have good amounts of requisition coming in. The lack of being able to build more cities makes it quite necessary to have lots of units, as you have lots of ground to cover. Lastly, the Space Marines also have things called doctrines which function like Astra Militarum edicts (covered more later) allowing you to give units a boost to combat effectiveness.

Game-play – Astra Militarum

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You get what you would expect from the Astra Militarum, lots of Guardsmen to be sacrificed like they are cheap fodder, impressive tanks and armour, as well as daring heroes that stand a cut above those that serve under them. They rely on having food for their infantry, and ore for their vehicles, so you aren’t terribly starved for one resource or another allowing for a nice spread. You can also manage to get a lot of infantry out quickly, who when reaching critical mass, can put out a lot of fire power.

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See? Lots of guys and that isn’t even half of my force, a bunch of guys are off fighting Necrons elsewhere.

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The Imperial Guard also have the ability to issue edicts that have specifics effects on the city you use it on. These effects can vary from increasing production from certain buildings, to making a resource more abundant in that city.

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This allows you to really dedicate cities to producing a particular unit or resource, helping you in the grand scheme of things. The Astra Militarum are hard to get going, but once they get going they are hard to stop. They are also able to found cities wherever they please, but still have to worry about that loyalty rating.

Game-play – Orks

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Finally we come to the boys in Green, who bring their brand of humour, and deadly thuggish natures to Gladius. They particularly find themselves at home in melee combat, but have a good variety of ranged units to provide support to their melee brethren. Everyone knows a true Waaagh! is held together by the authority of those who lead them, so the influence resource is incredibly important to the Orks, giving them buffs (or debuffs) to their damage accordingly.

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Many Ork units use influence as part of their upkeep, but can also generate it when defeating enemy units, so there is a greater amount that you can pull in when compared to other factions. They can also make use of the Ork Fungus that grows around the planet to use that as means of healing their units, and they can also set them up, making these patches of ‘shrooms quite useful. Ork infantry also possess an ability that allows them to move a little more, this has a short cool-down, but can be quite handy when it comes to positioning.

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Scrappy, sturdy, and all-together hilarious, the Orks are a joy to play in Gladius.

Conclusion

For being below the standard price tag of games nowadays, Gladius: Relics of War is definitely worth the price tag. It manages to bring its own unique 40K flavour into the established 4X formula, that I believe any 40K fan could enjoy. I am excited to see what other factions they bring into this game, with a wide-array of possibilities Gladius is truly one of the better 40K games we have seen for awhile.

That is all for this post, until next time!