It’s a whole new world. Warhammer’s new Age of Sigmar makes the jump to video games with Focus Home’s turn-based roguelite.
Yes, “for Sigmar”. Or something. As you can likely tell, I don’t have the greatest background in Age of Sigmar, Warhammer’s latest revision. Of course, I’m talking about the tabletop game, and the massive kinda/sorta soft reboot that publisher Games Workshop enacted back in 2015.
If you’re wondering, yes it’s 6 years later and I still don’t have a grasp of AoS. The reason for that is mainly that I don’t play tabletop games anymore, though I have a sneaking suspicion that even if I did, I’d still be using the classic “Fantasy Battles” universe. But that’s another story for another time.
And that game is effectively gone anyway. In its place, is Age of Sigmar. The revamp of the Warhammer Olde World reshuffled a good deal of the alliances and fantasy races, and brought in new story themes and factions like the Necroquake, and the Stormcast Eternals. The first video game to directly incorporate those thematic alterations, is Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground.
A turn-based, strategic roguelike, Storm Ground gives players the chance to experience some of these new elements. All of the above can be a little jarring if you’re an old school Warhammer fan who’s looking for a traditional strategy play, though there is plenty of fun to be had with this one.
A new world, filled with old horrors
So we’ve already talked a bit about Age of Sigmar, but Storm Ground dives into this Warhammer revision with aplomb. If you’re expecting orks, elves, and Imperial forces, think again. But even saying that, know too that Chaos is definitely still around, along with Warhammer video-gaming mainstay, Nurgle.
More or less though, Storm Ground gives players three races to (eventually) control. Those are the Stormcast Eternals, armored immortal warriors of the god Sigmar, the spectral Nighthaunt, and the Maggotkin of Nurgle. Yes, that’s it, and yes those are all pretty much new factions, though they pretty much all have roots in the original Fantasy Battles.
You begin the game as the Stormcast, sieging the realm of Shyish, which is effectively a purgatory kind of place. As the holy warriors, you’ll build up a small army during these initial missions, setting the stage for what the rest of the game has to offer. Don’t worry, if you prefer Chaos or the undead, you’ll get the option to play as them pretty quickly.
As I said though, all of this is very different if you’re a fan of that original game and its lore. It took me a little while to warm up to it, though once I did I found the new elements to be pretty neat in their own right. Though as someone who’s wanted some Warhammer games that diverged from what’s typically delivered in the video game realm, Nurgle is still there like a big plague-fueled boil.
So also as I mentioned, Storm Ground is a strategy title. It’s turn-based and provides some fairly traditional gameplay. there are however, some pretty cool new elements to that play, that make you tackle battles and maps differently than you might otherwise.
Storm Ground’s maps are relatively small, and have few obstructions to the action. Okay, they have zero obstructions. That’s one of the problems that I actually had with the game, because line-of-sight means nothing. Ranged attacks can still hit targets who should be ‘behind’ obstacles such as raised-terrain. Kind of annoying.
While we’re on the subject though, raised-terrain is the only thing that does affect play. It effects units positively or negatively depending on whether they’re occupying it. That’s it though.
As for the other things I mentioned though, each level is littered with pickups and level-based buffs. I didn’t get this 100% at first, but collecting those pickups especially will mean the difference between victory and defeat in the game’s campaign.
That’s because these pickups grant cards. No, wait, don’t click off of the review! This isn’t a card game, I promise. The cards are actually pretty cool, and give the player new units, weapons, and miracles (by which you can revive ‘dead’ troops). You most definitely want to collect as many as humanly possible, and that amps up the strategy quite a bit.
Do you move into position? Do you attack your foe? Or do you start making your way towards that collectible? Once I did get the hang of how play is intended to go, I thoroughly enjoyed this juggling of objectives. I do realize though, that it might not be for everyone.
Speaking of not being “for everyone”, Storm Ground is a roguelike. I… do not like roguelikes, and didn’t realize for some reason that it was one. It is though, and that means that when you’re defeated you have to start from the beginning again.
The trick is that every level you played through already is a little different, and the story beats are changed. If you’re wondering, yes your previous play-through is recognized, since the game deals in undeath.
Now, this actually sets up some cool stuff, like running into new allies and enemies. Again though, this isn’t your typical strategy setup, and I can definitely see people shying away from Storm Ground because of it. Personally, I would have likely not been interested in this review if I had realized what the game was.
At this point in my gaming-life I hate the idea of starting over from the beginning if I lose. That said, I would have missed out on some fun if I had passed, because Storm Ground definitely has plenty of that.
Beautiful… and buggy
On top of offering lots of new elements for the Warhammer faithful, Storm Ground is an attractive game. The otherworldly locales lend themselves to some truly macabrely-beautiful maps and enemies.
The Nighthaunt in particular are awesome looking, with their spectral forms. Each one glows with an eerie greenish light, and they look terrific all together as a faction.
Special effects are gorgeous too, from magical attacks and unit-specific, special attacks, to environmental fonts of power. Yes, it’s all a bit dour with its land of the dead themes, but if you’re into that end of fantasy, then I think you’re going to like the looks of Storm Ground quite a bit.
But even so, there are issues. And I mean of the buggy kind.
Oddly aggravating was that some animations are mistimed. They’d trigger seconds after attacks are delivered and effects are already dealt. Much worse is that, when equipping my squad, I found it nearly impossible to fill certain slots.
An odd (and way worse) glitch occurred when flipping between units and their individual equipment tabs. Sometimes it was almost flat-out impossible to select certain slots because the game wouldn’t allow the tabes to become selectable. You better believe that’s annoying.
While Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground’s bugs aren’t game-breaking (not really anyway), it definitely has issues. And as I mentioned, the game isn’t for everyone as it stands.
Yes, it’s good looking and the gameplay is fast, on point, and fun. But followers of the traditional genre might not take to the card-collecting and roguelike play. Also worth pointing out is that the factions are all new(ish), so Warhammer fans looking for their longtime faves will be disappointed.
If you can look past all of this though, or if you’re not a Warhammer fan to begin with, I do think there’s ample worth in this one. It’s fun to play in short bursts or longer sessions, offers plenty of strategy, and has solid replay value. Add on the 1 on 1 multiplay, and you have a game that should keep Age of Sigmar fans coming back.
A copy of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground was provided by Focus Home Interactive for this review
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground
Release date: May 26th, 2021
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS4, PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Gasket Games
MSRP: $39.99 USD