The words ‘Early Access’ usually rings alarm bells for most gamers, and causes us to imagine incredibly broken and unfinished games that we spend full retail price on only for it to never leave the ‘Early Access’ stage. Thankfully, there are some games in this category that are solid little titles, and are worth the price of admission even if they aren’t 100% finished yet. The Horus Heresy is one of those titles. Not only does it show that some ‘Early Access’ titles can be good, but also is another prime example of a Warhammer 40K game done well.
Despite being in early access, the game’s graphics are surprisingly decent. The maps on offer here are very well built, and are incredibly well detailed. The character models are also done well, with the likes of the Space Marines looking incredibly accurate to their table-top counterparts. However, with the game being early access, a lot of the graphics are unfinished or have errors or glitches. While this is a sign that the already good looking models will get better, it also means that the current experience is marred by dodgy textures and other graphical errors, which can break the player’s immersion. Let’s just hope it gets better once it gets closer to leaving the ‘Early Access’ banner.
The story is set at the origins of the Warhammer 40K universe. This was an excellent choice by the devs, as not only is it a key event in the story for long-time fans to relive, but it’s also a solid story to get newcomers to the franchise involved. The story focuses on the war between the Space Marine Legionnaires and the heretical Word Bearers, with the player being the former during the campaign. While the foundations of the story are fantastic, its execution in game could be better. There’s no real cutscenes to speak of, although the set piece in the opening level was well done and felt quite cinematic as though it were a cutscene. The majority of the rest of the story then took place in text boxes before each mission. Given that it’s an early access game, I can forgive it for now, as it seems the developers are putting gameplay first before fleshing out the story, although hopefully we will see better production values in terms of story execution further down the line.
The Horus Heresy is a turn-based strategy game. As the name suggests, both you and the opponent take turns to make moves in the game. This is a simple premise, but The Horus Heresy is surprisingly deep with its combat. You have plenty of choices for each turn. You can simply move, or you can advance, which has you move to a position while attacking an enemy, it has way less of a chance to hit an enemy than a simple stand still attack, but it’s a more tactical option. You can also hold your position rather than taking your turn. The depth also extends to the game’s terrain. People who channel their inner Obi-Wan can take the high ground, which gives a tactical advantage over those below you. You can also move into destroyed parts of the landscape, with the debris making it way harder for enemies to hit you. The trade-off here is that moving into such terrain immediately ends your turn. This adds a nice bit of strategy on top of the already surprisingly deep gameplay.
However, this enjoyment is only accessible when the game works. Due to it being in early access, I encountered plenty of technical issues alongside the aforementioned graphical problems. Despite meeting the recommended specs, the game ran at a choppy frame-rate, hinting at problems with optimisation. The game ran much better after I tuned a few of the settings down, so it wasn’t so bad. What was bad was the frequent crashing. The game made quite a habit of it during my time with it, which I assume will be fixed as development continues. The technical issues do bring this game down a peg, but when it works, the gameplay is quite solid.
The sound on offer is very good, and helps you get immersed in the Warhammer universe. The music is incredibly dramatic and fits the tone of the brutal combat well. The sound of the Boltcaster’s gunfire is also spot on. The highlight in the sound department for me had to be the voice of your Space Marines. They are voiced incredibly well, sounding just as threating as they should. I never got tired of them shouting “For the Emperor”, and I don’t think I ever will.
The Horus Heresy – Betrayal at Calth is a very solid game. The turn-based strategy has plenty of depth, and the Warhammer universe is captured perfectly in terms of sounds and graphics. The story here has a fantastic foundation as well. However, the story has not been presented as good as it could be, and the game has numerous technical issues in terms of graphical errors and straight up crashing on me. Hopefully these will be ironed out in future updates, as when it works, The Horus Heresy is a game to be enjoyed by Warhammer fans and newcomers alike.