Games Workshop is a British institution, but its Warhammer worlds have found fans around the globe. The grim future and fantasy setting found in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 remains the headline acts, but the company have allowed all sorts of interesting and unique uses of their main licenses and spin-off tabletop games, from RTS and third-person shooters to turn-based aerial combat. With the arrival of Battle Sister from Pixel Toys you’re now going to be able to step into the world of Warhammer 40,000 yourself via the medium of VR. Quite simply, if you’re a fan of 40K you will want to play this game.
From the moment that you start, one thing that Battle Sister gets right is the atmosphere. You’re dropped into a distant planetary battlefield, with a pair of Titans duelling in front of you. I have to admit I was expecting some more drama – huge clanging tones from their immense blades clashing, and the sounds of pistons and gears working to move the mech around – but it still sets the tone well.
You’re met by Viola, a Battle Sister who you’ve served with for ten years. She’s certainly been given the motion capture treatment, and her iconic Battle Sister armour gleams with underlying power to go with her righteously clasped Power Sword.
Getting to grips with the game’s combat is simple. Guns are holstered on either hip, while your ammo is stored on your belt. You press a button to eject the clip and hold the gun to your belt to refill it. It’s a straightforward enough system that feels both mechanically sound and empowering, and it’s swift enough to get you through the most intense of battles.
That’s good, because there are some great battles to be had, starting with an epic encounter through the Sisters of Battle Cathedral ship that’s been infiltrated by the forces of chaos. Framed by the maniacal laugh of zealots and the heavy gunfire of Chaos Marines, Battle Sister really puts you on the back foot, and even at this early stage it’s no walkover, piling on the number of enemies. You’re fortunate that your Power Sword is able to deflect incoming fire, as you’d be swiftly overrun without it.
The graphics might not wow you coming from PS5 or a high-end PC, but for a standalone headset, the game looks good and all of your weaponry looks remarkable. If you hold them up to take a look they gleam realistically in the light, and the level of detail is impressive, both here and in your allies. Up close, your enemies also look pretty good as well, though you soon see that there’s very little variety in the most common cultist models. A few extra head or mask types would have really added something to the mix, as would some extra lines of dialogue. I know they’re all keen on blood for the Blood God, but I’m sure they could vocalise that slightly differently during the course of the game.
They’re not the only enemies you’ll face though, and the steady emergence of different Chaos Marine classes, and the occasional beast, gives combat a continual sense of renewal. Things can begin to get a little samey towards the end, but overall this is a powerful example of VR gunplay with plenty of weight to it.
I love being able to dual wield all your weaponry – you can feel Pixel Toys’ previous work on Drop Dead: Dual Strike Edition here – and it’s true to the fiction as well. A Boltgun in one hand and a Power Sword in the other feels great, and you truly feel like a badass space nun who’s capable of taking down a hulking Chaos Space Marine.
As you dispatch cultists, the blood sprays everywhere, and it was one element I wasn’t initially sold on. Up close in melee combat the effect looks pretty good, and you would expect there to be some significant blood loss as you cleave your way through them. However, at distance there’s still an explosion of the red stuff that simply doesn’t look as good as its up-close counterpart. I know the Warhammer 40K universe is a brutal place, and Battle Sisters recreates that with aplomb, but I could take or leave the blood spray.
There are also one or two bugs in the mix that occasionally take the sheen of your experience, with textures failing to load around your feet and across some of the architecture, but ultimately I found them pretty easy to live with. They feel like the type of thing Pixel Toys will continue to work on, and hopefully they’ll find a remedy for them swiftly.
Forgiving the bugs, performance in Battle Sister is largely very good, with smooth movement and gunplay keeping things engaging. Movement is controlled via your left thumbstick, and there’s been plenty of work done to keep motion sickness at bay with some smart closing-in of your field of view as you move. There’s an array of extra things you can tune up or down as well, depending on how well you cope in the VR space. It’s exactly what you want from this kind of experience.
The story itself boasts some excellent voice acting, and while I’d be hard-pressed to call the characters likeable, you’ll find yourself thoroughly involved in what’s going on. From time to time you’ll find yourself part of a fire squad, and they’re surprisingly useful in combat, but it’s the moments where you’re on your own that you truly feel that the pressure is on.
Part of the atmosphere is created by the often excellent soundtrack, though once again a little more variety from the combat music would have been welcome. It’s similar to Gears of War in fact, with the audio signposting that you’re entering a combat situation and dying down once you’ve reached the end of that wave. It’s definitely effective, but I found it had started to wear thin towards the end.