The Nighthaunt cometh – hands on with Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin

Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin Nighthaunt Cinematic Header

Despite being around for eight years now, there’s still been just a handful of attempts to adapt the rebooted Warhammer Fantasy world of Age of Sigmar into video game form. With that in mind, Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin is both a fantastic opportunity and an important introduction to this revised world.

We got to go hands-on with two more of the campaign story missions from Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin, getting another sneak peek at what the full campaign is set to deliver.

There’s definitely the sense here that the expedition of Stormcast Eternals (basically fantasy Space Marines) to the realm of Ghur don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Certainly, they will have expected to encounter the Orruk Kruleboyz that were known to have spread through Ghur, but even so, their vanguard has been ambushed and imprisoned, and there’s more insidious evils waiting for them.

To be specific about it, and as revealed during the Gamescom release date announcement trailer, the Nighthaunt, servants of Nagash will emerge out of the shadows, their ghostly apparitions coming in great numbers to besiege the Stormcast as they seek to secure a mysterious artefact.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin campaign

Compared to the barren-looking biome of jutting rocks, sparse trees and patchy yellowing grass that seems to make up most of Ghur, the shift to the dark nighttime ruined city made for a good change of pace. The level structure also shifted dramatically from a winding and linear push through Orruk defensive lines and checkpoints, to a rushed defensive effort to spread and hold off regular Nighthaunt incursions across pretty much a whole map. It felt a touch desperate at times while trying to hold and control a set of ethereal chains, but the best RTS campaigns will make you feel the stress of a situation, while keeping the challenge manageable.

Built on similar foundations to classic Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, this game is all about controlling the map, with Arcane Conduits to seize and then use to generate resources, and as defensive positions to exert more of your will upon the enemy. Capturing an Arcane Conduit is all well and good, but unless you can establish an Outpost, it will quickly fall back into enemy hands, the front line of battle that they create swinging back and forth until one side or the other can solidify their hold.

They generate Realmstone that feeds into more advanced unit purchases and some ability usage, the output of which can be enhanced by building an Outpost Syphon upon them. Alternatively, an Aetherwing Roost will push back more of the fog of war and reveal hidden enemy units, while the Wrathful Idol will attack enemies within a target area. Building an Outpost can be quite a significant outlay, so picking and choosing which way to spend your resources will be key.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin Nighthaunt combat

There’s certainly been some tweaks and changes since the open beta was held in early July. Most notably, the Command cost to retreat a depleted unit back to your command post has been increased, but you now no longer need to trigger a specific and costly replenishment ability back at base. In other words, it now almost always makes sense to retreat a unit if you can!

You will still have to balance what you’re spending Command and Realmstone on, weighing up whether abilities, unit summons, or building and upgrading Outposts is most important at a given time, but when playing the campaign, I didn’t feel quite so pressured to min-max my build queue or fret about using abilities in combat.

That high pressure situation will still come when playing online, but there’s also the prospect of the newly announced Conquest mode, a procedurally generated string of skirmishes that build up to a final battle at the end of each run, and throw in gameplay twists to keep things interesting. We didn’t go hands on with this for this preview, but everything from changing squad vision, unit movement speeds, and throwing in time restrictions are sure to make it interesting. One great feature is that you’ll be able to copy and share a seed number that generated a particular challenge run.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin Ghur environment

All in all, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin is coming together quite nicely, aiming to set a high bar for the Age of Sigmar setting in terms of RTS gameplay, storytelling and gameplay diversity.

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