Having spent the last few days gleefully immolating Skaven in dark timeline whack-a-mole Vermintide 2, I was excited to jump roughly 37, 481 years into the far future to pilot some robots cosplaying as spiky cathedrals in Membraine Studios’ Adeptus Titanicus: Dominicus – which I believe is Latin is for “This plastic robot is so cool that I don’t even care that I spent this months rent on it”.
Dominicus is currently in very early access, but still offers a promising toolbox of turn based titan tactics, no assembly or remortgaging required. You’re given 5000 points to spend on a force aligned to either the space-corpse snuggling Imperium or the space-demon canoodling forces of chaos. Titans come in three flavours: Big slow tough lads, fragile speedy lads, and lads who are neither that tough nor that speedy, but still try their best, bless them. You’re given the option to outfit your titans with a variety of firearms before matches start. You can also pick a colour scheme from several lore friendly houses – although there’s currently no option to paint your own.
What’s immediately most surprising about Dominicus is how this game of hulking war machines requires a much more thoughtful approach than all those train-sized lascannons might lead you to believe. Although a full wipe of your opponents forces guarantees a victory, it’s rarely efficient. You’re better off attempting to capture objective markers through uncontested control of different areas on the map, and this means your weaker, but much faster titans are often just as dangerous as the big guys.
Much like the tabletop universe Adeptus Titanicus: Dominicus models itself on, terrain plays a huge role in funneling the flow of engagement into certain lanes. The game fully automates 40k’s fiddly line of sight rules, so no need to worry about mid-game punch-ups over how tall those bronze statues of the emperor are. Alongside the victory point system, shields that regenerate at the end of each turn, and the option to ‘borrow’ extra activitations from your future self, and there’s enough elements to keep thing enjoyably tense throughout.
Top of my wishlist for additional features is currently some sort of fast forward option. It’s initially quite fun to watch these gigantic lads lumber across the wartorn wastes like drunken snails, but it does drag on after a bit. Second on the list is the word ‘Waaaagh’ with about hundred a’s in it, because Gargants are the best. That said, the present Imperium vs Chaos matchup does mean unit capabilities are a bit clearer, and I appreciate that more races means considerable balancing.
Dominicus also feels very much like a tabletop game. That’s great for Games Workshop fans, since the game faithfully condenses Epic’s 4th edition ruleset into an elegant and accessible UI. The downside is that despite some fittingly meaty audio design and a pounding, dynamic soundtrack there’s less of a sense of scale than I initially expected. The feel is very much one of moving playing pieces, rather than commanding armies. I recently wrote about the distinction between classical and romantic strategy players, and with the Warhammer universe so rich with baroque spectacle, I can’t help but feel there’s room for a bit more personality. The campaign is still to come though, and it’s evident from the art direction that Membraine are big fans of the franchise – it’s just the XCOM obsessive in me likes to be able to name my pilots so I can develop a drinking problem when they die.
Oh, and although I always like to take games on their individual merits, it’s worth noting that Adeptus Titanicus: Dominicus comes from a two man team, so if you’re at all intrigued, you’re supporting some seriously dedicated developers by trying it out.