Necromunda: Underhive Wars takes everything we love about Mordheim and scales it down into something surprisingly fun, but at the same time, surprisingly hard. It’s a strategy game that takes planning and careful execution. Does it meet our expectations though?
+Challengingly fun and thought-provoking
+Embraces everything Necromunda fans love about the lore
+Beautiful graphics and character animations
+Voice acting is on par with a high-budget title
-Could use some color pallet enhancements
-Pacing can be a bit slow
In the dark future that is Warhammer 40,000, it seems we don’t hear much outside of the stories surrounding the Space Marines, Chaos Forces, Tyrannids, or other forces that live within that single universe. We often hear how dark it is, how many bombs have been dropped, or expansive story-elements such as the Horus Heresy.
What we don’t hear about often is the world itself aside from those warring factions. Hulking men in powered armor carrying weapons a normal-sized person wouldn’t even manage to lift without breaking an arm. However, it seems that is changing, slowly, but surely.
When it comes to strategy games, Warhammer 40,000 reigns supreme. There’s turn-based, action-RPGs, and even first-person shooters that somehow embrace the series in ways we never thought we would see. Among those titles comes Necromunda: Underhive Wars, which takes us to the world of Necromunda.
Only the bold, the insane, and the willing will survive
In the grim future of Necromunda, a planet that is filled to the brim with Hives – spire-cities that teem with lives – there is a war going on between the great houses themselves. The ruling families that run the megapolis are unable to war directly, which leads them to their gangs, a set of warring factions that fight in the shadows, battling one another for their bragging rights.
Our story takes place when Tessera and her gang of rowdy ladies end up exploring the Underhive itself after a lightning strike awakens a mysterious yet valuable piece of archeotech. Our story is plain and simple: They want to get the archeotech for the taking, but to do it, their gang must fight their way through other gangs, work their way down the underhive, and hope they are the first to reach it.
Now, if you are expecting a story that is deep, meaningful, and on par with a novel set in the same exact universe, I’m going to warn you now: Prepare to be disappointed. The story is short, it’s simple, but it follows the Necromunda lore to the letter.
Just don’t expect anything flattering or completely unique. It’s not happening, but that’s actually kind of a good thing. Combat is actually this game’s strongest suit and it does it rather well.
Combat in Necromunda: Underhive Wars is better than you’d expect
If you’re like me, you’re hoping for a game that follows the original to the letter. That’s not happening. It won’t happen actually. The game is all about the idea of gang skirmishes, but at a cost: Five person squads. Not dozens of soldiers running around.
Now, one of the drawbacks here, is that characters in your units, won’t always feel unique from the other. While some can lay traps, some can set down heavy blast zones, and others can harness melee weapons in deadly fashion, it is worth noting that the game itself has a simple gameplay loop.
Movement is given an MP pool that you can use, which is nice, compared to the systems from Mordheim. AP, aka Action Points, allowing you to use attacks, abilities, and even lay traps. It’s worth noting, that abilities are there that will allow you to refresh your AP, but at a cost.
The movement itself is only tracked in a straight line from where you were, this means you can go up a flight of stairs, run back towards where you were, and you’ll still have left-over MP from getting to where you want. This can cause some insane maneuvers, but also, some extremely frustrating encounters against other players and the AI.
Movement and attacking is truly up to you. AP itself is the core essence of combat if you really want to know. It’s used for, literally, everything in the game. You attack (shooting, stabbing, special abilities, etc) with it, you use tactical actions with it (kneeling, healing, buffing, setting traps, etc), to interacting with the environment and downed foes (yep, looting, zip lines, jumping, etc).
However, pinning is long gone if you are used to using it. Now, you have Overwatch and Ambush that replace it. Both do just as you would imagine they do. One is the melee version while the other is the firearms version of it. Once you used to these setups, you’ll feel right at home, which honestly, is a rather nice feeling.
Now, you do need to know this: Gangers can level up. They can get new abilities, they can get their stats, and well, they can be as vicious as ever, which makes leveling up, rather important. This will determine whether or not your ganger can take a blow or not and, well, if they can dish them out.
Tactics, tactics, tactics. They win the game, not your level.
So, the above heading is a lie. The level does matter to some extent. Sure, you can give a low-level ganger some nice gear, but the downside, those skills of theirs do matter. All character stats such as crit chance, AP, and Int, are all raised by skill points, which makes you also more versatile in combat, but also, gives your characters abilities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Now, the downside of these stats is something I’ve had an issue with Mordheim because I absolutely believe these games have potential: The stats feel as if they almost don’t matter at times. Especially when you get buffs and debuffs rolling out at the exact same time.
Truth be told, this is where games like XCOM2 and Fire Emblem do it better. Stats feel as if they matter. They have a lot of weight to them and it’s a sure-fire mistake if you don’t take them into consideration when digging through the trenches in either title. It’s a game where it just feels like stats don’t matter near as much as the skills themselves.
Unfortunately, for some of you, repetition will become a norm if you aren’t used to something that does require a bit of time before changes are really made for your gameplay loop. It’ll also take time for you to adjust to players versus the AI itself. Mostly due to the fact the AI is atrociously bad and can actually make some rather questionable moves.
I’ve had missions where the AI ran right up to one of my units, ran circles around it, jumped down, and stood there, leaving itself wide open for an attack. It’s just one of the few things that make you want to roll your eyes.
Weapons have changed to also better fit Necromunda: Underhive Wars and how it plays
Now, one of the places I felt the game happens to jump ahead of the rest of the Warhammer universe games out there, just happens to be its weapons and how they work. Chainswords, flamers, and even lasguns feel right on par with how you would imagine they would.
Cainswords feel devastating, cutting into enemies as quickly as they should, and they seem to do the damage you would imagine against heavily armored enemies. Lasgun’s, while doing low damage per shot, pack a devastating critical hit when they land one, making it so that las weapons are almost replaced by plasma-based weaponry, which honestly, it does just as you would hope.
Just don’t go in with low expectations when an enemy runs in waving a bolter, bolt pistol, or even a heavy bolter around. They hurt and when you have an enemy such as a Deadeye with one, it does hurt, and it absolutely devastating. Brawlers, Saboteurs, Lay-Mechanics, and Heavies are almost as scary as they seem since each one does something as devastating as the other.
Now, let’s make one thing even more interesting: Deadeyes are the only ones you can expect to use bolters. They are as deadly as you think they are and they work well when Saboteurs are laying down traps, creating barriers, and how to make sure everything works out just right.
While the future is grim, you’ll really wish the future had a bit more color
One area where Necromunda: Underhive Wars seems to fail, is the visual side of things. Auditory-wise, the game itself is absolutely astounding as are its graphics, but somehow, the color scheme used is a true problem. Almost everything seems to clash, look the same, and it seems that the only time colors tend to pop is during the cutscenes themselves.
It leaves a lot to be desired from what Rogue Factory has done in the past. Honestly, it’s a damn shame that they haven’t worked on upping their game even further, learning how to make everything pop, making it so that not everything feels like it is blending together.
I get the idea that many of the terrains have been aged, warped, and made this way due to time, but you would think something would give with a long-hidden treasure had been opened. It just leaves a lot of room for improvement in the art department.
Despite its flaws in the art department, Necromunda: The Underhive Wars is an astonishing title that actually goes above and beyond against its competitors. It’s a game that has you think ahead of every step you take whether or not you are one for tactical games, Necromunda: Underhive Wars does a lot of things right despite its art direction of bland coloring schemes.
Necromunda: Underhive Wars
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Rogue Factory
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Available Now
While it does throw a lot of the book out from its table top predecessor, Necromunda, Rogue Factory is showing that they learn from past mistakes and if they keep with that direction, this title will certainly be one worth watching in the future for none die-hard fans.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.