Tanks, but no tanks.

Short Cuts: The Horus Heresy: Battle For Tallarn

iOS Universal, PC/Mac •

The Games Workshop licensing bonanza continues. Crazy Warehouse Man says all licenses must go by midnight tonight! No exceptions. Battlefleet Gothic: SOLD! Man-o-War: Bring your floaties, we’ve got the flintlocks! Necromunda: It just makes such perfect sense! And don’t think we forgot about your massed armour fans!

Sadly, that’s as excited as I’ll ever get when discussing HexWar’s absolutely perfunctory turn-based effort. I’m beginning to think they’ve kept the art team on and sent the coders home. What makes The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn a tough one to level criticism at is a by-the-book approach to both source material and its tactical crunch. If ever a game felt like it was helping a studio reach a monthly quota, Battle of Tallarn is it.

Let the record state that Battle of Tallarn isn’t a miserly offering. A huge array of units on both sides of this grimdark tactical tanker to match the massive score of missions and maps; HexWar have heaped on the content. The tanks and fast-movers are lovingly rendered, and in number that’d make a pocketbook tear itself in two, were this a Forgeworld mail-order. It’s a game that largely delivers on the promise of 30K-40K source book etchings; climactic clashes of biblical proportion.

The source material evokes mechanised combat of World War II with the tools of World War I. Tallarn is a game of tungsten monitors clawing their way across gas-ridden terrain. The Leman Russes and associated armour revel that awkward A7V box-on-tracks aesthetic, as though advances in tank tech chose to only take cues from the likes of the Maus or Stalin’s JS-3.

Endless war, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But if beauty is only skin-deep, then we’re dealing with plain Jane on the mechanical level. It’s a simple hexer. Move and shoot within a certain distance, move farther and forfeit combat. There are firing arcs to consider, weapon selection to ponder, fog of war to pry apart and elevation modifiers for visibility. I do like the creeping dread of seeing hulking crawlers just on the periphery. It has a touch of Jutland ambience. Combat encourages flanking due to armour placement, the aft and sides of whatever you’re aiming for easier to pierce from behind.

One facet of combat is the good approximation of gun range. Tanks and walkers might not be particularly mobile, but their dawdling ambulation is mitigated by a naval reach. Sure, outside of the Baneblade — a Kharkiv Morozov fever dream machine, if ever there was one — the effectiveness of firepower at maximum range isn’t going to afford the blitz you’re after, but it keeps the receiver on their toes. After a while, ogling machinery at close range was swapped out for maximum zoom, and it still works well.

How can they make their weapons so cool and their buildings so dull?

And just for those wondering, it runs on PC hardware as lowly as my 2GB Asus T100, and the touch interface is pretty damn great. With that, I feel I can adequately speak to the also just released iOS version that, as with all the other HexWar products, it’ll be a clean deployment.

I don’t want to paint a dire picture, because Tallarn is a decent all-weather strategy. The game looks good, has a low footprint and has a smooth user interface. But the sheer lack of ambition smarts. It feels like a retread — hey now! — of recent HexWar efforts , just airbrushed in gunmetal. If that sounds like your bag, though, and the idea of a quick, cheap and simple 40K (30K for the sticklers) wargame fits the bill, you could do a lot worse.

Otherwise, Adeptus Meh-chanicus.

Notable Replies

  1. I do agree that it is a fairly standard HexWar title. If you have played one of their WWII titles before then you know almost all of the mechanics for this game.

    There are several additions to the standard HexWar engine that I think bear mentioning though and that weren't in the review. First, vehicles can be immobilized and have weapons destroyed. This can throw a massive spanner in your plans when tanks can't advance or you suddenly lose your Predator Cannon. Secondly, weapons now have varying penetrative effects based on range and target facing. You can't shoot the Leman Russ from its forward facing with a Predator's Autocannon. The article does mention facing but I think that the impact of it in the game is more apparent once you play the Traitor forces.

    Vehicles like the Baneblade also have multiple weapon systems and these can be used against multiple targets. Super Heavy vehicles in this game are truer to form than they are in Battle for Armageddon.

    Where I think that it lacks some ambition is in the game modes. I can't see any sandbox mode for the game and the engine still lacks larger maps which would make the game a lot more interesting. That said, it runs on my iPad 2 so I guess there are some accommodations that have to be made to maintain a small footprint for the game.

    For me, the biggest thrill about the game is being able to play a decent strategy title set in the Horus Heresy that isn't an FTP nightmare.

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