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Necromunda: Underhive Wars

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 16 - 2020

Painting the Underhive with your gang colours.

Anyone who follows the Games Workshop range of tabletop games will be aware of Necromunda, the tabletop game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe in which players take control of a small gang and fight with other gangs across a setting with impressive verticality. Of course, it would only be a matter of time before a digital version of the game popped up, and developer Rogue Factor are the first to give it a try with Necromunda: Underhive Wars. As the developers behind Mordheim: City of the Damned, Rogue Factor have the background to bring turn-based, futuristic gang battles successfully to PC, but can they satisfy the strategy gamers as well as the Games Workshop fans?


When a tabletop game makes the transition to video game, they come in two different flavours; they either replicate the tabletop experience as closely as possible, or they are “inspired by” the tabletop game, but are actually quite different. Necromunda: Underhive Wars has very little in common with the tabletop game, aside from the setting and lore, and plays like a turn-based strategy game with a few key differences. Strategy video game fans will probably find a lot more familiar than those who are veterans of the tabletop game, and will also probably find the game a lot easier to get into and understand. Whether a strategy gamer or a Games Workshop fanatic, Necromunda: Underhive Wars suggests that the player starts by dropping into the single player campaign before anything else, as the campaign acts as an extended tutorial while also introducing players to the grim setting.

For the uninitiated, Necromunda is an industrial planet in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The planet is home to a number of massive cities that have grown vertically to reach high into the sky, much like termite mounds, with each of these hive cities being home to more than a trillion people. Most of these people will never see the sky or breath fresh air, but there is always the dream of a better life, and this is what motivates the many gangs that fight for dominance in the sprawling underhive.


The campaign will drop the players into the sci-fi boots of three different gangs as they search for a rumoured piece of ancient tech that could be the payday they have been waiting for. The story is a little thin on the ground, but it does a good job of introducing the three Houses that feature in the game, each of which have their own style. This is also where players will learn the intricacies of the game, or at least the combat. The more management aspects of controlling a gang do not really play a part in the campaign and players will have to wait until they jump into the other modes to find out about them. This is a real shame in my mind, as the campaign could have been much more involving had it combined with the other modes and gave players a reason to keep pushing through the story. As it stands, the campaign does a great job of teaching the player about the combat and such, but offers little by way of reward other than launching into the next part of the story.

Still, that aside, the campaign does its job. Strategy fans may think they know what to expect in Necromunda, but there are some quirks that may take them by surprise. The player will control their gang and will have the chance to move or act with each of the members of their gang in turn. The first big difference though is that there is no grid to move around, but rather it is played from a third-person point of view, and the player actively moves the controlled character to wherever they need to go. This feels much more hands on than most strategy games, giving the game a fresh feel. Another difference is that each character will have both movement and action points, and the movement points are quite generous in their quantity, allowing a nice sense of freedom. This is especially important as the levels are not only quite big, but also quite vertical with plenty of platforms to move to for strategic advantage. Zip lines, elevators, even abseiling from one platform to another will see gang members moving around easily.

Once the movement has completed, the player can then spend their action points, which conversely seem quite tight. Interacting with objects, using equipment, placing traps, performing abilities or firing weapons, these all take action points and players will have to carefully pick and choose what they want to do as they will not be able to do everything. This becomes more of an issue because the weapons seem so underpowered, or the enemies are overpowered. Most people will be familiar with the cool weapons of Warhammer 40,000, from bolters to plasma guns, but even the most powerful weapon will take maybe three or four hits to take down an opponent. I can understand that games would be over far too quickly if everyone was taken out with one shot, but it just feels odd.


When the player is not controlling members of their gang, they will be watching the opposition taking their turns. This takes time and does take away some of the urgency of the game. However, the fact that the AI is so daft makes much of this waiting around seem even more pointless. This is an AI that will quite often run around in a circle and even damage itself in its pursuit of doing nothing.

Once some time has been spent in the campaign, the player can confidently jump into the much more interesting act of building their own gang. This is where the game really opens up, as the player is able to not only customise nearly everything about their gang, from the colour scheme to the classes and equipped weapons, but also build their gang up. Though a variety of multiplayer options, to operations against the AI, each member of the gang will earn experience and grow, improving as time goes on. They may also develop long term injuries that will change their effectiveness in battle. The HQ can be improved upon as the player gains resources from their various encounters, giving the player further reason to go into battle. These gang members will become much more important to the player as they are grown and nurtured, unlike those featured in the campaign. While the combat encounters are still slow and slightly off, the custom gang and its development is where Necromunda shines the brightest.


Necromunda: Underhive Wars strongly suggests that the player play the campaign before looking at any other modes, presumably so they can learn how to play. However, the campaign also proves to be the worst side of the game and will very likely turn some players away. The combat in the game needs some work to make it faster and more interesting, but there is a huge appeal to building a unique gang and making them more powerful. There is a lot to learn here, and presumably more gangs will be added further down the line as DLC. Necromunda: Underhive Wars is a slow but solid game that can be fun, once the campaign tutorial has been finished.




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