STAFF REVIEW of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground (Xbox One)

Sunday, June 13, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground Box art There’s no shortage of Warhammer games out there, almost in every genre, but the latest is trying something different, not only with its genre melding gameplay, but fans are finally getting a Warhammer game based on the Age of Sigmar universe. Warhammer tabletop is known for its massive battles, but Storm Ground is doing something a little different, condensing the battles into smaller piecemeal affairs with a roguelike turned based strategy game that also utilizes cards. That’s a handful of different genres and mechanics, so I wasn’t sure what to expect initially. Thankfully the gameplay is addictive and strategic, even if the difficulty and grind to progress is quite high.

Instead of one long overarching narrative you play through, instead you’ll choose from one of the three included factions: Stormcast Eternals, the ghostly Nightnaughts or the poisonous Maggotkin of Nurgle. Each of the three separate campaigns have their own storyline, though to be honest, I couldn’t tell you much about them, as there’s a little dialogue here and there, but much of the lore is buried away in collectable lore scrolls, so don’t expect many cool cutscenes.

Each campaign is going to take quite a while to complete your first time, and given there are three factions, there’s quite a hefty amount of replayability and value within as long as you can endure the arduous grind and roguelike mechanics of constantly dying and starting over. Thankfully each playthrough will vary slightly, as you’re given randomized options for your missions and rewards. Manage to complete the campaign and you’ll unlock harder difficulties, essentially doubling the length of the campaign and adding new enemies and situations, so there’s plenty to see if you can keep with it long term.

Each faction plays very unique and differently, so make sure to try out each one and find which best suits your playstyle. This will take some time though, as you’re going to have to play multiple times, slowly building up your units and cards to have a better army and hopefully make it slightly further each run. Storm Ground utilizes a bunch of mechanics from very different genres. The core gameplay is a typical turned based strategy affair, but your units are actually based on the cards you’ve earned along the way, able to be leveled up and equipped with other unique gear you also find cards for when you complete matches.

Let’s start out with the cards, as that’s one of the more unique features or Storm Ground and requires understanding to fully grasp how it intertwines with the combat and roguelike progression. As you complete missions you’ll earn randomized cards varying in type and rarity. There are cards for weapons, unit types, skills, gear, skins and more. These cards are how you’ll fill out your army and what their effectiveness will be, essentially building and slowly stacking your army to become more powerful as you progress.

Units are important to get, because these are the ones that will fight alongside your hero in each mission. Some are ranged based, other melee and some have specific uses like being able to move from one end of the board to the other, particularly useful for collecting chests or making a hasty retreat. Your card collection will grow as you earn more rewards, but every time you fail the objective or your main hero dies the game is over and you must start another new campaign from the beginning. You’re allowed to choose three unit cards (and the gear their equipped with) to start each new campaign, so you are constantly making progress, albeit very slowly, almost to the point of being unnoticeable at times.

You can also get multiple cards of the same item, equipment and units, so when choosing what units to bring with you in a new run, do you choose a max level card that already has everything, or a lower leveled one that could use the experience and level up? There’s a lot of balancing like this that honestly takes a few hours of trial and error to figure out what works best for your playstyle. Make no mistake though, there are going to be times where you’ll be faced with an objective in a mission and if you didn’t bring the “right” setup of units or abilities, it’s basically impossible to beat. The randomness of the cards you earn can work for or against you, as the problem I keep having is that I have a dozen different swords for my main hero and melee units, but have only found one extra shield card in all of the hours I’ve played, so some of my units have starter equipment still while I have tons of spare swords not being able to be used.

Battles themselves are your typical turn based affair with a gridded map, showing how far you can traverse in a turn and the reach your abilities have on enemies. Your main unit is the hero for your faction, and obviously your most powerful, but you’ll be able to summon extra units based on the cards you’ve equipped before choosing the mission. While limited on how many you can summon, some units are better suited for certain missions than others, so make sure to read the mission descriptions beforehand. The main issue I had with this though is that while there’s a difficulty rating for missions, it doesn’t always seem that accurate, as I sometimes had no problem with 3 skull missions but would get destroyed in a single skull. Most missions will be some variant of killing all enemies, defeat a boss or capture a point of some sorts.

Because of the grid based system much of your tactics will be about strategic placement. You can get up on higher platforms, giving you a height advantage and combat bonuses, but the same works against you if an enemy is above. You’ll have to watch your footing as well, as there are planks of wood that can be destroyed, instantly killing a unit if they are standing on it and a certain ability is used. The same goes for edges of the map, allowing you to knock off enemies, but they can do the same.

Your strategy is going to depend on the units you’ve chosen, their abilities, skills and positioning on the map. It’s quite common to be outnumbered, so you’ll generally want to keep your team able to focus fire enemies down, but after a few hours of the same mission types, it does become a little repetitive. The main culprit to this is that the animations for movement and abilities is quite slow, with no way to speed up or skip them at all. So you have to sit through each animation every single time, not even able to queue up your other units’ until the previous finishes, so it can become a slog at times.

Each faction plays completely unique from one another and requires totally different tactics, strategy and planning to be successful. Stormcast are your typical humans, allowing you to spawn units right beside the hero and has a balance of melee, ranged and other unit types once you collect their cards. The Maggotkin were the most difficult for me to be successful with, as you can only spawn units in special poison pools but are able to change and modify these in certain ways with multiple steps of planning beforehand. The Nighthaunt uses special pillars to spawn units at, able to be placed in strategic places. I had the most success with the Stormcast as they play more ‘basic’, but for those that really want to flex their strategic planning, the other factions are a great fit that require totally different strategies.

While you generally only earn new cards from finishing a battle, each mission will also have a treasure chest on the map that can be collected by the first unit to reach it. This is great when you obtain it, as it gives you 3 bonus cards, but the issue lies in the fact that enemies can also get them, basically screwing you out of obtaining the chest for bonus cards. There are also smaller lore urns to be collected for those that care about backstory as well, but again, enemies can take it away from you if they happen to land on that grid spot first.

For those that manage to somehow complete all the faction’s campaigns there is also an online mode where you can 1v1 battle other players, with crossplay enabled. Here it’s simply your squad versus theirs. I’d love to go into more depth about what’s unique for online play, but I’ve yet been able to find a match in all my time playing Storm Ground. Every time I tried I let it sit for quite a while but an opponent was never found. Interestingly, the numbers for current players and such is shown, and the numbers are quite abysmal for online player count.

While I don’t play the tabletop Warhammer, everything in Storm Ground looks as though it’s been plucked out of the board game and converted into a video game. You’re able to zoom far out of the map or close up to see each unit’s details, and while it’s not overly impressive in its visuals, Age of Sigmar fans should enjoy the authenticity and recognize some of their favorite units on the battlefield. Better yet, you can even ‘paint’ your units to customize their color schemes which was a cool touch and a nod to its tabletop roots. As for the audio, it too is also passable but nothing very noteworthy. There’s a decent amount spoken dialogue when the Heroes have something to remark but the voice acting itself is simply acceptable at best.

For a game that’s based on strategy, I found myself sometimes frustrated because I wasn’t losing due to my lack of it, but the luck of what cards I had at any given time. Yes, as a roguelike you’re expected to fail many times before be able to progress, but the grind does get quite arduous when the rewards are seemingly randomized, forcing you to play yet again in hopes that you get an upgrade.

There’s some roughness around its edges and it does frustrate in certain aspects, but Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground does do a good job at being accessible for newcomers to the strategy genre while adding tons of replayability, as long as you enjoy the roguelike grind that follows. While it feels priced a little high, the value is there if you’re willing to sink the hours into the lengthy and challenging campaign.

**Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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