Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin preview: A promising direction

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin preview: A promising direction
Images via Frontier Developments

Written by 

Dave McAdam

Published 

5th Jul 2023 15:28

Few things go together better than Warhammer and strategy games, so Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin is already off to a good start. The list of video games based on Warhammer is long, and a significant portion, if not the vast majority of that list are strategy and tactical games. It makes too much sense not to translate a tabletop war game into a digital strategy game.

That said, any long-time fan of Warhammer video games can tell you that the franchise has had its ups and downs. There have been some less-than-stellar games based on Games Workshop's IP, but there have also been some absolute gems. As such, players are often cautious to get their hopes up about a new Warhammer game.

This makes my job of investigating new Warhammer games all the more interesting, knowing how much is at stake. Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin is an upcoming real-time strategy game, the first of its kind set in the Age of Sigmar universe. At a recent preview event, I got some hands-on time with the game. Specifically, I got to play through the first campaign mission and then some online matches.

A sense of scale

Stormcast Eternals defending an Arcane Conduit in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin multiplayer
Click to enlarge

One of the most interesting things I learned from playing the campaign mission, essentially a tutorial, was the scale of the game. Real-time strategy is a broad remit, encompassing everything from squad-based tactical games to armies of thousands clashing on the battlefield. While you will be fielding plenty of units in a battle, Realms of Ruin leans more towards the former.

Somewhere between the first two Dawn of War games in terms of army size, this game blends controlling multiple squads with singular, powerful hero characters who drive the plot forward. Said plot follows an army of Stormcast Eternals as they invade the wild realm of Ghur and face off against the Orruk Kruelboyz.

War games

Summoning new Stormcast Eternals units in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin multiplayer
Click to enlarge

Their leader is Sigrun, who you will play as through the campaign. Sigrun and the other hero characters will be your most powerful units, each with unique abilities, and will fight alongside the many regular units you will also get to deploy. In this way, you get both an intimate, character-driven story and vast armies of Stormcast to send into battle.

While I only got a short glimpse of the single-player content, it was a promising look. The dialogue between the Stormcast, as well as the incidental chatter from the Orruks kept the game from ever feeling like a bot match, a pitfall for many RTS story campaigns.

Fighting against AI was a lot of fun, as the rock-paper-scissors ethos of Realms of Ruins combat design ensures you must use your units' strengths and counter their weaknesses. This design goes a long way to dissuade the ol' faithful tactic of building a massive army and steamrolling across the map. As they say, it's not about the size of your army, it's how you use it.

The real test

Sending a large army of Orruk Kruelboyz to capture a point in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin multiplayer
Click to enlarge

Multiplayer does seem like a major focus for Warhammer AoS: Realms of Ruin, and much of the prerelease footage and information has focused on it. The three matches I played were 1v1, with either the Stormcast Eternals or the Orruk Kruleboyz available to play.

The rules of multiplayer are not dissimilar to Domination in Call of Duty, but also very heavily inspired by the Warhammer tabletop game itself. There are three Victory Points on the map which you must claim by placing your units on them. Both players start with a certain number of points (750 in the games I played), and holding two or more Victory Points drains your opponent's points. Whoever loses all of their points first, loses the match.

As well as the three Victory Points, there are Arcane Conduits all across the map. These objectives are captured much the same way as VPs, but serve a different purpose. In order to build up your resources, you need to hold these Arcane Conduits. They provide Realmstone, one of the two resources used in building your army.

There were eight Arcane Conduits on the map we played on, for a total of eleven objectives to hold. These are the catalyst for each conflict; you are not trying to invade the enemy base, but rather you meet them on the battlefield to fight over Victory Points until one player comes out on top.

Keeping up

Two armies of Orruk Kruelboyz fighting over a Victory Point in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin multiplayer
Click to enlarge

Safe to say in my three matches that I did not master these mechanics, considering I lost each time. Still, I started to grasp the game and recognised that it could be something special for folks who love to manage a million things at once.

There can be a lot to keep track of in a multiplayer match of Realms of Ruin. This is why I quickly gained an appreciation for the visual design of the game. The one map we played on was very clearly laid out, with a useful minimap that keeps track of just about everything you need to know.

The character designs also lend themselves well to the game's clarity, you might have a bit of trouble telling one shining gold Stormcast from another, but you'll never be confused when looking at an army of Sigmar's finest taking on a horde of Orruks.

The designs are taken almost exactly from the tabletop models, which is a genius idea. If you want clearly visible characters with definable detail from a distance, look to the world of miniatures.

Final Thoughts

A Stormdrake breathing fire at the enemy army in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin multiplayer
Click to enlarge

Of the two aspects of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin I was able to check out, the campaign was the one that spoke to me. That's just me, I am simply not built for competitive strategy games. That said, I think I am describing a strength, not a weakness. I love a good tailored, cinematic RTS campaign, which is something we rarely see these days.

I think that regardless of which aspect appeals to you most, the story-driven campaign or the micro-intensive multiplayer, there is likely something for you here if Realms of Ruin sparks your interest at all. Warhammer strategy fans can rest easy, this is one of the good ones.

Dave is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon, after several years of freelancing across the industry. He covers a wide range of games, with particular focus on shooters like Destiny 2, RPGs like Baldur's Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, and fighting games like Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8.