After publishing the excellent Warhammer 40K: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters last year, Frontier Developments are now making their own Warhammer strategy game in the form of Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin. Developed internally at Frontier, it promises to be a modern take on the classic RTS, giving you four unique factions to play with, including the Stormcast Eternals and Orruk Kruleboyz, across a single player campaign and 1v1 and 2v2 competitive multiplayer modes. I got to see a little bit of an alpha build of Realms Of Ruin in action ahead of tonight’s Skulls stream, and if you’re a fan of tabletop miniatures, this is definitely an RTS you’ll want to keep an eye on, as Frontier have gone all out on making this look as close to Age Of Sigmar’s TT origins as they can. Here’s what you need to know.
In case you need a quick refresher on how Age Of Sigmar differs to Warhammer 40K, this is WarHams at its most fantastical – essentially what Warhammer was like right at the start of its tabletop lifespan, before 40K came along. Age Of Sigmar is technically a ‘sequel’ to the original Warhammer, but it retains a lot of the same factions and realms.
Realms Of Ruin is set in Ghur, which is the Realm Of Beasts. Its hostile tundra and swampland will dramatically affect how your armies move across the map, so you’ll need to plan ahead and scope out the battlefield before charging into a fight. You’ll also want to watch out for its carnivorous plant life as well, as anything and everything is out to get you here. It looks like you’ll have a fair amount of control over your camera to do this, too, as Frontier have ensured you can zoom out to have a nice, broad overview of the field, but also pull it right in close to soak up its lovely-looking battle animations.
Frontier have also worked with Games Workshop and Black Library writer Gavin Thorpe to help bring Realms Of Ruin to life, so you can expect lots of deep lore cuts to make this feel like a Warhammer tabletop game through and through. The main thrust of the story is about following a Dawnbringer Crusade to reclaim Ghur’s savage wastes. Playing as the Stormcast Eternals, your fortress settlement Harkanibus will be under constant threat from the Kruleboyz (love a good Kruleboy, me). Fortunately, your leader Sigrun works out there’s some kind of magical arcane power out there in the swamps, and you’ll need to risk everything to get it and repel the Kruleboyz and their Killaboss Dankfeer for good.
That means building up your armies, capturing arcane conduits, controlling victory points and progressing through a tech tree to unlock bigger and more powerful units to help turn the tide of battle. Frontier say that while battles will be visually spectacular, they’ll also be manageable at scale, and they want to make sure your tactical decisions matter during the course of a fight. Obviously we’ll have to wait and see how that works out in practice, but even at this early stage, it’s looking very promising. There’s a rock paper scissors dynamic to a lot of the unit types, and the UI makes plain what each one’s strengths and weaknesses are – although with individual sets of active and passive abilities to pick from as well, you may be able to power through certain disadvantages if you deploy them at the right time.
“It was key for us to push players’ expectations of what a modern RTS can look and sound like,” Frontier told us during an early press briefing, and it shows. Each unit shows an impressive amount of detail on the battlefield, as does the wider landscape. You’ll definitely want to make use of that flexible camera control to zoom in for some dramatic, cinematic battle angles, especially when you’ve got some of its key hero characters on the scene, who have their own special abilities. Sigrun’s right hand man Iden, for example, can charge rush a group of enemies along a set path, dealing a truck ton of damage in the process. These special abilities do come at a cost, however, so you’ll need to balance your resources and deploy them at opportune moments.
Each mission will have primary and optional secondary objectives to complete, and you’ll need to capture enemy strongholds to help unlock more resources and strength your grip on the region. Those optional secondary objectives will often be tucked away down alternate routes you can explore, but your main objectives can also be tackled from a variety of different paths on the map. You could, for instance, chase after a pesky Orruk that comes to taunt you, but doing so might be walking straight into a Kruleboyz trap. Better to take the back route into their camp, then, and flank them where they least expect it.
Both the campaign and the multiplayer modes look like they’ll please long-term WarHam fans with the range of units on offer too. These include hurricane crossbow-wielding Vanguard-Raptors, winged Prosecutors who come armed with celestial hammers, multi-barrelled Celestar Ballista artillery and the draconic Stormdrake Guard for the Stormcast Eternals, and Gutrippaz melee units, ranged Man-skewer Boltboyz, grenade-throwing Hobgrot Slittaz (seriously cannot get enough of these names, actual chefkiss.gif), Breaka-boss On Mirebrute Troggoths and Marshcrawla Sloggoths representing the old Kruleboyz.
Multiplayer itself will consist of capturing and holding victory points to win. The more you control, the more points you’ll take off your opponent’s total, the aim being to get theirs down to zero. It shouldn’t be too much of a slog, though, as Frontier say that 1v1 matches have been designed to last around 30 minutes, so they should feel fairly quickfire and light on their feet.
As in the single player campaign, claiming conduit points will help bolster your resources, so you’ll want to queue up lots of units in the Build menu to swamp the map. Capturing these points will be key to managing the game’s pair of central resources: Command and Realm Stones. The former trickles in over time as you hold more points, while the latter is doled out in chunks on capture. To keep your economy stable, you’ll need to build bastions on these victory and conduit points to help defend them (as they’ll need to be destroyed before the point can be captured again) and grant extra buffs and bonuses to your squads. They can also be upgraded using your tech tree, as can your individual units as battles progress. Just make sure you save some points for your Command Post, too, as you’ll need to power this up as well to get to the tech tree’s higher level tiers and juicier units.
That’s everything I saw during the early presentation, but Frontier said they’ll be showing off more of the game “soon”, including the other two factions, and deeper looks at both its single player and multiplayer modes. Whether you’re a Warhammer diehard or someone who just wants a fun, fantasy romp in the cloak of an RTS, Realms Of Ruin looks to be delivering that in spades based on what I’ve seen so far, and I’m excited to find out more in the months ahead.