Warhammer Realms of Ruin Needs a Lot of Work

A critical look at the upcoming real-time strategy from an RTS player.

As a former Starcraft 2 competitive ladder player who made it to the top 10% of players, I take my real-time strategy games seriously, or as seriously as you can take a video game. When it comes to the genre, I’m admittedly pretty sweaty and love playing 1v1 ladder matches until I’m diamond+. 

My love of the genre is why I’ve been following the upcoming Warhammer RTS, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin which just started its open beta today. However, I’m sad to report that the game didn’t meet my expectations, at least in its current state. 

No, A Base is Not Really There…

Can you really call a game an RTS if it has no base building? RTS games typically have what is called micro and macro. Micro focuses on controlling the units in battle and positioning them in real-time, while macro focuses on the economy, resource gathering, and building. In Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin, there is no base-building, removing the Macro component almost completely. 

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Realms of Ruin Screenshot

Instead, players gather different resources by controlling nodes positioned across the map, much like Company of Heroes. Unlike COH, however, you can only build “buildings” on each of the nodes in a static place in the center of the territory — which, if I’m being honest, took a while for me to even comprehend because each building description is hidden behind an encyclopedia-like popout instead of a small tooltip explaining what it does. 

While a lack of building is an intentional choice for sure, it restricts what players can do and feeds into the core, flawed goal of the game — control capture points. Maybe it’s just me, but all-out base destruction and complete domination should be the winning conditions in any RTS. 

Resource Management Feels Bad, Man

Another massive problem for the title is its resources. There are two resources in the game, which is pretty on par with most RTS games, but one resource is used to build constructions, use special abilities, and upgrade, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. 

Typically, individual units will have their own respective mana pool, where you can use abilities until there is no more mana, but in Realms of Ruin, this gets combined into one pool for constructions, upgrades, and abilities for all your units — meaning the entire game revolves around trying to get that one resource while holding control points, rather than tactically trying to navigate or out-think your opponent. 

How you get that resource, again, isn’t exactly intuitive, so most matches, at least for me, devolved into “create units and spam” fests, where I forwent upgrading my base or units, and I still won almost every time. Speaking of that — I couldn’t figure out how to increase my army cap, so I typically rocked out with 6 total units, which is pretty underwhelming for an RTS, to say the least.

Get Backcapped, Scrub

The first few games I played were pretty hilarious, as most players were completely oblivious to the point ticker at the top of the screen as you play. This, in the end, is the only real way you’re going to win a match. 

In Realms of Ruin, players can cap three essential territories to maintain their point count. Whoever owns fewer of these points will slowly start to tick down on points until they have 0 and lose the match. I can’t tell you how many players didn’t understand this mechanic (including myself in the first match) and just lost because I had more of these points held. 

Can we just do away with this mechanic altogether in RTS games, please? This isn’t king of the hill in some battle royale game, and I’m not sure why all these developers want to bring back competitive Team Fortress 2 in RTS form. Backcapping in an FPS feels satisfying and big-brained; doing it in an RTS where the units move as slow as a turtle just feels like a rat tactic that would work way too often in its current state. 

It Handles like a 1980s Buick

I hate comparing the game to Warcraft 3 or Starcraft, or even Company of Heroes, as those games all had decades to get it right, but I can’t help it as an RTS gamer. If Starcraft 2 is the Bugatti of RTS games, then Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin is like your cousin’s hand-me-down 1980s Buick that needs a pushing start to even operate.

Since it is an online game, and an open beta, I’ll cut the devs some slack since this probably (hopefully) won’t be the final state the servers will be in on launch. Retreating, positioning, heck — even attack moving at times felt painful. Maybe it’s just me, but the responsiveness on units just isn’t there. On top of this, for many abilities, you’ll need to hit the hotkey twice, which is no fun when you’re trying to do things fast. I found myself spamming a key 100 times before my unit actually started responding, so to say it was frustrating would be an understatement. 

Some mechanics, like the retreat mechanic on every infantry unit in COH, is available for some units in this game but not others, which frustrated me. You’ll also need to hit ESC a lot to get out of build windows instead of left-clicking, which is super fun when you’re trying to hit that 175 APM and your capture point is being taken over. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

All-in-all, I’d give my Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin open beta experience a D-. The game really reminds me ultimately of the failed Total War: ARENA, which Creative Assembly made, and suffers from some of the same stripped-down, overly simplistic mechanics for an RTS game that made that game not-so-popular.

Warhammer-Age-of-Sigmar-Realms-of-Ruin-Screenshot 2

It could be fun for some players, like Warhammer fanatics that haven’t been spoiled by superior RTS titles like I have, or maybe Dawn of War aficionados. However, unlike that highly-popular game franchise — it forgoes the cover mechanics, which is a huge aspect and could have been a single sliver of light in my dark and sad open beta experience.

This is all not to say the developers of the game, Frontier Developments, can’t come back from this. If they forgo trying to hit the max audience by making the game overly simplistic and instead really dig deep into what makes RTS games great — you know, the strategy and unit management part, the game could rise like a phoenix from the ashes and be one that I’ll watch Twitch streamers play. Making an RTS game is hard, so I won’t knock them for the effort; I just wish there were more good things here for me to comment on.

For the moment, I’ll pass on future iterations unless the developers decide to take a serious look at the core gameplay and come back with something better.