Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War

19An odd romp through familiar territory.

The Warhammer line of games from Games Workshop, from Warhammer Fantasy to Warhammer 40,000 to Blood Bowl, is one of the most beloved in the tabletop gaming world. Unfortunately, Warhammer’s transition to the PC wasn’t as smooth. Chaos Gate’s critical success gave Warhammer fans hope that future releases would make better use of the license and would provide a deeper, richer gaming experience. Rites of War was an attempt at fixing past mistakes.

The story line is decent enough. You play a leader of the enigmatic Eldar race from the Craftworld Lyanden. Davinuus, a lost Eldar planet now controlled by the Imperium, is a bastion of lost Eldar relics and artifacts. The Eldar, not wanting to wage all out war with the Imperials, sent scouting parties down to explore the surface of the planet. Imperial forces, in an unprovoked act of war, attacked the scouting parties. Now the Eldar are sending more powerful troops to scour Davinuus for the lost items. However, the Tyranid Hive has infected the planet and the Imperium and Eldar are forced to ally in able to thwart the civilization-devouring brood. This story is very true to the world of Warhammer 40,000. The Eldar and Imperials are not allies but they will always join forces to fight the Tyranids, Orks, or Chaos legions.

The gameplay is reminiscent of SSI’s Fantasy General; the biggest difference being that Fantasy General was a challenging game that veteran gamers struggled to complete. Rites of War, however, is a game that veterans of the General series can complete in a matter of days, being directed at people who are new to this sort of gameplay. The campaign consists of 24 linear missions from start to finish. Unlike other games in the General series, you are never given a chance to choose your own fight. There is no branching campaign—you are simply led by the nose from beginning to end. Another problem that affects overall playtime is the fact that the game consists of one main campaign.

The lack of campaign missions would not be so much of a problem if the missions included were difficult to complete. The game is simply too easy for experienced players; all one needs to do is fight off the first initial wave of bad guys and the rest is fairly simple. To get the most out of the campaign it is advised that experienced General players start out playing at the highest difficulty setting.

13The missions all play pretty much the same—and usually with the effective lack of turn limits, the tension of each mission is stripped away. Another tension killer is the fact that the enemy matches your army’s experience level for each campaign mission. So, if you go into the final few scenarios with nothing but rookie units, you will face only rookie enemy units in that mission. This makes the impact of losing several great units less important—all one needs to do reload with a brand new army with the vast amount of Glory Points (the same as Prestige in Panzer General) that you’ll obtain throughout the campaign.

There are other oddities within the game. You cannot move ground units under flying units such as the Eldar Swooping Hawks or the Tyranid Gargoyles. There are no defensive missions within the campaign (you are always on the attack). So does Rites of War do anything right? Yes, in fact, the game is fun to play—while it lasts. After all, the game’s roots are seeped in Warhammer 40,000 lore, although it’s not quite enough to salvage from its more serious drawbacks.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win 95

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