Praise the Emperor. Between this and Darktide, it looks like 2021 will be the year of shooters set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
What we have here, is a game that looks like mash up of the modern Doom games, with Titanfall inspired gymnastics. It’s published by Focus Interactive and developed by Streum On Studio, who is responsible for the likes of other shooters, and even a previous 40K game, the Left4Dead style co-op shooter, Space Hulk: Deathwing.
It looks great, too.
I continue to love that the 40k universe is developed by a wide variety of publishers and studios, with tons of interesting and even quirky ideas, like the recent arcade aerial shooter, Warhammer 40k: Dakka Squadron.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is set to release on June 1st, and is currently discounted by 15% (on Steam) until then.
A year or two ago I caught wind of a “Warhammer 40,000 Orks flight sim” in development. Naturally, my interest was piqued, being a fan of the universe in most of its aspects, having even manned and painted a 2500 point Imperial Guard tabletop army. I’m also a fan of flight sims and arcade shooters, so it’s right up my alley. Plus, we have another solid example of what makes the Warhammer universe so interesting in the first place: no shortage of fun new ideas.
While Games Workshop has certainly had its share of missteps over the years, one of the things I’ve always appreciated is their willingness to give their IP to small developers, at least more recently, anyway. (I’m not going to get into Warhammer vs. Warcraft in this article, but give it a search if you don’t know what I’m talking about and would like to). The mega-publishers like Activision and EA never want to leave their own formulas, and so we get Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2 as sequels to games with literally the exact same name, which could have actually made 10x more money if they were simply remasters of the original games instead of loot-box-laden EA suckfests. But I digress…
So what is Warhammer 40K: Dakka Squadron?
It’s a fun, arcade-y, shoot-em-up with an emphasis on Ork silliness, and it strikes that chord well.
The voice-overs are goofy and on brand. The Ork visual style is well utilized. Everything looks slapped together, and made to blow things up, and they do. Even the Ork aesthetic philosophy of adding modifiers through pure faith are present. So your red paint job does in fact make your plane go faster.
The graphics are not bad, but fairly low polygon to work across many platforms. It did released on mobile, after all. So you can find it on Android, and iOS, as well as Steam. I won’t be talking about gameplay on mobile, however, since I am a fully refreshed member of the #pcmasterrace with a brand new RTX 3080 and all. So I am reviewing exclusively the Steam released, “Flyboyz Edition.”
The gameplay is simple. Maybe a little too simple. There is definitely no “sim” to be found here. You have very little control over your roll orientation, and you do little more than Star Fox style spins when you press A or D. This can be a bit disorienting, as your plane will make its own decision to right itself if you do a loop. They definitely encourage you to use set turn-back maneuvers (a single button press will reverse your direction) rather than “real” fancy flying techniques. Which is fair, because like I said, there’s no “sim” here, and therefore, no real physics or lift or anything like that going on.
Despite the lack of realism, it’s still a lot of fun. One of your primary attacks against other fighters is simply ramming them when you are close enough. I can’t name too many games in the genre which actually encourage mid-air collisions. The action is fast-paced, and the missions don’t expect more than 10-15 minutes of work for each. Blow up a bunch of stuff, get some upgrades, move on to the next fight. The variety of weapons and gameplay are more or less what you’d expect from this Orks themed flying game. You have nimble fighters, and bulky Bommas with a variety of tools, guns, rockets and Boom Bombs to flatten everything in your path.
The game isn’t without some obvious problems, however. While I haven’t experienced this particular issue as an English language player, I’ve read about a number of localization issues with other languages which mostly sound like the result of laziness. Maybe they never hired anyone and just used Google translate. A smart idea would be to ask for community localization efforts, though, still rather equally lazy.
The AI of enemy units is just straight up awful, as well. You will consistently see them bumping into walls and making very little effort to correct themselves. Since it’s clearly meant as a casual shooter, I wouldn’t say they need a challenge boost by much, but it would be nice just for immersion sake if the mobs had better pathing, considering the arenas are pretty small. Which is my other major gripe: the arena size boundaries are tight. Very tight. They could perhaps loosen up the ceiling a bit, just to make diving and bombing less cramped.
Putting those issues aside, it is still a lot of fun, and has a breezy price point around $20 on Steam. If I had to rank it as it is, I’d give it a solid 7, with room for improvement. It could be a 7.5 or an 8 with localization and AI fixes, along with some minor gameplay polish.
If you’re looking for some fast 40K aerial action with a clever Ork theme and few expectations from the player other than having fun, this might be what you’re looking for.