Despite celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Games Workshop’s world of Warhammer continues to keep its dedicated fanbase glued to the stories, characters, and lore that make the tabletop game so immensely popular. In a solid release by Frontier Developments, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin brings the paint-and-play experience to consoles and PCs like never before. With a gripping campaign and additional game modes to keep players hooked, including an incredibly deep creation mode, Realms of Ruin breathes life into the miniatures fans know and love.
Realms of Ruin very much feels like the tabletop strategy game that makes the Warhammer franchise famous. With a selection of four different factions from the Age of Sigmar branch of the franchise, players are empowered to command their army and conquer their foes by utilising a selection of different unit types, each with their own unique skills and upgradable abilities. You’re able to select between popular factions Stormcast Eternals, Kruleboyz, Nighthaunt, and Disciples of Tzeentch, each with unique heroes and characters, and a host of vocal efforts that’ll put players on the battlefield alongside their army.
The campaign in Realms of Ruin is a story centred around a unit of Stormcast Eternals who acquire a rare artefact and look to return it to their home city for study. However, the artefact holds its own secrets, which opens the narrative up for exploration of the game’s other factions. Gameplay heavily revolves around missions that require you to collect resources by claiming Arcane Conduits and claiming victory by holding your units over the Victory Points in the game. You’ll explore a variety of tactics according to the faction you use and each has three unit Tiers, with each getting more powerful.
The gameplay is pretty easy to follow and mimics the likes of Age of Empires - minus the extensive range of building options. Even on a console, it takes only a few presses of a button to create battalions of your units and command them to go on a warpath against enemy forces. Objectives are clear and resource gathering is pretty well explained so you can jump into the campaign, multiplayer, or Conquest modes in no time.
Realms of Ruin is visually an impressive game, particularly for the strategy genre. The campaign’s cinematic cutscenes are just shy of the standard of a AAA adventure/action title, but the one component of the game’s visuals that really excited me as a Warhammer fan was the ability to put your camera right in the heat of battle. You’ll spend most of your time with a top view like your standard RTS, but you’ll always have the option to zoom in until your camera is level with the terrain. It’s a close-up I’ve not often seen in an RTS and one that certainly made the experience memorable.
The creation mode was something I immediately jumped to because, while it may not be as heavily emphasised in other games in the genre, it was an opportunity for Frontier to take the Warhammer experience to the next level - and they nailed it. For a lot of Warhammer enthusiasts, the painting and creation component of the game is as exciting, if not more, than the gameplay itself, a point that Frontier did justice in the game. You have the opportunity to choose different colour palettes for the four factions in the game as well as create your own, allowing you to craft your army like you would with a paintbrush in hand.
It’s not just the colour schemes, though, that can draw you in. With Realms of Ruin’s map editor, you can create your own digital dioramas and create battle scenes without needing to run to the hardware or craft store. Whether for the sake of creating your own active battle scenes or just for a still image of some of your favourite armies in one place, there’s something for everyone when it comes to creativity. I daresay it could be a useful tool for players to create a scene on the screen before replicating it in its physical form.
There wasn’t a whole lot necessarily at fault with Realms of Ruin, there were a few minor areas that needed a bit more polishing before you could give it a proper A+. Some of the controls on the map creator were a bit too fiddly and complicated which made things like rotating characters on the map more difficult than needed. Additionally, as useful as the Battle Tome (help guide) is, the order in which some items are listed is jumbled and difficult to follow.
Perhaps the most noticeable issue with the game was that the units sometimes lacked a bit of…common sense. On a few occasions during my playthrough I would be notified that a unit was wiped out, only to discover that the 3 units accompanying them stood idly by while their comrades were killed. For the sake of having a more realistic RTS game, it would make sense that units in a battalion come to the aid of their fellow soldiers instead of standing there and watching them eat a bunch of arrows.
If you’re a fan of the Warhammer franchise but don’t always have the resources to organise a battle with friends, Realms of Ruin will be your go-to. It’s packed with features to tickle the fancy of creators and gamers alike and enough variety in its factions that it’ll please the majority of its fanbase. Realms of Ruin stands as a reminder that Age of Sigmar carries just as much narrative strength as its 40k counterpart.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by the developer.