Warhammer 40,000 Gladius – Relics of War: Adeptus Mechanicus – Review

Written by Amwald

Warhammer 40.000 Gladius

Proxy Studios’ entry into the impressive list of Warhammer 40,000 video game adaptations has been going strong for just over three years now, and the latest DLC adds a longtime fan favorite to the list of playable factions. The Adeptus Mechanicus, formerly-human cyborgs who worship technology but shun progress, have been part of the 40k lore since the beginning but only became available on the tabletop in the last decade.

Games Workshop‘s decision to bring the Priests of Mars to the forefront of the setting alongside the Space Marines, Tyranids and other iconic factions served to cement the Mechanicum’s popularity, and the rest is history. It was only a matter of time before the Adeptus Mechanicus joined the fight for Gladius Prime.

Warhammer Relics of War Adeptus Mechanicus
That looks like a lot of special rules, but the faction still plays pretty normally.

Longtime players of Gladius won’t see anything too out-of-the-ordinary when they first take to the field with the new faction. The Mechanicum’s gameplay sees them doing all the things the other factions do; settling in expanding territories, unlocking their tech tree, and sending dozens of units into the meat grinder for tile-by-tile territory gains. Veterans of the Astra Militarum (one of the game’s four factions available in the base game) will feel the most at-home with the Adeptus Mechanicus, who whose Doctrina work like Edicts, but affect units rather than cities and grant army-wide bonuses that can turn the tide of battle.

The Adeptus Mechanicus favors optimization and efficiency in their economy – not surprising, considering their background! In Gladius, each tile within a city’s borders can hold up to three buildings. Whether these structures train units, extract resources, house workers, or do any of the myriad things the player needs them to do, the player is typically free to place buildings wherever they’re needed. An ore mine on a mineral-rich tile is usually a good idea, and research buildings on tiles that give a bonus to research is a no-brainer.

Mechanicum cities see their output increased if they have multiple copies of the same building type on a tile. Any player can stack ore extractors on the aforementioned mineral-rich tile; an Adeptus Mechanicus player will get more out of doing so. Even better, Martian Enginseers are masters of compact building – some of their tiles can hold more than three buildings, allowing even more stacking bonuses!

There’s a catch, though – tiles that have different types of buildings will instead see a penalty to their output. The Mechanicum needs to specialize if they’re going to succeed. Considering how many moving parts a city in Gladius can have, this makes the Adeptus Mechanicus a tough faction to master and therefore a better fit for experienced players than for beginners.

The Adeptus Mechanicus’ penchant for specialization also extends to their combat doctrine. Although the faction boasts an extensive array of Doctrines to unlock, these fall into two mutually-exclusive groups. Doctrina Imperatives grant stat boosts to all units of Skitarii on the field, but also come with a stat penalty such as trading in movement speed for increased defense.

Non-Skitarii units like the Electro-Priests instead power the Canticles of the Omnissiah. These are more direct powers that have a one-time effect such as damaging an enemy unit, and are more potent if the Adeptus Mechanicus player has more Canticle units on the field. This poses a challenging question for the player; focus on the Skitarii with their adaptable Doctrina Imperatives, or train Canticle units for big plays?

Warhammer Relics of War Adeptus Mechanicus
The unit models look like they came straight from the tabletop.

Whichever build works best for a given run, the Adeptus Mechanicus has a strong roster of units that feel, in typical Gladius fashion, like they were plucked straight from the tabletop. Being cybernetic in nature, the faction’s units boast a higher damage resistance than most. Combined with their generally short-range weapons and tall playstyle, this makes the Mechanicum a solid defensive army that’s content to build and build and build some more until they can earn victory through their faction quest.

In the early game, they benefit from enhanced armor penetration on the weapons of the Skitarii Vanguards and a fast, hard-hitting option in the Serberys Sulfurhounds. Used together, both units are capable of handling most of the neutral threats on Gladius Prime and can reliably win skirmishes with major factions, especially if they have a Hero to back them up.

Of course, no discussion of the Adeptus Mechanicus in Gladius would be complete without addressing the Kastelan Robots. A powerful unit in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game, Mars’ mechanical monstrosities have been terrorizing Gladius players since launch. The Kastelan Robots are among the most dangerous neutral units a player can run into. As the Adeptus Mechanicus, you can finally recruit them – and fairly early on, since they’re only a Tier 3 research to unlock.

Warhammer Relics of War Adeptus Mechanicus
A few captured Kastelan Robots turns the tide against the Orks.

Recruiting Kastelan Robots form your cities is a great benefit, since they’re a reliable and hard-hitting unit. The Adeptus Mechanicus go one step further, though. Their settler unit, the Cybernetica Datasmith, can take control of neutral Kastelans they encounter on the map (provided, of course, they can get within one tile of their target without getting disintegrated). Doing so in the middle of a firefight with another faction can make an exceptionally nasty surprise for the enemies of Mars. The Datasmith can even hang around and heal his new buddy every turn!

Advancing along the tech tree, the Adeptus Mechanicus unlock new unit types, Imperatives, Canticles and efficiency boosts. Notably, there are techs that increase the stacking bonus of buildings and reduce the penalty for having different building types on the same tile. These are a pretty big commitment, however. Many of them appear late in the tech tree and are expensive, and the Mechanicum’s aversion to invention gives them a penalty to research output. Unless you have a build that would seriously benefit from taking an efficiency tech, you’re probably better off putting your efforts elsewhere.

Of particular note on the faction’s tech tree is their late-game access to Imperial Knights, building-sized mecha that form the smallest of the Imperium’s Titan Legions. In a game of infantry and armored divisions though, even one of these is a major threat. Indeed, these ancient war machines are so devastating (and so entrenched in 40k lore) that it’s no surprise the Mechanicum’s storyline sees them trying to awaken a full-sized Titan. Doing so would give them the firepower to easily regain control of Gladius Prime and prevent the other Imperial armies present from asking too many pesky questions about the Adeptus Mechanicus’ experiments there.

Like any new faction, a given player’s experience with the Adeptus Mechanicus will ultimately depend on how well the faction meshes with their playstyle. Players who like to plan out optimal builds for their cities, go out questing for outposts (and Kastelans to reprogram), and choose when to deploy doctrines will likely have a great time with the faction. Likewise, the additional durability of the Mechanicum’s units will be a welcome change for players who are sick of their starting Guardsman or Ork Boyz units getting torn apart by wandering Kroot Hounds.

Aesthetically, the old-school sci-fi feel of many of the units is a neat departure from the in-your-face Gothic look of the rest of the Imperium (although the Temple Forge at the center of every city still has plenty of flying buttresses to go around.

34, to be exact.

It’s pretty clear that this is a DLC intended for experienced players. Gladius isn’t a game that’s forgiving of mistakes in general, and the Adeptus Mechanicus penalize misplays more than other factions. If you’re a Gladius veteran though, or at least have played a campaign with one or two of the starting factions, the Adeptus Mechanicus will make an exciting addition to your game.


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