Death to the false emperor!
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Developer: Proxy Studios
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 18 Jul, 2019
The forces of the ruinous powers have arrived on Gladius Prime. Inevitable, really, as the system is surrounded by a warp storm, which is basically a rift between the material world and the “warp”, where all kinds of nasty things live, including daemons, and of course, the corrupted Chaos Space marines.
Chaos Marines are Space Marines who have turned to the dark powers, they no longer defend the Imperium of Man, and instead follow the daemonic chaos gods. The Chaos gods and their forces are about as close to pure evil as they get. Each of the four main chaos gods represents their own corrupting force. Khorne revels in battle and slaughter, Tzeench twists everything around it into unrecognizable forms, Nurgle spreads disease and Slaanesh wants hedonistic excess. In a setting without any good guys, these are the bad guys.
At very first glance, Chaos Space Marines might look similar to their loyalist counterparts, but once you start playing them, you’ll quickly realize that they play nothing like Space Marines. Their units, apart from the regular Chaos Marines, function quite differently, and they also have some unique mechanics, not found in any other faction. The first one is that through battle, units can gain boons from the chaos gods. Whenever a unit that can receive a boon (which is most infantry and heroes) kills an enemy, there’s a chance it will get a permanent boost, turn into a daemon prince or a chaos spawn. The later is not really something you want, but in my three full games playing Chaos Marines, I never once had any unit turn into a prince, and only once did a unit turn into a chaos spawn, so the chance of any unit transforming seems quite low.
The second mechanic is that you can sacrifice your population to gain temporary boosts in your cities, and your cultists to gain boosts to your population. This is quite handy, as you don’t need to save up a lot of influence for boosts, and you can kickstart one city by feeding it cultists produced in another. The chaos cultists are your cheap and plentiful early-game infantry, and are also used to make new cities, which means that Chaos can spread shockingly fast.
And finally, you can give your infantry marks of the different chaos gods, which are permanent buffs that make the units stronger in some way that fits the god in question. It’s a good way to make your early units stay relevant into the late game.
The Chaos Marine roster is interesting. Where Space Marines have powerful tanks that excel at range, Chaos marines have daemonic possessed machines that thirst for blood, and wants to rip the enemy apart in melee and eat their souls in the process. Needless to say, the frontlines for the Chaos Marines tend to be quite crowded with weird and terrifying machines and creatures. But the two most unique units have to be the Master of Possession and the Chaos Spawn. The Master of Possession is the closest thing Chaos has to a psycher (it’s a bit strange that Chaos does not have any sorcerers, but they can’t have everything). These “heroes” have the ability to summon daemonic machines to the battlefield, and when they kill an enemy, they’ll turn them into chaos spawn, that are under your control, which can be quite the boon in the early game when there are plenty of neutral units roaming the lands. Chaos Spawns themselves are fast melee infantry that gets a random buff every turn, making them somewhat unpredictable. They’re probably one of the best scouts in the game as you get them so early, and while they can’t stand up to elite infantry, nor take out tanks, their high speed makes them quite useful well into the late game.
If you’re familiar with Warhammer 40k, you might have noticed that I did not mention Chaos Terminators up there. Despite being featured heavily in the artwork for this DLC, you can see one if you scroll to the top of the page, they are not in the game.
Fighting against Chaos Marines is an interesting challenge. Their weird mix of units, some of which are really fast, makes them a dangerous foe, but their lack of long-range firepower gives them a clear and exploitable weakness, and they don’t feel overpowered. The AI does seem to really like their Rhinos though (a transport vehicle which Chaos can build early on). Spamming transport vehicles might seem like an odd idea, but at the start of the game, you really don’t tend to have a whole lot of units that can easily take down vehicles, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
The Chaos Marine DLC adds yet another faction to Gladius, and much like with the previous DLC faction, Tyranids, Proxy studios managed to create a faction that feels very distinct and interesting. The random elements, like units having a chance to turn into chaos spawn, or chaos spawn having random buffs, might turn some people off, but personally I never found the random effects to have a huge impact. I guess if you get really lucky and your unit of cultists would turn into a Daemon Prince on turn 3, that could make a big difference, but other than extremely rare events like that, the random factor seems to add more flavor to the faction than anything else. And considering how Proxy Studios now has managed to make 6 very distinct factions, I have high hopes for future releases by them. If you liked Gladius, and want more, then this DLC is well worth getting.