For the greater good!
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: Proxy Studios
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 25 Feb, 2020
T’au, or Tau as they’re also known are a relative newcomer in the 40k universe, both in their backstory and as a faction in the game. They’ve been around for nearly 20 year at this point, but their addition is still the last time Games Workshop added a brand new faction that did not tie directly into another one (like say Adeptus Custodes).
The Tau are a highly advanced race that the Imperium of Man discovered just 6000 years ago. At the time of discovery, the Tau were deemed to be unimportant, just another primitive xenos race that would pose no threat. But what the Imperium of Man did not count on was how rapidly the Tau could develop its technology, and within a few thousand years, they had technology far more advanced than that of the Imperium of Man. Where humanity had stagnated, Tau were on the rise.
Where most other races are keen on just trying to exterminate anyone or anything that does not look like them (and usually also things that do look like them), Tau takes a slightly different approach. They often try to recruit other races into their growing empire, and the most prominent of these are Kroot and Vespids, who often serve under Tau command in times of war (and as this is 40k, there is only war). But the bulk of the Tau army is still consisting of Tau, who make heavy use of agile mech suits, hover tanks and devastating long-range weapons.
In Gladius, the Tau might at first glance seem very conventional. Most of their units don’t have any specific needs or weird abilities, instead they function like straight forward infantry or tanks. But Tau has a few tricks up their sleeves that set them apart from any other faction. The most obvious one is their ability to use influence to take over some neutral enemies. The units Tau can take over are the classic Kroot hounds, who have been in the game since the game launched, and a new unit, the Vespids, who are a short-range jump infantry. This can really help with early-game expansion before you’ve managed to build up a large army, but it’s not the most significant ability that Tau has. At tier 2 in the tech tree, you find the unassuming Gun drones, and this is what makes Tau really shine. Once researched, most Tau units, including infantry, characters and early vehicles, get the ability to summon a squad of drones. While individually not particularly strong, a Tau army can effectively double in size for a few turns with these, and they’re free. These gun drones can be used to lure out overwatch fire, chip away at the enemy’s health as well as apply a debuff to the things they attack, that make them worse at shooting for the next turn. The AI is also very fond of targeting these drones, as they’re usually the easiest target to kill, thus your more valuable units won’t have to take any fire. The gun drones do disappear after a few turns, but by the time they’re gone, they’ll likely already accomplished their goals, and you can summon new ones a few turns later.
Being able to use gun drones as shields is quite important, because most Tau units are very easy to kill. Even the impressive-looking battlesuits go down far more easily than you would expect, and the basic infantry, Fire Warriors, really don’t compare favourably to Space Marines or Necron Warriors. Even ork boyz are a serious threat to them. Most Tau units do know how to dish out damage at least, they’re just bad at surviving if the enemy targets them.
Tau characters are also some of the worst fighters in the game. While their commander a pretty good in a fight, their other two characters, which you get earlier, are quite weak and don’t give you the same immediate power boost as those other armies get. They are good support characters though, and the ethereal has the best healing ability in the game, healing itself and everyone around it, but unless they have a good amount of other units around them, they’re not particularly strong.
Several infantry units, including the Fireblade, have the ability to use what’s called marker lights. They can give up their regular shooting to tag an enemy unit, which in turn will take increased damage from ranged attacks for the rest of the turn. The marker light effect makes sure that even in the late game, when you have access to stronger units, those Fire Warriors and Pathfinders still have something useful to do on the battlefield.
The final big thing that sets Tau apart is their ability to use influence to more directly mess with the enemy. They can lower the morale of enemy units and even cause unrest in their cities, with targeted abilities that require influence to use. These abilities do have a pretty long cooldown, but lowering the morale of the most powerful units the enemy has can be enough to turn the tide of battle, at least earlier in the game.
Tau is an interesting army, both to play as, and play against. Many of their units do feel like glass cannons, hitting rather hard, but not being able to take much punishment in return, which makes their drones a key part of their army. This gives Tau a playstyle that really is unlike any other faction, even if most of their units, at first glance, don’t look so impressive. There are other units in the game that can summon more units, but Tau is the only army where summons are a key part of their playstyle.
Much like the past two faction DLCs for Gladius, the Tau DLC is quite good, and well worth getting if you want more Gladius. The base game did feel a little bit lacking in the number of factions, but now that the game has 7 factions in total, and with all of them feeling very distinct,