The fine folks over at Frontier and Complex Games provided us with a review copy of Execution Force, the new DLC for Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters.
Last year, the very real and physical Goonhammer offices went pretty wild for Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters, the XCOM-like spiritual successor to 1998’s Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate. While none of us were able to finish its lengthy campaign in time for our review, I for one played said hefty campaign to completion and was still hungry for more. Complex Games have since delivered, with the Duty Eternal DLC late last year and now this latest expansion.
As you may have guessed based on the name, this expansion is all about the relentless killers of the Officio Assassinorum, who will join your Knights on their quest to rid the sector of Nurgle’s gross steez. Despite the name, it’s not recommended you actually take a pure Execution Force of assassins – these 4 new assassins are each a different variety of glass cannon, without access to the defensive abilities your Grey Knights can employ. They’re even more specialized than your usual roster of Grey Knight classes, and even more dangerous.
After your first research project, you’ll get a conversation between your usual companions Purifier Ektar, Magos Lunete, and Inquisitor Kartha Vakir about bringing in the agents of the Officio Assassinorum. The Inquisitor has called for aid, and while Ektar isn’t too happy about bringing in non-Grey Knights assets, ultimately the fate of the sector is at stake. These conversations are fully voiced, and they meld into the story just fine, though some voice lines still refer to your whole squad as “knights” even if you only take assassins to the surface. I don’t think it super matters, especially since you’re supposed to only bring 1 or 2 along, but it’s something I noticed. This isn’t much of a narrative expansion, and instead focuses on adding more variety to the base campaign.
Assassins are fragile but lethal, with linear progression paths and smorgasbords of skills. Your Barracks can only contain one of each, and they cost 3 Requisition as opposed to the normal 2 for a Knight. Assassins can’t be visually customized and don’t speak their names aloud like the Grey Knights do, but are fully voiced with their own sets of wargear. Their various wargear drops don’t look as distinct as their Grey Knight equivalents, but they all offer new bonuses and abilities, much as you’d expect. Said abilities are largely based on turn cooldowns as opposed to using Willpower points, as most assassins aren’t psykers. Visually, each is impressively animated, and just as lively as any other characters in the game. As I remarked in my previous hands-on previews and proper review of this game, the character models and animations are bouncy, exaggerated, and just cartoony enough to give this game its own identity. I genuinely love the look of Daemonhunters, and these 4 assassins fit in perfectly. Each also has their own identity expressed through animation, from the Callidus doing gymnast-esque flips over cover to the Eversor’s constant nervous twitching.
Your classic sniper, the Vindicare excels at long range damage. He has a pistol for up close fighting, but he’s pretty squishy so you’ll want him in the back regardless. He can go into stealth mode, remaining undetectable by enemy units, which will let him get the perfect flanking shot if you make the most of it. He has an ability to destroy an Organic unit outright (with a hefty 15 turn cooldown) which means he can one-shot Plague Marines from a screen away. Most Grey Knights you take have fairly limited range, so he’s a good choice for fire support. He also regenerates a little bit of health each turn, so if he takes a few hits and hangs back he’ll probably be okay.
The Callidus is a choppy assassin, but one who excels in disrupting enemy formations. She can disguise herself as an enemy with Polymorphine (replete with a cool glitchy visual effect) then walk around freely before either attacking up close, throwing knives for free, or using her Seed Confusion ability to disrupt ranged fire for all enemies in a large area around her. She’s a fantastic support piece, able to shut down nests of enemies and keep them from lighting up your dudes. Alternately, she can find a pocket of enemies and un-person them with her Neural Shredder, which works much like other flamer-type weapons in the game. I found her to have the most interesting toolbox out of all of the assassins, and flitting around the map with her was fun as hell.
Much like on the tabletop, the Culexus assassin is all about anti-psychic shenanigans. Also, much like on the tabletop, the Culexus assassin is the most situational of the bunch. She has the ability to close warp rifts from a distance which is cool, and has an anti-daemon ranged attack that never needs to reload, but I didn’t find her as useful as her compatriots. She generates Willpower points by having other units spend their own Willpower, at which point she can turn that into armor or unleash it in increasingly powerful attacks. She also shuts down mutations in a blast radius and is unaffected by psychic powers. Rifts always appeared way too far away from her to make much use of her signature ability, but silencing the occasional enemy psyker or doing some reliable ranged damage against daemons was never unwelcome. I think I’d probably take the other assassins most of the time, but she’s still got some uses.
This dude might be my favorite of the bunch. The first sign that they were gonna get this guy right was in the Barracks screen, where instead of standing around in an idle animation like everyone else, he’s locked in his stasis pod. He moves fast and can cause damage to himself to use his abilities, gaining extra Action Points, causing status effects, and so on. I had him regenerating health every time he killed something, so he would run in, cut some stuff up, and be topped off by his own handiwork. This even worked on the flimsy little Poxwalkers I encountered, and I found him tremendously fun to use. He spread bleed around, could remove resistances with shooting attacks, and then do extra damage against whatever he’d hit before, capping out with a “Teleports behind you” attack that could inflict Bleed on packs of dudes. Utilizing your own HP as a resource was an interesting twist that nothing else in the game really does, and his HP regeneration on kills keeps him playing on a knife’s edge. Naturally, when he dies he detonates in a massive Bio-Meltdown which blows a huge hole in the map and everything around him. His voice acting is also delightfully unhinged.
A new group of enemies will be showing up as a patrol: The Tainted Sons. This trio focuses on high HP, low armor, and ample mutations. A ton of enemies have been added through free updates and the previous Duty Eternal DLC, making for a pretty staggering amount of stuff to kill and get killed by.
Individual Nurglings showed up as part of the environment in boss fights, but now they’re a proper enemy. They roll around and can apply buffs to other Nurgle units around them, but they’re not too tough to kill. When they die it’s like watching a set of bowling pins made of meat get hit by a strike, and it’s extremely entertaining.
Beast of Nurgle
This guy is a mid-late game bruiser who can tank a lot of hits. He’s most dangerous up close, where he can immobilize your units and really do some damage. I think I’d rather face him than a Helbrute, but the Beast fills a not dissimilar role.
As if the forces of Nurgle weren’t tough enough to kill, now they have their own medic class to patch them up and apply further mutations. Absolutely kill this guy first.
Tentarus Hive Missions
These missions involve you running around the map whacking little Nurgle nodes as you get bombarded by a Chaotic Audrey II who will inflict Plagued on any groupings of your dudes, so spread out. There are typical enemy patrols and some reinforcements coming in, but it’s largely about plotting an efficient route to keep your guys from getting worn down. The assassins can be very good for these missions, as their higher speed and lethality helps take these enemies down. You’ll want to prioritize these missions, as each one is a ticking timebomb that can increase the spread of the Morbus, bringing you one step closer to campaign failure.
Previously, a boarding mission was just selecting an option from a menu whenever you ran into a Nurgle ship. It worked fine and wasn’t the focus of the game. Now when you run into one of these plague ships, instead of just shooting it or running away as before, you can opt to send in a boarding team. There are new Boarding Missions, which feature new objectives and new Death Guard ship interior maps. These are a race against the clock, with only 10 turns to destroy 4 generators before teleporting out of there. Enemy reinforcements are infinite, so it’s best to keep moving and maybe not hang out until every last dude is dead. I oddly didn’t find all of the assassins to be too useful here – the close quarters nature of these maps mean you can’t always get them away, and aside from the Vindicare, most don’t have amazing ranged damage output to knock out the generators. Still, in the missions I played, I had a lot of fun jumping around with my Callidus and Eversor, clearing out enemies while my rank and file Grey Knights shot up the generators. Just don’t go with your Space Hulk instincts to use Terminator armor and flamers here – these are all about speed.
Final Thoughts, Parting Shots, and What Have You
While the actual story content of this DLC is feather light, you’re getting a load of new gameplay variety. Each of these assassins plays distinctly from one another, and from your roster of Knights at large. If you were looking to inflate the already hefty campaign clear time of this game (around 50 hours for my own mosey around the cosmos), I doubt it will add much play time, but it will make that experience more varied and interesting. The assassins are all characterful and fun to use, and have their own use cases beyond just “Purifier+1” or anything so derivative. The new enemies fit in seamlessly with the rogue’s gallery of the base game, and the new missions give you even more ways to play. Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters was already a complete experience, so I would pause to say this DLC is truly essential. However, if you wanted to revisit the base game or even try it out for the first time, Execution Force‘s set of tools and challenges will only make that experience a more fun and varied one.
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