There has been no lack of games and mini-franchises to take players inside the dark future fantasy world of Warhammer 40K, but few have ever allowed players to put on the helmet for the Imperium and wage war for the God Emperor in VR. Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister takes players into such a conflict with the all-female elite faction of the Adepta Sororitas at the core of the experience. Whether you wield bolter, blade, or both at the same time in this first-person shooter, the experience is visceral. But sometimes, this holy cleansing of Imperium foes leaves a little something to be desired.
Valkyries in war
For the uninitiated, Warhammer 40,000 is the future sci-fi version of the dark fantasty presented in the original Warhammer. In this future, mankind under the laws of the Imperium and its Emperor wage war to survive against the forces of chaos and other barbaric entities in the dark stretches of space. Such a group underneath the Imperium is the Adepta Sororitas, also known as the Sisterhood: A group of hardened and elite female warriors who charge into battle in direct service of the Emperor. In Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister, you play such a character, Sister Ophelia, in a campaign with her fellow Sisterhood against the forces of Chaos, including corrupted human cultists, daemons, and further enemies.
Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister is a first-person shooter in which players battle through the trenches, caverns, and halls of various levels, fighting enemies with both melee and gunplay throughout. The campaign runs a gamut of levels from the ancient and sacred halls of an Adepta Sororitas covenant to the trenches of a war-torn planet, to a subterranean base delving into extra-dimensional portals, and more. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is full of interesting lore, and seeing much of this sculpted into an explorable VR universe is interesting to say the least. That said, I’m not entirely sure I’d give Battle Sister props for being quite the looker. When the space opens up and you’re fighting in wide halls and canyons full of machinery and camps, it looks its best, but a little too much of Battle Sister is confined to small halls and corridors for my liking, especially in a franchise as rich as Warhammer 40K.
A flood of foes and the ordinance to judge them
When it comes to the combat aspect of Battle Sister itself, the game shines a little brighter. As mentioned before, battle is a hybrid of first-person shooter and melee mechanics. Ophelia can wield a melee weapon over each shoulder, a firearm on each hip, and a grenade on her belt. Depending on the equipment you have at any point of the game, you can go double-handed on firearms, wield a pistol or rifle in one hand and sword or axe in the other, or go dual-wielding on firearms or melee as you see fit. Depending on the composition of foes and how they’re fighting you, it might be better to aim down the sights of a lasrifle for an accurate shot or shred them between blades when they get too close. I felt my most bada** in Battle Sister when I was single-handing a bolter pistol to take out distant foes while cutting down cultist skirmishers that came to close with a power sword in a ballet of gunfire and swordplay.
And the game gives you plenty of armaments to cleanse a myriad of enemies with. Weapons run between your standard bolter pistol, bolter rifles, short-range meltaguns, grenades, axes, chainswords, power sword, and more. You even have a rosary with which to use special Force Push-like powers to throw objects and hammer foes. Meanwhile, enemies come in the form of melee skirmishers, gunfighters, traitor Space Marines, and daemons in all sorts of different forms. It may be in your best interest to fight enemies at a distance when they’re strong, but it doesn’t necessarily have to stop you from chopping a power-armored daemon in their fleshy face if they move in on you. Ragdoll physics combined with the propensity to blow off or slash off limbs and heads depending on the weapon you use make Battle Sister a mostly visceral and satisfying experience.
I say mostly because it’s not without some drawbacks. If you get damaged in Battle Sister, stabilizing yourself is as simple as going undamaged for a bit, but some of the gunmen in Battle Sister are just a little too accurate, peppering you with bullets at quite the distance, even with just your head sticking out from behind cover. This feels like it can lead to some cheap deaths unless you put an outright wall between yourself and them, cutting down the melee fighters before re-engaging the shooters little by little.
What can make matters worse is that the hit detection can sometimes feel iffy. When you lay into an enemy in this game with a sword or axe, if feels great, but trying to let loose flurry of swipes on multiple attackers also felt like it missed more than a few times for me, leading to a few unnecessarily frantic extra swings. It goes for the enemy too. On one occasion I watched an enemy take cover behind a large rock and then proceed to fire at me through the rock. I only saw it happen once, but it was also the only occurrence in which I got a good look at exactly what was happening in the fracas. Nonetheless, it was something I remained mindful of in every forthcoming fight.
Sister’s packing heat
Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister is the kind of game I would expect out of this franchise. It’s bloody, visceral, and throws all sorts of enemies at you to cleanse through the mighty judgement of bullet and blade for the Emperor. The campaign is passable and the levels can sometimes feel uninspired with a few notable exceptions, but all of it feels like a vehicle to move you to the next fight. When those fights are up close and personal, Battle Sister sings with slashings and shooting a-plenty. When things get a little more long distance, the seams start to show a little much. That said, if you’re a Warhammer fan or just looking for a mostly solid action VR experience, Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister has more than enough ammunition and sharpened metal to please the Emperor.
This review is based on a digital Oculus Quest 2 copy provided by the publisher. Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister is available in the Oculus Quest Store as of December 8, 2020.