Games Workshop's Epic 40,000 tabletop wargame demands a pretty serious commitment. You must be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars buying the miniature models that compose your futuristic army and spend perhaps an equivalent number of hours assembling and painting each in turn. You'll want to set aside the better part of a day to play out a single battle against a friend, since moving those miniatures, rolling dice, consulting event tables, and whatnot really adds up on the clock. That's where Final Liberation comes in - it's the first computer game to recreate the Epic 40,000 game system and the struggle between the Imperium of Man and the marauding Space Orks. Indeed, Final Liberation is a very faithful (and economical) adaptation of its source material, and it even adds a number of clever features on the side.
Final Liberation looks and feels like a traditional turn-based wargame, but meticulous gameplay balance and dozens of imaginative units set it apart. Both the Imperium and Orks offer several dozen types of infantry and armored units that must be deployed in careful combinations to succeed. Once the conflict begins, you and your opponent take turns spreading your forces across huge, detailed maps in an attempt to gain ground quickly but remain as safe as possible and hopefully out of your enemy's line of sight. You can stop your units short so they can reserve a shot for the enemy's movement phase, you can entrench your infantry, or you can sacrifice a unit's movement for additional time to fire its weapons. Firing, in turn, involves a series of probability checks to determine whether an attack hits its mark, whether it penetrates the target's armor, and how much damage it inflicts. Keeping your forces close together means you can concentrate your firepower, but also makes you a much easier target for your enemy's indirect fire. Staying close also helps morale, but should the enemy take out one of your key units, the rest may well turn tail and head for cover, thus throwing your carefully planned offensive into chaos.
Final Liberation's quick battle mode pits you and the computer or a friend in a single battle restricted by a predefined point limit, and each type of unit costs a certain amount of points. You must construct your military differently depending on just how many points you make available. A thousand points means you'll probably deploy hordes of infantry and a few tanks, while eight thousand means you can unleash the massive Imperial Titans and Ork Gargants whose shielding and weapon arsenals make them veritable armies themselves. Battles in excess of 5,000 points are epic indeed and can rage on for hours as you and your opponent control your massive armies piece by piece. Fortunately you can set the game to alternate turns each time you move a unit rather than the whole side to speed things along. Meanwhile, the single-player campaign mode offers a cohesive plot and nonlinear structure as you control the Imperial forces in an effort to reclaim the planet Volistad from Ork raiders. You must take the planet back region by region, thus increasing your resource surplus as the Orks brace themselves to prevent your advance.
You can control several commanders at once each with their own armies working different areas of the planet, lending the campaign game plenty of variety and more than a little replay value. The computer AI is quite smart at purchasing wicked combinations of units and using them against you, and it even sets up nasty ambushes once in a while despite its tendency to spread its forces too thin. Controlling the combat is a snap thanks to Final Liberation's tutorial and helpful movement and firing hex overlays coupled with an intuitive mouse-driven interface. Likewise, if you're wondering just what in blazes that Ork Bubble Chucka Speedsta (or any other unit for that matter) is about to do to you, a simple right-click lets you access the Codex database on all its vital stats.
Better still, the campaign is highlighted by surprisingly well-acted FMV sequences that feature truly impressive costume designs for the Imperials and Orks alike - almost as if the scenes were taken from a Warhammer 40,000 film in the making. These scenes more than make up for Final Liberation's rather austere gameplay graphics that, though colorful, enthusiastically animated, and true to the tabletop game, really aren't anything special. Meanwhile, a pleasant (though inappropriately mellow) music score along with a pretty basic set of sound effects means Final Liberation doesn't offer too much in the way of aesthetic excess. But while its plain appearance won't make the game reach out and grab you right away, its graphics will grow on you after a while, and by then, you're sure to be pleased with how it plays.
Final Liberation is designed to accurately recreate the Epic 40,000 tabletop game, and it does. But after playing it for awhile you'll certainly concoct a sizable mental wish-list for a sequel or add-on. After all, the game only offers the one Imperial campaign (which is very good), and the two sides in Final Liberation only scratch the surface of the many interesting races contained in the Epic 40,000 universe - all of which are referenced in the Codex but left conspicuously absent during play. A more modern presentation would likewise go a long way to draw in new fans, but for now, Final Liberation will appeal mainly to those already interested in its source material. As it stands, Final Liberation is a solid, enjoyable turn-based strategy game that offers plenty of strategy, imagination, and value for those looking to win large-scale future wars.