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Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron (Nintendo Switch) Review

I’m da bestest!

“Oi mate, you’ze waiting for dat Space Marine guff ain’t ye? Well dem gitz ain’t got nuttin’ on us. Dat’z right, come on over and we’ll get you Dakka-ring in no time! We Orc flyboyz are the bestest with the Dakka-ring an’ de boomin!”

That, I imagine, is how an Orc recruitment drive would go in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Just with more clubs and bonking you over the head before stuffing you, screaming, into the cockpit of a jet that looks more at home in a scrapyard than having any business being in the air.

And if you buy into that, then you ought to be buying into the Switch release of Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron – to tide you over while waiting for Space Marine II that is. The Warhammer franchise has been on a roll in the videogame market recently, with a variety of adaptations of their IPs across a variety of gaming genres – some successful, some less so. It may be all the same universe that uses the theme of endless war, but, thus far, there’s been a decent variety of things to do.

Dakka Squadron throws you into the shoes of an up and coming Orc pilot looking to put himself at the head of the pack. And you’re gonna do that by blowing up a whole lot of stuff, bullying everyone around you, and shooting everything that moves. Loyalty and workplace safety are clearly not an Orc’s concern.

Plopping you into the pilot seat of a number of jets from the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Dakka Squadron is an arcade aerial combat game. The campaign throws you across a solar system as you attempt rule a couple planets with an iron fist. Of course, you’re first going to have to give those planets some sweet-loving tyrannical freedom by taking them from the charred hands of other Orc tribes.

Dakka Squadron campaign map

Cue dogfighting, strafing, and bombing runs across a variety of arena-style levels. Each planet is composed of a couple of missions, usually set across two locations. Each mission is comprised of a variety of objectives and optional sub-objectives to complete for loot and a variety of unlocks.

New jets are rewarded across the campaign, but you can also force your mechanic grunts to work overtime to throw some scrap together into something reliable. The same goes for new weapons, which range from the standard machine guns and bombs, to more exotic kit like tri-beam lasers. Rounding out the unlocks are various modifiers that bolt into different parts of your plane, such as increasing weapon accuracy or providing faster fuel regeneration.

There’s also a serviceable livery section for those who want to customise their planes. Options are pretty light, from the paint jobs on various parts to decals that you can sling around. You’re not going to be able to make that Warhammer/Tron crossover you may want, but it adds a nice sense of personality to your ride.

Dakka Squadron ship customisation

Once in battle, Dakka Squadron’s gameplay is as simple as can be. The story meanders across the solar system, from beating up other tribes to facing off against a dormant alien race, but mechanics remain firmly in arcade mode. The fairly large levels will have you pulling off dramatic bombing runs, protecting your troop transports, destroying enemy troop transports, and blowing up a whole bunch of stuff: usually fuel depots, turrets, and innumerable enemy warplanes foolish enough to stand in your way.

A lock-on coupled with a reticule will help you keep your shots on target, while various special abilities make busier fights more manageable. The “Ram” ability, a surprisingly useful but near-suicidal move, lets you ram other planes for massive damage. A cartoony 180% quick-turn, looking like it jumped ship straight from Hot Shots, let’s you do a super useful and illogical movement at the expense of a little fuel. There are other abilities as well, many of which are jet-specific.

A little bit of light management plays into combat as well. Guns can overheat and lock-up until they cool down, so you’re going to have to pay attention to that meter, while speeding up or using the quick-turn consumes fuel. Fuel replenishes fairly easily but in intense dogfights you need to keep an eye on it as, if you run out, you won’t be able to outrun slugs or quick-turn to get the drop on an enemy.

Dakka Squadron Switch visuals

Outside of these small complexities, Dakka Squadron will never tax you, not even in the boss fights. The simplicity of its design is both a strength and a weakness, as you’re going to be doing the same thing over and over across the entire campaign. Its fine in short bursts but on the longer missions, some of which culminate with an extended boss fight, it can get tiresome – especially with constant waves spawning in and slowing you down between clearing objectives.

You see, Dakka Squadron also suffers from a common problem in aerial combat games: most dogfights devolve into flying around in circles, while either struggling to hit an enemy that also flies in circles, or avoid one you can’t shake from your tail. I eventually found the best tactic was simply to zoom on ahead, do a quick-turn, and then play chicken with them while unloading everything in my arsenal. While this issue is less severe against the many basic grunts, it still exists and saps some of the wind from the games mostly fun sails.

Another area that Dakka Squadron suffers – on Switch at least – are the subpar visuals. While the Warhammer 40,000 aesthetic is on full display, this is probably not the best version to experience it. The visuals are passable, but the game suffers from slowdown and muddy backdrops. The resolution is quite low and there seems to be variable resolution at play that can make it worse. Coupled with no anti-aliasing, some really basic textures, and low polygon assets, Dakka Squadron on Switch is certainly no looker. Oh, and if you’re playing on a Switch Lite, as I did, prepare to squint a lot as the games text is tiny, making trying to read the various mission objectives an absolute eye-straining chore. Thankfully the games simplistic nature makes it redundant as you basically have to shoot everything you see.

That said, there needs to be a shout out for the writing and voice acting. Most of the dialogue sounds like it comes straight from the 80’s British punk/gangster scene and is, I feel, probably an acquired taste for fans of the IPs. What I can say is the Ork voice actors deliver it with gusto!

Wrapping up, despite its visual shortcomings on Switch and overly simplistic gameplay loop, Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron is an entertaining enough arcade game – just one that’s best played in short bursts.

Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC, Xbox One/Series S|X, PS4/5, and mobile stores.

Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron (Nintendo Switch) Review

Warhammer 40,000: Dakka Squadron (Nintendo Switch) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score

The Good

  • Fun, simplistic, arcade-like gameplay
  • Attribute-boosting and cosmetic customisation options for your jets
  • The Ork writing and voice actors!

The Bad

  • Gameplay loop can get repetitive
  • Tiny text in handheld mode
  • The visuals and performance on Switch are not great
Total
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