The 41st millennium. It is a dark time for humanity, beset on all sides by enemies. The galaxy spanning Imperium is under constant attack from aliens looking to enslave or destroy, the insidious machinations of renegades and heretics. Mankind is on the verge of extinction from threats without and within. Only thing standing in the way of the Imperium’s destruction is the might of the Space Marines. Genetically enhanced superhuman warriors, they have access to the best armour and equipment available. Only they can hold back humanities enemies, keeping the threats at bay.
This is the setting for Warhammer 40,000, the tabletop war game from Games Workshop (GW). No stranger to bringing their tabletop game to the computer game world, GW has stepped up their efforts over recent years. With the success of the Dawn of War franchise, GW have been more than a little liberal with granting licenses for computer game adaptations. Some have been excellent. Others have been awful. It can be a bit of a crapshoot as to what you’re going to get, a gem from a small developer, or an abomination that should be shot.
Fortunately, Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf falls into the latter category. Originally a mobile game, it was developed by HeroCraft, who specialised in such things. Now, full disclosure, I am a huge fan of GW’s games and products. I had to cut myself short in the introduction or I would have run on for pages! So, I had already played the mobile version. It was fun, but nothing extra special. A nice little distraction with micro transactions.
Here, however, HeroCraft have excelled themselves. Rather than a direct mobile-to-PC port, they have taken the game and built upon it. The campaign has been expanded, new mechanics have been introduced, and the micro transactions have been removed. HeroCraft have a real respect for the source material and it shows.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a turn based strategy game, where the player takes command of a unit of the titular Space Wolves. Crashed on an alien world, they must regroup and find a way to escape. All that stands in their way are is an army of evil Word Bearers, Traitor Space Marines that try to bring the Imperium down. The action is driven by a card mechanic. Each turn, a unit has a hand of cards with a variety of actions, and can play any two. These cards come with what’s called an Effort cost. Usually, the more powerful a card is, the more Effort is applied.
This Effort cost then acts as a built-in timer to orange who goes next, each point of effort being a second to count down. This breaks open the strategic game, allowing an array of actions to get the tactical edge. By checking the enemies Effort timers, you can plan and execute your attacks to gain the best advantage. Perhaps by only playing one card, you can get another turn in before the enemy can act?
Your main character has a choice of one of three customisable card decks to choose from, each offering their own approaches. Completing missions and achieving optional objectives gets you more card to further customise your deck. Duplicate cards can be combined to make improved versions, furthering their usefulness.
The gameplay requires a decent bit of though and planning in order to coordinate your units to take down the Word Bearers as quickly as possible before they overwhelm you. Space Wolf can be punishingly difficult. Your men will almost always be outnumbered, and more enemies swarm in to take your heroes down. Each mission might take several attempts to win, but perseverance is the key!
Now, there are a few flaws in the game. Being early access, it’s to be expected. There have been a few stalls and crashes, though no save data was lost. The devs seem to genuinely care about the game, and have posted regular news and updates to the players. Multiplayer is currently live, and there is a Challenge mode being worked on.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf does need a good deal of polish, visually. Some of the character models are a bit flat in places where the transition from mobile to PC has not been kind. There is that blocky, mobile game feel to the whole thing, which while not detracting from the experience, still makes its presence felt at times.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a great addition to the Warhammer 40,000 game roster, offering solid strategy and good gameplay.
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