Developed and published by HeroCraft, Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a new (re)release licensed by Games workshop. I didn’t realise this before I played but the game was originally released on mobile platforms in 2014. It has now been spruced up for the Xbox and so if you’re looking for a game with a big history and what I would consider X-COM style gameplay with card mechanics, then this might pique your interest.
The story in this game is a bit of a mess considering it’s based in the lore of Warhammer. When I first booted up the game I was thrown straight into a tutorial battle without any kind of intro. Now I don’t know a massive amount about Warhammer, but there is a huge chunk of context missing in this game. All I know is your main guy is called Valgard and the Space Wolves were betrayed by the Chaos Space Marines. You find and save other fellow Space Wolves as the campaign progresses but there is no information about who anyone is or what is going on. There is a brief text chat at the start of each mission but there seems to be a chunk of the storyline missing explaining who you are, why you are there and who betrayed you.
Things are equally confusing when you reach the main menu – it really should have given you another tutorial about the menu as nothing gets explained. Some options are obvious but it has all been executed quite badly and every menu feels really slow and sticky. So much of the menu is just pictures and barely any information of what they are, especially in the challenge section. I had to look at what each option in the menu was to figure out if I am missing something. The armoury is where you can upgrade your main person in 3 different job specifications, which isn’t explained. The collection is not an index of things you have interacted with but rather all the cards you have at your disposal. Once again nothing is explained here and just through sheer fiddling around I noticed you can swap and upgrade the cards from your 3 main decks. It is not an easy process at all as the interface is so unclear. Then lastly is the Forge, where you can create and upgrade your team’s weapons and armour, right? Nope, it is a pack opening transaction screen where you spend accumulated points from the campaign and challenges on getting new cards or opening booster packs. On the plus side, there are no microtransactions here.
To the gameplay, and I have to say it’s very hit and miss, with more misses occurring. Even picking your squad before you launch is a faff and it’s just a sign of things to come. You can’t just select them in order. You pick the class of your main guy who is always in the middle and then you have to move the menu on either side of your main character and then press the trigger buttons to select your squadmates. But once you are on the map there are some positives to enjoy. The graphics look OK; not stunning, but nice for the sort of game that it is. The very brief story text your character say seems well written, but there just isn’t enough of it to explain the surroundings.
The X-COM style combat (turn-based on a grid layout with the inclusion of cards) makes for an interesting concept, but some of the decisions around it I just don’t agree with and I’m sure I won’t be alone in this. The good points are you never know what your next action will be as it up to what cards you pull. So you may draw a melee weapon, a gun, a utility item or just a move card. Each card has an effort rating to use and the higher the effort you exert the longer it takes for your turn to come back around. Each turn allows you to play up to 2 cards so you have to use your moves wisely. There are certain weapons you can equip rather than use and they tend to be more powerful but they come with limitations. Some equipable weapons provide you with Overwatch, where you will hit an enemy if they walk into your line of sight. But each equipped weapon has a limited number of uses before it needs to be reloaded or replaced. So these are some interesting ideas and means the experience is usually kept fresh. Some of the utility cards can be used to stack attacks if you meet the requirements. For example, if you hit an enemy more than 3 spaces away then you do some extra damage. The stacking happens automatically and it can bolster your attacking moves and also provide you with some well-needed defence.
Then come the bad points, unfortunately of which there are a few. The first is the direction your character faces. In the past, this was used around vulnerability, so if you were attacked from the side or behind you would incur more damage. But that doesn’t happen here; instead, you’re glued to the spot. If an enemy had their turn and hit you from behind, when it comes to your turn rather than just use your weapon cards to get revenge, you have to use a card a movement option just to turn around. Yes, one of your two actions is to turn around leaving you only one action left for attacking. There are also times where I don’t get a weapon card, leaving me with just movement and utility cards. This would normally be just some bad luck, but it happens often to me and never happens with an enemy as they never cease being able to wail on me.
I noticed this game has many irritating mechanisms when it comes to enemies. One is that each part of the map has certain trigger sections, so if you wander too far forward then more enemies spawn on the map. I tested this a couple of times where I crept up one square at a time and even skipped my turn and nothing happened. But as soon as I took one more step forward then the enemies spawned. I am not too keen on that as it means the game feels like it’s encouraging you to creep up the map slowly. Another irritating point is that you can never have the upper hand. Even if you managed to tactfully clear the enemies out of an area, they just respawn. Lastly – and this one is almost a game breaker – NPC characters you need to protect are just dumb. On one mission an NPC just ran straight for their objective. Your squad couldn’t just do that as there are enemies in the way. But the enemies just honed straight in on the NPC and just pummelled him almost to death before I could catch up to him. Even when I did reach the NPC the enemies ignored my team and just finished the NPC off, failing the mission. This even happened on the easiest setting and it’s so weird that the NPC makes no effort to defend themselves.
As for content, there are four chapters to the campaign each with about eight missions. They vary in their objectives, and some have side objectives to help you gain special cards for your collection or points to spend on forging new cards. There are also four challenges you can play which once again have no details before going in, but upon playing them they seem to be survival or horde-like missions. So there is plenty of content to get stuck into and with the Forge allowing you to get more cards to bolster your deck, there is some replay value.
I expected so much from the story with it being a Warhammer game. Usually, you are drowning in lore and story but with 40,000: Space Wolf, you barely get your feet wet. Every menu in the game feels so slow and sticky. I know it originated from a mobile game but the menu and story needed way more work for a console version. The gameplay is actually alright, the card mechanic mixed with X-COM style combat is quite interesting. But with dumb NPC’s, respawning enemies and losing a turn just to turn your guy around there are just a few too many bad decisions for me.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.