Preview: Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf, a mobile to PC port done right
Fight for Russ and the Allfather
Previously released on: iOS, Android
Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf is a game that both manages to be the kind of classic turn-based strategy games that X-Com set the standard for 27 years ago and to bring a refreshing take on this classic genre.
It is not every day you see a mobile game get ported into a full-blown PC game on Steam, but that is exactly what Kaliningrad-based developer HeroCraft did, and they showed the world how to do it right. On mobile, Space Wolf follows the traditional free-2-play mobile game formula but when ported to PC everything got a facelift, microtransactions were removed, and what was left was a really promising strategy game! YouTube celebrity Total Biscuit summarized it the best.
"It's opposite day. They ported Space Wolf from mobile, removed all f2p elements and improved every aspect of it and I'm quite enjoying it!"
Space Wolf also mixes in the popular card game genre to create a really unique experience and to spice up both single-player as well as multiplayer. The mix of traditional strategy elements with the card game genre makes for a really interesting game.
Fresh and familiar
The gameplay of Space Wolf plays really well, especially considering it came out on Steam Early Access February 17th and is only, at the time of writing, on version 0.0.4. The gameplay is what you would expect from a squad styled turn-based strategy game, you move your guys, attack, and then let the enemy counter your moves. There is, however, no cross tile movement.
What makes Space Wolf stand out is how your actions are decided on what cards you have, similarly to Hand of Fate. Players get a deck of 30 cards, some are chain cards that activate alongside other cards, some are weapons, some are buffs, and some are movement. If you don’t have any movement cards then you have to sacrifice one of the other cards to move, adding an interesting layer of strategy to the game. These cards can then be fused, or upgraded, by merging two cards into a stronger one, thus improving your strength.
In most missions of Space Wolf you have control over three Space Marines of the Space Wolves chapter and as can be expected they have quite a bit of health. Meanwhile, the enemy has lower health but always outnumber the Space Wolves in battle, forcing players to think a bit extra on what cards to fill their deck with, where to position the soldiers, and if going to the side objective is really worth it when it can cost the whole mission. These missions are often rather hard and their Open Letter even says that "it’s quite hardcore", don't expect to waltz through Space Wolf.
Interesting Warhammer story, but a silent one
The story of Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf is that of Valgard Twice Slain and his crew of Space Wolves as they are forced crash-land on a hostile planet after being ambushed by the heretical forces of Chaos. It is a three chapter long classic survival-against-a-greater-force story set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and it should be enough to entertain both fans of Warhammer 40,000 as well as those who just enjoy a good strategy game. Fans of both Warhammer 40,000 and strategy are in for a treat.
What stops Space Wolf’s story from being more than just somewhere in between “good” or “okay” is the lack of voice acting. For a mobile game it is acceptable or even preferable with no voice acting but for a PC game like this one, it feels like a letdown. I’m not talking about Uncharted 1-4 level of voice acting and narrative but something would be nice. This game is about big beefy Space Marines fighting the dangerous feral forces of Chaos and some voiced narrative and combat dialogue would be nice instead of just having to read the dialogue text to thematic music or ambient noise. Though developer HeroCraft has stated several times, and told us here at GameZone, that they will be listening to fans and that they read a lot of reviews, so, if the demand for voice acting is high enough it might come in a future update.
Adequate work by the Techpriests
Technically speaking, there isn’t really anything that stands out that much in Space Wolf. It looks and feels like a middle of the road type of game made for PC, but more importantly, it does not feel like a port. That is probably the most important factor for Space Wolf, that it feels like a game made for PC and not like a mobile game. Sure, there are some things in the GUI and the overall graphics that could give you a mobile feel but you wouldn’t really notice it if you didn’t already know that Space Wolf was a ported mobile game.
Some elements still haven’t been optimized for PC yet, a little too often did I make the mistake of using a weapon as a movement instead of a weapon, the level up screens could be made a bit more user-friendly, the animations quickly became old, there were no way of speeding up my or the enemies turns so it could take a while to watch everything unfold which quickly got tedious, and other details like that. But that never ruined the game, it was still a lot of fun to play since the strategy felt really solid and challenging. Besides, HeroCraft has been pretty good at updating the game, fixing bugs, and adding features, so hopefully, as the game matures and get ready to leave both alpha and beta it will feel a lot better and some of the issues mentioned above will hopefully be resolved.
HeroCraft also stated that "first we’ll put out our fires and fix the critical bugs. New content and design improvements will follow", once all that has been fixed they will also take in community requests on features and fixes they would like to see in Space Wolf. It is important to note that Space Wolf is still an early access game and not the finished product, things will change and get fixed.
Worth your coins?
“Life is the Emperor's currency, spend it well” as the saying goes, and as such the question needs to be raised, is Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf worth spending your time and money on?
Yes, yes it is. Space Wolf is a fun strategy and challenging game with many hours of gameplay to it if you include the ever so challenging multiplayer mode. The developers are also no newcomers to game development, they have been around for a while, so the chance of them abandoning the game after earning their millions is rather low. Space Wolf is really worth it at its current price of $11.99, especially considering it will be raised when Space Wolf exits its alpha and beta stages.
Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf is a game for anyone who enjoys a good turn based strategy game and Warhammer, it still sometimes feels a bit rough around the edges but all in all it is a great and challenging game that will get better over time.