Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf

Space Wolves move
Players:
2
Multiplayer:Not yet, but supposedly coming
AI:Yes
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf
Price: Free
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf, 6.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings

As Games Workshop redefines its role in the larger gaming community, they’ve licensed their IP to a series of different digital adaptations – some of which were right on the mark, others of which might not have made a home run. Space Wolf is unique in that it doesn’t exist outside of the digital realm – while it is certainly based on existing material, it is very much its own creature. Is the wolf among us?

Gameplay

SW starts, as most Warhammer 40k games do, in space. It just doesn’t stay there very long, as the opening cutscene makes clear.

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The game assumes some familiarity with the 40k universe, as there is no narrative explanation of what’s going on – just a conflict between the Space Wolves and…the other guys. You know, in red. Red is a bad guy color.

Space Wolves mission briefing

After a brief tutorial, you’re set loose on the world upon which you’ve been marooned to achieve a variety of objectives. Taking a cue from the Sony PSP classic Metal Gear Acid, the heart of interaction in this game is based upon a deck of cards; you’ll get a base deck when you first start playing and will slowly unlock additional cards over time.

Space Wolves card

Each card represents either an action you can take or a weapon (or other piece of equipment) you can use. While a few cards are specifically there to facilitate movement, every card can be used to move. The trick is to maintain your Effort points. Each card uses a certain amount of Effort, and throughout the game, the more Effort a given unit exerts, the lower it comes in the turn order. You can exploit this fact by sometimes holding actions, allowing you to take 2 complete turns before your foes have a chance to react. Just be careful your lead unit doesn’t overexert – you can’t move through units, friendly or otherwise.

Space Wolves move

Movement and combat are based on a grid system. Whenever you select an action by playing a card, the grid appears briefly, with the valid spaces for the action highlighted. This can lead to some confusion initially because the grid only appears when a card is selected. Since each weapon has a specific range, this means it’s very possible to incorrectly estimate the distance you must be from a unit and fail because you were unable to count spaces. Over time you’ll become more comfortable with judging distances, but it seems an odd reason to be penalized since this isn’t a miniatures game.

Space Wolves equip

Not all cards can be played directly. Some cards must be Equipped in one or two of your equipment slots, and can then be used on subsequent turns; usually you can also discard other cards to reload these items. They will often grant you special abilities – they may be melee weapons that ignore armor, or storm bolters that give you the Overwatch ability, automatically firing as enemies move within range.

Space Wolves chain

Other cards have Chain effects. Rather than playing these cards directly from your hand, Chain cards will go off when you utilize Equipment, offering some added bonus to the attack – typically this takes the form of increased damage, but may also include area effects, damage over time, or other enhancements.

Space Wolves mission reward

Complete the primary objective of your mission and you’ll receive additional cards that can be used to tune and strengthen your deck. Complete the optional objectives and you’ll also receive credits which you can use to buy new cards, upgrade your warriors, or craft more powerful versions of the cards you already have.

Implementation

Though SW is at heart a tactical skirmish game, card play governs everything that happens in the game. As such, the ability to customize the decks is key.

Space Wolves deck builder

By default you have access to the Power Armor deck; you can also unlock the Terminator and Scout decks each as a $4.99 IAP. The deck builder interface shows all the cards in your collection, and a scrollable list on the right shows the specific cards in your deck. Drag from the matrix to the list to add, vice versa to remove. The markings for which cards you own (and how many) aren’t super clear, but it doesn’t take too much to puzzle out – note the tutorial shows how to move cards back and forth but goes into absolutely no further detail about the interface.

Space Wolves evolve

Cards can also be modified and upgraded to make them more powerful. As is typical for games based around card collecting, you can combine identical cards to make more powerful versions of themselves, and you can destroy common cards to get a second currency for card crafting  – the specific term here is “disassembling” your weapon cards. Crafting cards initially has a very low rate of success, but you can purchase “runes” to increase the odds.

Space Wolves action cutaway

The game is played in an isometric perspective, but as is typical for GW titles, the camera will occasionally zoom around for a particularly dramatic battle shot. There’s also a tapping mechanic utilizing the Rage meter – when you make an attack with a full meter, the camera will shift to a close up of your character, and rapid taps will gain you up to 200% damage.

Space Wolves shop

A recent episode of South Park explains the derivation of the word “freemium” by noting “the -mium is Latin for ‘not really’.” SW unfortunately offers a fantastic example of how that works. Credits are needed for everything – you need them to buy more cards, you need them to upgrade your units, you need them to unlock “upgrade tiers” as your units level up, you need them to buy the runes necessary to forge new cards…the list goes on and on. 7,000 credits costs $9.99 – that’s enough for the 7 booster bundle (21 cards) and a thousand left over to upgrade or unlock something. This, of course, is on top of the IAPs necessary to get the other two base decks.

Space Wolves booster

This wouldn’t be so bad if credits and cards weren’t so hard to come by, but you only get 2 cards each for winning the first several missions. Meanwhile, as you progress through the game, ALL of your enemies will slowly but steadily gain upgraded cards. Combine that with the slow movement of your units, and it’s remarkably easy to invest 45-60 minutes into a scenario only to discover that you really can’t win because you didn’t shell out endless amount of cash for cards and upgrades. Whereas Warhammer Quest has IAP necessary to unlock additional content that feels like an optional enhancement, here you’re going to have to part with likely at least $20 to really have a chance at this “free” game, and will likely delay many upgrades far longer than you would on a premium-priced title. (Note: the first update to this game, released barely a week after it hit the App Store, claims to have rebalanced the difficulty of many missions in favor of the player.)

A brief word about multiplayer – there’s a greyed-out option for it on the main menu, and the developers say it’s coming, but it isn’t an option at launch. We hope it gets here sooner than, say, M.U.L.E. Returns.

Verdict

We’re torn on this one. We have yet to hit a single bug or crash, and the gameplay itself is unqiue and actually very well done, with different kinds of cards offering strategic depth and meaningful decisions at every corner – if it was inspired by Metal Gear Acid, it frankly exceeded the source material. We’d be happy to pay $10-20 to have a full, unlocked version of this game that didn’t beg us for hard-to-find currency at every corner. As it is, the monitization is very aggressive, to the detriment of game play. This is one that is going to require a fair amount of tolerance for IAP requests, and/or a good tolerance for difficulty. The experience is worth it if you can stomach that – just be prepared to go into several fights overmatched because you haven’t quite saved up for your next upgrade.

Space Wolves shop buy



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