Warhammer 40k: Deathwatch

Players:
1
Multiplayer:No
AI:3 levels (2 must be unlocked)
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: Deathwatch - Tyranid Invasion
Price: $1.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Warhammer 40k: Deathwatch, 7.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings

8.3
The horrible, grim future never looked or played this good

Games Workshop has gotten pretty open with its licensing – there are more than a dozen apps in the App Store based on one of its IPs. Deathwatch, the latest in entry in the 40k line, is designed for anyone who ever asked themselves what Warhammer Quest would look like with tyranids and terminators instead of paladins and goblins. Are you worthy of the machine god?

Gameplay

Deathwatch is firmly at home in the dark, creepy, so-grim-you-almost-have-to-laugh world of Warhammer 40k. The setup mirrors just about every 40k game we’ve ever seen: horrific aliens have invaded human space with bloodlust on their minds, and “diplomacy” is not in their vocabulary. It’s up to you to guide the Death Watch, an elite corps of the best terminators the Imperium has to offer, through a series of missions designed to turn the tide of inhumanity and reclaim the cosmos.

deathwatch select team

Your Kill Team will usually consist of 5 terminators, drawn from the Space Wolf, Blood Angel, and Ultramarine factions. Each mission will consist of a series of objectives, and while the activity for each mission varies (secure a generator, protect bombs, poison the enemy’s biomass supply and so on) it essentially boils down to getting some combination of one or more units to designated spaces, occasionally to destroy whatever tyranid monstrosity lurks there.

deathwatch movement

Each unit begins a turn with 4 action points. Tap a unit to select it; you’ll be presented with a view of all the spaces to which you can move that unit. Generally speaking, moving one space or attacking each consumes one action point, and as long as you don’t exceed four, you can do any combination of actions in any order. Some weapons, such as Heavy Bolters, require 2 or more actions to fire; some abilities, like Overwatch, require that you save an action point or two for after they’re invoked.

deathwatch combat

Combat happens 100% behind the scenes. Most tyranid attacks are melee, though one class of soldier does carry some form of alien shotgun. Terminators, meanwhile, only engage in melee combat if outfitted with a power axe or chainsword; even if adjacent to the enemy unit, they’ll use their guns if they’re not so equipped. When a selected unit has an enemy in range, it’s outlined in red; tap once to target, and again to attack.

deathwatch  xp

As you slay alien horrors from beyond all sane imaginings, you’ll earn experience for your crew. Rather than keeping track of who killed what, each dead alien simply confers an XP bonus to all active units. In between missions, XP can be spent to unlock abilities or item slots. Despite the title, death isn’t permanent in Deathwatch – the only consequence is that a fallen unit loses all XP gained in that mission.

deathwatch extraction

After completing your objectives, you’ll need to maneuver your forces to the Extraction Zone. Each scenario ends when all your marines are either dead or whisked safely back to their horribly beweaponed battle cruisers, preparing to fight another day and slay another alien.

Implementation

Deathwatch shares much of the DNA of Warhammer Quest and most of what’s good about that applies here as well.

deathwatch animation

While the color palette may be limited, the graphics have the fanatical level of detail we’ve come to expect from Games Workshop licensees. There is a clear distinction between the tech-heavy realms of humanity and the biomass ships of the tyranids. Sound design is subtle and dead on, and the story is advanced over each mission via snippets of smack talk between your soldiers on the comm. And for all that the objectives essentially boil down to “get your soldiers from x to y,” the designers at least put in some appropriate animations as you make the requisite maneuvers. We could do without the excessive loading screens though – we’ve had scenarios take as long as 75 seconds to load on an iPad Air, with no indication beyond a splash screen that anything is going on.

deathwatch tutorial

A fully interactive tutorial exists – and it’s also fully skippable, if you like dying. Each of the four missions of the tutorial introduce different core concepts via pop-up messages that reveal the basics without holding your hand or getting in your way. Controls are also pretty intuitive, but would an Undo button really be that much to ask?

deathwatch cardpack

Where the two titles are most divergent is around content acquisition. WQ works like, well, a board game – it’s a premium priced title, and you can optionally buy a number of discrete expansions, each of which requires a one-time purchase and presents you with certain pieces of additional content that are yours to enjoy forever.

deathwatch open pack

Deathwatch, on the other hand, is structured more along the lines of a free-to-play game like Space Wolf. There are over 220 different weapons, gear, and terminators, spread across four levels of rarity (and corresponding awesomeness) and you start with functional minimum of these unlocked. Cards are used to represent all, and each 4-mission campaign chapter will reward you one pack of three cards, with the only promise being that at least one of them will be at least level 2. While it is possible to earn cards simply by playing, it’s also slow – 1 mission nets you 6 Deployment Points, 100 of which are required to buy a pack of 3 cards. At least you can simply sell cards for currency rather than having to constantly feed old cards into each other to craft more powerful versions.

deathwatch upgrade

With that said, Deathwatch doesn’t monetize nearly as badly as SW. This is most evident in the fact that it is XP, not currency, that is used to upgrade your units and unlock abilities and equipment slots. The game is, in other words, balanced to encourage you to play rather than to pay, with currency (real or virtual) serving only to get you extra tools. Ultimately you still have to do well to improve your units, and while we’re disappointed that we can’t just unlock the good guns we want, this is one of the few titles where the freemium features do feel legitimately optional.

Verdict

Monetization issues aside, Deathwatch is everything we could hope for in an asymmetric turn-based strategy game. There’s a good tutorial that gives you what you need to know without spoiling what’s to come; there is a range of challenges within a consistent system; the game has all the polish and stability you’d expect of a premium priced title. We’d love it if we could get some multiplay going on, but if dungeon crawling through the grim and far-flung distant future is your thing, Deathwatch is the option we’ve seen.

Except for that thing about the Undo button.

deathwatch victory

Good Things

  • Solid, stable app with a clear interface
  • Focus on skirmishes keep things deep without being overwhelming

Bad Things

  • Epic loading times
  • Multiplay would be nice
  • NO UNDO

The Breakdown


Gameplay
9
Interface
9
Artwork
8
Features
7