Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf iPhone App Review
We may be few, and our enemies many. Yet so long as there remains one of us still fighting, one who still rages in the name of justice and truth, then by the Allfather, the galaxy shall yet know hope. – Ragnar Blackmane, Wolf Lord of the Space Wolves
Rejoice brothers for our Lords, Games Workshop, has released Warhammer 40K: Space Wolf on the iPhone for free. We at Dice Commander thought we would give the game some time to get the launch day bugs out of the system before publishing our review. We are all programmers and realize that nothing ever goes perfect the first day. As a disclaimer I play Necron, and so Space Puppies are not my cup of tea and this was my first foray into the Emperor’s side of the battle, so now that the formalities are out of the way, onto the review.
Space Wolf is a turn based strategy game that uses cards like in Hearthstone and positioning and strategy like in X-Com. You are provided with a card deck of weapons, movement, and equipment. Each card has effort points associated with it which aggregates and determines when that character’s next turn is. Generally a character has two action points which results in two cards played per turn. This is where the strategy of the game gets interesting.
Because of the random nature of cards you will not always have a move card in your hand and so you must use a weapon card as a move quite often. So now the decision revolves around which weapon card to use as a move action, how much health do the enemies have, do you have the health to wait for them to come to you and allow them a free shot at you, do you have an over-watch weapon already equipped which would finish off the enemy when they move in range, and is your Effort low enough that if you end your turn now you will go again before the enemy? Those are the decisions you have to make just when contemplating whether to move. For most gamers that thought process will be instinct after a mission or two but the poor tutorial does no favors for anyone.
A little more about the Effort aspect of the game. Move cards typically have 5-6 Effort points attached to them. Weapon cards with Use and Equip vary from 5 on up based on how good the weapon is. A basic Bolter will be about 5, Heavy Bolter is 9 and the Lascannon is 11. At the start of your turn you have 0 Effort points and as you use a card the Effort of that card is added. So if I moved using the Move card the Space Wolf would have 5 Effort points. Then if I used my Lascannon to shoot at a Chaos Space Marine the Space Wolf would now have a total of 16 Effort points at the end of his turn. That means everyone that has less effort points than the Space Wolf will go before he can go again. The game ticks one Effort off each character until someone reaches 0. That character has their turn and the game continues ticking 1 Effort off over and repeats until the mission is won or lost. There is a card that will reduce your Effort points in a bid to get an extra turn in before the enemy or even before a friendly.In the above image you see the extent of the tutorial on Effort points. The Space Wolf could have used the Move card to get me within shooting range for 5 Effort points. Then used the Bolter for 7 Effort points which would put him ahead of the space marine in front of him who has 13. But there is a Chaos Space Marine in the background with an Effort of 11 and would have had their turn before the Space Wolf. This is where ending the turn and getting a full turn with 2 Action points is key. Any of the Space Wolf’s weapons in my hand can reach both Chaos Space Marines and kill them the next round. Additionally I could have used the Move [Run] card for 5 Effort and then the Use [Supplies] card for 5 more Effort which would have allowed the Space Wolf to go before both Chaos Space Marines but I had no reason to use the Use [Supplies] card.
There are some things about the game that still need to be fixed and the most annoying to me is the broken English that is scattered throughout the game. Normally I would roll with it but in one mission it said I needed to kill the enemies in the designated area and showed me 4 enemies. The bonus objective was to only kill 5 enemies. I ended up sacrificing a Space Wolf to bottle neck the enemy while I rushed the other two Space Wolves to the designated area to kill the 4 there and hoped I did not have to kill 2 other Chaos Space Marines on the way. After I killed one of the four enemies in the designated area the mission ended. I could have killed 4 on the way up, bottle necked the rest and killed any of the ones in the designated area without sacrificing a Space Wolf to act as a wall.
“…the must have a base…” The what? The Humanity?!
There are a few other minor things that annoy me, a mission that I cannot get both bonus objectives despite playing it 14 times because the mission success trigger is a specific enemy instead of all enemies. Neither the mission select screen nor the character selection screen are intuitive requiring a little button mashing before clicking the right thing. There is a button in the bottom right of the mission that looks like it speeds up the AI’s turns but if I tap it things do not seem to go faster. If I hold it I think things go a little faster which is annoying compared to a button that advances from 1x to 2x to 4x like most games. On the flip side when I am trying to see what the AI is using and they chain a card it will show me the chain but not the card that triggered the chain. For example if my Space Wolf used a Power Fist there is a card that will chain and provide an extra 10% damage. Based on the current setup I would only see the card that provides the extra damage (the chain) but not the Power Fist. This makes it hard to understand what your enemy is using and to develop a counter attack plan.
I still have trouble trying to figure out facing when a diagonal is involved and often waste a turn trying to get just the right angle in the hopes the AI does not move into a blind spot. Yesterday I could not attack someone who was 1 square diagonally forward with my gun or a melee weapon. Final annoyance is that if a mission has a Space Wolf crate collection bonus objective, which so far they all do, then if I kill every enemy in the mission I should get the crate automatically. I do not understand how my Space Wolf does not just wander the three squares he needed to reach the crate and pick it up when the main mission ends.
Those are the annoyances, but they do not break the game play, just make me twitch a little that it was never caught in test. Some things the game does well is get you thinking. There are not too many app games that require solid strategy and working around the luck (good or bad) of the draw. I really could have used a grenade at the end of a mission but I had used one of three in my deck to move a Space Wolf. I never got the lucky draw and instead had to use bolters to whittle down the three Chaos Space Marines standing in a cluster. I also like that they included the Rage aspect of a Space Wolf. As your squad mates and yourself get hurt then your main Space Wolf character fills up a rage bar. When that tops out your Space Wolf goes to the front of the line with whatever Effort he has and has three action points. His Rage will stay enabled until you kill an enemy. I used it for three turns and had an obnoxious Effort count which made him useless for 5 rounds but the kill was satisfying. Be prepared for button mashing as soon as you select the enemy you want to shoot at. A screen appears and requires you to repeatedly tap a button to increase the damage percentage. I have gotten to 175% when prepared and barely make 150% when unprepared.They just added a PvP Arena section to the game that includes a personal rating system, increased awards for the first completion of a mission, and many fixes to missions. In fact since release most of the fixes have been balance tweaks. Normally I am leery of PvP content which might be due to years of verbal abuse in games such as Call of Duty and Halo but I dived in.
Overall this game is worth free and I would have paid up $4.99USD because the game has a solid mechanic that they do not mess with and the things I consider broken are mainly annoyances and not game mechanics. It kills my battery so I do not play all possible moments but I have gotten a few hours in each day. Has anyone else picked this up yet for the iPhone? As I keep getting deeper into the game I will update this review.