Is it worth venturing into the depths in Space Hulk: Deathwing?
Warhammer 40k games seem to be all the rage nowadays. There are dozens upon dozens of them out there, covering everything from shooters, to space combat, to turn based strategy. Space Hulk: Deathwing aims to add to the pile, bringing its own flavor to the grim dark future of the 41st millennium. Now it’s time to ask the age old question. Is it any good?
What is it?
Space Hulk originally started as a board game series, one that focused on a team of elite Space Marines boarding an unholy fusion of hundreds of different warships. Genestealers, the forward scouts of the Tyranid Hive Fleet, swarm it. The Space Marines and Genestealers were forced to fight in tight corridors, with death coming quickly. Only one hit was needed to take a life. Space Marines could utilize ranged weapons, but Genestealers held the advantage in melee combat.
There were many video games based on the board game. Several mimicked the style of the board game with a focus on tactical planning. Space Marines had to be positioned at strategic choke points and keep Genestealers at bay. Space Hulk: Deathwing, however, takes a more action focused route. Players take control of members of the Dark Angels Space Marine chapter, specifically of the elite Deathwing branch, and once again venture unto the breach.
How does it play?
Space Hulk: Deathwing is a first person shooter that focuses on a team fighting massive numbers. Both melee and shooting are utilized against the alien hordes. As the most elite of the Dark Angels, Deathwing has access to the best weapons available. Automatic plasma cannons, thunder hammers, incendiary bolters, flamethrowers, and more. Each of these weapons is effective in their own right, but obviously they specialize. A melee weapon is no good against ranged enemies, while ranged weapons can only do so much up close. As such, players have quite a bit of flexibility in regards to how they approach combat.
Genestealers heavily focus on rushing the Deathwing team. The majority of them are variants on melee combat, although there are a couple of ranged units. Corridors are not as narrow as they are in older takes on the setting, but they are still fairly cramped. As a result, combat is tight and frantic. Precise and numerous shots are needed to kill all Genestealers. If too much time is wasted, you’ll be placed into frantic melee combat. If you have dedicated melee weapon, you’ll stand a chance, but if not, you’re in a sticky situation.
As established, there is a team focus to Space Hulk: Deathwatch. The five main classes being divided into essentially heavy weapons, melee, support, medic and Librarian. All classes can be played in multiplayer, but single player focuses on the Librarian. Librarians bring something unique to Space Hulk Deathwing, psionic powers. Regardless of weapons, players will have a variety of unique abilities at their disposal. Very effective abilities that range from lightning, to fire, to weaponized teleportation.
How’s the presentation?
A big selling point of Warhammer 40k has always been its very unique look. This is, thankfully, something that Space Hulk: Deathwatch delivers on. The dirty, cramped lower decks of the derelict ships look suitably worn and run down. They feel like something that has been abandoned for a very long time and hold terrible secrets. However, many sections of these ships also show off the bombastic nature of the Imperium of man. Cathedral sized windows, giant statues, and sacred armories. The two show off both aspects of humanity in the 41st millennium. The refinement of humanity’s elite, and the dirty work needed to make it possible.
Aside from the setting, there other crucial part of 40k is the countless warriors fighting the never-ending wars. The Dark Angels in this setting are bulky and heavy, as fitting of super soldiers in powered armor. Their weapons are the same, even the smallest of which are the size of your head, with some of them having beautifully crafted designs on it. The Genestealers, on the other hand, are anything but. Hideous and twisted, particularly the part human hybrids, they fittingly look like something that lurks in the dark. Waiting to pounce.
Is it fun?
Space Hulk: Deathwing gives you weapons, allies, and a hell of a lot of targets to use them on. It’s hard to do that wrong, and this game is no exception. Combat is pretty much non-stop, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a lull that lasts longer than thirty seconds. Enemies will crawl out of crevices, fire from catwalks, and swarm you from every angle. You need to stay on top of things to take them all out, and it’s very satisfying when you do.
On top of that, there is a decent amount of enemy variety. It’s not a huge amount, basically being divided between Genestealers and hybrids, but there’s enough tweaks to keep it fresh. The Genestealers have their basic counterparts, giant warriors, stealth types and even some that spit acid. The hybrids have some using rifles, some rocket launchers, and even a few that use psionic powers. Hardly a massive cast of enemies, but more than enough to keep players on their toes. And all of them are satisfying to kill.
What’s wrong with it?
Space Hulk: Deathwing has a lot of good to it, but it has a lot of problems too. The combat is fun, but there are a lot of frustrating aspects to it. First and foremost, if you get swarmed it’s very hard to tell what’s going on. You end up firing your weapon nonstop in the hope you last longer than your enemies. On top of that, the health system can be a little vague, meaning you can die very suddenly at times. Combine that with how much damage rockets can do, and you may find yourself restarting levels more than once.
While the combat can be very fun, there’s no getting around the fact that’s rather repetitive. There’s only so many ways you can kill Tyranids, particularly with the high rate at which they attack. The aforementioned variety does change things up, but even then you end up falling back to old habits before too long. It doesn’t help that you’re limited in the weapons you can bring. Some melee weapons require you to give up a ranged weapon, and some only allow you to use a basic bolter. This limitation of weapons bogs down the potential variety of the game.
Finally, while I personally experienced very few problems, many players have expressed anger about stability on the PC port. I did encounter very long load times, as well as the map taking half a minute to close on multiplayer, but little aside from that. Despite this, potential buyers should approach with caution.
Space Hulk: Deathwing is not a bad game, but it is a flawed game. It’s rather frustrating, because it’s on the cusp of being a great game, but numerous aspects keep pulling it back. The combat can be fun at times, but also frustrating and repetitive. The weapons are fun to use, but you can only use so many of them at a time. The world created within the game is beautiful, but technical issues stand between you and it.
It is most certainly worth checking out, but I advocate caution. It’s not a cheap game, so it is worth buying, but only if it truly resonates with you.