Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf – Early Access Preview

Warhammer has an interesting method of licensing games based on its IP, sometimes referred to as the shotgun approach. For those of you who don’t know, or haven’t noticed, Games Workshop will license out games based on Warhammer and Warhammer 40k to several different studios at the same time, creating games for a broad array of different genres.

This is why over the years we’ve had 3D actions games, first-person online multiplayer games and a slew of different real-time strategy titles all bearing the Warhammer or Warhammer 40k banner. Recently, there has also been a slew of mobile games such as the port of Warhammer Quest, Bloodbowl’s tablet edition and Warhammer 40,000: Carnage.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is one of those games released by Games Workshop for IOS and Android a few years ago, but the game is finally getting a full PC release, and so we decided to take a quick look to see how well the port seems to be shaping up for the PC master race.

Please Note: This game is currently in early access, so there may be differences between the current playable version and the version being discussed in this preview. Any factors discussed in this preview are also subject to change.

For those of your who are unfamiliar, Space Wolf is a combination of a collectable card game and a strategy game, meaning that you collect different cards that allow you to perform actions in the various missions, such as moving and shooting different weapons. You collect these cards for completing missions, as well as optional objectives, and build decks for each type of armour that your main character can wear.

Right out of the bat, it’s easy to tell that the deck building is going to require a bit of a learning curve. It is not immediately clear which cards from your main collection are actually in each of the various decks, something that is actually indicated by a bar at the bottom of each card. Most of these issues are likely to be ironed out in the full version with a proper tutorial for these mechanics, but right now it’s pretty much left up to you to figure out what you’re doing.

Missions work in a similar style to things like the Final Fantasy Tactics games and Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers. You control several characters on a grid-like map using various weapons and attacks that can hit at various ranges and patterns. The thing that is most different from these other games, not including the card collecting, obviously, is the inclusion of direction facing mechanics. When you end a movement, you have to choose which direction your character is facing and cannot change that direction without moving the character again.

While this facing mechanic isn’t the worst thing to ever be included in a strategy game, it does take some getting used to. This is especially noticeable when using melee weapons. Whereas in most strategy games you’d be able to aim a melee attack in any direction, you can only aim directly in front of you in this game. This makes certain situations quite frustrating, especially when other enemies seem to be able to attack diagonally with their melee attacks, but you do eventually learn how to compensate for that.

As well as moving and attacking, you can use the cards in your deck to perform various support actions, such as healing team members, adding armour to your characters or reducing how long it takes for you to have another turn. This last mechanic works based on something called the effort system, which is a number assigned to each character based on the actions they have performed during their turn. This effort number has to reach zero before a character gets to take a turn, meaning that if you’re careful with which and how many cards you use, you can basically get a free turn by voluntarily finishing a move early.

The game looks fantastic, especially considering that it’s a port of an existing mobile game. There is often a temptation for developers to do the minimal of effort to get a game ported from a handheld system to a more powerful one, but it seems like the team behind Space Wolf decided to put in the time to make the game look good.

The crucial point of this preview is this: Is the game worth playing over the portable version? It’s a difficult question to answer thanks to the game being in early access, but we shall try to examine things carefully. If you have played and enjoyed the tablet game but felt like the experience needed to be tethered to a stationary device, then you’ll probably enjoy hours of entertainment with this game. The gameplay is deep enough to get involved with, but unless you really just want a higher graphical fidelity, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to play the PC version over the portable version.

At the end of the day, only time will tell if this game’s journey through early access will turn it into an experience worthy of the platform.

Please Note: At the time of this writing, it is not possible to review multiplayer as there seems to be either no one or at least very few people playing. We will update this review as soon as the multiplayer becomes usable.