Space Hulk Review
Warhammer 40,000, in board game form, on your PC. Meta.
It has been many years since Space Hulk was first translated into video game form, but Full Control Studios are here to bring it into the modern era. Based on a popular, two player, standalone, board game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Space Hulk takes a more focused approach to commanding a group of Space Marines than many other games in the 40K universe. While previous games built around the same concepts of the Space Hulk Board game, Full Control are aiming for a faithful, digital, re-creation of the original rather than a video game that is simply based on the original. Let’s find out if they pulled it off.
As I mentioned earlier, Space Hulk takes place in the well established universe of Warhammer 40,000 (or Warhammer 40K if you prefer) and follows the story of the Blood Angels, a chapter of Space Marines who find themselves in and around a derelict fleet of space ships. These ships are inhabited by an alien race called the Genestealers. These armored and ferocious creatures are more than a match for a Space Marine in close quarters and it is this fact that helps set the atmosphere in Space Hulk.
Gameplay, being based on a board game, takes on the characteristics of a very simple turn-based strategy game. Each unit can move and perform attacks based on a pool of four action points, with an additional communal pool of one to six points that are rolled for at the beginning of the turn. Units not moving or attacking can set themselves in a defensive stance or go on overwatch, shooting at any enemy that moves into their line of sight.
Space Hulk contains all twelve original missions from the board game, along with three prequel missions that serve as a tutorial. Each mission takes place on a different map and may have a variety of objectives and victory conditions. Unlike many other turn-based strategy games, you will almost always find your squad in tight quarters as you fight through the narrow hallways of the damaged space ships. This setting should allow for a lot of atmosphere but there doesn’t end up being very much to look at. Environments outside of the field of play are simply empty black areas, and the hallways don’t offer much in the way of detail.
The strategy involved in playing through a given map does translate well into the video game version of Space Hulk and trying to stay far enough away from the Genestealers so your marines can cut them down with automatic weapons is quite a challenge in the close quarters the game provides.
Navigating and finishing your turn is a bit of a different story. Units move very, very slowly, and though you can jump in between the units you’re controlling while the others move, you’ll still be left waiting for them to make it to their mark with no way to fast forward. The interface and system also leave you to do a lot of the work by failing to notify you when the unit you’re controlling is out of action points, and failing to let you know when you should end your turn because no unit has any action points. You will also encounter some bugged victory conditions including one that will consistently not allow you to complete a mission.
While most of my complaints aren’t game-breaking, my biggest peeve with Space Hulk is the price tag. After playing it, I feel like $29.99 is a little too steep for what is essentially a very basic strategy game that is missing some standard features.
Space Hulk offers two options for those who want to play against a friend. The first is a local, Hotseat style multiplayer where you and a friend will choose to control either the Blood Angels or the Genestealers and simply take turns sitting in front of the PC to give your orders.
The other option is an asynchronous version of the game that has you play out your turn, then exit and wait for your opponent to login and play. It’s a real shame there is no option to search for players who are online and just play out a game with someone who is actually sitting at their PC. If you do run into someone who fits this description you could get a match done quickly, but I still think there should be a way to search for a live opponent.
If you are a fan of the board game, and were looking for a digital version of it, you’ll enjoy Space Hulk. If you’re looking for the next great Warhammer 40K game, you might find this one a little light. While it is still a challenging strategy game, Space Hulk is hiding a handful issues behind a price point that ends up being too high for what is on offer.
Release Date: August 15th, 2013
Available On: PC via Steam