by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
You may have noticed a lot of games bearing the Warhammer name coming out recently. That’s going to continue over the coming months and years, and one such game will be Space Hulk: Deathwing. It’s a tactical squad based shooter set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe where you will be taking on the role of a Librarian. If that sounds boring, you need to brush up on your 40K lore, as future librarians are a little more… action oriented than their modern day counterparts.
The demo we were shown at Gamescom took place on Space Hulk Olethros, a cluster of ancient and derelict ships and debris which have collected over the ages to form a monstrosity of metal and stonework. The Deathwing squad is there to deal with the threat of the Tyranid Genestealers, aliens which love nothing more than to group up into terrifying swarms and rip apart tasty humans. Your squad isn’t the average group of humans though, and put up more than enough fight.
Power armour is a big part of the game, and as such you are heavy, and slow. Damage is localised, so if, for example, your right arm takes critical damage, you won’t be able to use whatever is in that hand until it’s repaired. The game features a variety of weapons, from the standard Space Marine bolter up to some which are completely exclusive to this game. You will even discover some relics from Warhammer lore, which you may recognise if you know what a Genestealer is, or were clued in on the fact that Warhammer Librarians are about dealing out painful justice with a mixture of ranged weapons, melee weapons, and even magical abilities.
We were shown abilities such as chain lightning jumping between foes, and a shockwave pushing back enemies. You’re shown a score screen when you complete a level, and the better you do, the more abilities, equipment, and upgrades you can unlock via the game’s five skill trees. Combat in Space Hulk: Deathwing is a mixed bag, because of the contrast between the skittering Tyranids and your squad of heavies. The Genestealers will have their own tactics, preferring to retreat and group up with a larger force than run at you solo. Fighting them in open ground will simply sign your death warrant, so you will want to use choke points to your advantage so you can’t get surrounded.
You will have to think about your positioning as you progress through the level, and know that the ‘Nids can sneak up on you from any direction, including above and below. Not only can you issue your squadmates orders such as guarding specific areas, but you can also get them to seal up doors behind you, closing off parts of the level you have already been to, but stopping enemies from attacking your rear. You also have to take this into consideration when moving forward. Do you want to blow open this door to create a shortcut, knowing it will also create a new point of entry for your foes? Or will you go around, possibly finding different kinds of danger? Your Librarian will also occasionally have precognitions of upcoming perils, which may affect your play style in other ways.
Single or co-op
You will be able to play in single player with AI squad mates, or team up with friends in co-op. Space Hulk: Deathwing has been in development for a number of years now, and it’s finally scheduled for release later this year.