EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
Gunning With Wolves
If video games have taught me anything, it’s that in the future, as mankind explores the cosmos, we’re going to be really, really terrible pilots. As seems to be due course for these types of stories, our heroic Space Marines first find themselves crash landed on a planet full of hostiles, and must stay alive long enough to kick some ass and get back to safety. Though set in the famous Warhammer 40k universe, those unfamiliar with the lore won’t be missing out on anything- as long as you can understand that the blue guys are good and the red ones are bad, you’ll be just fine with this fun, though flawed, Early Access turn-based fighter.
Luck of the Draw
Combining two genres into a fairly unique package, Space Wolf combines turn-based strategy (think XCOM) with collectible card games. Much like many of its ilk you’ll control a (usually four man) squad of big, nasty space marines as they fight their way through enemy hordes (well, more like a few bad guys at a time) one turn at a time to reach their objective. The twist comes in the fact that you can’t do whatever you’d like at any given time. Instead, as the missions play out, you’ll be using and drawing cards that are played and discarded in order to shoot, move, and perform other actions. I actually really like the system, and it, combined with the square grid movement and percentage based success, really make the game play like a board game, which was fun.
Unlocking new cards and managing your decks, which you’ll have one of for each of the three armor classes you can wear, is the main system of progression in Space Wolf. From what I’ve heard, and I’ll admit this is hearsay as I’ve never played the mobile original, this is where microtransactions came in. Fortunately this time around it seems as though they’ve been left out, which is great. There isn’t a ridiculous amount of customization available right now for the decks, but it’s there. Each armor style is going to play best the way it’s meant to be played, but within that framework you can prioritize accurate weapons over higher damaging ones, add more movement cards, swap range for close quarters combat weapons, etc. While there’s variety there, I would love to see some more differentiated weapons added to the game. Many of them right now are similar, even when leveled up, and only differ by a small amount of damage or accuracy. That being said, the combat really is quite fun as it stands.
Easy to Pick Up and Die
There’s a strange dichotomy present in which the game’s relatively straightforward and simple gameplay seems at odds with its long missions, which, void of checkpoints, will cause you to start over should you fail them at any point. The mechanics, which keep things simple, would be great for short-burst gameplay of a mission or two (which makes sense when you’re a mobile game), but as missions progressed a bit longer I did find myself wishing the game would include a bit more attack variety, some cover options, and perhaps some passive effects beyond those present. This is clearly more an issue with personal preference, though, and there’s plenty to enjoy as long as you don’t go in expecting something with the depth of, say, the recent run of Shadowrun games.
While there are more coming, there are enough missions right now to justify the price, but I will say that I’ve found their difficulty to be frustratingly high. I’m fairly seasoned in the genre, and while the first mission only took me two tries, most since have taken many. The game doesn’t do a great job of easing you into the game, which I can see turning a lot of less patient gamers off before they’ve gotten too far in. This wouldn’t be so bad with some kind of checkpoint system, but I frequently had to replay missions that I was 15-20 or so minutes into, which is a lot more time in-game than it sounds like. Luckily these kinds of fixes are easy ones, and a few of the missions have already been brought down a bit by the developers.
Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf is still has some issues to work through, but that’s ok for a game that isn’t scheduled to release in full until the 4th Quarter of this year. To be frank, at only $12 bucks there’s a ton of fun and a reasonable amount of content already, so as more gets added and tweaked the value is only going to increase. One of the best signs for the game is that the developers have already made quite a few updates and have been communicating frequently with the playerbase in the short time the game has been out, which bodes well for the games continual growth. That being said, this is one of the few Early Access games I feel confident recommending as a buy right now.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.