Space Hulk Tactics Review: Turn-Based Combat in a Space Maze
Focus Home Interactive has released a new turn-based tactical game based on the Warhammer 40K universe -- Space Hulk: Tactics. It is now available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
This is not the first attempt at adapting a classic Space Hulk board game. For example, the previous one was Space Hulk: Deathwing, but unfortunately, it received mixed reviews from the gaming community. Space Hulk: Tactics will try to prove once again that there is room for high quality turn-based games in the 40K universe after all.
A few exciting new features and a fresh look at the tabletop original actually work in this case. There may be some balancing issues when it comes to the two conflicting races -- men and aliens -- but that will hopefully change in the future updates.
For more information on the gameplay, character customization and squad tactics keep on reading our full review of Space Hulk: Tactics below.
Story and Setting
Space Hulk is a remnant of the giant space ship filled with rubble that becomes a perfect environment for breeding the Genestealer swarm, an alien species that kills everything it sees. On the other side the squad of Space Marines or Terminators roams the claustrophobic corridors of this ship.
As a player, either in single-player mode or online multiplayer, you can choose on whose side you want to play. This approach is basically the main selling point of the game, as never before players could choose the side of the Genestealers. Now it's very much possible and there is an entire separate campaign designed just for that purpose.
The two perspectives are so different that you almost feel like playing an entirely different game. This is due to the vastly different mechanics that are used in the two separate campaigns. While Space Marines are mainly looking out to shoot someone in the head, the Genestealers attack like wild animals and can even spawn in groups.
As a result, the two factions require opposed tactics. The Terminators move individually and have to constantly overlook their perimeter for imminent danger. This slows them down significantly, and requires a lot of time and action points until they reach their objective. That is why the developers introduced a brand new card system into the game that allows players to convert them into additional action points.
The Genestealers, on the other hand, can be far more aggressive and in general have more action points to use than the Marines. They move around the map concealed and this is where the RNG enters the stage. Since aliens can spawn in the so-called Blips, they can appear as one creature or three. So you never know how many of them you will have to deal with in case you're playing on the side of the Terminators.
This makes the gameplay quite unpredictable and makes the multiplayer format extremely engaging. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of what Space Hulk: Tactics has to offer in terms of the mechanics.
The gameplay in Space Hulk: Tactics is based on Action Points (AP). One move equals one AP, whether it's a physical movement forward, backwards, etc., or any other action such as shooting or activating abilities. The Terminators, unlike Genestealers, have an ability to convert their cards into AP, which is understandable since they have 4 AP max, while Genestealers can do a lot more in one turn.
As soon as one of your characters finished its turn, the next one goes to your opponent. At this point you can choose to stand still and wait until your opponent takes action, or you could move your camera and see what they're doing and plan your next move by looking at your mini-map.
Alternatively, you could assign further actions to your units while waiting, and they'll just keep stacking until the turn is over. However, this is not recommended. You never know which action your opponent may take, so you need to react to their actions in real time rather than stacking your own. So it really depends on the situation you're in.
The Genestealers are far more agile and mobile than the Marines, so they can move a lot faster. Some of their actions cost zero AP, such as turning around. So in this regard the Genestealers are a lot more convenient to play with. Some aliens have 8 AP per turn, and if you can convert spare cards, then you will be able to spawn Blips -- randomized alien swarms that may contain up to three aliens per Blip.
It is also possible to deploy specialty units, such as various types of Biomorphs that can evade attacks and weaken Terminator melee attacks. But that's not the only way how one can disrupt the Space Marine squad's game plan.
The problem is that Terminators can't move or shoot over occupied squares. So in case there is another squad member standing on the way of the Marine, the Genestealers will have an advantage. By the way, aliens don't have this limitation and some of them can move freely, including over the occupied squares.
Players can use all these tricks to confuse another squad and prevent the Terminators from accomplishing their objectives. But the main power balance problem lies in the Genestealer's ability to easily shred heavy Terminator armor if allowed, and deploy multiple Blips that can easily overwhelm any Space Marine squad.
Map Creator and Squad Customization
In addition to the two main campaigns the game also offers Skirmish and Quick Match modes for players who want to play against other players online. There you can choose which map you want to fight on, or you could create your own Hulk using the Mission Editor tool that can be found in the main menu.
There you can play with the layout of corridors, create something unique and share it online for all players. The map creator is really simple and intuitive, so if you like to build space mazes, then you will greatly enjoy this area of the game.
Besides the geometrical structure of your new map you can add all sorts of obstacles, such as traps, doors, rubble, entry points, and many other objects. If you carefully combine all these elements in a fun way on one map, it can really enhance your gameplay experience.
The last but not least feature that Space Hulk: Tactics has to offer is he ability to customize your squads. The squad composition menu not only lets you choose which of the available Terminators or Genestealers you want to include in your squad, but also their looks. And for this purpose the developers have added an extensive character customization menu as well.
It allows you to change every little bit of your characters beginning from the color palette to surface patterns and even the model of your gear. But beware, the process is so fun that a couple of hours may pass while you decide to change every single aspect of your characters' appearance.
But it's a great way to personalize your gameplay in Space Hulk: Tactics and show off your squad on a global arena. And this is something that the fans of the game will enjoy immensely.
Space Hulk: Tactics is a genuine Warhammer 40K game that strongly resembles the original board game. The addition of the new cards system and the ability to customize both your squads and maps is a true gift to all the fans of the franchise.
If you were a fan of Space Hulk: Deathwing, then here you can also switch to first-person view and play the game just like before. But of course, playing in isometric view is a lot more comfortable since you can almost see the entire map at once.
The technical execution of the game is top-notch, and despite a few minor bugs here and there, you will not see any major disruptions. By the way, the developers regularly push out new updates so that's where bugs get fixed rather quickly.
If you like turn-based combat, then Space Hulk: Tactics will impress you. As of now, if you can overlook a few power balance issues between the Terminators and the Genestealers, then it can be easily called one of the best turn-based games in the Warhammer 40K universe.
[Note: A copy of Space Hulk: Tactics was provided by Focus Home Interactive for the purpose of this review.]