We’ve recently had the opportunity to check out Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch: Enhanced Edition, a port of Rodeo Games’ Warhammer: 40,000: Deathwatch: Tyranid Invasion that was previously released and quite well received on mobile devices. How will it stand up on the PC?
Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch: Enhanced Edition immediately has the rich Warhammer 40K lore working in its favor as you take charge of a growing array of Deathwatch Space Marines. These Space Marines come from a variety of Space Marine chapters, with the Deathwatch group being elite soliders who hunt and kill xenos, or non-human aliens.
Tyranids are the big threat this time around. These creatures come in different shapes and sizes, travelling the universe in massive Hive Ships. Each mission lets you know the context before thrusting you into combat.
Unfortunately, the beginning, when it lays out your level objectives, is the only time it lets you in on this context. That said, the voiced dialogue and the plot-related text in each of the acts helps ground the levels in the context of the continuing war.
Being a turn-based strategy game, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch places you in control of five Space Marines. Each marine’s background lore and chapter will come into play as you will be able to customize your troops with specialized gear. There is also the occasional in-game banter between marines, which can be amusing. Unfortunately the little banter tends to get repeated too often. The units also show a variety in design and detail, with Blood Angels featuring red armor and veteran Space Wolves being clothed in furs, for example.
Details like these aside, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch may feel a bit more trimmed down than that PC strategy gamers are likely used to. The maps are typically quite small, but include a fog of war to keep things interesting, hiding things outside of the line of sight of your units. This works quite well indoors, with walls and structures littering the map, and makes it quite difficult to tell where the enemy may come from.
The AI is usually adept at using the fog to spawn enemies in unseen corners and crevices, and can quickly swarm any marines that you may have left alone, encouraging players to keep their group together and advance slowly, watching out on all sides for any possible ambushes by utilizing the “Overwatch” stance, where your unit aims at a specific area and blasts anything that comes into their line of sight during the enemy’s turn. This stance is constantly useful, as you are constantly outnumbered.
Different units have different abilities, and each one starts out with four Action Points, or AP. These AP are utilized to do everything, from moving and adopting the Overwatch stance to attacking. Movement costs one AP per square, and the various weapons cost varying amounts of AP to fire. AP boosts are also quite rare and can be time-consuming to obtain, making most of your units pretty much stuck with the four starting AP.
This actually makes the game a bit more strategic, ensuring that every AP you spend counts. If you plan to adopt the Overwatch stance each turn with a marine equipped with a gun that costs a single AP, for instance, you should only move two spaces total, if you don’t plan to attack. This is because each space results in two of your four AP being used, leaving one for the stance to activate and only one to fire while in that stance.
Obviously the AP consumption and limit plays into the game’s balance quite a bit. Your most powerful marines, the Devastators, utilize heavy weapons, all of which cost more than a single AP to shoot. With this extreme firepower, they can destroy nearly anything they come across quite quickly, but the increased AP consumption for attacking means you need to carefully position and are unable in some cases to move and attack at the same time with these marines. Others are close-combat specialists, utilizing power fists and chain-swords to deal higher damage at melee range. Since there is no way to increase defense, these close-combat marines offer up a risk-versus-reward style of play.
If you rush in without any caution, you can easily be caught in an enemy ambush with no way out until the next turn comes around, and, needless to say, if there are enough enemies, you may very well lose a unit or more.
The enemies tend to match the Space Marine units in functionality in many cases. Most of the enemies tend to be melee-focused, moving up and hacking at your units with abandon. As you get deeper into the game, however, you’ll come across tougher Tyranids that hit harder and boast a variety of abilities and firepower.
Unfortunately the enemy variety isn’t all that great. As you advance deeper into the game, tougher close range Tyranids replace the mobs from the early stages. There are some more unique ones that can dish out a heavy amount of damage to a unit within their line of sight providing they do not move, and others that work better at longer range, but the melee varieties are by far the most common.
The game missions are also fairly uniform. There are a few that shake things up and make things more interesting, but many boil down to “Survive against this many enemies!”.
With so much of the same in terms of units and missions, Deathwatch does encourage strategy, but it doesn’t really encourage changing up your strategy much at all once you find one that works well for you.
In terms of experience, everybody on the map gains experience whenever something is killed, with the one who delivers the finishing blow being granted extra experience. The units who die will lose all experience that they had gained in the mission, but be available to use again as the game does not feature perma-death for units.
Once obtained, you can then utilize the experience to boost stats, such as HP, accuracy, and critical chance, or even a variety of flat-cost unit-specific abilities and equipment slots. The special abilities that you can purchase tend to be useful, and they are one thing that actually does not cost any AP to utilize.
At the end of each mission you also receive a random card and requisition points. Cards are seperated into four different ranks of rarity levels, and once you manage to beat an act of four missions, you get a pack of three cards which contains something at least rank 2 rarity-wise. When you have 100 requisition points, you can purchase a pack of cards that way as well.
As you gain more card packs and mission rewards, you are likely to gain some higher ranking units with better stats. This helps encourage players to change up their squads without having to worry too much about sacrificing the squad’s effectiveness.
You will also gain better guns, and may be thrilled at first to realize that the guns do not have any sort of level limit in place. The guns are balanced, however, so few things feel blatantly overpowered weapon-wise. For example, you may obtain a powerful single-sot melta rifle. This weapon can dish out a good deal of damage to your foes, but they have quite low accuracy.
When all’s said and done, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch: Enhanced Edition doesn’t make quite the same impact on PC as it did mobile devices. The visuals have been greatly improved, as expected, being completely rebuilt from the ground up with Unreal Engine 4. The customization does quite a bit to keep the fun alive, however, and aside from some long load times, the game ran quite smoothly.
Final Score: 3.25/5