By Josh Di Falco 20.03.2017
The Warhammer and its sequel 40,000 series have spawned many video game iterations over the years. With its popularity quite high nearly three decades since its inception, the digital incarnations just keep on coming. The latest game to hit the PS4 is Deathwatch - Tyranid Invasion, which sees the Imperium's defending their edge of space from the oncoming titular species, the Tyranids. Originally released for smartphones, Rodeo Games bring the port across to consoles, with a graphical upgrade and an easy to learn user interface.
The plot of the game is minimal, with a turn-based system for manoeuvring the space marines across the stages. Prior to each stage, a couple of lines of dialogue are delivered by the Watch Commander and that is the way the plot of sorts is told. However, really this entire game is a series of stages, which generally requires for the squad of five space marines to reach the quest markers. Fans of the tactical turn-based genre will easily get the hang of this game. However, newcomers fear not, because this game is easy to pick up and learn, as the well-crafted tutorials deliver a great introduction into the rest of the game.
Once all the formalities are completed, Deathwatch opens up with a menu screen where the weapon and item inventory screen sits, below the 'Space Marines' selection tab, which leads to the various troopers acquired during the course of the game. Featuring the Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Ultramarines, White Scars and Raven Guards, each space marine has their own unique traits and abilities, while having varied differences in what weapons can be equipped. These combinations are handy to learn, as only a squad of five can enter a mission.
This system does enable for varied playthroughs, as any number of combination of marines can get the job done. Some may be more difficult to complete than others may, but this flexibility does allow for repeat playing, without having the exact same characters each time. Beginning at level 1, each space marine has three base stats consisting of health, accuracy and critical strikes. These compounds with each weapons individual statistics, to stack in the equipped weapon screen.
As Tyranids are killed in the missions, the space marines earn Requisition points, which act as XP. Upon reaching higher experience tallies, traits and abilities can be unlocked to make a space marine more powerful. Marines earn more experience by delivering the killing blows, and at the conclusion of the missions, the points are tallied. Deciding where to put the points after each mission is not as simple as deciding to save up an abundance of points for a useful ability, because any experience that is not spent and is being held by a marine is at risk of being lost should that marine die in battle. While the space marines do regenerate at the conclusion of each stage, thus ruling out perma-death, they do lose all of their unspent experience points, thus making the idea of storing it a risky business.
While this is interesting in practice, Deathwatch requires a lot of grinding for XP, in order to level up the starting five space marines in order to venture further into the game. The difficulty quickly ramps up if not prepared, though the earlier stages can be repeated as many times as required in order to level up those statistics. Create a playlist of songs or podcasts during these moments, as these can be quite lengthy and not an enticing prospect for the casual player.
Deathwatch is made up of nine acts, with each act consisting of four stages. Though the objectives vary from "plant a mine", to "defend against waves of enemies", every mission feels the same as the preceding one. The stages rarely contain large open space areas to combat in, instead opting for a series of connected tunnels, which do not allow for any of the squad members to complement each other as a team. Generally, squad members get in each other's ways, thus covering a teammates line of sight on an enemy. While this is par for the course in a tactical turn-based game, these limitations are compounded in this experience because of the poorly created stage designs.
The camera can be rotated around with the right stick and L1 button, while the view can be diverted to an aerial view for an easy-to-see scope of the land. However, the entire stage is not available to the eyes, as fog covers the regions that are not directly in the line of sight of the squad members. Trying to predict where the Tyranids will appear from does make for an exhilarating venture. While this is tense but joyful in the beginning, it quickly becomes an underhanded tactic due to the complexity of the stage designs that do not allow the various tunnels to be seen properly.
Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch is a typical tactical turn-based game seen many times before. While not delivering anything new in terms of gameplay, the squad-based teamwork that is required to power through the 40 stages is nothing short of grinding fun. At the beginning, it feels like a bonding experience for the space marines. However, the game quickly falls down the path of needing to grind in order to venture through the missions, as a tough mission could be waiting, spiking up the difficulty quite unexpectedly and sharply. Combined with the stage designs that really do not complement the turn-based style of the game due to the enclosed tunnels and rarity of large arenas to set up ambushes in, this port of the smartphone game leaves a lot to be desired.