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Caledonian Deathwatch Network

Game Review: Space Wolf

 

Developed By: Herocraft

Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android

Genre: Turn Based Card Game

 

Overview

 

Sons of Fenris rejoice! Assume the mantle of Valgard Twice-Slain as you take control of a small cadre of Space Wolves, who find them in the midst of the fight of their lives in the Fall of Kanak. Space Wolf is a strategy game of sorts – but it’s blended in with some Trading Card Game (TCG) elements. I know that sounds really weird, but stick with me and I will tell all!

Gameplay

 

Space Wolf is a very unique game, which nicely blends the worlds of TCGs and Turn based strategy gameplay. Both parts are integral to the overall experience, and it’s important to have a good feel for both of these elements in order to succeed in this game. You control a squad of 1-3 (sometimes joined by bonus reinforcements) Space Wolves during every mission, and the missions vary in scope. These range from defeating a key enemy, to reaching a key point on the map (sometimes within a time limit).

Your characters can all perform (usually) 2 actions during any one of their activations. Their available actions are based on the types of cards that they are holding. Almost every type of card can be discarded in order to allow that character to move on the map, which is comprised of squares. Additionally, after every movement you must specify which direction your hero is facing – attacks can only be initiated if you are facing the correct direction, so consider your moves carefully!

 

However, the system is made more strategic by use of the effort system. The effort system is a way of “pricing” particular actions. Each action card (more on these later), has an associated effort cost in the top right corner. Whether this card is used for its function, or whether it’s used to move your character, the effort cost will be added to that character’s effort total for the turn. During each activation, you always have the option of 2 actions – but you can always choose to end your turn after the first action (or even end your turn with no action). The payoff to this, is that you can see every character’s (including enemy’s) effort score – and in subsequent turns, characters with a lower effort score ALWAYS go before characters with a higher score. This could mean that in some situations you can have 2 activations before an enemy unit Beware though – the same applies in reverse! It’s tempting to go for that double autocannon shot, but if you don’t kill your target then they could make you pay!

 

 

The game manages most of the detail of your allies (except for their optional skills), meaning that their weapons deck is mostly pre-built by the AI. You have a good amount of flexibility when customising Valgard though. He starts as a tactical marine, but you can pay to unlock (using in-game currency for a reasonable price) Terminator and Scout skill trees.  These all play vastly differently, and they have specific skills which are only usable when you are using a particular skill tree (or deck). This also unlocks new Terminator and Scout allies which you can use as part of your squad.

As the commander, Valgard also has access to the rage ability. When he takes enough damage, his attacks can potentially do up to 200% extra damage, and also his effort score is reduced to zero. When you attack, this results in a fun little mini game, where you decide to “gamble” by revealing hidden skulls. These can add or deduct 25% increments, or end the mini game immediately if you reveal a skull.

 

 

By completing objectives, you gain both currency and skulls. Skulls are important, as these are what are used to level up Valgard’s hitpoints. Currency is also important, as it’s used for several things in the game, including:

  • Leveling up Allies
  • Levelling up Valgard’s Skill Trees
  • Buying booster packs
  • Buying Resurrection and Crafting Runes

On the PC version, you need to gain currency by completing missions – the same is true on the Android / iOS versions, but the Android version also has that thing that modern gamers all dread – the micro-transaction. I hate micro-transactions (even if I see why they exist), but know that I completed the Android version of this game (which is free to download) having only made one purchase. For £5.99 I purchased the Iron Priest ally (which also awarded some currency), and with this plus currency and rewards I earned in game, I was able to beat the game. Be warned though, this game is definitely not easy – skill, wit, planning (and a little luck) are all needed in order to be victorious.

 

 

The game (I’m talking Android here) is a little heavy-handed in trying to steer you into buying stuff – if for no other reason than the game’s difficulty. Make no mistake, this is a punishingly difficult game if you don’t know what you’re doing, and the temptation to splurge out on good cards and upgrades can be strong. However – I think the game is also fair in the freebies that it gives you. You get rewards for playing every day, and most of the campaign secondary missions are fairly achievable. You also don’t need to complete all these in a single attempt, meaning you gain some replayability and also some flexibility which is nice.

 

You also gain crafting parts as freebies and mission rewards (and you can also scrap/sell existing cards to gain more), which you can use to craft new and better cards. You can also attempt “riskier” craftings, which run the risk of complete failure (and the loss of your materials), but yield better cards. You can also purchase crafting runes (again, using in game currency) to guarantee a successful craft. I didn’t dabble in this too much, as most of my best cards were obtained from loot chests that I found in missions, but if you are so inclined you could easily sink a lot of money into this.

 

 

Now lets actually talk about the cards themselves. The cards represent all the various weapons that you can include in your arsenal – but there are also other cards which have important uses. For example, you can have cards which summon tarantula turrets, or a Fenrisian Wolf companion. Both of these are solid choices, because the enemy will often go after units which have less hit points remaining (such as these units) – these can be super useful in a cinch – but they often have a high effort cost. The challenge is working out for yourself whether or not it’s worth the gamble.

 

 

You can have 30 cards in a deck, and while its easy to want to fill your deck with all of the absolute best cards, this can be a bit of a trap. Most of the best cards (or cards which are the heavier ranged hitters) have high effort costs. So if your deck is loaded with these, even simple actions such as moving can have a highly inflated effort cost, which means that your hero isn’t really able to achieve much. Conversely, it’s important to have a decent amount of damage dealing cards, because some of the later missions are brutal and have a lot of combat. Decks don’t get expended (your cards will get recycled), so you never need to worry about running out of cards.

 

You also have 3 deck slots – and this is where I enjoyed the versatility. Some missions are “search and destroy” type missions, whereas others are “sprint to the finish line”. You can share cards between decks, but importantly they can be totally separate in terms of their playstyle. For example, my Terminator Valgard was an engine of destruction, and almost all of his gear was built around being efficient yet deadly in combat. My scount Valgard though had almost exclusively cards which made him a “runner”. You can use cards such as the Fenrisian Wolf (and more grimdarkly, your other squad mates) to act as decoys for the enemy which your hero(?) legs it into the endzone. It sounds like a random thing to throw into a game like this, but it actually keeps the mission structure exciting and varied.

 

 

 

Lastly, there is a challenge mode called “Fall of Kanak”, where you take on the role of a lone Khorne Berzerker, and try to take on as many loyalists as you can before falling. It’s as one dimensional (and bloody good fun, pun intended) as it sounds! Your hero(?) will even be mocked by an allied chaos sorcerer during this mini game as well. Definitely worth checking out when you’re done with the main game!

 

Story

 

SPOILERS!

The story is right out of 40k 101 – our intrepid heroes are ambushed by the Word Bearers upon arriving at the planet of Kanak. Their ship is shot down, and the survivors crash land on the planet, looking to kick some heretic ass. Valgard leads his squad through the planet, fighting various Chaos Space Marines, Daemons, and even some Necrons which show up near the end.

 

 

In between missions, you return to the command centre, and one of the surviving space wolves will always have some dialogue which progresses the story. The story itself is pretty much what every Space Wolf story is – they fight against the odds, hoping that their deeds will be remembered in a great Saga for the ages. Personally i’m not the biggest Space Wolf fan, but I can see fans of Russ getting their teeth into this without hesitation.

 

 

The Chaos cast are suitably preachy as well – with their veiled threats to Valgard and his squad, and the mysterious reasons for their presence on the planet. The Word Bearers are characterised really well – religious zealots who are willing to go to any lengths to succeed in their aims. Also (and this is a first i’d say) – the Daemons that you encounter in this game are actually really intimidating. Bloodletters of Khorne can get onto you really quickly, and you definitely learn to fear their wrath if they make it into combat with you.

 

 

 

The game also does a good job of capturing the units of the 41st millennium. All of the players here (both Chaos and Imperium) all look really like their miniature counterparts, and with all of the sound effects and graphics rendering of the weapons on show, I felt really immersed in the game and the environment. Boss battles were suitably cinematic and exciting, and I could easily see some of the scenes here in some other Black Library material. Even lots of the little touches, like Runes being part of your upgrade system, and Wolf Claw weapons all added to the Space Wolf theme which permeated the game. I would say that the game does a good job of trying not to make you feel like a cookie cutter space marine, which can only be a good thing.

Roundup

 

If you can successfully navigate the treacherous waters of the micro transaction ocean,  there’s actually a really solid game to be found here. It’s strategic, thematic – and it’s an absolute must have for any Space Wolf fans. The ability to pick it up on your phone and play it in manageable chunks is also really appealing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and that’s coming from someone who truly isn’t a huge Space Wolf fan.

Space Wolf is available on the App Store, Google Play and on Steam.

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