Game Review: Deathwatch

Developed By: Rodeo Games

Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, iOS, PS4

Genre: Turn Based Strategy

 

Overview

Step into the power armored boots of the Emperor’s finest, as you command a squad of the elite Deathwatch, in their fight against the Tyranid menace! Deathwatch is a turn based strategy game, blended with some TCG and RPG elements, which combine to create an insanely fun experience!

 

Gameplay

 

If you’ve played any games similar to X-COM, then Deathwatch will feel very familiar to you. Every mission places you in command of a squad of five Deathwatch Space Marines, and tasks you with a specific objective. These can range from surviving a set number of turns, to killing a specific enemy, or reaching a certain point on the scenario map. To accomplish these tasks, each squad member has a number of Action Points (usually four) to spend during their turn. Each space moved (in any direction, including diagonally) costs one AP, as does making an attack with a basic weapon. The current state of play also changes based on the position of your marines, and what they can actually see.

For example, if your entire squad is round a corner, they will have no visibility or line of sight against the enemies that might be lurking around the corner. This is a key mechanic of the game – you can roughly plan your turn out in advance based on what your objectives for that turn are. However, if you go round a corner having spent your last AP and end up adjacent to a Genestealer that you didn’t see, that becomes a new problem for you to solve!

When you select a marine, you can see the potential squares that unit may move to highlighted in grey. If they are equipped with a ranged weapon, you will also see (via an encompassing dotted line) the targets that are currently withing weapons range. You don’t need to commit to spending all of your AP at the same time, for example it’s perfectly fine to move a space, shoot an enemy, move a space, and then shoot again. If you are adjacent to an enemy, and you are equipped with a melee weapon, your character will attack with that weapon. Beware though – if you don’t kill your target, there is a chance that they will retaliate with a counter attack (although the same is also true for your characters if they are attacked in melee).

The majority of weapons cost a single action point to use, and attack a single target. However, as you obtain more characters and weapons (more on this later) you may come across some more unique weapons such as Power Fists and Missile Launchers. The Power Fist for example costs 2 AP to use per attack, but the damage is greatly increased should you manage to land a hit. The Missile Launcher costs 3AP to fire, but also attacks all targets that are adjacent to the square that you shoot into. It’s important when building your squad to have a good balance of low and high AP attacks – the last thing you want to be is short of AP when you’re in a tight spot!

So how do you get characters and weapons? When you complete a mission, you gain Requisition Points (which varies depending on the difficulty of the mission) and a Wargear Card. You can also gain these points by selling unwanted wargear and characters in between missions. When you have accumulated 100 points, you can buy a new pack of cards. On the iPad version, you can buy card packs with real life currency, but I genuinely did not need to do this once during the course of my entire playthrough. In each pack of cards you will get one space marine card, and two random wargear cards. Characters and wargear range between Levels 1 and 4. The higher the level, the better the character/item. You also gain a card pack every time you complete a chapter. Weapons all have a damage attribute, and a %to hit and cause critical damage. Higher level wargear has a lower chance to hit and deal damage, but this can be mitigated by improving those attributes on your space marines.

The development of characters in your squad is undoubtedly the most interesting facet of this game. You can recruit space marines from most of the “big” chapters. I’ve played this on both PS4 and iOS and encountered the following chapters:

  • Ultramarines
  • Blood Angels
  • Imperial Fists
  • Raven Guard
  • Black Templars
  • Dark Angels
  • White Scars

Additionally, there are multiple classes which your Space Marines will fall into:

  • Tactical Marines
  • Assault Marines
  • Apothecaries
  • Devastators
  • Champions
  • Elites

Whats really cool here as well is the small touches which give chapters flavor. For example, a Blood Angels apothecary is a Sanguinary Priest, as opposed to an Ultramarine Apothecary who just retains the standard title. At higher levels, your elites go all in on Chapter Lineage – a Level 4 Space Wolf is a Lone Wolf / Wolf Guard (depending on their specialty), whereas a Level 4 Blood Angel is a Sanguinary Guard / Sternguard. There is also chapter specific wargear as well. In my most recent playthrough, I ended up with a Glaive Encarmine and an Infernus pistol on my Sanguinary Guard!

To develop your characters, they need to gain Experience. Experience is obtained solely via enemy kills, but is also somewhat shared among the squad. For example, if my Lone Wolf kills a Genestealer at 100XP, all other squad mates will gain approximately 25% of this as a bonus. I did observe that the XP awards are different in the PS4 and the iOS games, but this didn’t impact things much (if at all) for me. This is neat, in that if you want to focus on building a certain character’s experience during a mission, it’s very easy to let that character run the killing spree while getting support from the rest of his squad.

Missions are also replayable, and you can do this as much as you need to obtain the skills / stats that you want. You might wonder why you want to do this – and its because as the game develops some more sinister enemies start to cross your path. The first few chapters are filled with mostly Hormagaunts and Termagaunts, but as you progress nastier enemies start appearing such as Genestealers, and Tyranid Warriors. If your character is killed during a mission they are not lost permanently, but any unspent XP is lost. This is important, because the better skills cost more XP meaning that you need to save up for them. As you improve your stats as well, it becomes more expensive every time you want to do it. Sometimes if you don’t feel like gambling at 19,000 XP for that 20,000 XP upgrade, its safer to replay a mission once in a while!

When you start the game your squad will be filled with inexperienced, low level characters. As these characters gain experience, they will start to unlock skills and raise their attributes (hit points, % chance to hit, and % chance to cause critical a critical hit). You’ll start unlocking higher level characters that have access to a wider range of skills, but are relatively inexperienced. This means that if you’ve been relying on a certain skill from a character, but you’ve now unlocked a “better” marine for that role, you need to decide the best approach. Will you replace them immediately? Will you phase him into your squad? It’s a really interesting and delicate part of the game, and can get surprisingly deep and involved.

The skills themselves add another layer of tactics and depth to the game. Some are just feats (such as a damage or health boost), but others are “actions” and don’t actually cost any AP to use. For example, the Cleave skill attacks all 3 spaces in front of a character. This saves some AP obviously, but if you use it on a character who has a power fist, that’s a total of 6AP you’ve saved! Also, every character has access to the Overwatch skill. Sometimes there isn’t anything you really need to do that turn (especially in defense missions). You can set your character to overwatch, and point them in a direction. Should an enemy cross their path, they will make an attack against them for every square they take (equal to the number of AP they saved last turn).

You can also unlock item slots to put miscellaneous wargear on your character. This can help plug any “gaps” that they have. For example, you can unlock shields to give them damage reductions or dodge chances, or even grenades with which to deal more ranged damage. There are a decent array of options available to you, the fun is in the experimentation!

Story

 

In terms of the actual storyline for the game, it’s super lightweight. The concept is that your squad of Deathwatch Initiates is new to the sector, and must tangle with the Tyranid threat across all of the chapters in the game. For me, this game was more about immersion in the 40k Universe, and I think the game achieves that in spades.

In terms of environments, the scenario maps range from skirmishes on the hive ships, to imperial bases, to rough and wild terrain. Each map is beautifully rendered, and I felt that each individual map offered its own quirks and identity. For example, one particular mission had the squad breaking through “flesh doors” in order to escape from a Tyranid onslaught. The doors themselves were horrible squishy things, contained in imposing, dark corridors.

Imperial bases are really cool as well, staying true to how they’ve been rendered in other games, while also being close aesthetically to ruins and buildings from the tabletop game. One of the other things that I really enjoyed was the interaction between the squad mates during missions. Although the characters themselves are interchangeable, there is good banter between the different chapters. Sometimes you’ll even hear one squad mate ask for advice on the best place to aim their bolters, and sometimes you’ll get some Space Wolf and Dark Angel animosity! I even once saw a conversation about the meaning of the “mundanes” perception that the Emperor is a god, and how the Space Marines themselves are happy to leave the humans to their delusions. Its a super interesting quirk, and I really appreciated that nod to the lore.

The roster of enemies is also decent. You’re only against Tyranids in this game, but there is a decent amount of variety (especially in terms of adjusting your tactics). I’ll tell you about the Carnifex only because the game informs you of its existence in loading screens! I was primed to level up some big skills at the point when I ran into my first one, and it made a mockery of my squad in double quick time! Recouping my losses after that was painful, but it was a valuable lesson to learn! Certain enemies have certain attack patterns and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to figure out the best way to handle it. Enemy behavior definitely feels in character with how i’d expect them to be, and this is another nice touch by the developers.

 

Roundup

One thing I read from other reviews of this game, was that it was horrendously overpriced. This is now several years after release, and I paid around £10 for this on the PS4, and £2 on iOS. This is an absolute steal for this game. It’s fun, tactical, engaging – and its suitable for play if you have 5 minutes or 5 hours. The squad development system is an absolute joy, and the actual gameplay is satisfying, rewarding and addictive. I am not afraid to say that this game has landed near the top of the 40k video game experience for me. It’s not quite at the pinnacle, but it’s not a million miles away either. Get this game! It’s awesome!

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3 weeks ago

Caledonian Deathwatch Network

I feel that the image for this post this is a private joke from Dennie 😂

But seriously go buy tickets to these insanely good events!T-Minus 9 hours for 'Allied Annihilation' ticket drop-off.
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