I’ve a mixed past with Games Workshop – geeking out with the tabletop armies as a teen, then playing each video game release, some would say I’m a big fan of the 40k universe.
My recent disappointment with iPad Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf and the previous games had killed a great deal of my enthusiasm. The world had gone blurgh. The tension and heroics of Space Hulk (both board and PC) had been lost. So it was with a heavy, genestealer-weary heart that I opened Deathwatch Tyranid Invasion.
The very first thing to get across here is that Deathwatch Tyranid Invasion is a turn based strategy game. If you liked XCOM or Warhammer Quest (Quest is made by the same studio, Rodeo Games), you’ll know where you’re at. If you’re not into them, then either let me convince you to start, or you probably haven’t even made it as far as this sentence.
The 40k Universe
I always liked the dark atmosphere of the 40k universe – terrifying alien races held back by a thin line of space marines. Constant war. Gothic ruins. All in all, a fun place. Dawn of War, the RTS on PC was the closest they got to translating the idea of the mire of the current situation. Your marines hot-footed through a destroyed cathedral, only to be sliced to smithereens by some pesky warp spiders. Great.
In this game, Tyranids are a welcome distraction for the universe – they’re going to consume everything. A galactic cancer. They don’t have a bullet between them, only spines, spores and things that stab. They rush at you in waves, just like aliens should.
It was towards the middle of Act 2 in Deathwatch Tyranid Invasion that I started to let go of my worry and embrace the game. I’m a mind-bendingly patient turn based strategy player and I’m happy to take an entire turn to perfect a overwatch killzone. So it was nice to be shaken up – you’ll know the mission I mean once you play it. One of your guys gets separated. Great mission, great gameplay hook and just loads of Tyranids. I backed my lonely assault marine into a corner and hunched over the iPad.
Dammnit, they’d got me again.
Graphics, UI and Sound
Straight up, this is a great looking game. It justifies the huge download. The Landscapes are dark, gritty and messy if your trying to cleanse a city, or organic and pulsing if you’re chainswording your way through a hive. The atmosphere that was so sadly lacking in previous game has been handed back, with force. Very impressive for the iPad.
The UI is restrained and sombre, as befits the mood of a desperate last stand for humanity. Moody star sprawl as a backdrop builds the scope and the planets themselves give off a certain nastiness. Maybe it’s the doctrine of the Emperor taking over, but I had to get down there and purge with fire, or whatever.
Navigation of the game board is easy enough once you’re fluent in the use of action points – I haven’t mistepped once thanks to a double-tap approach to movement. Any and all related deaths are my own fault, not clumsy UI.
The sound is great – there are alien howls and the snickering of claws as you guide your squad about, even when you can’t see anything. Disconcerting and claustrophobic. Especially the heavy thuds of the bigger bugs.
Building your marine squad is the centre of the game and they have appropriately diverse tactical options for your guys – take a good read through your options before you allocate your points. I won’t spoil away the radically different marine styles you can use – suffice to say I replayed a couple of missions with a hard-as-nails Space Wolf assault squad and had great fun.
I tend to get a bit attached to my favourite marines and this is where the sometimes brutal gameplay really ups the tension. Thing is, your marines aren’t that tough. Sure, they can take some hits from those termagent spine guns no problem, but once you start messing with the bigger aliens, that power armour is looking decidedly thin. My advice is to always have a massive gun pointed everywhere, all at once, on overwatch. Overcharge plasma shots are a marine’s best friend.
The claustrophobic elements of Space Hulk are back and it is that sense of death-around-the-next-corner that has really grabbed me with this title. Deathwatch Tyranid Invasion is a brilliant example of turn based strategy and how to work up the tension, where one AP too far might turn your cover-less marine into a mess of meat. Tread carefully and that overwatch button is about to be your new best friend.
The overwatch system is easy to implement and a key element of the game – the Tyranids swarm from all directions and though the little termagents tend to just runs at you, the bigger guys are tricksy and do their best to hit and run.
The linear quest line is absorbing and has a clever range of missions – it’s an exciting feeling going into a new mission as you debate whether you’ve the strongest squad. Heavy weapons in a tunnel? Assault marines trying to close in a Broodlord?
Marines and Monetisation
Marine death is very probable at some point and rather than have you cut loose and lose the marine in question, you lose their accumulated experience. Which, as you play the game, is a big deal. Some skills/abilities/wargear slots can take a loooong time to save up for. It hurts. So be careful out there.
I’m always alert for monetisation methods and it’s pretty up front with Deathwatch – You get packs that contain three cards, one of which is rarer than the others. You’ll get marines and wargear to bolster your roster of the Emperor’s finest. These are collected slowly in game, or you can purchase a bunch of them and get a head start. The game is very playable without IAP and I think Rodeo Games have struck a good balance between IAP and progression. Well played.
So, without further ado, Deathwatch Tyranid Invasion gets a hugely healthy 5 stars. Brilliant turn based strategy. Revival of the 40k games line. Go get it.
Big Plus Points:
- Brilliant and immersive turn based strategy.
- Lovely to look at and contains a gritty and dark atmosphere, perfect for the 40k universe.
- UI is smooth and in-game actions are easy to navigate.
- You get the whole game – no IAP’s halting progress.
- You can tailor your squad to be awesome – live the dream of a Space Wolf only assault team, or a boiling mad Blood Angel tactical squad.
Big Minus Points:
- Big download, not for the mini-memories among us.
- If you lose your marine on the cusp of leveling up a skill, you might get violent.