Review – Space Hulk: Tactics
I’ve been a fan of the Warhammer setting since all the way back in 1995 when Electronic Arts (they’d yet to shorten the name to EA) released the clumsily-titled Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels for the 3DO. The first-person shooter introduced me to a world of power armour, chainsaw swords, bolter pistols, and alien enemies so vicious they’d haunt your dreams. Now 23 years later I’m still a huge fan of the setting, and there’s a new Space Hulk game for me to tackle – Space Hulk: Tactics.
Like Vengeance before it Tactics offers a first-person view, but I didn’t use it more than a few times and even then solely for the immersion it provides. Where Vengeance was all about blasting Genestealers, Tactics is more strategic in nature and the overhead 3D isometric view provides a lot more situational awareness.
The game follows a team of Space Marine Terminators as they explore Forge World Gorgonum, a dilapidated jumble of ships cobbled together. As a team, the Space Marines must seek out the reason the ship is on a collision course with the planet and find a way to destroy it to end the threat – wiping out hundreds of Genestealers and Tyranids along the way.
Progressing through the campaign I was pleasantly surprised to find several different mission types. On one map I was asked to hold out against wave after wave of enemies, while on another I was tasked with going on the offensive to wipe out all the enemies on the playfield. From escort missions to holding actions, there’s a satisfying level of tactical engagement necessary to claim victory at the end. Gamers will have to trick enemies into traps, set up ambushes, and take advantage of environmental objects like turrets to win the day.
With only four action points per unit, per turn, players need to constantly think one or two turns ahead. Spending two of a unit’s action points to use Overwatch – providing cover by firing on anything that moves in the squares it threatens – to allow another unit to safely use a computer would be simple enough if there were unlimited action points, but when you know that half of your action points are going to be spoken for, even a small thing like unit positioning and the direction they’re facing becomes crucial.
Fortunately, there’s a small relief valve for the stress – a card system. These cards, one of which can be used or converted each turn, provide either a specific buff to a character – turning their next melee attack into a guaranteed hit, for example – or can be converted into action points. This really ups the tactical depth, allowing for things like having a unit do a double move in a turn to reach safety, or to fire six shots at a horde of oncoming enemies and then enter Overwatch. Cleverly played, cards can turn the tide of battle in a single turn.