The original release of Space Hulk was seen by many as a good representation of the board game original, but limited in scope as a video game. The core board game mechanics don’t allow for the amount of depth we’ve come to expect from titles in the genre, and developer Full Control didn’t address this in their initial game. Now, with the Ascension Edition, they are looking to upgrade the entire experience.
In the Ascension Edition, tons of new content was added, including new weapons and enemies. Featuring over 100 missions throughout the game’s 3 campaigns, the developer promises 50 to 100 hours of game time before you’ve completed everything. We’re not at that point yet, but that’s an excellent definition of value for money as long as the core gameplay experience is worth investing that amount of time in.
On the surface, not that much has changed. Space Hulk is still a turn-based strategy game about Space Marines and aliens duking it out in the far reaches of space. Battles take place aboard ‘Space Hulks’, abandoned starships that convey a sense of dread with their dark and narrow passageways. All your actions use up points, and it doesn’t matter if it’s shooting, moving, changing position or even just turning around. If you are to beat the enemy, strategy and cunning are required, not just sheer firepower.
Looking at some of the major changes that Full Control has implemented, it’s quickly obvious that selecting a certain campaign (and therefore Space Marine squad) drastically changes the gameplay. The original game focused on the Blood Angels, but selecting the now-included Space Wolves or Ultramarines will result in a heavier focus on either melee or long range combat. This has an effect on what the most effective strategy is, but can also be seen in difference in weapons and armor.
Aside from adding a ton of new content, Full Control has also tweaked the gameplay and RPG elements play a big role in the Ascension Edition. Your Space Marines now gain experience points that can be used to increase your weapon skills and other abilities. This adds an extra element to the game, because keeping your well-trained men alive for a few missions really pays off after a while. It also accentuates how challenging Space Hulk is, because even though the core mechanics aren’t terribly complex, it’s a hard game where Space Marines drop dead quickly and often.
The interface and visuals also got reworked for this new edition, and at the very last moment Full Control even decided to completely redo the tutorial sections. Their desire to do everything just right this time shows at every corner, and is great to see. That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, as it can sometimes be hard to see certain details that would have helped you be more effective in your mission planning. Still, this is a great turn-based strategy game and a one that will appeal even to gamers who never played the board game. That’s one of the hallmarks of a good videogame adaptation, so well done!