Space Hulk: Deathwing is the first person shooter adaptation of the popular board game title by Games Workshop. It’s out now for PCs, and will follow for consoles in 2017.
Despite being announced quite a while ago, it was hard to get a glimpse of Space Hulk: Deathwing during its development. Up until this summer’s Gamescom, we hadn’t see any gameplay yet – and even at that trade show the game was only on display behind closed doors and on only one of the trade show’s three business days.
Luckily, we ended up booking a slot for the game and what we saw left us with questions but also looked properly atmospheric. With a dark and detailed gameworld and huge player characters and enemies to fight, it was the closest thing we had seen to actually walking around inside the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Our main questions were about how the story would develop, how the gameplay would grab players by the throat and how diverse the entire experience would be – after all, what we saw was a single mission with a few objectives, nothing more.
Much like the Space Hulk strategy games (dating back to the early nineties but with recent versions available as well), Deathwing sees you aboard a giant Space Hulk (a mass of warped/joined ships) with a group of space marines. The plot of Deathwing revolves around your objective to recover a relic from a space hulk called Oltheros, but there’s not too much in terms of story development while in-game – most of it is done during briefings.
As the leader of your unit you can issue basic commands to your fellow marines, which range from healing to guarding a certain strategic spot. It’s a bit like Left 4 Dead in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but not as polished or refined. Most of the time, your squadmates can be left to their own devices and they’ll do an okay job of fighting alongside you. It’s when you issue orders that don’t result in the desired effect that a troublesome AI system starts to bug you, so I ended up hardly ever using my command options.
The AI isn’t Deathwing’s only technical issue. Upon release, the game suffered from serious framerate drop as well as visual glitches and even crashes to desktop. Online cooperative play also suffered from a few connectivity issues, which further hurt our enjoyment. When the game’s release date was pushed back a few times we were worried that the game was still heavily under development, and the game’s state at release shows us this was most likely indeed the case.
As games are rarely re-reviewed once they’re patched up, we tried looking past the technical issues that plagued Deathwing upon release. When we do that, we see a competent team-based shooter that offers a better single player experience than the likes of Vermintide. Coop is decent enough as well, but it doesn’t have the depth that other more class-based titles offer. In both single and multiplayer, the game’s strongest suit is the atmosphere it conveys, which is claustrophobic and tense. Let’s hope the game gets patched up properly over the next few weeks or months. If it does, then add half a point to the score below. If it doesn’t, subtract a half or even full point.