Space Hulk: Deathwing Preview - E3 2016
More shooting and looting in the Warhammer 40k universe
Space Hulk: Deathwing is another game born from the super-popular Warhammer 40k universe, created by Streum On Studio. This one, however, comes in the form of an action FPS, where you take command of a Librarian, in the customary WH hulking suit of power armor. You’re part of a secretive company: the Deathwing from the Dark Angels, and are tasked with clearing out Space Hulks, which look like massive renaissance churches on wings that would take Michelangelo a millennia to paint. In a preview, we followed our knight errant-infected Librarians cleansing one of the Space Hulks from the golum-esque Genestealers. This is our second look at the game after E3 2015 preview.
Right off the bat, it’s plain to see that a Librarian in Warhammer 40k does not spend his time shushing noisy library goers. Unless “to shush” in the game’s universe is blasting them with a machinegun, and the library goers are mutant creatures that attack the player and his two other companions in hordes. As you level up you gain new skills, abilities and equipment. Fervor Points can be used on 4 skill trees to improve abilities, unlock new powers, and access powerful relics and weapons.
The level design stood out to me in Space Hulk: Deathwing. The Unreal 4 Engine brings out the aforementioned renaissance architecture really well. The statues, pews, deftly crafted columns and stained glass windows, with strings of light pouring through, look fantastic. However, I was left wondering where all that light was emanating from. The design of the Space Hulks themselves feel well thought out and based in the WH 40k universe.
Combat-wise, the game is a slow-paced FPS, which is juxtaposed against your lightning fast opponents. The Genestealers attack like a grey, slobbering wave, and you simply have to mow through them all with blade and gun. It’s simple. Occasionally, your characters will spout off lines that seem in keeping with the general tone of their universe. Personally, I’m not too big a fan of that sort of archaic delivery of dialogue, despite it coming rather infrequently. If you get too annoyed at your teammates, you can always give them instructions to scout ahead.
In the demo, you spend your time trudging through darkened corridors, occasionally entering these resplendent areas which look like a church. These are the areas where the majority of the action happens, and you usually have a few moments to formulate a battle plan. These plans mostly consist of sealing as many exits and points of infiltration as you can in order to stem the flood of Genestealers. It’s an interesting mechanic, which reminded me, vaguely, of tower defense games. And you basically progress through each area, sealing doors as you go, like you are the phrase “were you raised in a barn” personified. However, on occasion, we were able to smash through already sealed doors in order to create shortcuts. This action means that you are also opening yourself up to danger because you’ve just given the hordes a new place of entry.
Combat in Space Hulk: Deathwing also demands that you keep your head on a swivel, which must be difficult in those cumbersome suits. More often than not, you’ll hear one of your team wailing like a crazed actor in a Shakespearian play. Luckily, one of our heroes with us was a healer, so he could replenish everyone’s health when the Genestealers were getting a little too intense. Each marine can take damage to specific parts of their armor, which you can’t let become too broken. Our Librarian also had his set of special moves to blast away the critters and earn some space. One such move was a sort of arc lightning attack which was capable of giving the legions of Genestealers a nice shock.
After clearing more hallways, our Librarians/janitors arrived in a cathedral to face off with the boss of the area: a slimy, grey-skinned… thing, which was massive. Its army of followers will still attack you while you’re trying to kill it, so there was a trade off in when to be offensive against the giant creature or deal with the wee beasties that are annoying you like flies. Just hit its weak point for massive damage. Done. At the end, the summary screen let us know we’d picked up a new weapon of mass deathification.
My lasting impression of Space Hulk: Deathwing was that it’s a pretty simple game. You go in, you shoot lots of things, maybe deal with a few objectives and get some loot from it all. I do feel that the combat may get a bit monotonous, and the levels would not wow me if they all appeared the same, despite how lovely their presentation might be. Its slower pace could be a nice change for some, and the foundation of lore should appeal to Warhammer 40k players. Space Hulk: Deathwing will be released for PC, Xbox One and PS4.