Developer: Streum On Studio and Cyanide
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC (PS4 & XBOX One in the future)
Tested on: PC
Spacehulk: Deathwing – Review
Spacehulk: Deathwing is a first person shooter set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. As the leader of an elite space marine squad with a grand arsenal, you will clear a massive bulk of space debris from invading ruthless aliens which may form a threat to humanity if left unchecked. The game is deeply embedded in the Warhammer 40k lore. Spacehulk: Deathwing is developed by Streum On Studio and Cyanide, and published by Focus Home Interactive.
The intro of the game is incredibly short for a game embedded so deep in the lore of Warhammer 40k. The only thing you’ll get from the intro if you are not familiar with the setting, is that you are a guy in a huge powerful metal suit who needs to clear out a lot of aliens infesting an enormous space ship thing while carrying out some objectives there. This is cool enough as a setting for a shooter, but it would have been nice to know more about the faction you are with and what their deal is, why these aliens need to die and what they are doing on that ship.
For the uninformed (like me): The Death Wing is the elite first company of the Dark Angels chapter of the Space Marines. Space marines are the defenders of humanity, though they are heavily genetically altered to make them super powerful. The Dark Angels are considered to be one of the most powerful Space Marine Chapters. So, basically you are an ultra-uber-mega awesome character. You are an elite veteran and you are clad in a Terminator armor-suit which makes you stronger than a tank, while wielding epic weapons and psychic powers. A Space Hulk is the massive wreckage of one or multiple space ships and debris floating in space. The particular one you and your squad are exploring is infested by an alien species (referred to as Xenos in-game) called Genestealers, which are the most ravenous creatures of the fierce and ruthless Tyranids alien genus. Genestealers are a sort of advanced vicious reconnaissance for the Tyranids Hive Fleet space colonies and they exist in many forms, of which you will encounter many in the game. These aliens seem to consist out of teeth and claw, and they attack in numerous hordes at a time.
The story of Spacehulk: Deathwing starts with a premonition of your character, foretelling a dark threat from the past. An ancient space marine ship is found in a space hulk, and you and your team need to retrieve this ship. Tyranid aliens are infesting the space hulk where the ship is located, so first you’ve got to locate the ship and other recon teams. As you progress through the game, your team gets closer to the ten thousand year old ship, eventually uncovering an ancient artifact within that ship. This artefact is an ancient gene-seed, the bio-machines that let normal humans change into powerful space marines. The Tyranids infesting the space hulk have been using this material to develop themselves, making them stronger. If these Tyranids would combine with the main hive, the alien swarms all over the galaxy might get super powerful, and therefore you and your team try to scour the space hulk of the increasing hordes of the aliens, all while the Tyranid hive-fleet is approaching.
The graphics of Spacehulk: Deathwing are super impressive. The level design is beautiful, dark and eerie, perfectly fitting for the science-fiction fantasy setting of Warhammer 40k. Inside the humongous space ship which you and your squad are ridding of the Xenos, the creepy alien species inhabiting it, are masses of candles, fire pits, cloth banners, imposing statues, stone altars, and more dark fantasy style elements combined with the giant mechanisms, control panels, masses of pipes, metal corridors, stairs and walkways typical of sci-fi.
The characters look very impressive in their huge armor and feel very big when walking around in the game. The levels are full of ladders and manholes you can obviously not take as a huge armor clad Librarian, but the aliens can! The Tyranid aliens are looking like HR Giger’s twisted image of a merge between humanoids, lizards and insects, while some look more humanoid with dark robes and creepy heads. The special effects of firing weapons and abilities also look great, full of light and color, and sparking when hitting surfaces.
You’ll need a top-end PC to run the game smoothly on high settings, but even on low graphics quality settings the game looks good, though the textures are a bit fuzzy from up close, and the blood and gore look a bit plastic-y because of the reflections.The FPS did not drop noticeably on low graphics settings, even with hordes of enemies attacking.
The sound effects in the game are fantastic. Even simply walking around makes you feel like the huge metal giant you are, having a ‘THUMP’ from first one side, than the other with each step. Even objects in the environment make fitting sounds when they get hit, like a huge church bell in the beginning of the game which you could actually ring by shooting at it. In the beginning of the game the enemies are skulking around, constantly disappearing before you can attack them, and the skittering of their claws is positively creepy and makes you stay vigilant constantly. The creaking of the ship and the growling and screeching of approaching enemies really adds to the atmosphere. Your character and your AI companions make comments every now and then whenever enemies are in sight, when they hear them coming or about the mission. These lines are rather repetitive, but it’s nice to feel like the AI is really there instead of just silent companions. Other than the noises both foes and allies make, there isn’t really that much voice acting supporting the story, safe for the introduction cinematic, the briefings in-between missions and of course, when you reach the end of the game.
The first-person shooter Spacehulk: Deathwing starts out pretty quiet, where you can explore the massive gloomy space hulk and get real paranoid while searching for a lost team. You will briefly spot and hear enemies around you constantly.. and then they attack. Fast, from all around, in great hordes!
If you play the solo campaign you cannot choose a class, you are a Librarian, a warrior with psychic elemental powers. You fight alongside two AI companions, with an Apothecary (medic) and a heavy weapons specialist loadout. You can command these companions with a command wheel to move to a location, heal, follow or defend. You can choose the loadout of your team and yourself. By completing the campaigns of the solo mission, you can unlock weapons. There’s a huge arsenal to choose from eventually, ranging from pure melee, to flamethrowers, chain-guns and a gun/sword combo. At the end of a mission you will also earn a certain amount of skill points based on your achievements during the mission to distribute among three skill lines: Command to use your team more effectively, Devotion to get physically stronger and use artifacts, and Psychic for more powerful psychic attacks. The skill lines were rather basic, it would’ve been nice if there was an actual skill tree so you could create a personalized game style. A minor UI flaw was that the save games were not in chronological order.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward: use your weapons and skills to mow through the great swarms of aliens. It might be simple, but it’s still a lot of fun: you feel pretty epic while shooting down the hordes of Tyranids. The UI is straightforward as well: it’s just your teammates, ammo, health and a mini-map. There’s a map interface which shows you the alien spawns, and allows you to take over or destroy turrets. You can uncover secrets by breaking walls, and exploring will grant you extra skill points at the end of a chapter, which adds re-play value for completionists. If the battles get too intense, you can teleport away from the fray of battle using a psy-gate, which moves you to the load-out room, heals you and your team instantly and re-supplies you with ammo. You can use this ability three times per storyline chapter.
Spacehulk: Deathwing is a great shooter for Warhammer 40k fans who would like to experience for themselves to stand in the massive iron-clad boots of an elite space marine. However, Spacehulk: Deathwing does not really introduce the player to the setting, assuming you as a player already know everything your character knows. This is great and immersive for Warhammer 40k fans, but might confuse people who are new to the lore. However, the graphics, beautiful dark gothic atmosphere, epic level design and great sound design will impress any player, even when unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40k universe.