The Sons of Russ are coming to the Nintendo Switch in a new version of Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf from developer HeroCraft. Upon booting up the game, players are greeted with a snarling, killer Space Wolves logo as the game loads. Tips are displayed below the Wolf head, preparing you for your mission to bring glory to The Emperor. Without warning – no title screen, no cinematic, no preamble whatsoever – you’re simply thrust into your first mission (a tutorial).
“Kill all Chaos Space Marines!” the directive boldly states as one of the aforementioned enemies appears on the screen via a dialogue box. He proceeds to insult you and warn that you’re trespassing on the world of Kanak…and the punishment is death. Thus begins a bold new adventure set in the colorful world of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000. You begin the game as Valgard, a Space Wolves Gray Hunter, who is joined by other units throughout the level.
The story is typical of the grimdark, high space fantasy style of the fluff (what fans of the game call the plots, short stories, and other non-gameplay mechanic related content available for the hobby) Games Workshop has developed for this scenario. It’s accessible for fans and newcomers alike, but the plot certainly isn’t the focal point of the game. It’s good, but who needs a fancy tale when there are Chaos Space Marines that need to be dealt with?
To that end, the gameplay is turn-based strategy, similar to the tabletop game. Except here, actions are determined by selecting cards (movement, weapons, shields, and so on) and making decisions based on environment and enemy troop placement. The cards are selected at random and can be used to invoke a certain card’s function (a weapon for example) or to move. Unlike similar games, there is no independent movement function, so all in-game troop movement must be accomplished via discarding something from your on-screen deck/arsenal. It was confusing at first, but once I caught on to the quirks and nuances of the game play, it created a smooth tactical combat experience. I rather like the mechanic and I have to sincerely thank the developer for including a tutorial in the prologue mission, as the play control was a bit complicated at first. Expect to use both analog sticks and all of the trigger buttons regularly. A Pro Controller will help, but it plays just fine with the Joy Cons if you’re accustomed to the shorter sticks.
In true Warhammer tradition, it’s also tough as nails…even in easy mode. Missions are complex and difficult, while maintaining a level of fun rather than frustration. Learning to strategize which cards are most effective during a given mission is challenging, but rewarding if you manage to play your cards right.
While the gameplay is pretty solid, it doesn’t hurt that the game also looks good. Characters are rendered in a Codex-accurate way and the environments are highly detailed. It truly feels as if you’re battling within the environs of a hostile alien world. I recommend playing the game in docked mode for the maximum effect.
The music is high quality, if a bit generic. It stays true to the ambiance of the game with military style instrumental tracks. Sound effects include weapon blasts, screams, and such, typical of what you’d find in most military strategy games. Nothing really stood out as outstanding or memorable in the audio department, but at the same time there was nothing glaringly wrong either.
Later in the game you face new foes and gain new allies, all while encountering increasingly tougher odds of survival. It’s loads of fun, enhanced by the inclusion of all previous DLC in this game. In between missions, you can forge new armor, obtain new cards, take on challenges, and adjust the settings. Even though this was originally a mobile game, it scales up nice to the Switch.
Ultimately, there’s a lot to do here, but it just doesn’t quite capture the tabletop experience as much as I’d like. Despite that, Space Wolf is an inexpensive and suitable entry into the digital world of 40K and with its fun, atmospheric gameplay, it may just pique your interest in exploring the world of Warhammer more thoroughly. Or at least give you something to do in between tabletop battles.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a fun, full immersion, Warhammer experience you won’t want to miss. It melds turn-based strategy with card games to create an enjoyable time. Fans of the universe will probably enjoy the game more than newcomers, but this one is still approachable enough.