Several months ago, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch – Tyranid Invasion (try saying that a few times fast) released for iOS devices. In the world of portable games, it was considered a great success – Powered by the Unreal engine, it was a slick turn-based alien-blasting experience. Now Deathwatch makes its way to PC, in what is one of the better ports I’ve seen in recent years, ready to annihilate Tyranids all over again.
As far as ports go, Deathwatch is definitely an example of more Do’s than Don’ts, at least on the technical side. It runs smoothly and bug-free, which is quite impressive coming from a small studio. As par for a PC game, almost all of the game’s options from graphics to controls can be customized and remapped to suit your preferences. Keyboard and mouse control works well out-of-the-box with no tinkering required and the graphic options are comprehensive enough and cover all the usual elements. My one complaint is the complete lack of any sound/audio options – specifically, there’s no way to turn the game’s monotonous droning music off or even adjust the volume. After about an hour of play the music was so irritating that I had to turn the sound completely off, only turning it back on when my units talked to one another during the mission or to hear the firing effect of a new weapon.
Playing Deathwatch you’ll be responsible for two things: First, you’re in charge of outfitting your Space Marines with whatever weapons and wargear suits them (or you) best. Second, you’ll be commanding your team in the war against the Tyranid swarm in a turn-based fashion. There’s a certain depth to the outfit part, as each marine has three attributes to consider and they all come into play. Most obvious is the marine’s specialty – from melee-oriented Assault to the heavy Devastator, a marine’s specialty will determine the weapons available to him. Next is the marine’s chapter – with the Deathwatch composed of only the finest from all loyalist chapters, fielding a squad of ferocious Space Wolves is quite different than the meticulous Ultramarines. Last but not least, each marine can have a veterancy rank, with marines of higher rank having access to more skills and traits.
Obtaining equipment is one of the places where Deathwatch’s obvious mobile origins show through – you receive equipment (as well as additional marines) through cards which are awarded at mission’s end or bought using requisition, the game’s currency. While you receive requisition after each completed mission, the iOS version has micro-transactions to purchase additional card packs while the PC version does not. Since there’s no guarantee that a pack will have any viable equipment, you’re entirely at the mercy of a random generator.
Likewise, the game’s UI is overly simplified and is obviously designed for smaller screens. Certain key elements are missing – there’s no consolidated panel showing your marines and their remaining action points or health status. There’s also no hit percentage indicator when attacking nor is there a “show objective” button. The biggest problem with the UI’s simplicity is the issue of line of fire – you sometimes have to hope you’ll have a viable shot as opposed to knowing for a fact, especially when the fields of vision for several marines overlap.
Once you’ve successfully assembled your team and equipped them, it’s time to go shoot some Xeno scum. Deathwatch does a reasonable job of being an easy game to learn and an easier one to master. Throughout most of the campaign I deliberately used the exact same tactics and it wasn’t until the last couple acts that I was actually facing any real danger apart from the occasional plasma gun-related setback. There are two higher difficulty tiers available once you beat the campaign but they’re just the same missions all over again and the difference can easily be summed up as “Spawn all the Hormagaunts!”. First run of the campaign might still take you a good 8 hours to beat, but that number is rather fluid and depends on how much XP grinding you can stomach – I’m guessing as little as 4-5 hours for an objective-oriented no-setbacks run or even upwards of 60 hours for a maxed-out “get everything, beat the campaign on all the difficulties” run.
Lore-wise, Deathwatch swings in a wide angle – it completely fails to provide some basic world lore on one hand but on the other hand, during a mission two of my marines were discussing a battle so obscure it took me a moment to remember where have I heard that name before. If you’re not at least reasonably familiar with Warhammer 40,000 lore, it’s best you treat Deathwatch as a typical Marines vs. Aliens game and leave it at that but if you’re a fan of the series, you can expect a few hidden references that’ll definitely make you smile.
In trying to aim for as wide an audience as possible, Deathwatch isn’t a game for everyone. Its simple mechanics and polished graphics are going to appeal to anyone looking for an “Entry Level” game in the turn-based genre but it’s just too simple for everyone else. You can certainly enjoy it in bite-sized sessions in between other, more serious, games or you can use it as a warm-up to other major titles yet to come – but you won’t be missing much if you skip it.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.