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Spacehulk Tactics – Hands-On at E3 2018

In the future, there is only war. On a dark, derelict spaceship, rotting away in the depths of space, a group of battle-hardened marines boards a mysterious vessel. These marines are emblazoned with the bright red colors of The Blood Terminators, a terrifying sight for any foe. They have boarded this dark and mysterious vessel to avenge their brothers and to reclaim the honor of their chapter.

In between the hulking footsteps of their armor, the faint sounds of screeching come from deep within the metal husks of the vessel. These are the claws of a vicious enemy, known for terrifying screams and voracious desire to multiply, infect, and corrupt all who come across. These are the genestealers and this Spacehulk: Tactics by Cyanide Games.

Spacehulk Tactics is a newer interpretation of the classic board game by Games Workshop, called Spacehulk. Set within the chaotic universe of Warhammer 40K, Spacehulk set a new stage of brutality, danger, and unpredictability for players.

Players would be fortunate to survive the genestealer onslaught with just a single marine clinging for dear life. The board game became a huge influence and was inevitably translated into various video games, a lineage that goes as far back as the early 1990’s. Spacehulk has been a first-person shooter, a turn-based X-COM-like game, and traditional tactical game in the past few decades.

Cyanide Games, along with France-based publisher, Focus Home Interactive are hoping to blend an interesting mix of tactics and perspectives to freshen the formula for a new generation of players. I got a chance to check the game out at the Focus Home Booth at E3 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

I was introduced to a traditional mission in the game and started it immediately. The mission was an elimination mission, which required me to proceed to a particular area and torch the entire room. I was accompanied by five blood marines, including an assault marine with ranged weapons, and two close-range marines designed for heavy combat in close-quarters. I was familiar with the game, having played 2015’s Spacehulk from Hoplite Research on the PlayStation Vita. With that, I knew what to expect. However, there was a catch.

The mission was actually a versus mission in which I was facing another member of the development team. The developer would play as the genestealers, the enemies of Spacehulk with several dangerous advantages. The gene stealers are genetically engineered for close-range and can easily slice through the armor of any marine. Additionally, they are evolved into several different types and know the layout of the ship extremely well. With that, my mission began.

The key to Spacehulk: Tactics is overwatch, which places your marine in a defensive position and readies them for oncoming combat. I moved my marines into the rest of the level, which consisted of long corridors and multiple chambers, making the journey to the objective long and uneasy. Soon enough, the genestealers arrived. At first, they were blips on the radar, only appearing if a marine were to have line-of-sight. After the enemy’s turn, I was introduced to the mechanics of Spacehulk Tactics.

Players are assigned action points for each marine. How you spend your action points is the key to victory. Players can attack, move, or perform one of a variety of moves throughout the stage. Once those points are depleted, you cannot perform any more actions and must end the turn. Unique to Spacehulk: Tactics are the use of tactics cards. These cards allow for special abilities that each marine can perform, form special melee to efficient ranged attacks. If players need more action points, they may be allowed to sacrifice the tactics card in exchange for more action points. While this may remove an important perk, this may also become a necessary action to surviving a potentially game-ending situation.

As the gene stealers closed in, my Librarian marine was able to open fire with his bolter and exterminate two gene stealer creatures. Spacehulk Tactics used an incredibly satisfying action-camera that showcases the thrilling detail of the enemies, as well as your marines in action. Additionally, I switched my marine to a first-person view. In a satisfying fashion, I watched as my marines brutally slaughtered gene stealers, using their shields, hammers, and claws.

The first-person view, in particular, really emphasized the level of claustrophobia and despair of the combat experience, which was exciting to see. The game understood the tactical and grim nature of the board game. Eventually, after a few tries, I was able to move closer to the objective and torch the room. My mission was accomplished.

Following my mission, I was shown the customization options of the game, which includes custom missions. Players can customize both the genestealers and their preferred chapters of marines. Players can customize the look of each member of their squad with a variety of customization options. This includes their weapons, armor parts, and head units.

Furthermore, players can create their own Spacehulk mission, with their own corridors, arrangements, and objectives. For those that are familiar with Warhammer 40K lore, the Eldar and Orc vessels will be available to customize into the game. When they have completed building their mission, players can upload their levels online, as well as go head-to-head in online tactical combat.

My time with Spacehulk: Tactics was very satisfying. The combat was a very polished blend of board-game gameplay and classic tactical combat. The game’s presentation was sharp, with fantastic combat and action animation s, along with a sharp artistic style. The game’s interface and mechanics make this a solid enjoyment for fans of tactical games, as well as great for those new to the genre. Between the mission customization and online gameplay modes, Spacehulk: Tactics looks to be quite an enjoyable experience for the long-term, regardless of what platform you play on.

Spacehulk: Tactics launches for Steam, PS4, and Xbox One in 2018.

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