Friday 28 November 2014

Space Hulk Ascension Review (PC)

Almost a year ago now we reviewed the first version of Full Control's take on the classic Space Hulk board game. It was a faithful rendition of the Space Marines versus Genestealers conflict with original maps being used and the same reliance on dice rolls. In effect it recreated the table top game very well but didn’t add much else. 

This new version of Space Hulk looks to build on the foundations of the first game and bring the digital version of the franchise close to the realms of a turn based strategy game rather than a recreation of a table top board game and as such a host of new features have been implemented.

The maps for three new campaigns have now been designed from scratch and players get the choice of leading one of three Space Marine chapters into the decaying hulks. You can pick from the Ultra Marines, Blood Angels and Space Wolves with each chapter having a few different specialisms and skills. It seems strange that the Deathwing chapter hasn’t been used here but we suspect that might be something of a rights issue as they are set to star in a Space Hulk game of their very own.

As you progress through the campaigns your marines now level up and begin to gain access to different weapons and equipment. This gives a bit more of a tie to your marines and helps to differentiate them. Starting out with a basic Storm Bolter and Power Fist Combo you’ll soon have access to a range of weaponry which makes your load outs much more flexible. The Genestealer side of things has also been worked on with numerous variants now stalking the narrow corridors of the ships.

The game certainly seems a lot less clunky as well and turns have a better fluidity to them. Though hulking marines are never going to be zipping about the place it certainly moves along at a better pace than the original game and you never quite feel safe. Of course, you shouldn’t feel safe because this is a very difficult game. Even as an experienced player of the board game we found even getting though the initial missions difficult and one of two mistakes can easily end your mission.

That wouldn’t be so bad but there are two major issues which can stop the game being as fun and tactical as it should be. One is the lack of a tactical map which is perhaps the most crucial. The layout of levels is revealed as you explore the ship which is something that probably sounded like a good idea at the time. In reality, in this type of game you need to be able to work out well in advance where you need to place you Terminators. As they have such limited movement thinking up flexible tactics on the fly really isn’t a worthwhile option and wandering into a room only to find it contains a host of entry points for the enemy just doesn’t cut it.

The other issue is the general murk of the levels. It can be very hard to pick out basic features on the ships such as doors and air vents. The amount of times a Genestealer took out one of our marines from a space we didn’t even know about was infuriating and is something that really needs to be looked at. You can change the gamma levels to brighten things up but when you are looking at a dark map from almost a bird’s eye view it’s still very difficult to pick some things out. The command wheels on your Terminators are also very small. 

Overall, the game has certainly developed from the original but it has done some very good things while also introducing some bad things. We like the skill progression, the use of different chapters and the new maps. But we really could do without the murky levels and the fog of war which stops tight tactical planning - which in a game as tough as this is really needed.

Overall 7/10

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