Prior to booting up Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch on my iPad, my only experiences with the Warhammer 40k franchise was playing one of the PC games at a LAN party over a decade ago and seeing the overpriced miniatures for sale at a comic book store I used to frequent just as long ago. Needless to say, I know very little about Warhammer 4ok beyond that it primarily involves bulky space marines blasting apart aliens with rifles and chainsaw guns.
When I started up Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch for the first time, I expected just that: big, bulky space marines blasting through waves of enemy aliens. The game does feature such an experience, but unfortunately, it’s with a less than thrilling delivery.
Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch is a turn-based strategy game that has players maneuvering a squad (specifically, the titular Deathwatch elite force) throughout various levels attempting to complete objectives of varying types. From eliminating particular enemy leaders to securing a location and holding out for a specified amount of turns, each level that I played felt unique and stood out well enough from the previous missions.
As a turn-based game, players will be able to individually control each of the squad members provided to them. With a set amount of energy points for each character, players can choose to move or attack enemies on each turn. Most interestingly, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch features a mechanics called Overwatch that allows the player to position a character and have them behave as, essentially, a stationary turret. I’ve been told that this is a series staple, but if you’re new to the franchise like I am, you’ll no doubt find it to be a welcome inclusion. This mechanic was really fun to play around with as it resembled a unit standing-by, on guard, as the other team members move into position. It costs some energy to shift a unit into Overwatch, but for each remaining energy point left, they can attack any enemy that enters into their cone-of-vision.
Overall, Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch is a pretty sound strategy game. Different units are better in situations, and their weaknesses can be made up for in the strengths of other units. Enemies are decently varied enough to keep things interesting without being overwhelming. And the ability to customize individual squad members with unlockable weapons and names is a fun little touch that allowed me to insert some much-needed humor in a game that takes itself a bit too seriously.
Unfortunately, the game’s solid mechanics cannot make up for the fact that the experience is a slog to get through.
The game takes too long to process enemy moves, loading times can drag on, and the camera is locked during enemy turns so you end up looking at things you can’t even see. I played the game on my iPad Mini 2, which the game specifically mentions can run the game in the iTunes product description. Yet half the time I spent with Warhammer 40k: Deathwatch was staring at a motionless screen while “Enemies moving…” informed me that the A.I. was taking a break to scratch it’s computer head and ponder its next move.
Once the game gets a move on, I’d lose control of the camera as it panned around the level, indicating the locations of enemy movement. This was great when enemies were in my line of sight, because I could watch them slowly creep across the board towards my troops. But, if they were in the Fog of War, I was stuck watching absolutely nothing happen. To make matters worse, sometimes the camera would seemingly be unable to keep up with the already slow pace of enemy moves, and hang at particular move and I’d have to slide the camera back across the level to my own units to resume the game.
Once Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch gets rolling, it’s a great mobile strategy game that genre fans will undoubtedly enjoy. Unfortunately a number of backend issues really hold the experience back from being a must buy for strategy gamers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some patches.