If you like this game, the online mode with give you reason to live!
The Warhammer franchise has been adopted, adapted, and assimilated into a handheld gaming system. The result is Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command, a turn-based, tactical game which lives up to its name quite well despite some in-your-face technical issues. It’s still a fun game that manages to extract a lot of action from the turn-based genre. It’s like carrying a futuristic war around in your pocket.
The Warhammer franchise is deep. There are tons of Warhammer games on the market, from video to board games, not to mention plenty of literature which expounds and expands upon the Warhammer universe. Fortunately, you don’t have to know anything about Warhammer’s heritage. This game explains everything that you need to know to play it, although fans will be rewarded with various references to races, places, and faces. Nicely produced cutscenes explain the war being waged between the space marines of Chaos and the Imperium.
As the name suggests, Chaos are the bad guys. Playing as the Imperium, you command six units on the battlefield. There are a series of missions and objectives to complete, with the ultimate objective of destroying the enemy in the process. You’ll have a satisfying arsenal of weapons at your disposal including lasers, plasma beams, and tanks. It’s as though Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command wants to be a RTS rather than a turn-based game. It does straddle the boundary between the two with some really good animated action sequences and a quick pace, but the lack of a grid system makes aiming the cursor more difficult than it would be with a mouse. Commands are relegated to the D-pad. You don’t even get the option to use the nub, which I thought was a no-brainer. The D-pad just doesn’t have the flexibility required, causing you to make mistakes by selecting the wrong unit or sending the right unit to the wrong place.
It’s difficult to see the entire battlefield. Even though the maps are 3D, the camera angle is limited, mostly to an overhead, isometric perspective. The environments are almost entirely destructible, which causes the battlefield to change after virtually every turn, since obstacles will be destroyed, with new places to take cover or shoot from created. This dynamic battlefield really adds an extra dimension to the strategy element of the gameplay. Units have to be continually moved as protective obstacles are blown to bits. You’ll have to decide if you should spend your points on moving or attacking if you notice that the enemy is vulnerable at that time.
Here’s an overview of how the game works: After selecting and outfitting your six units, you will command them around the battlefield using action points. These points are limited so you have to make the best choices possible. You can move your units around the battlefield or attack the enemy. You can only attack the enemy if they are within your line of sight, which is not made any more convenient by the limited camera angle. Once you choose to attack, you can set the direction of your attack and use a few points to increase the accuracy. Once your points have been spent, your turn is over and the game plays out your decisions. It’s then your opponent’s turn to try to destroy you.
Each mission increases exponentially in difficulty. It’s a gradual curve, one that you can adapt to. Overall the gameplay is not very difficult. It won’t satiate hardcore strategist, which is why there is more of a focus on action. But the average gamer will be challenged by the battles. The A.I. reacts accordingly to your commands, but due to the technical issues, has a consistent unfair advantage. It’s something that you’ll have to compensate for which will cause you to adopt some unique techniques such as commanding all six units individually, since they seem to stick together like overcooked macaroni.
Selecting and deselecting units can drive you nuts. It’s as though the cursor is an un-removable umbilical cord tied to your soldiers. You’ve got to learn to click on a neutral area before you make a move, otherwise you’re likely to make an accidental move and waste your points for your turn. The radar will display information such as unit position and the tracing of projectiles. At times you won’t be able to see the battlefield clearly, or at least clear enough to keep track of your units. The radar is invaluable for this situation, not to mention that it allows you to pinpoint the whereabouts of enemies firing at you that the camera doesn’t show you. Due to the camera angles and line of sight firing rules, you can’t fire back at the enemy but you can get the hell out of the way. You also have the option of shooting directly through your own soldiers, using them as cover. It may not be the most noble of strategic tactics, but since the A.I. doesn’t play fair, it’s any port in the storm.
Each mission is presented in bite-sized chunks. That’s always a consideration for a good portable game. You can burn through a mission in less than half an hour. These games are streamlined for easy accessibility which may not appeal to the hardcores that want more depth. The level of intensity is entirely up to you. You can play it like an action game or like a methodical chess match. Online and ad hoc modes will definitely extend the replay value since you don’t have to worry about the unfair A.I. advantages. All players will suffer from the restrictive camera angles and awkward D-pad controlled cursor. The multiplayer mode will accommodate up to eight players, but you can play with as few as only one other player.
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command displays good quality graphics, although they appear a little hazy and washed out at times. The explosions and animations are good but are few and far between. The screen is static a lot of the time which is made all the more noticeable by the lack of in-game music. This game does not give the impression of a big budget production. It will find its audience with Warhammer fans and those gamers that find most strategy games too involved.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Great destructible environment, but largely static screen. 1.5 Control
The control system is awful. Accuracy, selecting, deselecting and camera angles erode the fun. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The visual effects are good but rare. No in-game soundtrack. 4.0 Play Value
If you like this game, the multiplayer modes will give you reason to live. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.