SundayBits – Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf Review

TODAY: Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf? More like Snorehammer – This week we’re looking at Elixir Studio’s love letter to Dungeon Keeper, Evil Genius, in our Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

World domination was stylishly hilarious in the 1960s-70s era of Evil Genius

It was Peter Molyneux and Bullfrog Productions that brought us the idea that it was ‘good to be bad’ with Dungeon Keeper, and it was Elixir Studios in late 2004 with Evil Genius that proved camp villainy really is just too good to miss out on as well.

Simply put, Evil Genius is a huge love letter to Dungeon Keeper but with its own unique spin. You don’t skulk in the dirt beneath a quant countryside, awaiting the forces of good to burrow down and strike at your damp torch-lit dungeon. In Evil Genius you proclaim a remote tropical island as your lair, and carve your way into the side of a mountain with big plans for the world, laughing maniacally.

It’s set during a vague 1960s – 70s timeline, which is perhaps one of the greatest decisions Elixir made because of the great aesthetics they get to work with. It embraces the earlier and more outlandish James Bond storylines such as Moonraker and Goldfinger. It relishes in the over-the-top scheming, uniformed minions, ridiculously sized lairs and pantomime villainy.

Beware agents of S.A.B.R.E , P.A.T.R.I.O.T, H.A.M.M.E.R, A.N.V.I.L and S.M.A.S.H

You’ll be planning your base through various blueprints as you unlock new technologies and rooms, dynamiting your way to a sprawling labyrinth of power plants, cantinas, barracks, research labs, shooting ranges, dojos, and of course security checkpoints, detention cells and traps.

Evil Genius took its love of traps to a whole other level because it encourages you to think up some real dastardly daisy-chain trap combos to foil agents from various spy agencies looking to undo our work. Of course our minions can get distracted and accidentally trigger them as well, or wandering tourists to the island get a little lost and are now laser beamed into a body bag. Whoops.

Minion management was the other big concern as we lurk deep within our secret island lair as our chosen Evil Genius. We have to make sure they get their needs seen to and that they aren’t falling over bodies of their now former compatriots, or even unwelcomed agents. Better build a bigger freezer to store those unsightly reminders of needing tighter security. We could also recruit special — and directly controllable — Henchmen that had their own unique abilities and set number of lives.

Is it an ‘act of infamy’ or a ‘humanitarian mission’ to destroy country music?

Sending out our (hopefully) capable minions to pull off heists of great art, shrinking world monuments or just to cause general mischief was the way to achieve our ultimate goal of world domination. This would of course draw the attention of the various different agencies that would step up their investigation of our little island, and mean we have to improvise new ways to thwart them. General worker minions aren’t so great at defence, but that’s what assault-rifled guards are for.

If you got too much attention then you could draw the deadly eye of the various super agents. Each axis of power had their own unique top super spy, which were modelled after iconic figures like James Bond and Rambo. They all had a big weakness to research and exploit though, as otherwise they were nearly unstoppable as they go on a rampage wiping out minions and blowing up the base.

It was a real dry humoured and campy real-time strategy sim that would slowly unfold more of its absurdities as you got bigger and more ambitious. Even researching new ideas in the game was about you just throwing objects together to see if your eggheads would come up with something new. Thankfully today’s owners of Evil Genius have done something similar because Rebellion is working on a sequel, and from what we’ve seen of the announcement trailer – there’s a whole new world in need of a scheming maniac.

Where to get Evil Genius today?

While you’ll be needing to lie low building your base chock full of minions and mischief, Evil Genius itself is right out in the open and available through Steam and the DRM-free GOG.com for PC.

Review - Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf

HeroCraft – Nintendo Switch

Release Date: January 23 2020

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf has clawed its way to the Switch, the fifth platform since 2014. Like before, Space Wolf, puts you in charge of the elite Space Wolves and pits you against hordes of Chaos Space Marines. That might sound a lot like an action game, but Space Wolf is actually a turn-based strategy and card game!

Every action in Space Wolf, from attacking enemies to moving around the battleground, is performed using collectible cards. While a blend of XCom and card game might seem like a good idea, Space Wolf fails to execute on the premise.

Space Wolf, coast to coast

The main attraction of Warhammer adaptations is the rich universe and lore, and games like Vermintide and Dawn of War II really live up to the potential of the license, and Space Wolf’s story mode tries to keep up – but the slow and tedious missions end up killing any desire to follow the story through.

The whole game is so slow-paced that it’s hard to resist skipping the dialogue. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the gameplay was great … but unfortunately it isn’t, and just feels like an endless grind.

Space Wolf was originally a free-to-play game with optional paid expansions. The Switch version isn’t free, but includes all the expansions out of the box and dispenses with some of the mobile version’s grinding, but it’s just not enough to make the game pace feel like it belongs on console.

The port isn’t particularly great either. It seems to be based off the PlayStation 4 port, which is rather baffling since the Switch has a touch screen and the game would fit it very well. Of course, most users will play in docked mode but it’s still a bit of a missed opportunity. The UI also looks a bit cramped on the Switch Lite, and other niggling issues like poorly explained button prompts and the fact that it runs in 30FPS even in docked mode makes the game feel unpolished.

On top of that, Space Wolf can only be played online, for apparently no reason. There are no microtransactions and no multiplayer, but you need to be connected to the internet to start the game. I had my internet connection drop mid-game, which didn’t seem to affect the game at all once it was started. Why force arbitrary restrictions on paying customers for no reason?

X-Com with cards? If only

In the end, only the most ardent and patient of Warhammer fans will find anything to enjoy in Space Wolf. If the premise sounds interesting in spite of the Switch port’s flaws, you can download the iOS or Android version for free and check it out before you pay the full price.

4/10

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