Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command «

“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war” reads the tagline for Games Workshop’s classic tabletop war game Warhammer 40,000. Set in the year 40,000, 40K’s “heroes” are the fascist Space Marines, spearhead of the human empire’s war efforts against countless aliens, heretics and mutants. Mostly, humanity battles itself, including the battles between Chaos and Loyal Space Marines featured in Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command. Unfortunately, Squad Command is just as internally conflicted; it’s a good game that forces you to wage constant war against its problems.

Resembling a Mass-Reactive Round to the Cranium

The game unfolds between functional illustrated cut scenes detailing a war between the Word Bearers Chaos Marines and the Ultramarines chapter of Space Marines. Combat is turn-based, with you taking all of your actions, then your opponent, and so on. You control six units in each of the game’s 15 missions and in multiplayer mode, each unit expending a limited number of “action points” to move and fight, with action points refreshing at the start of each turn.

Movement is unrestricted by grids, with a simple line showing where your units can go, a number on the side noting how many action points that move will take. Weapon fire takes a preset number of AP, ranging from six all the way up to 12. You can always spend extra AP to make a shot more accurate. The game’s terrain — usually Gothic ruins of cities — is fully destructible. Aiming your weapons requires a tap of the O button to swap your unit into fire mode. In fire mode, a line traces out from your unit’s gun barrel to wherever you point with the d-pad. Green indicates a sure hit, red a likely miss, and black means that something is blocking your line of sight. The analog nub can move the camera in a very limited fashion, simply nudging it in the chosen direction a limited distance, as if the camera was a physical one that was being swung.

Add in both ad hoc and infrastructure wireless (with up to eight players) and you have a very solid base for a game. Unfortunately, these progenitor traits don’t end up birthing victorious legions. For each feature that works out, another works against you. Forcing you to move your units across terrain without being able to see if they’ll have line of sight is very true to the tabletop game. Experts online are already showing the tabletop gamer’s uncanny ability to put their units just out of reach while leaving them looking exposed.

But in the tabletop game, you can move the “camera,” your eye, wherever you like. Here, you’re stuck with a zoomed-in top-down perspective, and all that destructible cover is incredibly difficult to navigate. Want to know if you can shoot through a window tucked into a wall in the ruined cityscape between you and a Chaos Cultist? Advance one move space, go into fire mode, and trace out your firing line to see if it goes black to show you’ve got no shot. Fiddle with the d-pad to see if you just failed to put the aiming cursor just where Squad Command wants it, then move forward another infinitesimal degree. Then bring your aim cursor up again.

You’ll be creeping through the whole game like this, or else facing a quick death, because the AI has no issues instantly eyeballing amazing shots, or taking those shots from further into the fog of war than you can shoot. It’s not even that the AI cheats, so much as this is a game built to watch AIs fight each other in, not for a human to face off against an AI in.


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