Space Hulk: Deathwing Impressions—Empty Chaos

Game: Space Hulk: Deathwing

Developer: Streum On Studio

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Reviewed: PC

Dressed in a bulky sci-fi exoskeleton, Space Hulk: Deathwing wastes no time in establishing a scene of objective-driven gameplay that’s punctuated by Warhammer 40K style lore: Umbra Mortalis, the shadow of death is descending upon you, a space marine, and you’re tasked with assisting the imperial navy and Astra Militarum in eliminating the scourge that is Oletheros. A solid tutorial walks players through the basics: shooting, slashing your sword, unleashing magical abilities like lightning strike and psychic powers, but the first mission quickly descends into a frustrating, labyrinthine exercise in navigating locked doors and blocked passages.

Scattered throughout the tunnels are minor and major relics, whose discovery lends dynamic relief to the game (to what end, I’m not certain), but the action really comes to life when bloodthirsty, multi-limbed arachnoids called Genestealers materialise in your path and initiate a nonstop bulletfest. Combat is repetitive yet decent – there’s support from two robo-brothers to obliterate the hordes, and a quick exit to the transdimensional Psygate that lets you auto-heal (and manually save), but despite the constant stream of objectives I found myself craving something extra. I love the distant, forlorn atmosphere. Grand Master Belial’s (Hello, Diablo 3) commands sound epic and authentic. Even as someone who’s rarely interested in pure shooters, I felt a magnetic pull towards the setting and brutal, mecha-style art – but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a general sense of dullness. This rests either on my lack of familiarity with both the genre and the Warhammer 40K universe, or simply boils down to monotonous gameplay that suffers from lack of variety, doesn’t really demand a whole lot of technique or tactics from players (something which could have boosted the enjoyment value tremendously) and seems disconnected from the brilliant lore showcased in the opening sequences. Space Hulk: Deathwing is conceptually strong, but falls short of consistently engaging its audience.

Space Hulk: Deathwing is out now via Steam for $39.99 USD.

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.