Veteran Developer Hero Craft is bringing the Sons of Russ straight to your face with WarHammer 40k: Space Wolf[Free]. This visual stunner brings the table top classic to life in a squad based strategy card skirmish with the low low entry fee of nothing. If it sounds too good to be true, well there are some twists on the road to destroying the xeno threat. This game has some truly fantastic features intermingled with some pretty big roadblocks. If you can suspend your disbelief (and maybe an upturned wallet), you'll find a pretty solid game here. Available exclusively for iPad 3 or higher, iPhone 5 or higher and requiring an internet connection, the game is a little less accessible than most universal apps. With gameplay very similar to the PSP's Metal Gear Acid, I was really excited to get into what promised to be a tactically deep strategy game.

Space Wolf is a turn based strategy deck builder. Each member of your squad has a separate deck of cards chock full of various gear and actions that can be utilized. You and your squadmates and your enemies take turns moving or attacking each other until you die or achieve the primary objective given to you at the start of the map. Each map has a new primary objective as well as secondary objectives that can end up being very rewarding. Each time a member of your squad takes a turn, they are dealt a hand of cards to choose actions from.

warhammer40kspacewolf1

As an advocate for the death of randomness, I don't really mind the way the card draw aspect of the game works. In most rounds, you only get to play 2 cards, but about 90% of the weapon and gear cards have a dual purpose and can also function as movement cards too. Along with most cards having a dual purpose, there is a lot of tactical depth in the effort system. The effort stat on squad members and enemies is the way you can tell who is going to get the next turn. In between each turn, effort is always being decremented. Anyone that hits 0 is going to get the next turn. A big aoe flame attack might have 11 effort, while a move card might only cost 5 effort. Queuing up your effort to maximize your damage before enemies can react is a huge part of being successful in this Warhammer title.

Controls in this game are very responsive. The game camera is a nice piece of tech, allowing you to rotate at will whenever terrain is blocking line of sight to something. Controlling characters is a simple exercise that is streamlined and pretty tough to mess up. At 830mb on my harddrive, the game is not a light weight but within the realm of acceptibility for a full featured game with some pretty cool cinematics on top.

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Each weapon is thematically pretty true to the warhammer universe. Bolters are your standard ranged weapon. Plasma guns offer more firepower at the risk of a back fire. Melta guns pierce armor. Flame throwers deal aoe damage. In fact, the only thing I found standing in opposition to the established universe is the way drop pods are handled. In the warhammer table top game, drop pods that carry troops into battle have a chance at landing off their target, and rarely result in enemy casualties. In Space Wolf, any person caught under a descending drop pod that I have seen has been killed, and I have never seen a pod scatter away from it's initial drop location. It's kind of a bummer when the drop pod landing reticle is occupying some prime real estate.

The gameplay is, unfortunately, not without some weird issues. You aren't able to attack to the side or behind without spending one of your two actions just to turn. You cannot walk through allies and can very often get blocked in behind your squadmates, but you can fire guns directly through them without harming them. Maps feel claustrophobic and limiting in some cases. Weapon ranges do not allow for much diagonal attack vectors. These issues, are relatively minor, however, and the majority of gameplay feels fun and satisfying. The game UI is functional and, while submenu navigation is a bit tedious, Hero Craft has promised to tighten up needless multi-tap actions.

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This right here is basically the turning point of the review. If we could have stopped here, I would be looking at a 4 star game, poised to shoot for that 5 with promised updates including multiplayer. We've already seen a few updates that show how well Hero Craft is able to tackle issues, even post release. The big issue is F2P. Your opinion on free to play is going to undoubtedly shade your opinion of Space Wolf as a whole. So I will give you guys a TL:DR version of the rest of this review. Hate F2P? Just change the rating at the top of this page to a 2/5 for yourself. Love or completely dont mind F2P at all? change that score to a 4/5. Personally, I dont mind F2P as long as it's done intelligently. Below I detail some reasons why I think the IAP in this app could be handled better, not even cheaper, just better. Also if you managed to read this far, congrats, you get the magic 'I read the review' password: grognard. Just leave it in your comment and you'll get super bonus points. They are worth alot... probably at least 3 macguffins worth.

As a long time fan of Games Workshop intellectual property, I am well aware of the probability of having to pay to play. Any of their table top wargaming franchises are especially subject to this concept, but recent video game iterations seem to have bucked the trend. Sadly I don't think I can say the same for Space Wolf. What I had expected and hoped for in Space Wolf was an experience similar to Warhammer Quest. In WQ, you can complete the entire base campaign without spending anything on IAP past the 4.99 initial price tag.

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Thats the big difference here though, with a free to play title, you are going to have to expect to pay a little more to see the same return that a premium title yields. It was with this in mind that I dropped $20 on the game to buy the wolf scout and terminator armor packs. I had just enough to level up a few times after the packs and I was back to being out of currency. So I headed back into the campaign to see how the terminator armor would handle. After getting into the 2nd chapter of the game, I am pretty well stuck. The 2nd mission of the 2nd chapter is pretty brutal. You and your squadmates are going to need to kill off at least 16 cultists and 9 drop pod chaos marines. 25 enemies is a bit much if you dont have a full deck of legendary and epic cards.

So I am currently looking at a 4000 cost level upgrade that may or may not allow me to clear the level. At my current speed of play, thats probably about 10 hours or so. If I want to level up my squad mates? thats around 3-5 hours of grinding. Now I am not categorically against a grind like this, but I don't know how much money or time you will need to invest just to finish the campaign. The game could do a much better job of at least setting the expectation that X time or Y money will allow you to set yourself up to conceivably clear each map. Right now its kind of like a juke box playing freebird that stops every few seconds and asks for another quarter, there's just no way to quantify how much you will spend to get to the part that starts rockin. Ultimately, the game could really benefit from more defined purchase points.

Many of the things that hold back WarHammer 40k: Space Wolf could be corrected with enough attention from Hero Craft. I don't think that everything that could be improved on will be though. From a small dev team, we can hope to see big features like PVP and further adjustments to campaign difficulty, but I think there is more beyond just those things that will keep Hero Craft from pulling off a flawless game.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • scottsoapbox

    "At 830mb on my harddrive"

    Wait - What?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      When you download games in iTunes they get saved to your hard drive before syncing.

      • scottsoapbox

        Aaaaahhhh. OK. Still it seems a bit odd to check the size there verses on device. (especially since some games grow during install)

  • Shabbis

    grognard?

    • Andrew Fretz

      A really great word that too often gets used as a negative. Thanks for reading!

  • vilenurgle

    Just don't see y it need interwebz I am very happy with how it plays thou I need something Grindy while waiting for that warhammer regicide

  • Apricosomoso

    Spacemarines, spacemarines, spacemarines. Allways spacemarines. Let us be chaos marines

    • Gamera Love

      i think the same. why every games we need to be space-marines. why not other race like Chaos marines.

    • pizzaman262

      Or Eldar (They're pretty good this edition)

    • Efe Cardinali

      Or Inquisition troops, or Impreial Guard i they wanna keep doing imperial stuff...and no, I'll be damned if I ever call them Astra Militarum

  • Morgan01

    Accurate assessment of this game TA. One thing many developers shield from players are the price points players are anticipated to pay. Some developers have even admitted having their games set around $200 per player, pricy for any mobile game.

    Sadly, the trend for new F2P games is to push the envelope beyond what players consider "reasonable". Often times, this ends up marring, and in some cases, detrimental to games. Developers need to make a profit, understandably. However, it is disappointing to see when a game with so much potential, that could have been a premium title, go down an obtrusive F2P format. Had this been a premium title, a few tweets here and there would have really elevated the game. They way the F2P was implemented, however, has already marred the opinions and turned away many players. A few simple tweets will not go as far.

    Developers are so intent on bleeding out as much money as possible out of players that games and gameplay suffers.

  • justplainjay

    grognard
    ....
    Now where are my 3 ms huffing?!

    • justplainjay

      Damn autocorrect! Macguffins!

      • scottsoapbox

        An understandable mistake for autocorrect... what with everyone timing their huffing in milliseconds these days...

      • justplainjay

        It's really the only way to monitor your huffings

  • hTristan

    A) Grognard is a good word, I use it interchangably with boffin.

    B) Freebird jukebox analogy is a good one!

    C) Review is pretty much spot on. I don't really mind the facing, moving and weapon aiming, perhaps because I'm used to somewhat 'illogical' rules in board games.

  • Wedge598

    I wanted to like this one as I'm deck building and turn-based strategy fan. But the high cost to upgrade coupled with the unknown factor on whether or not that upgrade will be sufficient raises a big red flag for me. I don't mind F2P as long as I know exactly what I'm getting for my purchases. I would be seriously miffed if I spent $20 on a game only to find that I still needed to spend more to continue. And I would never spend more than $40 on any game no matter how much I liked it. In fact, to date, I'd never spent more than $20 on a iOS game and that was XCOM which was worth every bit of it's initial asking price.

  • moonwad

    Grognard (donate my mcguffins to a quality charity please)
    I was disappointed to read that it's not quite on par with Warhammer Quest because that was a very well built game. I didn't mind buying the IAP for it because they were cool, added significant amounts of content, and weren't required. And oh boy the grind. I don't mind the grind (heh) if it's handled well and feels meaningful, but if it's "spend 8 hours grinding or give us $5" I kinda feel like I'm being insulted. In several ways. They don't think I can put in the effort, or else they don't think I have anything at all to do all day. Do I have "Poor Impulse Control" tattooed on my forehead or something?

  • kshriner

    As warhammer/wh40k grognard type myself, I like many others was really was also looking forward to a deck building themed game

    • kshriner

      ...and to finish my thought.. Thank you send key. Wasn't done yet actually. ;). Heh, ...but I am not going to play a model where I can't ultimately buy or unlock the game for a reasonable price. I probably ended up paying $35 or so for all warhammer ios expansions, and consider a Pareto superior exchange from my view. So disappointed to find this IAP model in this game. Won't go beyond free for me. Especially not with so many stories of "dropped $20 and didn't finish game" from people braver than I taking the impulse plunge.. "Dang." Sums up my opinion of the game as of today. Always wish I could see if this approach pays off for them. I can't see how this IAP structure wins for them over a hot Wh40k game that blows up the charts.

  • Goggles789

    Thanks for the review, I'll definitely be avoiding this because I'm a grognard at heart.

  • icepulse

    MG:Ac!d was about 100x deeper than this.

    Oh, how I'd love to see 1 & 2 make the leap to iOS.

  • Fangbone

    Really liked what I played of this game but deleted when I realized I wouldn't progress any further without dropping down some big time money. I have no problem spending money on iOS titles but when I see $99.99 listed as one of the iaps that's my queue to delete and get on to the next game.

  • headchem

    That'd be cool if you grognarded up all your articles. Then we'd really know who's legit in the comments, and who just read the title.

  • Reaganomics

    Grognard affords me what?

  • jamesgecko

    How similar is this to the Warhammer Death Angel card game? The actions-are-a-hand-of-cards bit makes me suspicious.

  • runesnatcher

    There is a free Swing Copters mini game hidden in there...an unusual tie in for Games Workshop. Enter your player name as 'Pickle Grognard'.

  • nreyes

    honestly, guys and gals.....don't understand the negative press over this title. It is simply brilliant, similar to Xcom and a whole lot of fun. Lighten up, and give some cred. Yes....despite the "freemium" model

    • Morgan01

      This game has similarities to XCOM with considerable potential. However, XCOM was a superior title, no disrespect. This game does not accomplish the same level as XCOM, and unlike XCOM, has various paywalls built into in which, in turn, makes it considerably more expensive than XCOM. You spend more money on this game into chapter 2 alone. If you want to compare gameplay, be fair and compare value as well.

  • Goldanc

    Grognard.... I was hoping for a Hunters type game... People are going card games and build games because to get the most out of it gotta pay

    • Stormourner

      you can simply ask the developers to make warhammer hunters type game

  • TokyoDan

    Deleting now.

  • worldcitizen1919

    I love this game and really don't want to delete it but how do I get past all the paywalls without investing a fortune? There should be a law by Apple that a game's iap cannot exceed its premium worth. These games need balancing as they are fast becoming exploitation and gambling machines instead of enjoyable games.

    • Stormourner

      Touch Arcade will help ya out playing the game without spending your real money

    • Andrew Fretz

      I can understand much of your sentiment, but what exactly is "the game's premium worth"? To someone that wants to dump $100+ on Games Workshop property(dont kid yourself, in some cases thats getting off cheap) this game might be just right.

      Also, for proof if you dont believe me that people will spend large amounts of money on GW stuff, just search "pro painted warhammer" on ebay.

  • maskedviper

    Wtf I got it (I'm a warhammer fan) and guess what I doesn't work for iPad mini so I'm ****** until they creat a patch. 🙁

  • nreyes

    While agree with many of the comments about paywalls etc., I still think that people have gone loopy when it comes to actually paying for something. If you bought a Warhammer game with cards and stuff it would cost you >$50, which, material costs aside, would be to cover the development and salaries of those who created it in the first place. Here you get a digital version of the same for free, but which you pay as you progress through the game. If you end up spending $50 then it is not really very different. However, it is up to you to control your spending and addiction. Just like you do on those gambling and porn sites you visit ....

    • dancj

      I know not everyone feels that same, but for me spending $50 for a physical product is in no way the same as paying the same amount for a digital download. Physical products have a per-unit cost that digital ones don't. Physical products are yours for ever to keep our sell whereas digital ones are forever tied to your iTunes account - and if the game is incompatible with iOS 18 ten years down the line then you're shafted.

      When I choose whether to pay for a game on my iPad I'll compare the price with other iOS games - and the price I'm willing to pay will not be $50.

  • Łukasz Minarowski

    The claustrophobic maps and movement limitations remind me of a Space Hulk, but F2P model in Space Wolf really hurts even Quatermaster of my Chapter complains about it, nevertheless this propably the first installment of Space Wolfs in a game,

    I miss only "da metal boxes of those Spess Marhiness!"

    Game on, grognard!

  • T-REZ5000

    This was actually a useful review. The gameplay was covered well and the f2p issues were made clear. Good job

  • thatssopanda

    grognard!

  • Thomas Sylvia

    grognard

  • Thomas Sylvia

    grognard

  • Morgan01

    Sad to think the possibilities of this title had it been designed as a premium title and not a cow-cash Freemium. Instead of a game enjoyed by many, you have notable backlash from the gaming community and a developer desperately working on tweaks and adjustments to try to recover what should have been a successful title. For every successful Freemium title released in the App Store, there are dozens and dozens of failed Freemium game attempts.

  • Murgblurg

    Grognard

  • Murgblurg

    Grognard

  • Enrico Caldesi

    grognard

  • Jay6k

    Loving the game and losing many hours to it. Sunk $20 into it but loathe to spend more. I do feel the game is too heavily skewed towards Terminator armor, though. The way the AI consistently targets the lowest health squad members means non-termies like my scouts always die first, despite their superior range, always making them the inferior choice in an already hard game.

  • Mark Thompson

    On 3rd chapter and no money spent

    • flashbackflip

      Way to go! Im with ya

  • SuperEggplant

    This game is cool beans. 1gig is a bit heavy though. Also, Grognard!?

  • Tarvold

    Is it too late for grognard?

  • Matt Helm

    Chapter 2 is ridiculous.
    Do we even get coins/credits for replaying previous missions?

  • David Ortiz

    Grognard

  • Efe Cardinali

    I was looking for a way to get past the first chapter and I found this review...now I know I need money to beat the game of grind as if I dodn't habe anything etter to do, so unistall it is u.u gonna try the Imperial Knight one, even though they were one of the reasons I left the tabletop game.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf Reviewed by Andrew Fretz on . Rating: 3