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40k Squad Command, initial thoughts...

Discussion in 'Tactical Gaming' started by trystero, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. trystero Novice

    trystero
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Messages:
    72
    Picked this up yesterday, played ~5 hours single player campaign. This is the PSP version, so comments on graphics needs to taken with a grain of salt if you are a DS person.

    Anyway, started the game, nice cinematic to open it up, high quality, voice acting is decent, suitably marine-like, nothing that doesn't "fit" 40K. Load times are very short, no loading once in a mission.

    Started the first mission, you get a squad of Ultramarine Scouts, the enemies are chaos cultists... this mission and the second seemed very easy to me. The cultists do very little damage, there is very little need for cover unless you are extremely stupid. By the end of the 2nd mission, I feared I had wasted $30 since I had not lost a single squad member ( in fact few had even been damaged each mission ). Moving through the next several missions, however, that fear seems to have been somewhat unfounded.

    Before I go further in terms of challenge, let's describe the mechanics a little. You have a squad of Ultramarine troops, at the start of each mission you can give them a custom loadout of wargear. You earn different wargear when a mission completes. Each can be equipped with a primary ( Bolter usually ) and secondary weapon. The secondary weapon has limited ammo, and you can opt to take less ammo which gives you more action points. Action points are what you will use to traverse the map and take combat actions. Basically, they allow you to move and fire. Crouching and facing are both free. If you reserve enough action points, you can go into overwatch when enemies cross your field of vision on their turn.

    Moving and combat are *very* fluid on the PSP, the control handles very nicely, a line is drawn to enemies when you are in 'fire' mode. That line will go from green to yellow to red as it gets further from the marine, indicating chance to hit. You can spend more action points then the weapon requires in order to boost your accuracy. Your field of vision is represented by a light green arc originating with a particular marine. It is very easy to determine field of vision when changing facing. Crouching behind cover before ending your turn is critical to marine survival when the enemy starts fielding Chaos Marines, Predator tanks, etc.

    Cover - one of the great things about this game. Everything on the battlefield ( that I have found so far ) is destructible. It may take several shots from a Predator tank, but trust me, the walls will fall ( incidentally, things have different rates of damage absorption before they collapse, so a steel wall takes more then a stone building for example ). It is VERY satisfying to get marines in covered and flanking positions, and then have your Predator roll up and demolish a building being used by Chaos forces as cover themselves. Activate your marines and fire away at the revealed enemy. Of course, this also counts against you. Enemies have taken down plenty in front of my marines, exposing them to fire.

    Now, for AI, in *general* it is decent. I tend to see the enemy fire from cover, they will also move from cover, fire, then return to cover. I have seen enemies attempt to flank my position, but not always. I think a lot depends on how they are initially placed at the start of the mission. One cute example of AI: An ultramarine scout notes two Chaos Marines ahead through a window. The Chaos Marines see the scout as well. Next turn I assume the scout is dead ( out of AP so can't hide ). However, on the enemy turn, they don't move, just stay under cover themselves. On my turn, I think the AI lost it and move up a Space Marine and another scout and crouch them behind cover for an attack. I remove part of their cover with a plasma weapon. On the enemies turn, he moves up a Predator tank that was hiding behind a large building, removes cover and kills the first scout, then activates the two Chaos Marines who kill the other scout and damage my marine. Intentional or not, it came across as clever to me.

    Multiplayer - I did try and join a multiplayer game for ~5 min, but it just kept searching for players, so no comments there. I imagine it would be entertaining however, especially if you know the people you are playing against.

    So, sum up:

    Pros: Fluid and intuitive combat and movement controls
    Completely destructable environments
    Conveys the feeling of WH40K nicely
    Nice squad customization
    Satisfying tactical experience
    Slick graphics
    Little load time
    Warm, fuzzy feeling you get from serving the emperor

    Cons: Single Player missions ~15, I can't see it taking longer then 12 - 15 hours to complete :(
    Multiplayer - big question mark, can't tell if enough people will be online to make it worthwhile
    First couple missions very easy, it has gotten harder, but with only 15 missions, it better keep ramping up quickly
    Sameness - while I don't find this seriously annoying me, some people may find each mission a little too "samey", environments vary and objectives will as well, but ultimately, it is about navigating a maze of cover each mission and bringing down the enemy with whatever firepower you have

    Unknowns: Downloadable content - if they release downloadable content for this, it would be a huge plus, more maps and/or units and wargear would be great additions
     
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  2. 12-15 hours is quite long in modern game standards.
     
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  3. Sovard Sovereign of CDS

    Sovard
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Messages:
    920
    I was initially worried about length, as well. Although $30-$35 for 10-15 hours is still a bargain for a handheld. Especially when you think some of those $60 console games are only 4-8 hours long.

    I'll definitely be picking this one up after what you described. Chaos Gate with destructible environments? Yes, please.

    P.S. How about those great, "The Emperor orders you to die!" sound bytes? Not sure if you played Chaos Gate, but little blurbs that the units spit out at eachother when firing/killing/getting wounded.
     
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  4. obediah Erudite

    obediah
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    Don't get your hopes too high there. No experience system that I know of, and the squads (and I assume maps) are smaller than Chaos Gate. Think of it as a Chaos Gate for Dummies with destructible environments. I'm still on board, and have ordered my copy.
     
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  5. Ivy Mike Scholar

    Ivy Mike
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    Location:
    Ground Zero
    Looks like a sweet deal. Pleas elaborate on AI at your convenience. I'm interested in how well the AI handles basic tactical manouvers like flanking, advancement etc. With this and Panzer Tactics I should be able to hold out untill the next TB tactical game comes my way. Or I could get down and dirty with AA: Conquest of the Aegean, but I'm kinda scared. It sits there on the shelf. Looking at me. Menacingly.
     
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  6. trystero Novice

    trystero
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Messages:
    72
    As I mentioned earlier, I have seen the enemy attempt to flank, but, since you only see enemy movement if it is within a marine's field of vision, it is hard to say how organized they are being. Sometimes, I suspect the initial placement of enemy troops at the start of missions set them up to naturally flank the most obvious approaches. Depending on the mission, I have seen groups of enemies act defensively, take cover and fire, or uncover, fire and cover again, and I have seen them aggressively advance. Having said that, I have had the feeling several times that groups of Chaos Marines "activate" when certain thresholds are crossed. For example, one map I was playing, I engaged five Chaos marines and destroyed them, after ending my turn the enemy did nothing and immediately flipped back to my turn. Once I had advanced to where the earlier enemies had been, new enemy troops became "active" on the following turn. I tend to find this annoying in tactics games. Enemy troops are smart enough to switch to secondary weapons when they need them ( to clear cover, etc ), they are also smart enough to drive over my marines with their tanks ( thus killing them ) before firing on a different position.

    As I said, AI is "decent", nothing amazing :)

    @obediah: There is definitely no experience system :( Never having played Chaos Gate, I can't compare the two, but it is on my list of PC games to try and get working now.

    @sovard: The sound bytes are there... They shout out stuff while acting.
     
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  7. obediah Erudite

    obediah
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    IGN has a instant-classic review up for the game:

    http://psp.ign.com/articles/836/836158p1.html

    His biggest complaint is that there is no grid, so he can't move his people to where he wants them to go. I haven't started playing the real game yet, but this certainly wasn't an issue in the demo.

    He then complains that he can't move all his troops at once, as if it were a staple of turn based tactics games.

    Finally he criticizes the camera, a valid criticism that should have been the first negative thing said about the game.

    Then towards the very end he spends a sentence on the destructible terrain and it's effect on the game.

    To summarize, he bitches that it is too short, spends 95% of the review bemoaning his inability to work the interface, and then says nice things about the game.
     
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  8. trystero Novice

    trystero
    Joined:
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    72
    Yeah...

    @obediah:

    Yeah, I saw this review. The "I can't move all my troops at once, which is a *must* for tactical games!" is pretty nutty. Great way to find your whole squad on the receiving end of a missile launch.

    Anyway, since I just finished the single player campaign yesterday, I will clarify some stuff I mention above:

    Game length: I think 15 hours was about right. Your mileage may vary, as I lost 3 out of the 15 missions and replayed them. Later missions are much longer, and the difficulty definitely ramped up towards the end. Weapon choice became much more important and the trade-off between carrying extra ammo versus having more action points had more impact.

    In later missions, I often found myself switching to "radar/map" view on the enemy turn. One side effect of this was that it became clear to me that the enemy AI was definitely using flanking and cover.

    My only other comments are with regard to many mainstream reviews stating that the camera sucks, and that this game would likely only be attractive to hardcore 40k fans. Indeed, I suppose the camera could have been better in that it is "locked down" to a single view. For the "diehard 40k fan" comments, I was surprised, as I have only ever played Spacehulk and yet still found this game solid and enjoyable on the psp. Perhaps my liking Spacehulk automagically qualifies me as a 'diehard fan', but I wouldn't think so.
     
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  9. obediah Erudite

    obediah
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    I guess you need to be hardcore, because the game doesn't consist of lassoing your troops and clicking on the bad guy until it's dead to get to the next cutscene.

    The interface complaints are especially bothersome because it is a PSP game. I expect comments on interface and load times to be relative to other PSP games. If you tear into a PSP game for a 'meh' interface, you might as well take off a point for the small screen size.
     
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  10. OldSkoolKamikaze Arcane Patron

    OldSkoolKamikaze
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    Codex 2012 Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I hope the DS version turns out well.
     
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  11. Ivy Mike Scholar

    Ivy Mike
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    I've been killing my way through four missions of the DS version for the last couple of days (free time, were hast thou gone my friend?) and my initial verdict is that it's an alright squad based tactical game. As mentioned the cover system is pretty sweet and can be used for tons of fun. There's nothing like scouting out your enemy, who thinks he's safe behind some pile of ruble or other, and then delivering some hard liquor from your Predator tank. The only annoyance I have with the design is that it's sometimes unclear if you're actually behing cover or not - units tend to be be positioned a bit out from the wall, for example, and not pressed against it. This shouldn't be that much of a problem with a 3D game, yet WH 40k SC feels like it's designed with some form of tile-based engine even though units can move seemingly freely over the battlefield.

    The AI is, so far, ranges from competent to outright feeble. Every now and then you'll see some AI controlled units trying to outflank you and keep you occupied on different fronts. This is usually twarted by the AI's uncanny tendency to leave vital units out in the open or without propper cover. During my last mission for example I scouted the AI's Predator tank hanging around one of the main objectives. Since it makes little sense to charge straight on with my own tank I left one or two units to take popshots at nearby enemies while retaining the enemy tank within my range of vision. At the same time I positioned my own tank on the opposite end of the map and put all my APs into one shot. Direct hit for 600 damage. Biding my time I ended that turn only to see how the AI first moved it's own tankeout of danger, i e the line of fire of my tank, only to move the tank back into the exact same position a few moments later. Needles to say that tank was history the next turn.

    On a brighter note the AI does utilize the ability to destroy cover if it can't get you within it's line of fire. I lost one of my scouts who hid behind a bunch of ruble for two turns by the very same tank he was scouting on. The AI had no chance of hitting him from his flanks, so it decided that the best course of action was to blow the whole area into dust and guts. Pretty smooth move. Another excellent addition to the game is the Overwatch feature: basically it's your units ability to use the remaining APs from the last round, if they have any, to fire upon enemies that come within their line of fire. This feature has saved my ass once or twice. Since the AI also utilizes this function you are more or less forced to abstain from charging headlessly into battle and instead rely on tactical advancement on the AI's positions.

    Overall it's worth chasing down if you have a DS and want some good ol' squad based fun. The graphics are top-notch for a DS title and you do get that wH 40k feel, even though the story was clearly an afterthought (the usual Space Marines vs Chaos fluff).
     
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  12. Krafter Scholar

    Krafter
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
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    Location:
    Castle Amber
    This game has been an absolute must-buy since the day I heard of it.

    I've got a DS, and I'm quite sure that a PSP is coming my way at Christmas. Has anyone played both versions, which would you find superior?

    LOL at the IGN 'review.' It's a turn-based strategy, it's not on the xbox, it's not done by a favoured publisher. 5.4 sounds about right for those dipshits. Not enough money paid under the table, huh? :roll:
     
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  13. Ivy Mike Scholar

    Ivy Mike
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    Even though I haven't played the PSP version I think it's safe to say that there's no differences in game mechanics between the two. So if you have a PSP, or will get one, the PSP version might be the way to go for the better graphics alone.
     
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