Warhammer 40K Space Marines are humanities elite. Chosen from the most powerful members of our race, that now spans thousands of galaxies. These warriors are genetically enhanced with multiple hearts, filtered lungs and of course the iconic power armour.
Some Space Marines earn the honor of climbing into Terminator armour. Supercharged battle gear that affords the Space Marine the highest level of technological protection that humanity can develop. These warriors are then sent into the most dangerous reaches of space to fight for us...
In August 2012, the Danish development studio, Full Control, got their hands on the Games Workshop licence for Space Hulk. Up until that time GW were wrapped up in a long term licensing deal with the now dissolved publishing giant, THQ.
I got to sit down for some Space Hulk hands on, while having a chat with Full Control CEO, Thomas Hentschel Lund, to find out how the licence is shaping up in their power gloved hands.
Full Control currently consist of an indie team of 12 devs that are building Space Hulk in the popular Unity Engine. Not the most beautiful development tool, when you consider Cry Engine and others, but incredibly powerful and easier to access for indie devs.
Space Hulk has strong roots. Originally a board game and then turned into one of the classic computer games of the early 90’s. A small unit of Space Marines would be sent into an ancient behemoth space ship, known as a Space Hulk, thats crawling with alien nasties, Genestealers. Multi-limbed, hive like aliens that could rend metal with their talons. You know, like in aliens. A Genestealer would even beat a Terminator in a toe to toe scrap two out of three times.
The classic game would switch between first person and a strategy top down view to allow the player to really feel like they were there, while also giving them plenty of tactical control. That was 20 years ago and even by todays standards it managed to weave sci fi strategy with high tension like few other games.
Two main things came together to make this happen. Firstly there was a simple turn time limit. The player had to plan their strategy in a handful of seconds, before the orders would be carried out, regardless of what state they were in. This ramped up the pressure and often a game would end with your last Space Marine standing in the extraction zone staring face to face with a corridor of gene-stealers. Secondly, the game was brutally hard.
So I asked Tom how they were going to recreate the tension from the original, is the timer back?
“Yes we will have the timer, but we are making it optional. This is a strategy title and some people like to be able to take their time and plan out their next moves. So we wanted to please everyone by allowing the player the choice of how they wanted to play.”
Full Control’s Space Hulk will not feature the first person view, however you can now see what your selected Terminator sees when he moves down the metal corridors, through a small envelope window in the top right of the screen. Not necessary but really helps enhance the immersion.
It is shaping up to be a faithful recreation of the board game and is looking really good. The atmosphere of the lumbering Terminators is spot on. The oppressive tension is certainly getting there too. The randomly appearing alien blips turn into one two or three aliens when they come into view, just like in the original. Your flamer can coat entire areas in napalm, which can also cause valuable splash damage. You are going to get banner awards that your online gamer buddies will see. There will be coop and multiplayer missions. A single player campaign based on Sin of Damnation. A level editor will be released. Various missions include suicide missions, where as long as one room is set aflame then the mission is a success despite how many marines you lose. And I have even been told that Sergeant Gideon will turn up with his Power hammer and battle shield at some point in the campaign.
Turn based strategy is a niche, but as niches go it’s a popular one. Tom very much wants to focus Full Control as being the development studio PC gamers think of when they consider Turn Based Strategy. And based on what we have seen so far, Space Hulk is likely to give them a solid step in the right direction. They already have their next turn based title in the bag, Jagged Alliance: Flashback, that will use a lot of the Space Hulk architecture.
Its hard not to compare Space Hulk to the recent XCom: Enemy Unknown. Doing so will give you a quick idea of the games mechanics and gritty flavour. Both use turn based strategy in a very similar way and both are remakes of a sci-fi classic from the 90’s. Following the XCom success and Space Hulk’s similarity I wanted to see how Tom felt the price of Space Hulk would compare.
“We have not got a price set at this point as we are still dont know our final costs. However, Space Hulk is a premium title and we will need to price it as such in order to recoup our investments, while still being able to move onto DLC and our next projects afterwards. But it’s not going to be priced as high as $60 or anything like that.”
Xcom is currently priced at £29.99 and $39.99. We think Space Hulk will follow suit and be priced at £29.99 or $39.99 as well. But we will have to wait a few months yet to find out.
Space Hulk should release around October 2013 on PC, Mac and following that IOS tablets.