Space Hulk: Ascension is a 3D, strategy RPG game, set in space and based on the classic board game Space Hulk. Developed by Full Control Studios and published by Hoplite Research, the game came out for PC late 2014, and has now been ported over to the PlayStation 4. Players will enter into tightly space corridors of many different space hulks as they attempt to push back, survive against, and eliminate the Genestealers inhabiting them. With multiple campaigns as well as Space Marine Terminators to play as, there's a lot of content to be explored in this title.
The premise of the game is to clear out space hulks from the infestation of Genestealers, an aggressive predatory alien species. As you take your Space Marine Terminators through the crafts, you'll be moving through tight corridors, many times that will only fit one at any given point. You can line them up of course, but you still only have one in the front. Occasionally you'll enter into rooms or corners of hallways that can house multiple of your men with the added threat of multiple entrances for the genestealers to come in for attacks. To say it is an incredibly strategic and thought-provoking game is putting it lightly; the game carries a great amount of difficulty depending on the actual difficulty setting you choose to play on. It's no reason to feel detoured from the game though as it allows multiple difficulty tiers as well as a customization setting that you can change hit percentages for yourself slightly, how many Genestealers populate a map, the respawn/replacement of your killed marines, and the amount of Action Points (AP) you have per turn, when you begin a new campaign chapter.
There are nearly a dozen chapters that make up a campaign, with each one giving you different perks or disadvantages, based around different versions of Space Marines; you can play as the Ultra-Marines, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Imperial Fists, Salamanders, Dark Angels, Nova-Marines, Flesh Tearers, Crimson Fists, or the Angels of Redemption. The content is extensive in this title, especially the campaign. After you select which chapter of Marines you wish to dive into, you're taken to the difficulty choices (where you'll find 5 different progressively harder tiers), and then to a galaxy map. Theres nearly several different campaigns located throughout the galaxy for you to challenge and accomplish, each with a "mission map" that you will work your way through (you can find "mission map" below).
When you're prepared for combat, you'll deploy with 5 terminators, each with unique skills, attributes, and equipment. The more you use these men during missions (and the longer they survive), the higher their levels will grow via experience. If you're familiar with games like XCOM or Morheim: City of the Damned, you'll understand the general flow of how this system works. If you lose them in combat (and depending on your difficulty choice), you may have to restart with a rookie terminator as a replacement during the next mission. As they level up though, you'll be able to equip them with stronger armer and more efficient weaponry, as well as insert new skills into open slots. You'll always have two different squads, totally 10 units that will need attention, equipping, and leveling. Once the heavy metal terminator boots are on the ground (or in the space hulks), you'll begin by moving one at a time.
Typically they will all spawn in at the same place or can be if chosen, but occasionally they'll have some separation. In classic board game fashion, you'll move one player at a time along a grid-based map, each unit with a set amount of action points (AP). You'll need to tactically choose how you spend these points since they are used for both movements and attacks. Genestealers show up on the map as red circles when they are inside of blacked out halls and rooms, but the accuracy of this is not 100 percent. In order to avoid one running and attacking your units, you'll need to make sure the ones closest to enemies are in defensive stances or guards. A single Genestealer attack can kill them instantly. The way the game works is not at all complicated, and in-fact is incredibly easy to understand, but the difficulty lies in the unknown of enemy locations and how fast you move through the space hulks while not being caught off guard.
It is recommended for players to play through the tutorials at least one time so that they can learn all the aspects and mechanics of the game, and also pick up a few tips and tricks along the way. For added content, the title provides a mode known as "Rogue Mode" where you can take one of your existing squads from the campaign, or a random squad, through a series of randomly generated chained Space Hulk maps as you fight to survive and exit.
Sound and Graphics
The music found in the game is catered more to build ambient tension, as apposed to an engulfing soundtrack. It's almost the equivalent to elevator music inside an elevator, but beefed up to fit a space hulk exploration of Genestealer massacres. The sound effects associated with moving through the hulks and hearing the giant metal combat suits and aliens screaming immersing you into the constantly changing situations. You can hear the echoing of everything through the corridors while simultaneously hearing the knocking from outside as the lack of gravity allows for random space junk to collide with the exterior of the hulks.
Graphically the game looks pretty outdated. It didn't take too much away from the overall experience, and it's completely understandable since it is a port from a game that released a couple years earlier, but with the price tag it has, it makes you question if everything else is that worth it. The marines look just as they should but with some slightly bland design (the customizing them part makes it a lot better), and the Genestealers are not different when analyzing them as slightly bland. As you move through the halls, your units have shoulder cams that you can watch, allowing a first-person perspective on everything which is a really nice added bonus).
If you're a fan of the classic board game, or a fan of the strategy/tactical RPG genre, then there's much to love here in Space Hulk: Ascension. It has an incredible amount of content to play through, and different ways to replay through them that will either cater to you as a player or challenge you to play outside of your go-to strategies. The price is a little high seeing as the graphics are fairly outdated looking, and it's targeting a fairly small audience, but there is definitely an argument to be made if you know its the right style and genre for you.
|+ Classic board game simulation||– Outdated graphics|
|+ Tons of content and replay value||– Slow gamepaly (accelerated speed helps though)|
|+ Genestealer massacres||– Price is pretty high|
|+ Squad progression and customization|