Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command Review
The Warhammer 40,000 universe began its life in the world of tabletop miniature war games. The setting and mythos created for the game was so richly detailed and presented such an intriguing concept that it has spawned numerous computer and video games over the years. Demons, orcs, and imperial space marines embroiled in a galaxy-wide protracted and bloody conflict is certainly a setting rife with gaming possibilities. Warhammer 40,000 makes its debut on the DS with Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command, but unfortunately the game fails to make effective use of its source material. Unless you're already pretty familiar with all things Warhammer 40,000 you won't have much idea of what's going on. You'll fight for the forces of the Imperium against the legions of Chaos, but there's nothing in the game that will tell you anything about these factions, why they are at war, or even what you're trying to accomplish in the game. A few static screens appear between missions, but they do a poor job of conveying anything resembling a story. As far as you're be concerned, you're pretty much playing a series of unrelated missions. That being said, story is not usually the strongest selling point for a strategy game, so let's take a look at the gameplay itself.
As the game's name implies, you are put in charge of a squad of Imperial Space Marines in a series of battles against the Chaos legions. Before each mission begins you'll have the opportunity to set the weapons loadout for each of the members of your squad and to study your objectives for the mission. At first you won't have many weapons choices available, but as the game progresses more and more weapons are added. The additional weapons will allow you to specialize your men, creating a sniper by arming a man with a sniper rifle for example.
The missions take place in 3D battlefields with destructible environments, but in practice the battles are essentially 2D affairs thanks to the game's fixed camera angle. The biggest problem with this is that walls, buildings, and other structures can obscure part of the battlefield from view and there's no way to get a look at things from another angle. Line of sight in the game is critical as you can not fire at an enemy if you can't line up an unobstructed shot and there's no way to eyeball a potential shot without actually moving your soldier to a position and trying to get a line from there. This is a particular problem when you need to move a man to an area obstructed by a wall or other structure. The enemy doesn't suffer the same handicap though, and seems to have an innate ability to move to the exact spot that will allow a soldier to fire through two windows and over a short wall to hit one of your men. The game doesn't make it easy to return the favor, as it's just about impossible to tell where the shot came from when one of your men is hit.
Each mission is played in a series of turns in which play alternates between your squad and the computer-controlled forces. Each of your soldiers is given a set number of action points for the turn and you can move your men in any order you'd like and issue additional orders to them until each man has no more action points remaining. The points are spent moving and firing, and additional points can be spent when your soldier fires to improve his aim. In theory you're given the ability to give commands to more than one soldier at once, but doing so is usually a recipe for disaster. Attempting to move a group of soldiers together leads to random results as your soldiers scatter about, become lost, or simply get stuck on an object in the environment. Control in general is a bit problematic as it's difficult to issue precise movement orders with the stylus and placing the aiming cursor is more difficult than it should be with either the stylus or d-pad. Attempting to scroll the map is a dangerous proposition as there will always be at least one active soldier and you can easily accidentally give a movement command when you were just trying to see what lay at the end of the block.
Interface issues aside there is fun to be had with the game. The challenge ramps up nicely as you make your way through the missions, although this is due more to the fact that you often face superior numbers than it is to strong enemy AI. The destructible environments add a nice dynamic to the battles, and it's certainly enjoyable to take out a few enemies by causing their cover to come crashing down on top of them. If you enjoy strategy games and can overlook the interface issues and game flaws then you'll probably find yourself liking Squad Command. If you're easily frustrated or not the patient type, then you're probably better off passing on the game.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 67%. There's some addicting gameplay to be found in Squad Command, particularly for Warhammer 40,000 fans, but you've got to be willing to put up with the game's flaws and annoyances.