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Space Hulk Ascension

By Bobfish14-01-2015
Space Hulk Ascension

The Defence

Full Control
Full Control
Role Playing, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Quad 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 560
AMD Radeon HD 5850
4 GB
4 GB
9.0c, 11

The Case

A little over a year ago, Full Control came onto a lot of peoples’ radar with a licensed entry in the Warhammer 40k that did something a little different than most. Where most of the previous video games, mostly published by THQ before they died, were in the real-time strategy vein. Full Control opted for a more authentic recreation of one of the lesser known, but highly popular, franchise properties—the modular ‘board’ game Space Hulk, which has been pretty much ignored since way back in the days of the frikkin’ Amstrad. Many people were excited, and pleasantly surprised when the finished product proved to be, shall we say, a budget title, but well-built and thoroughly enjoyable. There were, however, a few gripes around the overall quality, such as the game being a little too mechanically faithful to the board game (dice don’t translate so well into a video game) and the visuals being, ahem, low cost. So now we have Space Hulk Ascension, a ground up remake that includes all of the base content, DLC and some new bits and pieces all in one nice, neat, vastly improved (we were promised) package. So how, you ask, does it hold up?

The Trial

In a word. Absolutely bloody marvellous!

Okay, that’s three words, but you get the point. Whilst it is not entirely accurate to say it makes everything better (more on that in a moment) it does improve over the original game in every way. Tweaks to gameplay have hit that perfect sweet spot between authentic, true to board game faithful adaption, and well reasoned adaptation to a new medium. Where there was a lot of sheer, random chance in the original, some intelligent design choices tweak it just enough that some of the more frustrating elements have been worked out. Which makes the inevitable death (because it is inevitable) of your marines no less depressing, but significantly less frustrating. It lets you pat yourself on the back and take the grim satisfaction of knowing thems the breaks, rather than the game just being a dick and giving you a bum roll.

Scratch that idea? Scratch this!

Scratch that idea? Scratch this!

Oddly, in many ways, this actually makes the game more difficult. But it’s the good, challenging kind of difficulty as opposed to the “you just can’t win because make game longer”. The end result being that even someone like myself, who loves games like this but sucks at them, can still make real progress and feel satisfied in their performance. Seeing percentile tooltips hovering over enemies, which give a comprehensive breakdown of the probability of a killing hit, is far easier to understand and compensate for than some vague roll x dice for y score. Thus allowing me to, you know, actually focus on applied tactics! Which helped me immensely when I was in some tight situations. By which I mean putting all my terminators in a line, with the back to a wall, pointing their guns at the door. Hey, don’t judge, it works.

The largest point Ascension has over its predecessor is the inclusion of extra chapters (there are three now) and customisable squads. Though the aesthetic options are...less than inspiring, the introduction of an XP and levelling system, plus new weaponry which includes combi weapons (Bolter/Flamer for example) and tools like mines allow you to really build the team that you want...which makes the loss of one of them hit home all the more keenly. Especially on higher difficulties, where said marine will be replaced with a rookie. Save scumming isn’t even an option on the highest difficulty, as it removes the option to save mid mission. Should have been called Masochist if you ask me.

Unfortunately, this also ties in to the most disappointing element of the entire experience. For some utterly mystifying reason, there is no online multiplayer this time around. Which, even for someone like myself who is usually all about the single player, was a grievous oversight. With the added customisable squads, it was a criminally missed opportunity for people to show off their skills. Especially considering that, after completing the three campaigns available, there isn’t really anything left to do but start over and do it all again. Which only works so many times before you lose patience with having to level everyone up again. It is not all bad though. In fact, it’s almost all good. As the lack of multiplayer really is the only complaint to be had. There are no major bugs, or even minor bugs that I encountered. And considering the branching campaign missions, there is still a strong replay value to be had here.

Welcome to die!

Welcome to die!

The visuals have also seen a major overhaul. Where the initial game was acceptable at best, Ascension is genuinely impressive. Still falling behind the cutting edge, graphical benchmark industry leader, even in its niche. But it is a damn fine looking game. Models are fairly detailed and move well, whilst the environments are superb and the lighting is truly spectacular. Little things like the muzzle flash from Bolter fire are extremely impressive and really impress a sense of claustrophobia. Whilst the general lack of light keeps everything tense and gloriously atmospheric.

Sound design, meanwhile, is absolutely astounding. The clank of your terminators boots as he walks, the click and clank of a jammed Bolter being methodically, calmly cleared as a Genestealer stands mere inches away and the Genestealers themselves skulking in the distance, all of it comes together to perfectly underscore the experience. Leaving us, ultimately, with a rock solid, tough but rewarding dose of turn based action goodness. All crafted for the Emperor’s glory.

The Verdict

In short, this is a superb game. There is still, undoubtedly, room for improvement, but that can honestly be said of anything. Everything works as it should and, more importantly, as you want it to and whilst the lack of multiplayer is disappointing, it genuinely is the only real complaint and is a, mostly, forgivable one. Even the price, which some may be sceptical of being a ‘full price’ game despite being a remake, is easy to justify once you appreciate that, well, truth be told, it is a new game. One with many, many hours of tactical gameplay just begging to be pounded into the ground by the mighty, gauntleted fist of the Emperor’s finest.

Case Review

  • + Custom Squads: Want a squad named after your workmates? Or how about your cats? You can do that.
  • + Gameplay: Fixing everything that was wrong with the original game whilst adding everything it lacked.
  • + Visuals: Really, genuinely impressive for what it is.
  • # Price: Full price for a remake, but not really, will leave some sceptical.
  • - Multiplayer: Not gonna’ lie, you dropped the ball by not having any.
Score: 4.5/5
Only the smallest of niggles do...nothing to hold it back from being a great game.


Every time a Warhammer game gets announced, you duck for cover. What’s it going to be this time? A stinker or something great? Somehow the middle ground doesn’t exist for the games inspired by Games Workshops tabletop. Warhammer 40.000 Space Marine was pretty good as well as Dawn of War I & II. Other than that? Oh dear. Now Space Hulk Ascension. So, where does this one fit in? Luckily for us Warhammer 40k fans, this one’s actually quite good and better than the earlier Space Hulk game. The game gives you a nice little introduction to the Space Hulk lore, but overall the story remains flat. Purpose for your actions if given, but that’s as far as it goes. What it does well however is taking the Space Hulk tabletop and transferring it into the digital age.

With weapons having the required ‘umpf, Terminator armour being as cumbersome as it is protective and the claustrophobic atmosphere of a Space Hulk being conveyed well, Ascension brings both the sound and visual required to give that ‘40k feel’. Of special note is the helmet camera on the top right of your screen giving you the perspective of your battle brothers, thus adding a little bit of immersion in an otherwise top down game. With that given, it’s sad that the story builds no connection between you and your squad. Sure, even the Emperor’s finest suffer catastrophic losses inside Space Hulks but building the game up more slowly with more story along the way could have produced a true winner. This would also have aided the game as tactical choices become more important and losses painful. While the lower difficulties are pretty easy, ramping up the difficulty will require you to really look after your men, greatly increasing the challenge. Even a single mistake could mean the death of your entire squad.

Overall however, I had great fun with Space Hulk and would have looked forward to giving it another go with a different chapter. Shame that after playing with chapters who hardly distinguish themselves from each other you’ll have to dish out an additional €7.99 for a truly unique chapter. Not sure if a combined price of ~36€ is worth it.

Score: 4/5


Space Hulk Ascension is the standalone sequel to Space Hulk, as such it aims at continuing the experience that Space Hulk offered while introducing new gameplay mechanics, features, levels and graphics. Though just because it is a sequel does not mean they are expecting you to have played the previous title, this becomes clear from the very first menu screen due to a little button called “Tutorial”. In the Tutorial they explain the gameplay mechanics step-by-step as if you have never played the previous title and does not focus or highlight any of the new mechanics in Ascension, meaning that if you have played Space Hulk the tutorial will be pretty useless.

Within Ascension there are three single player campaigns, each packed with levels that progressively become increasing complex and difficult. This means there is plenty of value in this title and the average player will lose a good 20 hours to complete all three campaigns, while other players go back for the challenge at higher difficulties and end up spending over 50 hours on the title. The lack of multiplayer is definitely felt though as most players will probably not go back and complete the campaigns a second time, meaning a multiplayer mode would have added a lot of replay value. This is especially too bad as there are so many other turn-based tactical games out there that are solely multiplayer, it is still a niche genre but with a noticeable fanbase, e.g. Frozen Synapse.

The reason the lack of multiplayer is regrettable is because how great the gameplay and design is. It has a very dark theme that is reminiscent of an Aliens game. Already you are under pressure to make the right choice at every moment and the darkness only helps to magnify this pressure, which is great as very few turn-based strategy games have such an equal feeling of unexpectedness and dread. It comes when you click “end turn” and are left hoping that everything will not suddenly go to hell. This is made even better by the sharp graphical style. The textures have a nice HD look to them and are highly detailed, as are the environments, weapons and lighting. The small first-person camera in the top right corner of your screen helps show off these great graphics as well. Why is this such a big deal you might wonder? Well, most turn-based strategy games that I have played never looked so good probably because the developers do not think it has such a big impact due to the top-down view the player is viewing the game from. In conclusion, Ascension is a really great title within the turn-based strategy genre, all it is lacking is multiplayer.

Score: 4/5
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