Admittedly, I’m not a fan of real-time-strategy games, and it would take a darn good one to hold my button-mashing oriented attention. So while Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command for Nintendo DS is not a game I would go out and buy, I can confidently say it’s not a horrible game, either. Actually, the multiplayer and Wi-Fi modes are enough to warrant a purchase for hardcore RTS fans, many of whom salivate over everything Warhammer anyway. But several things hold this game back from pleasing everyone else.
Based on the popular table-top series, Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command is an RTS that tries to replicate the strategy and intensity of those table-top roots. In this Nintendo DS game, you take control of six units as you defend against the evil forces of Chao (aptly named, right?). The single-player mode stretches through 15 different missions with relatively simple goals such as killing all the enemies or killing a particularly bad enemy. There’s nothing extraordinary going on here, and all of the missions are really hurt without a CG introduction of some kind — something the PSP version got but this DS version didn’t.
In the single-player game, a type of currency called “Action Points” (AP) drive the game’s structure and help to balance the gameplay. If you want to upgrade your units, weapons or ammo before a match, you must spend some of the AP before the game begins. During the match, however, you must spend AP to move or shoot, so you have to balance your anticipated tactics with the upgrades you’re considering. For instance, you can send a unit 15 points’ worth across the battlefield, then use your remaining points to fire or move again. To have your units become more accurate, you must spend more points yet again — but you only have access to the number of AP you didn’t use before the match began. This system takes some getting used to, but it works.
The multiplayer mode incorporates DS Download play, so you can share the game with a friend, via Wi-Fi, where you can play with friends or in ranked matches against strangers, and of course local, multicard play. As with most RTS games, these multiplayer modes are the best part of Warhammer 40K, so hopefully you have friends with copies of this game. There are plenty of modes, including a fun mode where you have to capture the HQ of the other team.
However, the game is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws is the simple fact that you cannot always see where your enemies are (say, if they’re hiding behind walls). It is extremely annoying if you have one enemy left on the map — and he’s not moving — but you can’t see him to shoot and thus can’t move on. The 3D isometric view cannot be rotated, either, which is tragic for this game.
Another problem that might turn some people off is that the battlefield is gridless. Instead, it’s a plain map with no distinguishing marks to plot your course. The touch screen is also somewhat frustrating. Trying to tap and drag all your units at one time is hit or miss, and it’s actually much easier to just forget it and select them one by one. It’s sad that, with the focus on commanding your squad, the controls are so loose that it becomes frustrating to even move them from Point A to Point B. I quickly switched to D-Pad controls, and I recommend the same for anyone else.
If you’re a fan of the Warhammer or a die-hard RTS nut, you should at least consider Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command for its fun multiplayer modes. But ultimately this game’s single-player is not very compelling — gameplay, story or otherwise — which makes it hard to recommend across the board.
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- Score: 5
- Fun multiplayer options salvage an otherwise troubled game, but that alone can’t make the rest of the game any more fun.
— Stephen Woodward