While strategy games continue to eek out a healthy existence on PC, more and more are taking their turn on handhelds – literally. Warhammer 40k: Squad Command marks the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable debut for the franchise, offering a turn-based tactical approach to gameplay.
We went hands-on with the game during E3 in a private meeting with THQ.
Squad Command follows a new conflict between the Space Marines and their offshoot rivals, the Chaos Space Marines. You control a squadron of six Space Marines across a 15-mission single-player campaign, confronting cultists, daemons, and other units in the Chaos Space Marine army. Brand manager Adam King wouldn't go into further detail about the story, instead shifting the focus to the tactical elements that will permeate the game.
On DS, Squad Command will make good use of the two screens, with a tactical map displayed on the top screen and the battlefield appearing on the touchscreen. As you'd expect, you use the stylus to select your squad members by directly tapping them or drawing a square around multiple grunts. Tabs on the left side of the touchscreen show your currently selected units' health and general status.
Since you're only caring for a maximum of six units, it shouldn't be too hard to keep track of them all and move them about the battlefield. Squad Command purposefully keeps the number of playable units down to emphasise tactics over the concept of just rushing enemies with a massive, insurmountable force.
You're free to move about maps in real-time, but as soon as an enemy is spotted you switch into turn-based mode. Combat is fully turn-based, with movement and actions eating up action points. Terrain variations, line of sight, and the statistics of your currently equipped weapon affect the number of action points needed for a move or attack, while progressing through the campaign unlocks new weapons with which to equip your squad, as well as access to playable vehicles such as tanks.
Extending the value of Squad Command will be multiplayer support, both local wireless and for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection – up to six players can connect for online competitive matches. Expect to get some mileage out of your Nintendo DS Headset, too, because the game will be among the small group of titles to offer voice communication during online games.
Even better are the nine multiplayer-only missions that complement standard competitive play. While chatting to us, King also hinted that alternate playable races will make an appearance, although he wouldn't elaborate on exactly which ones.
We're extremely eager to test the multiplayer out to see how solid it runs online and exactly how the unique missions pan out. The tactical gameplay was certainly easy enough to jump right into in the single-player mission we played, so we're hoping this translates into awesome multiplayer battling.
Squad Command is slated for an autumn release so it shouldn't be long before we have more details for you. Click 'Track It!' to be automatically notified of any update.