Our reviews editor, Harry, is right about almost everything. That's why he's the reviews editor. But one thing I always felt he got wrong was giving Space Hulk a paltry five out of ten.
He felt it was too slavish to its board game roots, which struck me as an odd criticism to make of a board game adaptation.
Now, having playing Templar Battleforce, I think I know what he means.
See, Templar Battleforce desperately wants to be Space Hulk. Its templars mimic the quasi-religious language and structure of the Space Marines.
Its aliens mimic the "crustacean with too many arms" look of the Genestealers. There are action points and overwatch and people with medieval swords in a high-tech future universe.
But it can't be Space Hulk, because Space Hulk is already Space Hulk. So it takes those tropes and builds its own thing. Its own turn-based mobile tactics game. And, free of the tyranny of card and plastic, what it builds is rather wonderful.Expanded
It's not limited to maps you can build from cardboard tiles. Instead, some of the maps are colossal. There's strict fog of war. So pushing deeper into the labyrinth is a source of real mystery and terror.
It doesn't let up as you unveil the map, either, because Templars can only see so far. In the grey squares beyond, alien horrors spawn and pour down on your unsuspecting troops.
Because its on mobile rather than paper, it can let the memory and processor handle all the rules and carry data between missions. So it's free to throw in more complexity and continuity.
You've got a variety of unit types to handle, from grunt soldiers through to scouts and engineers. There are technology and training upgrade trees which offer staggering customisation options. Your troops who survive a mission level up, allowing you to build their stats and gear.
Within a few missions, you'll have built something unique to you. To your play style. As a result, within a few more, you'll have formed an intense bond with your Templars.
Losing one packs a real punch. Especially on the higher difficulty levels where dead means dead for good. You won't have just lost an experienced trooper. You'll have lost all the stories that went with them.Upgraded
And lose them you will, because the game is satisfyingly hard. Not impossible, but awkward enough to stretch you. And when you do, it will be you that screwed up rather than a random toss of the RNG.
You need to handle your squad with care. Make use of their unique capabilities and equipment. Scouts are fast and have sniper rifles, but they're as squishy as jelly. A fact the xeno hunters will happily demonstrate if you send a Scout off to a far corner of the map unsupported.
To win each mission you'll have to examine the map, watch your objectives and make a plan. Set up a base of operations and guard it. Create battle groups to go off and do what they need to do.
Remember to set people on overwatch and pray you've got them looking in the right direction.Better
The story is so much standard sci-fi hokum. But its enough of a framework for a variety of mission types. There's search and rescue missions, bug hunts, and desperate runs against the clock.
The presentation is the biggest weak point. The sprites wouldn't have looked out of place a decade ago. Animation is minimal. Guns and monsters emit tinny roars.
So it's a testament to how gripping the actual game is that you won't care about the feeble plot and presentation. The strategy, tactics and RPG elements are easily good enough to suck you in and hold you there.Templar Battleforce still wants to be Space Hulk. But it's a good job it isn't. Because Templar Battleforce is a force onto itself, and it's better than its inspiration.