In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only satisfying turn-based squad battling let down just a touch by a sluggish resource-gathering midgame. It feels blasphemous to call a Warhammer 40k adaptation slick, let alone subtle. This is the universe of endless grot, rancid liturgy and heavy-duty cybernetics, its warriors held together by rivets and fanaticism, its starships ancient Gothic ironclads recovered from asteroid fields.
You don’t expect a delicate handling of inspirations or considerate presentation from such a setting: you expect clashing cogs and excessive crenelations and hint windows that read like catechisms. You expect things to wallow like a Dreadnought knee-deep in Plaguebearer offal. But save for that slight (and to be fair, genre-typical) over-reliance on grinding to help the plot over the next hilltop, Daemonhunters positively glides. At a glance the interface looks like a Borg sneezed all over a cathedral, but in practice this is both a fine balance of ideas from XCOM and Gears Tactics, and a crisp boiling-down of a gargantuan fiction that somehow renders everything digestible, even snappy, without sacrificing the source material’s morbid intricacy.
It helps that the specific Warhammer 40k Space Marine chapter you control in Daemonhunters might have been custom-designed for an XCOM-style game – the Grey Knights, a secretive order who fight in small groups against overwhelming numbers, surgically uprooting Chaos infestations as an extension of the Imperial Inquisition. As the story begins, the good ship Baleful Edict is on its way home to Titan after an especially bloody campaign, having lost its previous Commander during the final (tutorial) battle. As his disembodied mute replacement, you have only moments to get to know your lieutenant Ectar and Tech Priest (or chief engineer) Lunete before the Edict is commandeered by the inquisitor Vakir, who has detected a mysterious Nurgle “Bloom” on nearby planets.