Last time we developed and explained the four key areas for a 5th edition codex: mobility, flexibility, price fixing and special characters. Let's see how the Wolves stack up in these areas.
The Wolves are definitely built to take advantage of mech. Standard 5th ed costs for rhinos, drop pods etc. will make any army eager to mechanize, but the close combat nature of the wolves feeds into this need greatly. With few heavy weapons to worry about the Wolves need to close with the enemy, which means either huge squads or meching up. However, here the wolves have a bit of a disadvantage as in order to get a Wolf guard in the squad they need to forgo the second special weapon, leaving them at almost the same combat effectiveness as a standard SM squad.
I'd say that GW has done a good job of pushing mech here but at the same time curbing some possible abuses of the system with restrictions on special weapons and squad leaders. Reducing the drop pod maximum to 10 is the real kicker, as with 12 the Wolves would have a very abusable advantage.
The Wolves get very high marks here as well. To be honest, I'm not sure if there is an ineffective unit in the whole codex. Certainly some are better than others, but all definitely seem useable. Even the Techmarine version has something going for him in his Saga, allowing his vehicle to launch towards the enemy with great speed, and we all know how the Adeptus Mechanicus gets no love on the table top normally. Heck, I'm not even thinking of playing Space Wolves and the Iron Priest is calling to me for some reason...
So I guess the question is: is having too many viable units a bad thing? I personally don't think so. If you want to use that sweet mini you should be able to with pride and no incoherent apologies about fluffiness. It will also hopefully get rid of what we call in the Magic world 'netdecking', which can only be a good thing.
Here is the part that people are all getting in a fuss about. People seem fine with most of the units in the codex, pretty much everything except for Grey Hunters and Rune Priests. Since these make up Troops and HQ, something that every army needs to have, they're pretty big. There have been many comparisons of GHs with normal and chaos marines so I won't go into that, but my current stance is that only time will tell. The same goes for JotWW- it's a crazy psychic power, but I'll have to see it in more than one game to be sure. Plus it's ruined by mech, which is the name of the game in 5th. I'll get in a few games with the Wolves and see how they feel.
The real question, however, is how does the Wolf codex stack up to the other 5th ed codices? I think IGuard definitely has a shot against it, and Space Marines still have the tactical flexibility to outthink and outmaneuver the wolves. It's a tough codex, but definitely beatable.
This is the part that I think the SW codex really knocked out of the park for four reasons:
1) the SCs are special. They do things not because you want your army to have an additional USR (well, at least for the most part), but because you want a bipedal tank in power armor on your side. Each does things that no other unit can do and they do it well.
2) they have a lot of character. All of their abilities are exceedingly flavorful and give you a reason as to why they can do what they can do. They are big, boisterous and have crazy powers that match their land raider cost.
3) Since the Wolves are a Great Company you won't have people bitching you out for using Logan and Ragnar in the same list- they're battle brothers! They ALL fight together!
4) You can saga up HQ choices to gain the same kinds of abilities normally only limited to special characters. This is the option that I wish was available to all the armies- instead of buying a special character just buy a "stealth commander" or a "tactical genius" and have the SC be a super powered version of that.
Conclusion and Codex Creep Final Word
I think the Wolf codex is an excellent example of what 5th ed codexes can be. It is exceedingly characterful and embraces all of the strengths of the new codex system without going overboard. And it fixes the problem with special characters by taking their ridiculousness and price to the extreme while offering "budget" characters in the form of exceedingly customizable HQ and "sarge" options.
As for codex creep... all of the 5th ed codices have that over the older books. Reduced price in transports alone results in that thanks to the improved durability of vehicles in 5th. It doesn't mean, however, that an older codex can't outfight a newer one- I've seen it happen many times. It just means that the spectrum of competitive lists and the room for mistakes is smaller.