There is only war…
In the 41st millennium, there is only war.
For years I have heard these words and prepared myself for some of the best gaming experiences of my life. Sure, I may be a little biased; my love of the Warhammer universe is probably the reason I love just about every Games Workshop game that has come out in the last ten years. From Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat on the PS1 to the award winning Dawn of War series, I have played and enjoyed every one.
Games Workshop, the owner of the Warhammer IP has been lending their universe to game developers since the early 90s. The first game that really got me into the whole idea of the universe was the PS1 game Shadow of the Horned Rat. This was a real time strategy title that allowed the player to deploy their forces and command large squads of detailed (at the time) units. Between battles, loses in your units would have to be replaced with gold earned or found during a mission and this, mixed with a branching mission system, made it one of my favorite games as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tough game, but there is nothing better than having your cavalry charge the rear of an Orc horde, only to have them scatter to the wind. Shadow of the Horned Rat set me up for games like Rome: Total War and Command and Conquer, some of the best strategy titles in the history of gaming.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the whole Warhammer tabletop strategy game could really only translate into a strategy video release. There have, however, been a few more ‘action orientated’ titles built around the IP; Fire Warrior, released in 2003 for the PS2, for example, was a first person shooter in which the player took the role of a Tau warrior – the Tau being a new race released for the tabletop game a few years before. Fire Warrior played like many other FPS titles of the time; sure, it was a little clunky, but what games weren’t way back then. Unfortunately there have not really been many FPS Warhammer titles since Fire Warrior, but the next few months will see the release of Space Marine, the first third person shooter to use the IP.
Despite the foray into other genres, the Warhammer IP, be it Fantasy or 40K, is a table-top strategy game. Some of the best real time strategy games I have played have been based in the Warhammer lore, from games like Mark of Chaos, to the award winning and, in my opinion, one of the best RTSRPG games ever, Dawn of War 2. With Dawn of War 2, Relic stripped back the classic RTS format; with no more base building or resource collecting and, instead, turned the game into a stunning RPG telling the story of a band of warriors who become the last line of defense against a terrible enemy. The game allowed the player to collect loot and upgrade their squads, while still keeping the cover and combat system from Company of Heroes
Space Marine promises fast paced violence as you blast and cut your way through the Orc horde with bolt gun and power sword. As one of the Emperor’s angels of death, you won’t have to worry about ducking Gears of War style behind waist high walls while the big scary enemy has you pinned down. Equipped with your powered armour, you will simply be able to charge through the cover and whatever hides behind it. From what we have seen so far, the game promises some fantastic combat and cinematic moments that should appeal to players who may not even be fans of the IP.
Looking beyond Space Marine, Vigil games is currently developing Warhammer 40k Dark Millennium, an MMORPG based around the 40k universe. Details are limited for now, but the game promises some next generation gameplay in the MMO genre. Just take a look at the video, there’s a hundred foot titan stomping around. That’s something I’ve not seen before. The question of whether or not it will it be able to compete with games like World of Warcraft, and the soon to be released – hopefully – Star Wars: The Old Republic, will have to be answered later.
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