When we first heard about Eternal Crusade back at E3 there were mixed feelings. The first was pure joy at the idea of a 40K MMO being created again. The second was reservations about how it would be done. We had lunch with Miguel Caron just before the doors opened. He flew threw his presentation to our entire team on his laptop. Chris Roberts even joined us for the second half. We walked into E3 and started our busy schedule, but in the back of our minds one question remained, could they pull it off?
Most videogames come down to one simple feature, gameplay. Is the game fun to play? You can put shiny graphics on any game that you want. You can write an amazing story. However, if the gameplay falls short, players will quickly wake up to it and you will be done for. In theory Beahviour Interactive’s Warhammer 40,000 MMO sounded great. A PvP focused game with objectives, massive battles, and vehicles. Factions had been chosen, and more than two thank Nurgle! Miguel described the gameplay as a cross between Borderlands and Space Marine. Unfortunately at that time we did not get to see any footage.
Fast forward a few months to November. In only six months we are now seeing the first gameplay footage of the Eternal Crusade. My favorite thing about these videos is when teams say; please understand it is pre-alpha footage. Okay, that instantly lowers my expectations a bit, but for all of us who work in games, I am just excited to see the video anyway. Then out of nowhere appears this amazing video of a chaos warrior running around a battlefield tearing up Dark Angels. Bolter fire, chain swords, jump packs, every single element that makes 40K what it is appears in under one minute of video. Any fan would be pleased.
The Importance of Space Marine
Space Marine was a game that sold fairly well for THQ. Sadly it did not help the company in its dwindling years. If you have not tried it, you can probably find it for cheap right now. There were some features that the game did amazingly well. The first being its transition from an over the shoulder shooter into a melee combat game. Now, Space Marine was single player and most of the time you were fighting hordes of enemies, but the combat was really awesome. Pure violence and destruction. The thing about combat was that in the PvP portion of Space Marine, the combat was actually too abrupt. A few shots and you were dead. If a jump pack assault got to you the chain sword killed you in a few swings.
Eternal Crusade has said that a lot of their combat design comes from Space Marine’s approach. You can see it clearly in the video. However, MMOs work on a different level than consoles. MMO PvP needs to be a little more drawn out. You add in the ability to heal players and add in dynamic maneuvers which can change combat quickly. No one has fun just dying in one hit and then rinse and repeat. This is something the team needs to take careful notice of. Putting so much time into the MMO world you should be rewarded with a battle that lasts more than 3 seconds. I am not saying two characters beating on each other with Power Axes for ten minutes is fun either, just that there is a fine balance of how long a combat should last.
The gameplay video we have seen shows both ranged and melee combat. It takes you through a great looking battlefield and shows off some of the cool customization of a Black Legion Chaos Marine. It rings very close to Space Marine which is a good thing for the game. The trick is balancing time and fair combat. Making sure the factions are represented well in their combat styles. The disorder of the Orks, the sheer violence of Chaos, the surgical strikes of the Eldar, and the stalwart attacks of the Imperium all need to be represented.
I won't lie: this video surprised me. It looked amazing and knowing that one thousand players will be on the battlefield at once is just insane. Throw in vehicles, squads, customization of your character, and all the depth of the 40K universe and this game could see a very long life into the next decade.
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