This past week we showed you some very early footage of Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade. I wanted to write up a recap of the weekend we spent in Montreal and talk about what Behaviour showed us. There are a few parts to this story that really get me excited for what EC will offer. It may not be on the screen in the demos but you can definitely find it in the interviews and also in the passion that the team has for the 40K license.
The first important part is just how early the team is willing to show footage. How many MMOs have you gotten to see this early on? Miguel Caron, the Studio Head at Behaviour, is serious about keeping a transparent approach to fans and press. He wants to work with the community to build this game. I have seen very early demos of games before, but rarely have I been given permission to share footage and impressions with the public.
In the early design some people might have thought that this is an arena style game. To be very clear, because we obviously failed to state so earlier: Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade is not an arena shooter or some lobby PVP game. Behaviour is trying to get as many players onto their battlefields as possible, with 1,000 concurrent combatants being the benchmark they're striving to hit. They want rhinos, land raiders, ork bikes, and Eldar jet bikes streaking across your screen as your squad goes into battle. The landscape of this game will be vast. We got to look at several environments while at the studio. They included a snowscape (Space Wolves… cough), a burned out forest, and a rocky moon-like terrain. Games Workshop has given them permission to add the game's premiere planet to the actual 40K canon. The artists on the team take the terrain seriously because it is so important in the table top game, but even more important to the design of squad and army based PVP warfare in an MMO.
Another important lesson learned from my visit was the combat, which is obviously the crux of the whole game. It was made clear to us that the starting point will be similar to THQ’s Space Marine. I'd even go so far to say that THQ's cult hit is the core inspiration for the combat in Eternal Crusade, but similar comparisons could be made to Gears of War. Space Marine was known for a smooth transition between third person over the shoulder shooting and quick melee combat which moved at high speed. In 40K, shooting the futuristic weapons is just as important as having a Power Axe at your side (or better yet, a Thunder Hammer). The melee combat in 40K has always been a core part of the tabletop and Miguel’s team wants it to be essential to the gameplay experience. So not only do you have a strong shooter on your hands, you also have extremely violent hand to hand combat. Think of the massive Ork choppas going up against the agile weapons of the Eldar. The destructive chaos axes against the Power Swords of the Imperium, it will all be in the game. Right now the melee design is basic because it is so early. The team plans to expand on that system over the next year to bring lots of options to players when they go in for the assault. In short: what you saw in the video was a just the pre-alpha and only the beginning.
The last takeaway from my trip is the passion this team has for the 40K universe. Nothing beats seeing Horus Heresy books on desks as reference material and codex all over the office. We also got the chance to stay late in the studio and play some tabletop 40K. The team knows their codex and 6th edition rules. We had a great play session even though my Space Wolves got torn up by Dark Eldar lances. Still it is great to see a team who plays all versions of the game that is working on the MMO directly. David Ghozland, the creative director, plays an awesome Black Legion army with lots of Chosen in his ranks. Our discussions ranged from all the different armies to the new Tyranid codex that was released just a few days before we got to the studio. Even Miguel was reading a Black Library book while waiting for us to show up.
When you hear who is making an MMO you often look to the usual suspects in terms of who is involved. When people heard about Behaviour making this game it took some folks by surprise because the publisher has often been associated with licensed games and mobile apps. After spending some time with the team Miguel formed as Behaviour Interactive, I for one am convinced Eternal Crusade is in the right hands. There is a lot of time left before we see launch. However, the team’s willingness to work with fans and be open about the game's design will only help in the long run.
Garrett Fuller / Garrett is the Industry Relations Manager for MMORPG.com, and likes to dress as an orc on weekends and hit people with pointy things.
Links to more great Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade coverage: