After Friday's big Eternal Crusade news, this week we're going to keep it short, and talk for a moment about the new things we have learned about the Space Marine support class, the Apothecary. There has been a lot of speculation about exactly how the various support classes were going to work. Brent Ellison, Lead Game Designer on Eternal Crusade has indicated in the past that Support classes were going to function as force multipliers, meaning that they would make an already effective army more effective, and not be particularly over-powerful in and of themselves. This means that an army that includes a number of support units will be more powerful than an army that either doesn't have any support classes, or even an army that has too many support classes. The right proportion is open to opinion and will have to wait until we can play with the classes a bit before we can set about making guesses.
More to the topic, we learned on the most recent livestream that Apothecaries will have several unique abilities that their factions will find very useful in battle. First, the traditional role of the Apothecary in Warhammer 40K, is to aid the wounded, give the Emperor's Mercy to those too injured to survive, and retrieve the progenoid glands of those Marines who fall on the battlefield. To aid him in this endeavor, the Apothecary traditionally wears a piece of equipment called a Narthecium. The Narthecium is a gauntlet-mounted device that includes various drills and bores, a sort of buzz-saw (these allow him to pierce Space Marine armor in pursuit of the progenoids), and a variety of injectors and drugs. In Eternal Crusade the Narthecium will be treated as both a weapon and an instrument of healing. This will allow the Apothecary to chop his enemies with the buzz-saw, inject enemies with poison, causing a virulent damage-over-time (DOT) debuff; and apply healing effects to his Marine allies. With these abilities, the Apothecary will function as an effective combatant, as well as an all-important healer, able to extend a Space Marine battlegroups effective combat time in the field; but there is another function of the Apothecary, and that one might prove to be the most important of all.
If you recall, a few weeks ago we wrote about the “Downed State” in Eternal Crusade; essentially any warrior who falls on the battlefield can be revived by an ally if they can get to him in time. On many players minds was exactly how Behaviour planned to avoid “zombie-rushes”, where one or both sides just keep resurrecting downed warriors to the point that no battle can ever be decided. Well, Behaviour revealed what they are calling the “Danger State”, and it looks to be a potentially elegant solution to that very problem. Now, as soon as any warrior has been saved by an ally, he enters the Danger State, a sort of debuff that causes his next death to be final. This debuff is permanent, unless removed by an Apothecary. This means that Apothecaries will be in high demand, especially at the forefront of the battle. I can hear you thinking “Well Terry, why not run a force with all Apothecaries then?”. Remember we spoke earlier about how Apothecaries, while effective combatants, will never be quite as good at shooting as Tactical Marines or Devastators, or quite as deadly in close combat as Assault Marines; those classes have access to certain gear and abilities that just don't allow the Apothecary to equal them in terms of ranged or melee combat. Thus the Apothecary becomes and remains an excellent force-multiplier, without the risk of having them overrun the battlefield.
Now all these neat abilities will have to be play-tested and balanced of course; time-to-heal, duration of HOTS (heals-over-time) and DOTS, range, all of these, and other variables, will be considered to get the balance right. Using these basic abilities (debuffs, healing, and buffs) there has been a lot of speculation about how the other support classes will function. We know they will all play a bit differently, and they will get similar abilities, albeit in different proportions than the Apothecary, but now that we know more about the Apothecary, we can narrow down the possibilities a bit more, and look for imaginative ways these abilities can be morphed to make them more flavorful as well as keeping them faction-appropriate.
I predict that the Eternal Crusade forums will be (and already are, really) full of conversations about how each factions support classes could function, and if you'd like to take part in that conversation, and possibly have your ideas and feedback considered by the dev team, you should head over to the website and register on the forums. Let your voice be heard, just try to keep it polite and friendly; you've a better chance to convert others to your beliefs if you treat them (and their opinions) respectfully. I hope to see you there, BeHeard!