Review in Progress
A few years ago at E3 (2013) before the show kicked off, Bill Murphy, Garrett Fuller, and I sat down to talk with Miguel Caron. Miguel was giddy with excitement to tell us about a new project he was getting ready to announce at the show. And by giddy I mean he was hyper as could be. He was extremely excited. Behaviour had landed a license to develop a Warhammer 40k MMO. Miguel laid out his vision for us. You can read all about it here. Needless to say it was grand and he believed he could get it all done in two years. Out of everything he had to say I though the least likely thing was to pull it off in that time frame.
Three years later we know that he and his team was unable to create his opus. About two years into the project Miguel left and was replaced by Nathan Richardsson. Nathan came from working on a still unannounced project at Ubisoft after previously making a stopover at Trion to help them get Defiance out the door. Previous to that he worked for CCP. While Nathan is a character in his own right I get the feeling he was brought in to set the team onto a stricter timeline and get the project out the door. Major aspects of the project had changed, not the least of which a transition from a microtransaction to a buy 2 play business model. Miguel had a novel idea on how to get players to pay for the game but it was never given a chance. Realistically novelty has a hard time paying the bills long term so it’s easy to see why a change was made.
I could spend the entirety of this review in progress bemoaning what Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade is opposed to what it could have been. The reality is this version of Warhammer 40K: EC is the game that was shipped and sacrifices are always made in development. Change, even radical change to an original idea, isn’t new in software development.
For those unfamiliar with the Warhammer franchise it typically comes in two flavors. Warhammer is a fantasy game with a quasi-medieval setting. It’s been around since the early 80s and properties such as Warcraft have leaned heavily on them in the past for inspiration. They are one of the original high fantasy settings. 40k is that same setting thrust about 40,000 years into the future. High fantasy and lost advanced technology coexist. In Eternal Crusade the conflict between the Empire of Man, represented by the Space Marines, versus Chaos, Greenskins, and the Eldar. The Chaos faction is represented by Chaos Space Marines. These are chapters that had a split with the Empire roughly 10,000 years before the events that take place in 40k. The Greenskins are Orks and Goblins. This one is pretty self-explanatory. They have green skin, are born from fungus and make up the Waaagh! Finally there are the Eldar. They live on giant craft worlds. Craft worlds look like massive flying saucers that are populated by space elves.
You can choose to make a character from one of the four factions. Each faction is subdivided into an additional 5 choices, for Space Marines this is Chapters, for Eldar Craftworlds, and Greenskins clans
While the subset choices are cosmetic there are different loadouts to choose from that can greatly impact your style of play. Whether or not you want to play as a ranged character with a focus on bolters and rifles or focus on melee with chainswords and heavy armor.
Once your character is created and named you’ll be prompted to either pick two different types of PvP maps, Grand Battle and Skirmish, or play through a PvE lair. The PvP maps are focused on different styles of play from small skirmish 30 to 40 people to the 60 player Grand Battle maps. Even when I played on the larger map they never really felt populated. This could be due to the size of the player base or due to the game spreading players too thin. Regardless of the reason it left me walking through a bleak urban landscape looking for a fight and leaving the battlefield feeling a lot less hectic than it should.
Combat takes place by default in a third person over the shoulder point of view. Generally I like this setup but it felt wrong for Eternal Crusade. I like seeing my character but where the character faced compared to where the reticule aimed in the center of screen didn’t line up. It feels like you character isn’t shooting where you aim. It’s very disjointed. The controls also feel awkward. I plan on digging into the settings and finding out the different mapping options but by default they don’t work for me. The cover and sprint buttons especially feel out of place.
Experience gains seem slow. I don’t expect to gain a rank a match but to only gain about 1/10th of a rank while still only rank one seems like a very steep curve. I can understand progression being slow at the later stages but early on it seems like the carrot should be on a shorter stick.
Right now the game feels like an arena shooter as opposed to an MMO shooter. It’s deviated so much from beginning designs, that if I was an early backer I would have asked for a refund. There are some fantastic games out there that use the Warhammer IP, Dawn of War and the new Total War are two that immediately spring to mind. So far Eternal Crusade isn’t shaping up to join that list of games. I’ll sink some more time into it over this weekend and report back in next week with a more final review.