Da Hour of WAAGH!
Until now, the battlefields of Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade have been a somewhat civilized affair. The legions of Space Marines, traitorous Chaos Space Marines, and mysterious Eldar have all fought with a certain discipline and finesse. However, all that looks set to change with Behavior Interactive’s next patch. Dakka, with all its chaotic destruction, is about to arrive.
Yes, WAAGH! The brutish, tribal, primitive Orks, in all their greenskin glory, are being added as a new faction. While I’ve had a chance to try them out on the test realm over the past week, Lead Designer Brent Ellison has also shared some further detail about what’s included in the update, including what makes the Orks unique in the Eternal Crusade, through to what else is sneaking into the patch.
Four different Ork clans were available for me to pick from, but the Bad Moons, Goffs and Blood Axes all lost out to Evil Sunz. With their love of warbikes, trukks, and high-octane carnage, there’s no comparison. After all, why bring the dakka when you can drive it?
The Ork faction also includes a garrison to introduce the class, including the combat mechanics and a little detail behind each class. At first glance, these seemed similar to the Space Marine choices, but Ellison explained what makes the new faction feel unique to play and fight against.
“In the 40k universe, Ork units have a lot of analogues to those of the Space Marines (Lootas = Devastators, Stormboyz = Assaults, Painboys = Apothecaries, etc). However, their weapons and the nuances of the characters make a big difference. In Eternal Crusade, the Orks are meant to fight up close range and use quantity over quality compared to the marines. Their slug-based weapons fire much more rapidly even if they don’t hit as often, and they have lots of Rokkits that they can fire quickly but tend to spiral out of control once they go too far.”
“To fill out an Ork Boy’s arsenal we’ve also given them a much wider variety of sluggas, and the Painboy has access to a variety of ways of making their enemies sick. Ork vehicles, with their ramshackle construction, also focus on firepower over armour. Finally, there will be the potential for a Waaagh! in each battle that gives the entire Ork side a big boost. We haven’t talked much about it publicly yet, but it will be added to the Ork faction soon.”
Playing an Ork is also accompanied with a thumping, tribal soundtrack that makes a striking difference from the Space Marines’ techno-choir. There are other touches as well, although I’m not certain about the voice acting. Yes, it’s early access, but it sounded like a drill sergeant had barked through a voice-changer box. Less Uruk Hai, more unruly goblin.
Even with five classes to choose from - including the rokkit-flying Stormboyz, ‘medic’ Painboys and melee assault Slugga Boys - not everything made it into this update. Ellison shared some further detail on what’s been left in the Squig Bag this time, but will likely get Mek’d on at a later date.
“All the factions will be getting more over time, and the Weirdboyz are definitely at the top of my list to add. At launch we wanted to make a clear distinction between the factions that focus more on psychic powers and those that don’t, so Weirdboyz will be coming as elites at the same time as we add Librarians in one of the quarterly free expansions. Other than that, I can’t wait to get the bikes in – Ork bikers are just terrifying.”
Currently in Early Access, Eternal Crusade does come with a warning from the developer: do not play it if you’re expecting a completed, polished and balanced game. In its current, limited incarnation as a lobby shooter/brawler (while the interconnecting gubbins and PvE content gets worked out), combat is expected to oscillate from bloodthirsty rampages to rage-inducing frustration - an experience that’s only exacerbated by the ‘rudimentary’ tutorial.
Reading up is encouraged, and fighting in groups is encouraged (in a similar style to other team-based and squad-split tactical shooters). Those heralding from the Doom/Quake/Halo school of fast-paced combat are probably going to have to spend time adapting before venting spleens on forums.
That said, it’s a gripe I sympathise with, particularly with using third-person perspective while shooting. And, while there’s cover, climbing and aim-lock, there’s no jump unless you’re a rokkit-wielding Stormboy, which is a tad annoying when you get stuck on scenery or fall through the map. But, as I said before, this is Early Access.
Frustrations aside, melee combat is where it’s at with Eternal Crusade, with a rock-paper-scissors method to swinging blows at each other. As a lag-crippled European on the test server, I often found it useful to be the ork behind the stabbing Slugga, bringing the Dakka in a mostly accurate but usually entertaining way. Sometimes the green meat-shield survived, sometimes not, but that’s all part of Chaos.
Beyond the WAAGH!
Besides adding Orks to the cacophony of carnage in Eternal Crusade, Ellison also shared shared some details on other changes arriving in the green-tinged update. “We’re doing a huge revamp on the loadout points and wargear to make your choices more meaningful and make the differences between the classes more distinct. There are also some big fixes to melee and accuracy coming, as well as continual rebalancing.”
Updates to the Advancement trees are also in the pipeline although, according to Ellison, this means they’ll be switched off for a while. “We’re actually going to disable the Advancement trees in this patch while we work on much larger versions. We want people to play with all the wargear already unlocked, and then hopefully 1-2 weeks afterwards we’ll integrate the full trees which will include unlockable veteran classes in the top ranks.”
Beyond the near future, I also asked Ellison what was up his sleeve now that Orks and Eldar are done and implemented. “Progression, Guilds and Meta are the biggest components left to integrate into the game before launch. Progression will change the game’s feel significantly as we add in the reward boxes and full Advancement trees. You’re going to be seeing A LOT more weapon bases, including unique versions of the weapon types that feel very different, as well as tons of weapon mods to tune your gear as you see fit.”
Taking Eternal Crusade further, the team at Behavior Interactive have talked about going beyond being a simple lobby shooter where players queue up for matches, and ‘going massive.’ While a Planetside-style sprawling map with thousands of combatants has already been discounted, I asked Ellison what the phrase meant to him, and how far his team were on this plan.
“To us this is about making your battles more meaningful and creating more connective tissue between the battles, as well as bumping up the epicness of the core gameplay itself. Improving the world map and adding guilds will give you more context, and we intend to integrate the Garrison more closely into the experience so that you can queue battles from there or modify your loadout. This will make it easier to spend more time with other faction members and get you out of the current menu that makes your place in the world a bit too abstract.”
“Further out, we want to make large territories and longer-term objectives so you can feel like you’re able to roam around the gameworld looking for things to do with your friends rather than forcing you to compete in a short period of time.”