Wednesday, October 12, 2005

War(hammer 40K): It's FANtastic!

OK, so I've been a fan of "antfarm"-class simulation games for a while. I'll admit to having a Sim-n episode or two in the past. I tried and couldn't generate much interest in SimCity or any of its various incarnations. I was a big fan of Master of Orion way back in the day. I wasted far more time than was healthy attempting to drive my fellow rail developers out of business in the original Railroad Tycoon. Making the jump to online multiplayer was an eyeopener -- oddly enough, most people playing WarCraft/StarCraft were a lot quicker on the uptake than the AI you encounter during single-player games.

Still, with family concerns and all, I haven't really had the time to devote to a full-on simulation. I've spent most of my time recently on off-line games and single-player pursuits, like gunning for the 100%-er on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Occasionally firing up Doom3 or PainKiller for some mindless mayhem. The main advantage here being that if I'm called away, I can save my current position or pause and (hopefully) come back to it in a while.

Until my well-meaning friend Brendan purchases me a copy of "Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War" and tells me "you (meaning we) have got to play this!" This changed everything.

Some background on my experience with the Warhammer universe prior to this is in order: When we were both stationed in the UK together in the early '90s, I remember tripping over the tabletop players at the local "hobby centres" (OK, in the States we call a "game shop" a game shop...). These fellows, in my estimation, had a lot of spare time (and money) on their hands -- perhaps too much. Running set-piece battles with pewter or plastic miniatures made the whole Imperium of Man gaming environment a little intimidating. Given the cost (both in time and materiel) to assemble and paint up a significant armed force seemed a bit of a bar to entry. Still, it was fun to watch and the backstory to the whole universe was brilliant. Dark, depressing, and full of large-caliber munitions. Just the thing at the time, really.

"Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War" (W40K: DoW) is set in the Warhammer universe, a science-fiction/fantasy gaming universe published by our friends at Games Workshop in the UK. Warhammer has spawned a number of games featuring tabletop miniatures (Warhammer 40,000, Battlefleet Gothic). Three of the races/classes from W40K made the cut for the videogame:
  • Space Marines: Elite warriors of augmented human stock, they are the ultimate shock-troops on the battlefields of the far future. Formidable fighters, they are equipped with massive armor and a plethora of weapons, explosives and vehicles. They are fanantically loyal to the Emperor of Humanity.
  • Eldar: an alien race, grown old and strange, they nevertheless possess a highly technological civilization. Advanced weapons, gravity-assisted vehicles, and strong psychic abilities make them a dangerous foe to come across.
  • Orks: another alien race, more numerious than the Eldar and even less subtle than Humanity. "Da Boyz" are not the smartest bunch, but they are very tough and resilient. What they lack in advanced technology they make up for in sheer numbers and bloody-mindedness. Beware the Green Tide!
  • Chaos Space Marines: 10,000 years ago, a massive rebellion occured within the ranks of the Space Marines. Almost half their number forswore their oath to their God-Emperor and aligned themselves with the forces of Chaos. A darker version of the Space Marines, the Chaos Marines have given themselves over to the forces of evil and possess the ability to call up Daemons in a pinch.
With the "Winter Assault" expansion pack, new units for the original armies are added as well as another armed force:
  • The Imperial Guard: Recruited in their millions and slaughtered just as quickly in the massive battles fought among the stars, the Imperial Guard possess the best mechanized forces on the battlefield.
I almost hate to admit it, but I've been sucked into the Warhammer Universe again. The single-player mode is much like the others of the type that I've played: the AI is Not Smart and will cheerfully march toward its destruction without a moment's hesitation. The on-line game is another story altogether: Brendan and I have played a couple of set-piece games online and it's insanely fun. Lots of atmospheric nonsense makes it a blast to watch and play. I'll admit to getting distracted watching Orks tossed about the map like jackstraws when artillery starts impacting on their positions. I do like the shout of the Space Marine Sergeants as they rally the troops in battle ("For the Emperor!").

I hate to sound all gushy about the game, but as soon as I can scrape the cash together I'll be picking up "Winter Assault" and expanding my DoW experience. Worth the price of admission? Definitely.

Ostensibly Yours,

KeithF

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