If someone asked me about my favourite intellectual properties I’m positive Warhammer 40K would be one of the top three. My obsession with this universe goes into the early days of my gaming career, when Dark Crusade was the first RTS I really got into on PC – this made me look into the universe of Warhammer and read up on lore. In an instant, I was sold. It’s not strange, then, that I as well as many others was extremely hyped about the possibility of having an MMO set in this fantastical plane of existence. However, life happened and the game eventually fell into obscurity even before release, at least partially due to the fall of THQ a couple of years back. Lately, however, Behavior Interactive, the developers of Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade, jumped back into the spotlight with new information regarding everybody’s favourite unreleased MMO – it shifted to Unreal Engine 4.
And with that, hype was reborn. The game is now chugging along its development pipeline with more attention than ever before, and Mouse N Joypad got an opportunity to see what it’s all about at this stage of the game’s development.
Let me begin by saying that Eternal Crusade in its current iteration isn’t what we’ve come to expect and, perhaps, yearn for from one such project. Right now it’s a PvP team deathmatch game with slight variations to the mode that make it stand out a tad bit – a gameplay skeleton of what developers promise is to come later on. It’s enough to work up a preview though, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Did you enjoy playing Space Marine? If the answer is yes, you are likely going to enjoy Eternal Crusade very much. If I had to take a guess, I’d say that the games share more than a passing resemblance, because the way Astartes move around is very similar. There’s that chunky, tank-like feeling you get when moving which is amazing. Few games manage to get movement just right without them feeling floaty, yet Eternal Crusade nailed it. Of course, some modifications to the way Marines move had to be made because otherwise we’d have a fairly bland shooter at our hands. Imagine half a ton tank performing a dive roll in your general direction. Now imagine it doing that with uncanny speed and precision. Got it? Great, that’s what evading feels like in this game. It’s effective and efficient, looks good and still retains the overall chunkiness of the movement that’s integral to making a player feel like they’re controlling an Astartes. That oomph is present in the slide-to-cover maneuver as well, and before you ask – yes, there is a cover system in place but it’s not nearly as mandatory as it is in, say, Gears of War. After all, a Marine can take a hit or two from a Heavy Bolter.
Right now, Eternal Crusade has all the mechanics of good PvP in place, even though some balancing needs to be done still. For example, there’s a fair few classes to select from on both sides of the conflict, with them being equivalent one to another from what I can tell. It’s Chaos Marines versus the Astartes, with the Eldar soon to be arriving onto the battlefields – as I said, the basic skeleton upon which criticism is garnered is there, without most of the upcoming fluff. Since the two factions mechanically work the same, the only real difference lies in the visual department, allowing you to choose depending on your preferences. How a wholly different race such as the Eldar or, say, Orks will be managed remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. Anyway, the playstyle of most classes depends mainly on their equipped armaments. A Marine with a Heavy Bolter will move slowly and have limited melee capabilities, while being capable of mounting his weapon on a nearby wall to provide crucial support for his more lightweight comrades. On the other hand, a Marine carrying a Stalker Bolter will hang back and snipe the enemies of the Imperium with a high-powered sniper-like weapon. It’s all what we’ve come to expect from similar man-shooter titles, albeit with a Warhammer twist. The most interesting difference lies in the infamous Assault Marine, whose jump-pack allows him to leap across the battlefield with ease – opening the enemies up for finisher attacks and cutting them into pieces with extremely potent CQC weapons. It’s by far the most dynamic character to play right now, but that doesn’t mean the rest are boring by any stretch of imagination. With suppression mechanic in place, strategic unit placement is key. And that’s before the mobile spawn-points (vehicles) come into play. It’s a much deeper kind of PvP than one might imagine at first, and for that reason alone I’m content with the current alpha build I got to play.
I mentioned classes, because right now there’s no way to customize your loadouts, but this feature is bound to come eventually, so fret not. I suspect we’ll be seeing a system similar to that of the first Modern Warfare games, with several pre-built classes to select from but also an editor to peruse at our own discretion. Again, the implementation of other, more diverse races is key here, but from what I’ve seen so far there’s no reason to doubt the developers.
Eternal Crusade looks nice, but not nice enough to justify the awful framerate drops I’ve been getting. Naturally, no optimization has been done yet whatsoever, so if you’re not sure if your rig can run the game, I suggest waiting to see how the situation develops later on. Aside from framerate drops, there’s little to criticise right now – maps look appropriately epic and the game’s clearly been upgraded compared to how bland Dark Milennium looked. The audio follows suit, and I’m sure every fan of this IP will enjoy the game for what it is, once all is said and done.
So yes, I am happy with the state Eternal Crusade is currently in, but only if developers manage to fulfill their promises of a Planetside-like final experience. It remains to be seen just how do they intend to realise a large open world which will be key for some players. PvP is just a minor speck of the game’s theoretical content, and some people such as me prefer PvE in almost all cases. One can only hope Behavior Interactive manage to build the kind of game they clearly are passionate about – everybody’s cheering for them. For the time being, though, we’ve got a pretty cool capture the hill kind of PvP, which I do recommend for every fan of the dream this developer has.