Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Internet Is Back... and Video Games Suck...

So without internet access this week I spent some time doing something I’m sure a lot of us have done or do fairly commonly. I played some video games.  I know, A. no one cares, B. I have a crap tone of projects to do, and C. no one cares.  But honestly here me out, the exposition is always a the boring part.
See I was playing Space Marine.  Now I pretty much have only played the single player campaign.  I’ve played most of the warhammer games and I usually walk away with the same thought.  Has anyone who makes the video games ever actually played the 40k table top game?

Sorry if you like Space Marine but the game play is screwy.  They pretty much rape 40k’s background to make a poor quality first person shooter.  They saw an anti-tank laser canon and thought, hey lets make that a sniper rifle.  The game plays slow and inexorable.  Some might say that it fits the space marines.

On one level it certainly does.  On another level it plays out like gears of war but without the heartwarming narrative of poor decisions and mass murder.  The space marine should be slow and inexorable to some degree, but it’s the slow inevitable march towards the grave.  There is no passion in the characters.  Even gears of war had its poorly contrived quest to rescue the main character’s wife or something.  Here flat characters perform actions without any kind of connection to the setting, plot, or general background.

And lets not forget the constant focus on Space Marines versus Chaos Space Marines.   The game is a tired rehash of 40k’s better written back story.  Even firewarrior told a better chaos narrative than space marine.  So I was thinking here’s a fucking 40k game.

It’s called “Warhammer 40k: Heresy” cause that’s what it’s about.  Naming games for unit types has always been pretty stupid, only people who care are those people that play that damned unit. Firewarrior and Space Marine fell into this trap. I’m just calling it Heresy cause even though the main characters are Space Marines we are at least gonna make you look at the box art to figure that out.  And that’s another thing, the box art is the fucking emperor on the golden throne. Full blown glossy painted joygasm artwork not that same damned rehashed watercolor that’s in every fucking book.  No space marine on the cover cause, well we really want you to read the box descriptions and see the little photos of people being vaporized in game play. So its named lets jump in.

First off, we’ve had TBS’s, RTS’s, and now 2 shitty shooters.  I’ve probably forgotten a few games too. So lets do this right.  40k started with an RPG strategy hybrid so that’s where it should go.  Shooters are fine, they are obtainable.  They make sense to a lot of gamers and a good game needs to sell to more than just 40k fans.

So our hybrid will have a firm grounding in squad based shooters.  You’ll be the seargent of a 5 man tactical squad.  RPG wise you’ll have the opportunity to find equipment, looting fallen enemies for weapons.  In classic Rogue trader your space marines could carry lasguns or splinter rifles whatever just so long as you could kill something with the business end.  A real marine uses what they have and that’s our marines, fighting to the end. 

You’ll have a smart tactical menu to command your team mates and in Co-op or multi player the same interface will be used to command the party.  The main character in single player has some RPG style upgrades gained at intervals throughout the game through completing quests/objectives depending on how RPG or Shooter we want to build the game.  Personally your character will be allowed, let’s say 3 trees of abilities.  One is Psychic Powers, classic light shit on fire with your mind stuff building up to massive warp storm damage type shit.  The second is faith, prayers to the emperor that boost abilities for a short time, give auras of protection, and crap like that.  And third is mutations, start with simple things, altered vision modes super hard skin, these are permanent and can alter how the RPG elements play out, at the higher levels you have horns and breath fire which is pretty bad ass on its own.  But the idea is you mix and match upgrades in a tier system so you can’t be to powerful.  On top of this you add weapon and armor upgrades from poor quality weapons up to full on artificer quality stuff with digital lasers on board.  You buy everything with Requisition gained by completing in game objectives, storyline events, secondary objectives/sidequests, and competing online in Multiplayer.  Basically requisition buys strait out equipment upgrades and ammo or it buys a Character Point spendable in your upgrade tree.  So there is really four main options, All Faithful, All Psychic, All Mutant, or Strait Marine with the 5th option of mix and match lower tier smorgasbord.  So that’s the game play.

Second we need a damned plot.  Now Dawn of War had a rather predictable but enjoyable plot regarding the machinations of chaos.  Dawn of War 2 was really moby dick in power armor.  Space Marine is really chaos’s version of Punk’d. The villain is Ashton Kocher playing for chaos undivided.  So basically it was dry and lifeless from the start.  Now I’m realistic if Ashton Kocher was in 40k he’d definitely be playing for chaos. I’m not gonna lie chaos is the protagonist… sorry antagonist… slip of the tongue hehee.  Anyway chaos is in here, the names heresy after all.  But it’s not gonna be this obvious.

So we are gonna start with a beautiful cut scene of a bunch of candles.  Pan out to the main character bowed before an imperial shrine in the staff briefing room of a thunderhawk drop ship reciting a prayer to the emperor.  A squad of space marines file in, for practical reasons we are limiting your squad from act one.  You’ll have the grizzled battle veteran we’ll call him Julius, veteran of many battles he’ll give you sound military advice.  Then you’ll have Arthur, the ordnance specialist.  Arthur is also a veteran but he specializes in “Special weapons” like plasma guns and melta bombs.  Next is Cestus, the strong silent type, heavy scars and cybernetic reconstruction leave him totally unvoice acted, I mean mute.  But that’s fine his favorite chain sword does most of his talking.  And last you’ll have Trajian, the newbie.  Just promoted to the veteran company he is only a hundred and fifty, as a result he’s brash and headstrong always suggesting a frontal assault as the most honorable path.

I don’t care what chapter my marines are.  Personally I think choosing ultrasmurfs was a bad idea for Space Marine.  I don’t like smurfs that’s why I call them smurfs and why my blood angels exsanguinate them on sight.  Dawn of War had a better idea, make it custom.  The blood ravens were an awesome introduction and were played perfectly with a richly developed iconography and well done backstory.  Sure they get their homeworld blown up and basically half of them go evil but they were marketed well.  Now if we were going full RPG here I’d suggest before game starts you could forgo the build your own character generator in favor of a “chapter builder” choose color and iconography like dawn of war style to make it more fun for the fluff addicts among us.  Then if you use game rendered cinemas like a lot of these games now do you just stick the color scheme and icons in as appropriate.  If we are leaning towards shooter then any chapter will do but I’d say a custom or lessor developed chapter would be good.  Maybe one of the big named ones that isn’t played up in the game often like Salamanders or White Scars, the choice at this point changes an aesthetic for the marines more than anything else so whatever trips the developers trigger.

The battle brothers wait for the end of the prayers and then begin a briefing.  The first briefing is about the tutorial part 1.  Basically your strike force has been deployed to fight… “insert 40k enemy here” I’d probably go with tyranids.  I like the nids and classic genestealer versus marines would start the game with a horror pace which would be awesome. The mission brief is your game hub where you decide what missions to do.  At first its only one mission but you’ll get more options here later.   The briefings would introduce the character personalities as the game gives you the option of what to do.  In the first one your mission is to extract some important people from a jungle death world that’s being overrun.  Trajian of course suggests landing on the research facility’s gantry,  Arthur suggests using defoliant weapons on the jungle first, and Cestus just polishes his chain sword.  Julius suggests a daring decent via Jump packs and a hike through the jungle to the facility followed by an exit through the roof of the facility’s main command tower.  All this is meant to set up the dynamics of the group and choose your starting load out.

My basic idea is simple, you keep what you kill.  Your party will have the option to pickup equipment in game and return to the ship with it.  Once you complete a mission with equipment it appears in your inventory and you can buy upgrades, ammo, etc for it. Till then you’re out of luck.  So to start you choose, Daring landing pad raid and you get classic tactical marine load out. As defoliator you get slow and purposeful terminator armor with flamers and storm bolters. And before anyone cries about game balance I’d set up termi armor with some drawbacks, no running or jumping for one, probably no duck either so while tactical marines can go prone the termi’s just have to take gun fire.  Also a lot of weapons wouldn’t work with termi armor so there.  Lastly you’d go jump pack as assault marines with Bolt Pistol and CCW.  Sergeant would have a power sword by default and Arthur a Plasma pistol.

First play through you’d go Jump pack decent by default unless you opt out of the “Tutorial” mode.  But basic idea is you footslog through the jungle fighting predators and carnivorous plants as a tutorial followed by part 2 maybe 3 being added levels of real game play.  After you enter the deserted facility you start getting into real gamer fun.  Most of the science teams and general squishes are dead ala Doom style body shredding.  You get a signal from a survivor deep in a sublevel and proceed through some puzzling maze like corridors down into the structure while being attacked by genestealers, gaunts, and whatever else we feel like tossing at you.  Just for the hell of it the station’s machine spirits are going crazy and autoturrets try to kill you too.  Finally you get into the facility’s last secure lab and find an ordo xeno’s inquisitor we’ll call Andureal.  Inquisitor Andureal, a Jokuro scientist, and his guard staff of female inquisitorial storm troopers code named “Squadron Valkyr” are all that’s left of the station personnel.  You extract them through the station’s secure containment tunnels to the command tower only to have Mawloc or some similar Nid monster knock it down.  You regroup with some losses to Valkyr and battle instead to the landing pad where the thunderhawk awaits with the rest of your strike force.  But the inquisitor orders the group to abandon the planet which you dutifully do.

Onboard the ship the Inquisitor officially demands the Astartes’ assistance with resolving an urgent matter.  Though he won’t explain he insists there is an urgent matter you must help with. Then orders you to make course for a highly populated hive world.  At this point you can free roam a bit.  Talk to the other marines for advice, the jokuro is your weapon upgrade mechanic.  The Valkyr’s chief of staff should be a sassy little tough as nails officer that reports to the Inquisitor.  You’ll also have an Apothecary on board for medical stuff, maybe a librarian and a techmarine as upgrade mechanics or supply options.  Not sure.  Along with your squad you’ll have a few other marine squads on the thunderhawk.  Maybe 30 people in total, counting the survivors let’s say 50 tight fit for the time being.   All in all in all you get some interactions and some back story, not full RPG stuff more like the hubs in Star Craft 2, if we are really clever you could do a mechanic where the librarian records you’re great deeds and can do instant replays or maybe have the other squads talk about how amazingly you kill things in the name of the emperor.  And one of the valkyr’s could say “I used to be space marine like you then I took a bolter round in the knee.” You know fun stuff like that.

The inquisitor lands you on an industrial hive world where your first task is to find a scientist who hid something stolen from someplace.  What follows is a fun and unique interaction with the 40k universe.  Space marines are gods among men in 40k and here they dine to walk amongst the populous. The common people bow to you, crowds part as you walk, if you stop to talk to a merchant he humbly offers you his wares for free though they never have anything useful.  The hive market becomes your hub.  By talking to the commoners you learn of their troubles.  A growing gang population, brutal totalitarian government, mass disappearances, and run amuck robot maniples.  The list goes on.  You have the option to dispatch your squad to deal with these issues in an attempt to possibly find your wayward scientists.  Depending on the missions you take you’ll get certain equipment and certain equipment will be needed for certain jobs.  But that’s all part of the RPG elements.  Each mission is a map you go to and fight your way through, completing objectives and collect equipment from. You’ll also have the option to dispatch some other marine squads to deal with a mission, by doing so you get a piece of looted equipment but no requisition or other rewards of game play.  Depending on the depth of the RPG/RTS influence you might also lose marines from the squad you send eventually running out of subordinates.  You’ll be limited to doing say 3 of the dozen missions yourself before the story mode triggers.

Finally the scientist reveals himself but you are cut off by gangers before you can capture the scientist.  You fight your way to the Gangers headquarters where you confront the scientist.  He reveals the object he stole was taken by the aristocrats but he isn’t sure who but they have ties to the Spyer Arena and the gangers.  In order to find the object without alerting the aristocrats you remove your armor disguising yourself as gladiators you enter the spyer arena battles to find information.  You fight your way through the arena gladiators interrogating your opponents between battles looking for clues as to who has the object.  In the final battle you beat down the gladiator champion and confront the arena’s adjutant as the artifact’s possessor.  But the adjutant releases an army of cybernetic abominations on the arena, you and its spectators.  The gangers wisk the adjutant away deep into the under city.

From here you return to the thunderhawk.  You’re presented with several tactical battle scenarios.  These include things like evacuating civilians to safety, retaking key structures like comms control and water recycling.  Or maybe just good old fashioned hold the line against waves of cybernatically enhanced abominations made from kidnapped civilians.  Once more you can do 3 of them personally and a small number of squad assignments to your allied Astartes.  As you are doing this if you are talking to people your officers will be giving you advice and talking about past campaigns or 40k story points. You could also tie multiplayer in here, you could do a bunch of multiplayer maps alongside the 3 single maps to get requisition and upgrades.  Maybe even use requisition to upgrade your allied astartes if you want not sure I think this mostly would depend on developer time needed to impliment.

Eventually the main story progresses.  After tactically retaking key facilities your squad strikes into the undercity to fight the gangers.  At first you battle through gangers with their legions of cybernetically enhanced minions. However it turns more evil over time. The Cybernetic minions give way to mutant abominations and chaos taint creeps into the gangs.  Finally you fight into the bowels of the city and finally confront the adjutant to find him a monstrous demonic half serpent amidst a horror show mad scientist laboratory. A massive boss battle ensues and you kill him but just barely. Finding the artifact is a large archiotech box like device about the size of a devastator marine’s back pack.  Collecting it you find the mutated gangers are going insane without the demonic influence of the adjutant to guide them.  Together you and your squad fights towards the surface.  As you go the spyer is wracked with explosions as the cyborgs and mutants destroy supports and power systems.  You reach the upper levels through force of arms and there on the platform beside the thunderhawk you face down a demon engine built form countless civilians sewn together and fueled by their dyeing breaths.  In a valiant effort your marines turn their weapons on the thing as the thunderhawk lifts off but the monster’s pincing claws grasp at the vessel and to save them all Cestus hurls himself from the open bay doors into the creature’s face sawing it to pieces, buying time to escape.  As you ascend the hive explodes as the mutants detonate the nuclear reactors destroying themselves and any unfortunate enough to survive.

The thunderhawk, your surviving crew aboard along with the surviving valkyrs and the inquisitor ascend into space where they dock with a giant space station known as the Skysprawl Citadel.  A vast ship yard in orbit around the planet.  Upon arrival you discover dark machinations afoot here as well.  Strange carvings have been found throughout the station depicting an evil pyramid and the demon named Helldrian.  Arbites enforcers patrol the station at all hours in response to rioting.  Brutal serial killings have been occurring.  What’s worse is the mutants and cyborgs have been smuggled on board the station which is threatening the lives of all aboard as they go crazy.  Here again you get the option to walk amongst the people. Different groups have their own motivations and will push you to do their missions. Arbites want the riot inciters caught and murders stopped, station officials want the mutants and cyborgs put down before they do damage, and of course the inquisitor and the valkyrs want the taint of chaos purged from the station before the situation disintegrates totally.  You’ll collect missions from multiple sources, you can do 3 again yourself, a small number of ordered missions for your surviving allies, and a bunch of multiplayer missions.

When the story mode picks up it’s a confrontation between yourself and the inquisitor. You insist on requesting backup from the Astartes but Andureal has ordered the mechanicus on Skysprawl to disable all transmitters and the telepaths have been sequestered by the Valkyrs.  Suspicion is rampant and the station’s population erupts into riots.  The Arbites stretched thin already are pushed to their breaking point and mutants slip through damaging the station’s orbital control systems during the riot you are forced to put down.  The station begins to fall into the atmosphere and break apart.  Your squad fights its way through the habitation section into the science labs in an attempt to reach the thunderhawk.  Once more a race against time you are forced to disable parts of the station’s security to get where you need to be while fighting off rioting civilians, mindless cyborg killing machines, and horrid mutant scum.  Finally you reach the secure facility the inquisitor had requisitioned but it’s been over run.  You find that before being taking by the mutants the artifact had been opened.  There in the facility’s house of horror, among the corpses of the techmagos’s assistants you find a young girl in strange attire.  With little time to think you gun down the mutants that are about to kill her and drag her away with you pushing her into julius’s arms and tell him to protect her.  You battle through the station’s remaining corridors to the thunderhawk.  But as you enter the docking bay from a gantry at the top you find that the station’s docking arm is locked on the thunderhawk and can’t be disabled now the station’s power is failing.  As the station’s docking bay buckles and begins to decompress, Arthur wishes you farewell and jumps onto the docking arm from the gantry holding on for dear life he overloads his plasma gun melting the thing in half.  Your dwindling crew drops onto the pack of the thunderhawk and rushes through the nearest hatch to safety as the station breaks apart in flames.

Onboard the Thunderhawk your surviving crew has shrunk greatly.  The inquisitor and the valkyrs are missing.  Your informed by the pilot that the valkyr comms chatter indicated they and the inquisitor commandeered a frigate from the ship yards and headed towards a planet named Caldera via the immaterium. You order a pursuit course.  In the briefing room the woman, named Helen reveals herself to be a psyker.  She was put into dimensional stasis by researchers millennia before the imperium came to be so that she could be studied.  Her power gives her foresight but also drains her life.  She claims that the inquisitor was drawn to evil by the temptations of his lieutenant, the leader of the Valkyr.  Julius recommends they overtake the Frigate in the warp if possible.  With the intention of doing just that they head in pursuit.

Through a trick of the warp they unfortunately arrive in the Caldera system weeks after the inquisitor.  They find the frigate and board by force.  Again you are presented with missions, this time making tactical decisions to take the ship sending yourself or the small number of remaining allied squads to take key objectives such as seizing the engine room, isolating crew quarters, life support, primary guns, and so on.  On board you find mutant imperial navy solders driven onward by monstrous demonic valkyrs tainted by the touch of slaanesh.  Their twisted wings and snake like lower bodies betray their allegiance all to well.  Once you’ve done your 3 missions you’ll discover an opening to seize the bridge.   A week Helen carried by Julius warns that the Inquisitor has fled the ship but the bridge will lead you to his ultimate location and your final confrontation with him.  So you battle up through the bowels of the ship to the bridge and confront an even more mutated Valkyr on the bridge.  After a protracted battle she is slain.  The bridge log indicates an lander was deployed to a small facility on the surface of the otherwise lifeless rock of a planet.  The thunderhawk is deployed to the same location.

Arriving you find an abandoned archeological dig.  The Valkyrs have slaughtered through the station crew and demons freely walk its halls.  Your survivors follow you through the station battling through the seekers to reach a chamber deep under the facility.  There a strange demonic pyramid awaits, flanked by monoliths and a great stone alter atop a dias at its front.  Lashed to a monolith at the dais’ landing is the inquisitor.  The lieutenant waits patiently as you approach battling down from the chamber’s edge and up the pyramid’s long steps through her demonic soldiers.  Then as you reach the dias to confront the valkyr turned daemon Julius draws his combat knife and drives it through Helen’s heart hurling her into the alter. The lieutenant laughs as you battle your possessed friend as the dias, pyramid, and monoliths begin to first glow then crack apart.  The dias snaps in two and drops several hundred feet before stopping, the alter, now far above glows like a sick green sun.  Andureal freed by the fall beheads Julius with a discarded chainsword as he is about to strike you down.  Crippled, bleeding, and broken Andureal pushes you back up the cavern slope.

You retreat through the crumbling station at last reaching the thunderhawk.  There you take off towards the frigate.  A parting shot of the planet shows the volcanic shelf has crumbled to reveal the pyramid is just one part of a massive construct. The pyramid is held aloft by a strange coiled serpent creature much like the valkyrs, this one colossal in size with a dozen limbs.  The coils glow now and begin to undulate flaking stone off as it returns to life.  Back on the frigate’s bridge the dying inquisitor reveals that he discovered from the scrawled text of the mad cultists on Skysprawl that Helen was the trapped soul of the deamon Heldrian the Siren of Slanesh.  He couldn’t be sure who her power had infected as her very voice could drive mortals mad.  So he intended to abandon her on Skysprawl and come here to destroy the temple that acted as the focus of Heldrian’s summoning.  He believed the ancients had given Heldrian a mortal form and trapped her in stasis. Now that her soul and were once again united her siren call would be a psykic beacon to rival the Astronomicon.  After a short debate he agrees that shattering the pyramid before Heldrian awakens might stop the resurrection.  All agreeing Trajan rushes to the engine room while you operate the ship’s guns. Hurling everything into the giant statue the ship hurtles through the atmosphere a blazing red spear against the nimbus of glowing green stone.  The cinematic climaxes with the imperial eagle emblazoned on the frigate’s prow splintering the pyramids surface and the planet cracking in two.

Roll credits.

After the credits a short cinematic would depict a rogue trader crew sifting through asteroid debris.  Finding the frozen body of a human girl embedded in the stone. And then cut to black.

That’s a 40k Game… Hope someone took notes.

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