This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you should wait to see if the game progresses further in development.
Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu once wrote “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”, an admirable quality if one were to achieve it. If you’re the type of strategist ready to defeat your advisory before placing a single foot onto the battlefield, then Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade (Wh:EC) is absolutely the wrong game for you, without question. If however, you enjoy the militaristic clank of metal, heavy artillery capable of ripping away limbs and watching your pitiful foes crumble before your ruthless violence, then I would certainly encourage you to read further, oh boy would I.
Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment is a third person squad-based shooter set within the lore of the famous Warhammer fantasy world. The massively mutiplayer online title is currently at an early access closed alpha stage. Wh:EC is unfinished but promises to implement a plethora of additional content, inclusive of PvE and single player campaign mode, amongst others. Currently you can gain access to the closed alpha stage for a discounted £31.99 via the Steam store, the usual price being £39.99. Wh:EC is available on PC only, although it is also in development for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
It is not unusual for a title to be released during the alpha stage of development, but is it worth your money just yet? Presently, the only game mode available is arena based PvP hosting a total of 32 players, 16 on each side. The objective of the game is to take control of key base areas on the map, usually A, B and C; the longer your team has control of the area, the more points you will gain. Points are also awarded for player kills.
You can select to play as either Space Marine or Chaos Space Marine, within each faction a further five sub-divisions will be available for selection, for instance the Ultramarine or Blood Angel within the Space Marine faction. A further 2 factions will be implemented into the game at a later stage, Orks and Eldars. In total, 20 sub-divisions will be available eventually.
Progression within the game will be rewarded with extensive character customisation. The more you play the game, the greater the selection of armour and weaponry available to you. Presently, there is a sufficient amount of adaptability for your character, you can tinker with the various specifications depending on whether you want to be a melee, mid-range or long-range soldier. There’s certainly enough here to keep you interested.
Graphically the game looks impressive, each map has it’s own unique design that captures the heart and soul of the Warhammer world. Ranging from blisteringly bright sands, to dark and dank industrial zones, you’ll not be disheartened with the look and feel of the game. There have been occasions whereby I have taken a step back, placed my gun to my side and enjoyed the jaw-dropping scenery; I was subsequently executed by my opponents. Sweet death.
Character design is as you’d expect, quite splendid. The heavy mechanical armour of the Space Marine clumps and clangs with each passing step, the suit feels purpose built for a heavy duty fire fight. Armour glistens in the light, scratched and war torn, giving the illusion of a time served futuristic soldier that only adds to the immersion. Weaponry looks mean and menacing. The chainsaw for example looks particularly horrifying, this is my preferred choice, obviously.
Game sound is sensational, the roar of engines, the deep and satisfying blast from your assault rifle, the explosion of grenades as they detonate around you is an auditory master-class. With the impressive visuals and even better sound effects, the game takes hold of you by the scruff of the neck and refuses to let you go. Such attention to detail provides a satisfying disengagement from reality, you are transfixed on the game, the battle at hand, it couldn’t be better.
The game runs moderately well, I tested Wh:EC on a mid-range processor and a Nvidia GTX 970 GPU, typically performance would range from between 45-60 frames per second with a rare drop below this. I’m yet to encounter a system crash or server lag, this is encouraging. There is no advanced graphical customisation, a sliding bar to indicate what one can only assume to range from ultra to low settings is available. Hopefully, the developers will implement more adaptability for the PC user.
The game is lacking with the ability to customise the controls. You can play either using mouse and keyboard, or with your gamepad. Unfortunately, you can not change button configuration to your own liking. I found the game frustrating because of this, for example left+ctrl is the default for weapon zoom. Personally, I’m so used to right mouse click being a zoom / target button, that consciously thinking about the button configuration all but ruined my immersion. This is a shame as such care has been given to the design of the aesthetics within the game. The developers have promised that this issue will be resolved in later updates; the sooner the better.
As of yet, there is no ability to group as a team prior to entering the battlefield. Again, this is somewhat frustrating as many early release titles often take this into consideration and implement it as soon as possible. Players must resort to entering battle simultaneously and hope to enter the same game by luck, or, by joining on the other player via steam. This is not always successful as the 32-man servers can fill to capacity quickly.
At such an early stage, the gameplay is promising. The title, deemed as a persistent war does not fail to keep the player enthralled. If, like me, you’re a competitively driven online player, the ability to play over and over within the online realm is something that seldom becomes repetitive. Every battle has its own story, each kill as satisfying as the next. Speaking of which, executions are beautifully integrated into the game. Prior to death, players can crawl on hands and knees searching for a team mate to revive and restore them back to their feet and continue in the battle. Unfortunately, this moment of vulnerability also presents a moment of gruesome disposal at the hands of your enemy. As an attacking player, should you wish, you have the opportunity to impale your foe on the tip of your chainsaw, or end their existence with a point-blank shot to the temple; amongst other brutal ends. The animation is horrific and bloody, wonderful stuff for those of us who enjoy this sort of thing. Of course, don’t think you’re safe. Should you wish to execute your enemy then you’ll yourself will be vulnerable to the attack of others, if you successfully complete the execution then you’re rewarded with 100xp. Worth the risk, every time.
Gameplay is akin to the likes of Gears of War, you can choose to cower behind strategic points, walls, steps, vehicles etc… Although, the game does not blatantly employ duck-and-cover to the extent of Gears, you can just as easily go for the run and gun Call of Duty style of play. The choice is yours, each play style as valid as the next. There is no first-person option, this is third-person only. The play-style is exciting, should you be part of a squad that use the in-game voice channel and utilise sensible strategy, then the game is even better. Covering team mates and providing cover fire, defending important points as a team gives a real feeling of purpose; this could easily be a future E Sports classic.
For the new player the game is simple to play, the controls, although without the ability to customise are easy to learn. The game will develop over time, currently your own personal learning will integrate itself into your own game-time. If you want to run-and-gun, you can. If in the future you’d prefer to join a clan / guild then you will be able to. The game will reward you with the amount of time you’re willing to give.
You must appreciate that the game is unfinished, the developers have promised a campaign mode (single player MMO), PvE, further factions, online store, subscription perks; all yet to be implemented. The story within the game will be developed by New York Times best-selling author Graham McNeill and Narrative Designer Ivan Mulkeen, an exciting proposition.
The question is, when will be the right time to buy-in? If you want to wait, there will be a free-to-play version of the game, referred to by the developers as “Free-to-Waaagh!”, you will only be able to play as an Ork character with limitations within the account, but you’ll be able to get a feel for the game. The free-to-play option is not available yet.
If you do decide to purchase the game, is it worth it? Personally, I have already accumulated numerous hours and I predict many more to come. The PvP is exciting, the combat feels impressive and real. There are obvious flaws that one would expect in any alpha title, which, according to the developers, will be ruled out in the future. In essence, you’re paying for the potential of a great game. At present, Wh:EC is enjoyable and time consuming, in a good way. Indeed, I have spent far less time on finished games that I have spent more money on.
Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade has bags of potential, it promises to add a huge amount of content, inclusive of a single player campaign mode. I find this to be exciting and I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next instalment. In the mean time, I’ll concentrate on developing my character, honing my skills and executing as many people as I can; because 100xp is worth it. Plus it looks cool. Does that make me a bad person? Well, come join me and see for yourself…
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