I enjoy a good Warhammer 40,000 game despite not being heavily into the tabletop scene (mostly due to space constraints!) Because of that, I was really excited to see a 40k shooter being released. Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is a third person, squad-based tactical shooter with large-scale battles and what Behaviour Interactive calls a “persistent war.”
Eternal Crusade has had a rocky start. It’s been in Closed Alpha for over a year and in Early Access for sometime before its release. With a “Mixed” rating on Steam, players are understandably a little dubious about picking it up. With a few hours on the battlefield under my belt, here is my Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade review. Will it live up to the hopes and dreams of 40k fans?
For the Emperor! Or, not?
First of all, what exactly is Eternal Crusade beyond being a third person shooter? The game features four of the most widely recognizable Warhammer 40k factions at the moment: Space Marines, Chaos Marines, Eldar, and most recently Orks.
Each faction has a variety of armies or chapters to choose from, including the recently added Space Wolves chapter for Space Marines. Players can create a profile for each faction and chapter, up to a maximum of four, and choose from a wide range of classes to play. Each faction has units specialized in melee, support, and heavy weapons amongst others. You can create a warrior and customize its loadout with weapon and armor unlocks. There’s also a variety of trinkets and other peripherals that may be useful depending on the match.
We can also look forward to a set of Elite and Hero classes for each faction, however Behaviour Interactive hasn’t confirmed them all yet.
The customizability of your chosen warrior is actually quite detailed, and has developed further throughout the beta into release. There are now many options to choose from when you rank up. Players can purchase upgrades to their armor or health regen, or decrease the cost of weapons to tweak their loadouts just how they like them. There is an entire Advancements section with an MMO-style tree of improvements players can purchase with points earned through playing.
There are both PvP and PvE game modes at the moment. Within PvP, there is also a selection of two match types. The Grand Battle has a sort of Battlefield feel, with teams battling it out to capture and hold points on a large map along with vehicles to help squads move around quickly and create mobile spawn points. Skirmish Battle is much smaller, with 30 – 40 combatants warring it out.
On the other hand, the PvE mode “Lair” sets teams in a group of five versus swarms of ruthless Tyranids. Teams need to progress through each level, defeating wave after wave of the insectoid aliens and various mini-bosses.
Players can form guilds and invite friends for future potential guild vs guild battles. Friends can also group up in a War Party to join the battlefield together, though the menu is a little clunky at the moment.
Blood for the Blood God! Or just for my enemies…
How do Eternal Crusade’s actual shooter mechanics measure up? One thing Behaviour Interactive achieved very well was the nitty-gritty, dark feel of the 41st Millenium.
Locked in a one-on-one battle with your enemy feels like an all-out brawl. Power weapons clash against one another and marines dash away from the fight only to rush back in with their jetpack, slamming into the ground and into their enemy’s face. Bullets and plasma fly, making it hard not to feel like a mighty warrior entrenched in battle as you stumble behind a wall to recover. Meanwhile, teammates will charge towards you yelling encouragements from inside their power armour.
With that said, throughout the game’s testing phases there has been an issue of balance. The community has raised it several times. The devs have responded that they won’t be fixing balance until they’re done adding everything. This is fine, however it is concerning that some factions and classes feel very powerful.
Asymmetric mechanics will always have some classes with advantages over others, but that doesn’t explain the balance issues here. Hopefully now that we’re entering official release we will start to see the necessary tweaks to make things feel more even. At the moment, balance is still a problem but the community remains hopeful it will start to improve.
As a shooter, Eternal Crusade does a great job of making players feel like they’re a part of the 40k universe. However, there’s a lot missing from what Behaviour Interactive has stated they want to do with the game. The World Map feels like it’s still in development. As I mentioned throughout alpha, beta, and early access the devs did not want to work on balance between the factions or even the classes. At this time, melee still feels incredibly powerful compared to other loadouts, and healers feel quite unbalanced as the Apothecaries in the Space Marines faction are melee-range healers, whereas Chaos Marines have ranged healers who heal over time and from a safe distance away.
I must stress that players expecting a Planetside-esque MMOFPS will probably be disappointed, however I can see Behaviour Interactive’s vision for the game’s future. The “Hub and Spoke” philosophy means they can expand through multiple expansions to include massive guild battles and more.
Eternal Crusade does not feel like it’s broken the mould in the shooter genre. However, to its credit it feels like a 40k game which is not easy to achieve when broaching a somewhat new game style. Is it particularly innovative? No. The loadout system is similar to many games before it, and there is a vaguely Battlefield-esque theme to the game itself, with players trying to capture and hold points across a map.
Now, normally I would not give kudos to a shooter for having an excellent community. It’s not exactly the first thing I look for in a game where I run around shooting everyone in sight. Eternal Crusade is an exception. The people who play this game are mostly big fans of Warhammer 40k and its universe. This comes through in the names players select for their warriors: I’ve seen Orks called “Gut Smasha”, for example. Some of the players even roleplay their interactions with each other in chat.
The community is clearly very passionate about the universe, and this comes through in a genre that normally has people yelling at one another or smack talking the enemy team. I have seen so little of this and almost everyone is supportive of their teammates.
While the graphics aren’t triple-A, they fit the universe very well. As I mentioned earlier, the game feels visceral. There’s blood and dirt and rusted metal and this comes through very well with the dark, dim colours of the environments. It’s also been receiving small improvements to the graphics over time.
The sounds are immersive, however it can seem cacophonous at times. Turrets, gunfire, marines yelling, Orks waaaaagh’ing…it can all become a bit overwhelming. Also, even in release sounds occasionally get “stuck”. If you are in a turret, the sound of it firing can clip. It’s really jarring. Even worse if you get stuck with a turret or tank sound autoplaying in the background even when you’re nowhere near one. Once I experienced running around a corner as a Space Marine only to have the sound of a turret turning instead.
Value for Money 5/10
Behaviour Interactive initially announced a free-to-play option for Eternal Crusade in which players could only play Orks. If they bought into the game, players could select a different faction. However this idea seems to have been tossed out, at least for now. The game has an initial buy-in cost that is quite steep — it’s not quite triple-A price but considering the game is also not a triple-A title, it could be a bit pricey for some.
On top of that, there is an in-game store allowing players to purchase Wargear with “Rogue Trader Credits”. These seem fairly reasonably priced and aren’t required in order to progress since most items can be purchased with currency earned in-game. I also think it’s important to give them credit for one thing in particular: future expansions will be free. These will include additional game modes, and the devs plan to expand the options players have for engaging in largescale battles, either PvE or PvP.
In its current state I would even go as low as 5/10, but I feel that Eternal Crusade has a lot of potential. It is a fun game, and Behaviour Interactive wants to add in some really interesting features. While they won’t be going for the MMO gameplay that many are expecting, they will have huge battlefields and a variety of areas players can fight for their faction.
+ Feels visceral and makes players feel like a badass
+ True to the Warhammer 40,000 lore and theme
+ Excellent and passionate community
– Some bugs still existing right up into launch
– Not exactly what players imagined when told they’d get a Warhammer 40k MMOFPS
– Quite pricey