For millennia alchemists have sought the Philosopher's Stone, a mystical substance said to turn lead into gold. It took until 1979 for a small company called Games Workshop to realise that this wasn't necessary. One merely needed to construct a set of game rules wherein success relied on paying fifteen dollars each for dozens of blister-packed lumps of forever obsolescent lead miniatures. And, unlike the last addictive and dangerous kid's craze involving lead (eating paint flakes) these weren't even coloured: you had to paint them yourself.
The Warhammer 40,000 mythos, the science fiction equivalent of Workshop's earlier Warhammer, has now been living large for a generation. Beginning life as a self-ridiculing, often satirical, but in equal measure disturbing, blend of science fiction cliches, the franchise has slowly solidified into its current state: ornate, dark, and menacing. Still primarily a table-top wargame, the mythos has featured in numerous computer games starting with the 1992 adaptation of Space Crusade.
Since Dawn of War was released in 2004, Workshop's wares have been the subject of a game-making bonanza, with fifteen titles released or announced, including expansions and sequels. The latest is Space Marine, named after the genetically engineered supermen that swamp gaming tournaments. It's the first FPS based on the franchise since the ill-fated Fire Warrior in 2003, a game that marked the introduction of a new race, the Tau, but is better known for being really, really bad.
With a mythos based upon squad level tactics, where the individual is subsumed by the will of the Emperor, and thrown, nameless, into the meat grinder of war, can the self-centred genre of FPS really do WH40K justice? The question will go double with the upcoming MMORPG, Dark Millennium Online.
On the optimistic side, the new trailer released at E3 looks it came in the last express train straight from Awesometon.
You can be the judge, when Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine hits in September for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Developed by Relic.
Sometimes I play the SNES. Sometimes I play Europa Universalis. Sometimes I play Need for Speed. And sometimes I play the fool. Part-time doctoral candidate at Flinders University. Part-time teacher of canonical poetry. Full-time Facebook-er.
Jimmy the Geek