Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade on PC
I’m standing on a high ridge, looking down at a din of rifle-fire, dust clouds, and the odd tank rumbling by. I’ve been here before haven’t I? Not here exactly but hereabouts; now I’m back and I’m a little worn out, but I decide to wade in nevertheless. Squeezing off a couple of headshots nets me a quick kill as I fall back on old habits – old habits, incidentally, will be why I went with the Chaos Space Marine, as it’s a little like what I know (Gears of War) – only this time I’m met with a laser-slash to the chest by an elf, and an ugly bit of lag as I keel over. That bit isn’t so familiar.
Playing Eternal Crusade is a familiar experience and it’s one that is at times fun and rewarding, but at others it’s blighted with undercooked design. The tutorial mode only takes you through the controls, and while it’s worth mucking about in for a few minutes to get the gist, that’s about it. Jumping into a large scale battle is the best way to get to the heart of the matter. At first the familiar will pop into focus and you will find a rhythm blasting, ducking behind cover, slashing opponents with your melee weapon, and at some points the large scale battles can coalesce into a charming melee, but it isn’t long before the ugly parts rear their heads. The frame rate is a gut-punch that you can’t quite fully recover from, never staying locked at thirty when the going gets tough – it’s tougher still when it leads to a daft death.
A deeper understanding of the game would go a long way to improving it, and it’s something that Behaviour Interactive have left a little opaque. It’s clear that the developer has a love for its source material, as soldiers, races, and environments are lovingly crafted with at least as much affection as DICE has for Star Wars. Behaviour hasn’t made the world accessible however, relying on foreknowledge of the races and factions and obscuring much of what makes it tick. The menus are not intuitive, and there’s never an effort to make any of it any clearer.
It’s a chaotic experience jumping in for the first time, and many deaths will be had while fumbling for the right tactic. Just what is the right tactic anyway? Well, there’s an emphasis on melee combat here: you will find a number of your weapon load-outs come with a longer-range weapon (a rifle, say) that isn’t particularly powerful, but will be offset with a knife (a really big bloody knife) that will make it well worth your while getting up close and personal. It was a fact learned the brutal way, as I was dispatched really rather quickly with that laser-sword-wielding elf as it leapt at me with unerring ferocity. It’s not actually an elf; it’s an Eldar, a nimble, graceful (and indeed elf-like) folk that clash with the game’s other factions – Orcs, Space Marines, and Chaos Space Marines.
Some factions fare better with melee, and so their advantage feels unbalanced compared to the humble power of my rifle. With this leaning on hand-to-hand combat, it’s tough to work out which factions stack favorably against the others, and when friendly fire is a persistent presence throughout a battle, it means that luck and chance work their way into messy fire fights with a little too much regularity. Add to this the aforementioned frame rate, some unsightly texture pop up, and the odd glitch, and you’ve got a shooter that’s more often frustrating than fun.
There is a definite early Beta feel to Eternal Crusade. It is as if this is the initial rough plan for a far more polished version; however, this is it. Behaviour will no doubt patch the game and perhaps in time, it will evolve into a far more accomplished animal – certainly the seeds are there. XP will amass after kills and match wins, which, when spent at the inventory shop will grant you access to the more powerful weapons and gear. This gives the game a comfy MMO feel and could lead to a more Destiny-shaped affair, in which quests are undertaken and dungeons are besieged by teams of players.
The attitude that Behaviour Interactive have here is indicative of a bad way to approach development, and patch culture is picking up more and more traction. Why finish a game when we can get it out the door now and start making money? It isn’t finished and there’s plenty that needs fixing, but polish be damned we can always just patch it afterwards! It’s a shame for Eternal Crusade because a little bit more polish is just what the doctor ordered here; certainly it would lessen the blows of its by-the-number design and obfuscated mechanics.
There’s potential here, and a lot of the game’s promise is steeped in maybes and the possibilities that lay behind future updates; right now, Eternal Crusade is an undercooked, bare-bones affair that can, at times, produce a compelling shootout, but on the whole remains a rote and subpar game. For those outside of the Warhammer faithful, there’s no real reason to play Eternal Crusade when there are the likes of Destiny, Battlefront, and Overwatch out there that do far more, far better.
Score: 2/5 – Poor