Monday, 30 March 2015

Bloodborne (Video Game Review)

Right off of the bat you can tell that Bloodborne is a Hidetaka Miyazaki creation, following in the vein of his work with the Dark Souls franchise. You’re a lone warrior inflicted by a plague, wandering across a lone city in search of a cure. Hounded by degenerates and monsters, devolved remnants of a better time, and risking losing your humanity. Second verse, same as the first. This said; it provides enough interesting twists to still truly stand out on its own.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Alone (Audio Drama Review)

Of all that you can say about his stories, Joe Parrino seems to be at his best when he is handling spiritual or otherworldly themes. This is in part thanks to his writing style, having a firm grip upon presenting the unknown or creeping themes, but also in that his characters always seem to be at their strongest when facing what lies beyond. Witness stood out thanks to its Lovecraftian descriptions and depiction of the Grey Knights, while by comparison In Service To Shadows failed to resonate so strongly thanks to its xenos villains. Equally, while The Shape of the Hunt succeeded in presenting an interesting and balanced depiction of the White Scars, it was their spiritualism and aspects of tribalism which made them memorable. As a result of this, Alone proves to be one of his stronger stories, focusing squarely upon Chaos and a lone warrior hunting through the bowls of a damned vessel.

Having been separated from his battle brothers, Librarian Ithkos of the Raven Guard prowls amid ruined shrines and desolated halls for signs of survivors. Through his comm. bead, the astartes hears the whispers of the dead, and in every shadow something unspeakable lies in wait. As time runs out and space itself seems to warp about him through the corrupted vessel, Ithkos fights to survive and re-join his company. Yet when hints of survivors are found potentially still hidden away aboard the doomed ship, just what price might he be forced to pay in return for their safekeeping?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Khârn: Eater of Worlds (Novella Review)

Of all the characters brought into the spotlight over the past few years, few have changed more than Khârn the Betrayer. Defined for many years as the epitome of berserker rages and blood fueled madness, both he and the World Eaters were sadly defined only by obsessive screaming and skull taking. As with Abaddon the Despoiler however, this has recently taken a change for the better, more thoroughly fleshing out his character. Along with Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Betrayer, fans have received Chosen of Khorne and Khârn: The Eightfold Path to help flesh out the legion, and Eater of Worlds easily slides to help fill in the gaps between these tales.

Following their flight from Terra, the World Eaters legion is crumbling in upon itself. Isolated amid the time-warped reality of the Eye of Terror, more of their number are falling prey to the Butcher’s Nails with every passing day. Already several warbands have broken off from them, with others threatening to leave, and the legion itself commanded by blood-thirsty maniacs. To the few who still retain their sanity, it is obvious that the XII is on the brink of fracturing, totally and utterly, and needs unity. To Draeger, one of the few to still bare the cerulean and white of their colours, the answer to this dilemma lies comatose within his warship…

Monday, 23 March 2015

6 Points Codex: Skitarii Needs In Order To Succeed

It seems at long last that, in their efforts to market new armies, Games Workshop might be wheeling out a Mechanicus force at long last. Arguably the final big force the company can bring out short of a Custodes or Arbites army (or if they could give us a legitimate Sororitas force), there is an understandable level of hype behind it. Unfortunately, the company's success record when it comes to loyally sticking to their own ideas has been very chequered of late, and there is some understandable trepidation. After all, of all the Imperium's armies, the Mechanicus are easily one of the most unique.

This is ultimately written with lore as the main focus over rules and how to better explore the universe. At the same time it's focused on the Adeptus Mechanicus as a whole rather than merely their militant Skitarii given it is the Tech-Priests who still lead them. In the same way the Tau Empire isn't Codex: Fire Caste, a book needs to cover the big picture to really get a concept across.

So, in order to stick to the bare basics, here are six points which the codex needs to nail in order to be a true success and a loyal adaptation. Why six? Because there's one very special one which needed to be highlighted above all others.

6. The Many Cog-Toothed Faces Of War

Of all the forces in the Imperium, the Mechanicus have never been one which has definitively been nailed down in terms of a solid idea. Okay, they have faith in tech, they often have access to relics and incredibly advanced weapons, and they have their own militant arm. However, how that military emerges and is depicted has varied heavily form work to work. 

If you were to compare the Skitarii in Dark Adpetus to those found in Dark Apostle and Titanicus, you quickly come to realise no one is alike. Because there was no solid definition of exactly what the Skitarii were like every author was able to follow their own ideas. As such we've ended up with an incredible variety of forces, from only moderately enhanced elite Stormtroopers to borderline Servitors to combat drugged techno-barbarian berserkers implanted with all manner of weapons. Rather than being a weakness however, this often proves to be a far greater strength than any realise as it makes the universe feel far bigger.

Beyond the Imperial Guard, and arguably not even that, far too many armies within settings are often overly regimented. Because they are created to copy and promote what people find on the tabletop, all too often sub-faction after sub-faction is found being relatively similar. We could have craftworlds hidden for countless millenia in isolation, and they would have the exact same Aspect Warriors, vehicles and styles as Ulthwe because that's what's in the codex. Even astartes aren't immune to this as they are found constantly using the same patterns of vehicles, the same weapons and all too often the same basic troops. 

By comparison the Skitarii are one of the few to truly break that mold and because of that variety it makes the Mechanicus feel like a vast and varied organisation. Because there are so many varied forms of troops, because there are so many diverse alternative regiments and forces, it seems truly universal. More than that however, it's one of the few areas which reflects how ideologically diverse and conflicting the Mechanicus can be, with so many of their forces sculpted to best reflect the visions of one cult or another.

If the codex was to lose sight of past depictions, if it stamped down one single idea or lost the ability to show such diversity, a better part of the setting would be lost to players. A better part of a wider world would be shut off for good and ultimately the narrative Games Workshop so often tries to claim it wants players to forge would be weakened.

5. Alliances, Hereteks and Untrustworthy Comrades

As the last section mentioned the various factions and sub-factions within the Mechanicus possibly shaping its armies, it seems only right that the next section would expand upon that. The Adeptus Mechanicus is rooted into the very core of the Imperium itself. It remains a vital cog keeping humanity alive and fighting, and is spread across the Imperium via countless Forge Worlds. Easily as big as the Inquisition, capable of rivaling the Administrarum, the Mechanicus' presence is easily seen and arguably even more keenly felt across many worlds. The factories producing Titans, the engines keeping Hive Cities going, the very guns of the Imperial Guard, all are kept going by the Mechanicus giving them incredible political clout. Enough that they can, and will, happily get into headbutting contests with just about everyone from astartes to the Ordo Hereticus.

The conflicts, debates and occasional infighting between Mechanicus and other forces are well documented throughout the setting. Various novels have featured the Mechanicus going to great lengths to cover up certain activities or go their own way, especially in Storm of Iron, Soul Drinker and Hammer and Anvil. Others will go out of their way to try and ensure that no other forces interfere with their work, such as Magos Explorator Delphan Gruss, and others will play politics however they can just for their own personal gain. This is rooted into their very core and many armies have ties to them one way or another, either directly as allies or complete enemies. The Knight Worlds in particular often have a rather tumultuous relationship of self determination facing off against fealty to the Mechanicus. There are countless story opportunities or possibilities to be done with allies as a result of this, and that's without getting into how the various ideologies within the Mechanicus could affect things. While the allies chart was previously a biased joke, so much so the recent one had to be incredibly simplified just to stop screwing things up, there needs to be more variety here. Something to help reflect that rivalry and their role ranging from staunch ally to, well, the Imperium's Starscream.

Of course, then you also have to consider what opportunities there are beyond the puritanical or loyalist elements. Save for the Traitor Legions themselves, the Adeptus Mechanicus have the best known organised force of traitors worshiping Chaos, the Dark Mechanicus. While ultimately supposedly destroyed, large chunks of the force still exist in one way or another, with new recruits. We've seen them over many books appearing with insane weapons combing purifying flesh with machinery and the energies of the Immaterium. The previously mentioned Dark Adeptus novel in particular showed a true nightmarish world of creations with all sorts of wonderfully dark machines of war. If the company was willing to allow for players to make their own custom creations, then the book could easily be made to cover both sides of the conflict. That or, and heaven help us that they get this right, set the stage for a smaller mini-codex covering the Dark Mechanicus themselves.

However, there's no reason that the codex's writers need to even go quite so far as Chaos aligned heretics. There are factions within the Mechanicus who could easily add some variety, rogue or secret elements examining xenotech and even building new ideas from it. A few background elements have listed some interesting ideas in the past, such as rogue Mechanicus factions examining recovered eldar Wraithguard to try and replicate their basic function and the like. It wouldn't take much to add a few potential tables, alternative units or even wargear to reflect this, and there wouldn't be so many dramatic changes required as with the Dark Mechanicus.

The various faces of the Mechanicus have been seen from every side, as an ally, rival, tyrant, enemy and a heretic. If the codex truly wants to fully cover the organisation and bring the Tech-Priests to the tabletop, it needs to show more than a single facet of itself. 

4. Ignore Codex: Clan Raukaan

Yes, something more important probably could be put here, but this one really speaks for itself. While the codex, which was less of a rulebook and more of a tabletop gaming hate crime, was focused upon the Iron Hands, it heavily involved the Mechanicus. 

At every turn the writers of this bastardised work got massive details wrong and quite frankly went increasingly nuts with some of the worst defilement of established canon since Codex: Grey Knights. Not to mention a waste of good story opportunities. Take the very idea of the Iron Hands' relationship with the Mechanicus. Previously it was something not so clearly defined by thought to be down primarily due to some ideological alliance or something far more unclear, perhaps thanks to some unknown agreement or goal. What did they do instead? Turned the Iron Hands into hired muscle for the Mechanicus over battles they never fought and events they could not possibly have participated in. It only got worse from there.

The codex massively hurt both armies, stripping away vast chunks of interesting information about both. The Steel Confessors were mysteriously retconned into oblivion so the Iron Hands could be lumbered with ham-fisted poor copies of their concepts. The Mechanicus themselves were depicted as utter hypocrites and possibly full blown heretics, and the few bits we did get about them only served to harm their concepts. While whatever codex the Adeptus Mechanicus get ultimately shouldn't focus upon the Iron Hands or their relationship with them, this is an opportunity to go things right this time and throw in a few ideas from older, better written, works.

In fact, if the writers have any shred of respect for the setting, they should go out of their way to directly conflict with everything in that codex. Re-write the lore, discard the rulebook, shoot Codex: Clan Raukaan twice in the head and shove its decaying bloated corpse into the gutter.

3. Eras Of Old Night And Lost Ages

The Imperium has gradually evolved over time with many relics, secrets and old ideas lost while others have been reclaimed. Over the ten thousand years the Imperium has undergone many shifts in political power and lost many of its great secrets, and even repeatedly risked civil war. All throughout this, while many have been heavily effected, the Mechanicus have often been at the center of each storm. Whether it was Vandire's atrocities or the schism created over the potential future merging of the Ecclesiarchy and Mechanicus, at every turn the Tech-Priests have seen themselves at the centre of events. Sadly however, many of these have all too often gone unremarked or were simply shoved into the background of events.

We covered this previously in an article citing how going back and fleshing out the past was more important than any future. For all its long history, far too many parts of the Imperium's existence were simply skimmed over or barely commented upon thanks to its focus upon conflict and armies. Just about every codex in the game, even those supposed to cover multiple ancient civilisations, all too often skim over any details beyond the battlefield. While there have been the odd concessions here and there, because of this Warhammer 40,000 has sorely lacked some of the ideas and more dynamic elements found in other works. Battletech, Legend of the Five Rings, even Strike Legion outdoes them to a surprising degree in some areas. It's saying something when nearly all of the non-combat ideas in the universe these days come exclusively either from Fantasy Flight Games or Forge World.

A true Codex: Skitarii an opportunity to change the status quo which has plagued creativity in this setting for two reasons. Firstly, while it might be an organisation with a militant arm and plenty of guns, its primary focus has always been upon exploring the galaxy, preserving knowledge and building machinery. Secondly, it's old enough to have experienced all of the aforementioned events and to have witnessed them first hand. It would have documents covering its own involvement in them, the conflicts, perhaps even the issues of trying to maintain their cohesive power when the Imperium was split in two. There wouldn't need to be pages upon pages covering this, but just enough to truly start expanding upon it. Perhaps it could be put in place of all the padding so many codices feature with repeated images of the same models, that would be an improvement.

However, there is also one more way this could be taken a step further. Perhaps the codex could account in some way for the differences across these ages on the tabletop somehow. Perhaps, just as an experiment, to lock out certain technologies to M36 and others to M41 and the like. Then perhaps have some advantages and disadvantages stem from this as a result of the time and both better and worse technological understandings. It wouldn't be too dissimilar to what Forge World have done with the Horus Heresy in some respects, and it would be a small enough part to be an experiment. If it failed to catch on, then it could be easily abandoned.

Overall though, Games Workshop here has a real chance to truly try something new. Let's just hope they take advantage of it.

2. Where Do They Get All Those Wonderful Toys?

I apologise for nothing.

While the Mechanicus might provide vast amounts of tech for just about every part of the Imperium, they tend to keep the best aspects for themselves. The few times the Skitarii have been called into battle or seen defending their worlds, often they have brought to bear various weapons the Imperial Guard can only dream of. These have ranged from Great Crusade era heavy weapons mounted on combat Servitors to experimental designs which are still largely tied up in red tape, and even some truly insane things. Sometimes relics, sometimes a man portable rapid fire cluster missile launcher capable of homing in on its targets. Yeah, for all its degenerating technology, the Imperium can still produce some new ideas.

The chief thing to bare in mind though is that, much like the sixth point made, this army can produce some truly weird and wacky weapons. This could be like the example above, or it could be multiple tanks on legs, armed with several dozen mechadendrites to harpoon and drag units over to it, then rip them apart at close range. What's more is that this could also be the opportunity for players to see a wider variety of Imperial technology than before. Perhaps something closer to, but obviously cruder than, the Horus Heresy range. The same sorts of weapons being emulated, substituted or cobbled together out of newer parts to create some strange mishmash of current and ancient technology.

The actual vehicles themselves could definitely be a truly interesting point if handled correctly. Most Imperial tanks have traditionally been tracked, but there has been the occasional mention of legged APCs and the like in the lore. Along with the obvious advantage of not being immobilised quite as easily as tank tracks (arguably anyway) it would allow for some further close combat capabilities with such vehicles or for them to pull some stunts not seen before. Perhaps some bonus to scaling through dangerous terrain or the like, or even deploying Skitarii directly from its underside rather than side hatches.

This is a real opportunity to show the army as both being a force unto itself, having some elite edge over many other Imperial armies, while serving as an armory of sorts. One being used as a test bed for as of yet not widespread weapons and relics from yesteryear. This is a chance for the design time to go truly nuts and throw in some inventive designs. So long as we don't end up with another Storm Raven or Taurox, this could be a truly outlandish army to help it stand out, no matter how big or small the release.

Even if they don't it'd be a massive amount of wasted potential to even miss that in many of the background descriptions.

1. Technology, Creativity and Faith

This is a primarily lore related one above all else. While it might have a little standing on the tabletop, for the most part it relates to some of the staggeringly massive misconceptions surrounding the Mechanicus. Namely in how they, above all others, are supposedly single-handledly responsible for damning humanity and failing it as a species.

The big fact about the Mechanicus is that they are extremely cautious and exceedingly orthodox in their approach to technology. Above all else, they will stick to the tried and true methods or older STC designs over anything else and mark truly new ideas as complete heresy. The problem is that fandom perspective surrounding this aspect of their existence has reached truly ludicrous levels over the past few years. 

Normally fans are now believing that the Tech-Priests are simply complete nut-jobs. Ones with no clue what they are doing and simply dress up instruction manuals as holy books, then shooting anyone who comes up with any actual technological improvements. The argument is that there is no truth in their beliefs, is there is it's that they worship a C'Tan in secret, and they're responsible for holding back humanity on every front. This has unfortunately bled through into some official material. The Fantasy Flight Games books, especially Dark Heresy, tend to turn up the technological stagnation angle to the Nth degree. In those books there are the occasionally infinitely dubious remarks such as the apparent idea that cogitators can no longer be made and CCTV is treated as some sort of lost relic of a bygone age. This isn't entirely true.

The Mechanicus do have an aversion to certain forms of creativity, they do dress up some aspects unnecessarily with ritual (though even that point is debatable) and they do put technology ahead of lives. They will focus upon frantically gathering up STC constructs over new ideas, but the problem is that while fans focus on these details, they ignore many essential ones. Perhaps the biggest point to make is the same reason the Imperium is such a fascist hellhole. Many of their policies are downright immoral or would make them a villain in any other setting, but this is thanks almost entirely to circumstance and the threat of Chaos. 

When the Horus Heresy broke out, many of those who sided with the Warmaster were those pushing for new ideas, pushing for concepts which had been deemed by the Emperor to be dangerous and trying to repeat the mistakes of the past. Their concepts, as a result, were susceptible to Chaos' influence, from a rogue AI machine to various designs which quickly became corrupt. This led to the Mechanicus barring research into any areas and sticking primarily to what they knew, but the problem is that much of their knowledge was lost during the conflict. On Mars the loyalist elements were dealt a blow they never recovered from, and the designs for many critical machines were lost across the forge worlds. As a result, the Mechanicus itself was left on the back-foot and scrabbling to recover however they could.

Now, despite their losses, the Mechanicus themselves never stopped developing their designs along lines they deemed safe. While they effectively abandoned war robots entirely thanks to a loss of knowledge and heretical influence, others kept being developed and altered as time went by. If you'll note, even in the older works, the Imperium kept developing newer and more effective machines of war whenever it could. The opening chapters to Execution Hour, a fairly early Black Library novel, had entirely new variants of attack fighters being brought into service. That was also the same book which went above and beyond to focus upon the decay of the Imperium's tech. So while they wouldn't try something completely new, reinventing or redeveloping older designs was never out of the question. It's because of this that many forge worlds have countless variations of different weapons, each with the same basic purpose but with some better suited to certain tactical stratagems over others.

Even approved designs still have to be checked for risks of corruption or flaws however, which could damn an entire new part of a major army's arsenal. The Dreadclaws had their own failing overlooked, resulting in the deaths of countless loyalists to malfunctions or self destructing to kill their occupants. The same can be seen with other designs, especially those now a part of the Traitor Legions. Classes of Imperial vessels such as the Acheron Heavy Cruiser, Despoiler Class Battleship, Hellfire Class Heavy Cruiser, all fell to Chaos thanks ultimately to overlooked design flaws, with many other potentials atop them. As a result, new designs are often required to undergo extremely lengthy periods of testing and are tied up in red tape. Progress is still there, it's just moving very slowly.

Then of course you have to also consider that the Mechanicus' goal really never changed. Think about it for a minute, even at the time of the Great Crusade, their ultimate focus was upon recovering old technologies and STC fragments. They would keep building new designs, keep trying to refine what they had, but STC fragments were always a massive leap forwards. Why? Because they were ultimately designed by a far more advanced society at the pinnacle of its power, and even at that time an outdated design would mean a major edge against any foe. 

The Tech-Priests could spend all their time trying to design new weapons, risking corruption, but ultimately the Mechanicus would still be woefully behind something which had been made thousands of years before. The big difference between the Horus Heresy Mechanicus and the one of today in this regard was that they had a major setback. They were forced to try and recover any old designs they could and start putting them back into production, sometimes successfully as seen with the Storm Eagle. Atop of this there have been new discoveries since that time, new STC templates for weapons which have given the Imperium an edge over the Traitor Legions in battles. This could be anything from new weapons to, as noted in Tanith First and Only, new, far more effective, designs for trench knives.

Then, finally, we have the point of faith and the idea of machine spirits. The machine spirits themselves are often put down simply as AI programs the Imperium is trying to ignore via loopholes in their faith. While on this one hand this might be true to a degree, especially with certain vehicles, it's not universally true. A number of books, novels and codices have cited points where machine spirits have more or less been confirmed to exist in a quite literal sense. Guns without any programming, when treated with respect and venerated, will avoid jamming or misfiring. APCs anointed with holy oils can end up resisting blasts which might otherwise destroy them. Power armour seems to be able to protect the protagonists of Black Library novels from everything the plot can throw at them. Then of course there are those which develop personality quirks. Certain guns will develop certain reload times or have sensors act up in certain ways to keep crews alert or mindful of the ammo the expend.

The concept of such machine-spirits developing these quirks was originally brought up with Titans. The old idea was that their battle computers developed personalities through being linked to so many members of the crew, and it seemed to snowball from there. As a result, codices and novels alike have frequently brought up instances where they seem to matter. The Tau Empire's technology is comparatively "soulless" thanks to the lack of any faith behind it as deemed in some novels, while Priests of Mars was written with the idea they were effectively real. Then of course there is the old idea of how the Void Dragon might be influencing this one way or another.

This isn't to say that the Mechanicus is perfect by any means. They're often power hungry thugs, often limited by their own rivalries, and the main reason more technology isn't spread further is thanks to rivalries between forge worlds. That said, if the codex starts to reflect these misconceptions or add some sort of relevance to them rather than correcting them, it would be bad for the faction as a whole. It would make the Mechanicus bigger villains than Chaos in many respects and a joke unto themselves, effectively damning the book. The last thing we need are the authors behind this believing that, or trying to pull a Codex: Clan Raukaan to "correct" the problem of being coldly logical.

So, those are six concepts which Codex: Skitarii, or possibly Codex: Mechanicus, needs in order to be a success. Certainly more lore related than anything on the tabletop, but at the same time these are points which help to give the army some real flavour and make it stand out. Without that, we might as well be playing a glorified version of chess with each side indistinguishable from the next.

If you have your own ideas or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section, and i'll look forward to reading them.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

End of Line

Well, we all knew this day might come. After just over five successful years, after many countless articles covering the world of film, comics, thoughts and especially video games, Paranerds is coming to an end. No respawn, no new line, it's sadly over. In the next few weeks the website itself will close down to save on costs, shuttered away in some dark filing cabinet of the internet.

Over these many years our writers, both those still serving and those who have passed on to new projects, have done our absolute best to bring you new ideas and articles. From news reports to lengthy reviews and opinion pieces, there's been no shortage of topics we've looked into. While we might never have quite reached the heights of Channel Awesome or IGN, we had our fair share of successes here and I want to take the time to remember that. Kevin has already made his thoughts known in a far more eloquent manner than I could ever manage, so consider this just a brief epilogue to our work.

Despite now writing for several outlets now, magazines and websites alike, Paranerds is one i'll always remember for giving me a chance to try something new. Not to mention getting feedback for the first time, trimming down the often insane length of the articles. The website itself was a place where nothing was truly limited, and everyone was given a chance to try something new. If you could prove you knew your stuff, Kevin was willing to give you a chance, and let you do your own thing. Its for this reason we ended up covering such a diverse variety of topics in the first place, despite our focus upon video games first and foremost. Few other websites on this scale were willing to give their writers that chance to truly experiment and try their own thing, or that level of trust in one another. Even now, there are few other websites i've been a part of which have retained that kind of faith in their co-workers.

We've seen our works over the years be brought up on countless forums, websites and articles over time. We've witnessed others discuss them, agree, disagree, or promote them elsewhere. We've seen the impact our messages had and how willing others were to accept those views, to truly consider them. Ultimately, it showed that, even for a website of our relatively small size, it was all worthwhile.

Paranerds was an amalgamation of a dozen varying viewpoints, conflicting and contrasting thoughts at every area, each allowed a podium to broadcast their message as they wished. A place to build contacts, to learn of the industry they were trying to be a part of, and to broadcast that message to an audience of thousands. While many have disagreed with us, and many more have argued back and forth over our ideas, I just want to take the time to say thank you to everyone for reading them. The fact you were willing to click on an article by some small website, to tune into Kevin and Rooster's long running podcasts time after time, shows that you cared enough to value our opinions. Even if you were one of those who left scathing obscenities in the comments section, you have my thanks for giving us your time. Because of you we had a good run. A great run.

Until the day we come back, until the day Paranerds might once again be revived with fresh ideas, goodbye and good night.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

DmC: Devil May Cry (Video Game Review)

Originally hurtling onto the scene wreathed in controversy, DmC: Devil May Cry is an especially charged topic to this day. Between a massive revamp and Chief Designer Tameem Antoniades performing a one man PR suicide campaign, the old guard were not especially receptive to this new take on the franchise. Now, two years on, the Definitive Edition sadly does little to improve upon its staggering flaws.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus, New Warhammer Army Inbound

The fans have asked for it and it seems that Games Workshop was listening. In a leak produced on the Bolter and Chainsword, a binary coded message in White Dwarf announced a new army coming in. As if the fact it was written in ones and zeroes wasn't enough of a clue, translated it stands for "All Hail Mars!"

Given that Games Workshop seems to have been aiming for smaller limited releases with minor armies, this could go one of two ways. Either it could be a small force of perhaps a few units, a number of specific elite forces with a few vehicles to their name but reliant upon bigger armies with more variety to back them up. The alternative is obviously a much bigger release, something on par with the original Codex: Tau or Codex: Necrons. Something with a core structure solid enough to start playing with but is more down to laying the foundations than anything else. 

As for how it might interact with other armies though, that's going to be the interesting bit given how the Mechanicus operates. It might be a big part of the Imperium, but the force has been shown to merrily butt heads with everyone from the Inquisition to the Administratum at little provocation. It would be a shame to lose that aspect, but at the same time it's difficult to really consider just how this might be carried over beyond lore or background elements.

Still, this is just a start. We might get lucky and find out more info as we move towards its release date, the 28th of March.

Lowering The Curtain

Well, it's sad but it's finally time for an ending to happen. No, not here, but on a website that's been about for even longer:

The website has been active for four and a half years, but with many of its writers going their separate ways, it's been agreed that the website is to close. I'm going to write a proper summary and series of thoughts on the website, but this is just a quick announcement now. Many of the articles there are on here or will be transferred over to here. So until then, please take some time to visit it and look through the articles of the others. there are many on there worth your time.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Adeptus Astartes - A Shield Reforged

And now for the counter-argument. If you're looking for the first part in favour of the legions and bringing up the flaws in implementing chapters, you can find it here. That done, on with the article!

Arguments In Favour of the Formation of Space Marine Chapters

So now we've covered the many points surrounding the weaknesses and criticisms of breaking up the legions into thousand man chapters. Suffice to say many have probably heard these many times over and perhaps even agree with them. They certainly seem to be repeated far often both by loyalist and traitor players alike, yet for all of this the advantages are all too often overlooked. Many of these keep focusing upon how each force can be far more easily picked off, and there is a degree of truth there. However, at the same time few seem to ever truly recognise the preventative measures or differences in combat doctrine between then and now.

Of all the threats facing the Imperium at the dawn of M32, the biggest of these was the threat of corruption. Having faced a previously unknown foe capable of attacking them from within and beyond, the once mighty empire had suffered a massive betrayal, just by corrupting a few key figures. By targeting the primarchs, the ingrained loyalty and dutiful nature of the astartes meant they would fall into line easily. 
This is best seen with the contrast between Horus and Khan in the novels False Gods and Scars. As Horus fell, almost all the legion fell into line with him. Even those who had been outside the Warrior Lodges were quick to accept his new direction, even turning against the Emperor, and the comparative few who remained loyal to Terra were outliers. Many were of Terran origin or were those who had initially followed a legion master prior to finding their primarch, they were exceptions. When the same rebellion was attempted in the White Scars en mass and  Jaghatai Khan remained loyal, it crumbled almost immediately upon his return. He was siding with the Emperor, and beyond those imprisoned, everyone else instantly fell into line without question.

The differences between the two events shows an ingrained loyalty to better warriors and concepts greater than themselves. Usually one which is an individual or more tangible form than anything else, perhaps exemplifying them as the pinnacle of some concept at the most. The point is that, once the leadership of such a group falls, many others would follow. The chapters were made to combat this, but in more ways than people often realise. Yes, splitting the legions did help to prevent this taking place and meant any defection would have only a small fraction of the impact it would have as a legion. At the same time though, the very training of each astartes' force was dramatically altered. A vastly greater emphasis was made upon the mental discipline of each warrior and, now aware of Chaos, the Codex's doctrines were formed to make them far more resistant to any influences. You can quickly see this just by comparing the way in which the Luna Wolves behave to the Grey Knights, Excoriators or even Ultramarines from M41. Yes, there is that same kinship and they retain the ability to occasionally crack a joke, but there is often far more steel to their words and behavior. 

Such improved training led to obvious advantages in staving off corruption, and even the most extreme of their number stood a better chance of avoiding succumbing to Chaos. While exceptions did still exist and individuals, companies, or even chapters would turn to Chaos, they were not so easily done. There was no universal turning of their forces and Chaos was having to work that much harder to actually corrupt them. The largest scale examples of a massed turning were the Badab War and Abyssal Crusades, both of which offered Chaos nowhere near the number of traitors they had gained in the Heresy. Between fighting and the astartes becoming splintered into vastly smaller groups, there were far more targets to focus upon. It was far more difficult for them to again gain the power they needed to begin full scale civil wars. Even atop this however, the greater resistance so often meant that chapters would frequently retain much larger loyalist groups than found in the traitor legions upon turning. Following any civil war or attempt to turn traitor, a chapter's numbers would prove to be extremely diminished, often with only a few hundred joining Chaos once the smoke had cleared.

The actual split of the chapters themselves though, this had a distinctly unique advantage the legions had never possessed. Many have often commented upon the size of each force the legions wielded or the numbers, but rarely it seems does anyone actually consider how they operated. The legions were crusaders, and while that might seem like an obvious comment think about what it entails. The role is one of a military constantly on the offensive, constantly attacking others and launching forays to conquer new territory. They did this, but they rarely seemed to truly pull back to help properly defend locations or actually defend the Imperium itself. They were mobile battle groups used to constantly being on the move, constantly attacking others and taking new worlds, but so often they lacked the ability to hold a world and prevent it falling. So often that role of defence was deemed one without glory, without any opportunity to earn true recognition for their skills. Even after turning traitor this could be seen among some of them, with Angel Exterminatus suggesting the Emperor's Children allowed a major fortress to fall just so they wouldn't be tied down to it. This left only the the Iron Warriors and Imperial Fists trying to cover this ground, sometimes so thin that single squads were expected to garrison entire worlds.

The chapters were offered a way to overcome the innate defensive failing of of the legions in a stroke of true genius. Of all the worlds in the galaxy, the legions were often only closely tied to their homes. If Deliverance, Medusa or Barbarus fell under attack, the legions would turn and fight there thanks to it being their homes, where they were recruited. Splitting up the chapters allowed for that same connection to be spread across the adeptus astartes, with the newfound chapters having a thousand new homeworlds to recruit from. A thousand new worlds which the space marines would garrison, defend to the last man and help to serve as strongholds for the new Imperium. More importantly, they were able to fulfill more roles than just the average garrison would. The legions had used garrisons as just that, locations where small bands of astartes were intended to hold, remain and call for help if needed. By comparison chapter homeworlds were recruiting grounds, supply bases and normally massive fortresses. As such, while they lacked the legions' numbers and massed firepower, they were more self-sufficient and better spread throughout the galaxy. Rather than twenty groups moving here or there, the Imperium suddenly had a thousand who were far better distributed throughout its territories.

The actual subject of recruitment and numbers is often brought up when criticising space marine chapters. The formations are often brought up as far more limiting and sapped each force of their major strengths, but compare that to how the legions operated. Often each and every one of these hundred thousand astartes armies were only recruiting from a single world. While there were exceptions such as the Iron Hands, Imperial Fists and Ultramarines, the likes of the Raven Guard, Death Guard or Emperor's Children were very limited. They had number yes, but with only a single world to support that, losses to these massive units were far harder to replace. The Raven Guard in particular were noted to have trouble doing so, relying often all too heavily upon their Terran born warriors due to Deliverance's low population. The Death Guard were the same to a degree, and Mortarion's stringent insistence upon using only his homeworld as a recruiting ground was often a big limiting factor. To put it bluntly, all too often the legions' seemed to have difficulties sustaining their massive sizes and recovering from heavy casualties, even without the Codex's more stringent testing.

Following an event so costly as the Horus Heresy, it's hard to see how they could have survived while sticking to that same structure. Following the Scouring, the Imperium desperately needed to rebuild and consolidate its defences as fast as possible. The hammer-blow had been struck, the traitors forced back and the Imperium was stable, but it was still in critical condition. It needed more widespread astartes to help defend its territories and fast, and as such the more recruitment worlds now home to chapters helped to ensure its survival. What's more is that, by helping secure entire systems and having a strong space marine presence, certain worlds were far less likely to be attacked or to have their best warriors respond quicker. By breaking them down into companies capable of more proportional responses than the thousand or ten thousand man detachments of other legions, they could more actively move out to behead smaller threats as they arose. They would not be as prepared to face the massed assaults of the Tyranid Hive Fleets ten thousand years later; yet this meant the Imperium was not about to die to a thousand cuts by forces to small for the vast legions to respond quickly to. Or threats on that scale simply too dangerous to be taken down by the Imperial Guard.

None of these points citing the useful nature of chapter homeworlds are to say that having chapters tied to certain worlds was exclusively important. While it was fulfilling a role which the Imperium had previously been severely lacking, there was no insistence within the codex that all chapters would universally follow this rule. After all, many chapters would go centuries or even thousands of years without finding a homeworld and remaining fleet based. The Crimson Fists for one remained with their vessels for an extraordinarily amount of time prior to finding Rynn's World, and became fleet based again afterwards. The adeptus astartes on the whole retained the ability to host crusading companies as and when needed, even with an entire founding devoted to creating more, so they ultimately lost none of their previous capabilities. If anything this allowed the astartes to be afforded far more flexibility and diversity among their numbers, as with new homeworlds or chapters came new views and approaches to war. While they might have originated with the same chapter, the likes of the Mortifactors and White Consuls could not be more different from one another. As such, the ways of war and flexibility of the astartes as a whole only increased over time.

Sticking with the point of some astartes being crusaders though, the obvious point of their smaller size does still need to be brought up. It was still rare for any chapter to operate en mass, so even these crusaders were all too often numbering only one or two hundred at the most, with some exceptions such as the Black Templars. However, as a whole this still served a certain purpose within the Codex. The space marines were still relatively self sufficient and retained a degree of autonomy, yet at the same time they lacked the full firepower of a legion. This meant that they weren't so great a bunch of loose cannons as before and to spend more time relying upon the other Imperial military force for support. While they could certainly run in and enter battles, the astartes were more limited to being shock troops and would need Imperial Guard units to help hold ground or back them up. With them only technically being under the direct command of any space marine commander, and other Imperial units capable of counter-commanding their orders, it again prevented the same seen during the Horus Heresy.

Ultimately, the astartes did hold significant power and still had a great deal of firepower they could bring to bear. Unlike before however, they were now serving as a cog within a much bigger machine, rather than running ahead and expecting everyone else to keep up with them. 

What's especially odd and sadly all too often overlooked is the degree to which the Codex Astartes allowed chapters to deviate from it as and when needed. To quote Captain Titus, how they "live with those rules is the true test of a space marine." That they can still be interpreted in more than just a narrow view and do allow leeway, even in basic chapter structure. The last article did mention Graham McNeill's works as something of a problem, namely in how his books all too often showed the Codex as being a hindrance without enough benefits. This said, his words about always trying to find a balance between when and when not to follow it are remarkably true, as even in the beginning many chapters were seen to broadly follow it and retain their own ways. Many deviated from it to a fair degree, with the Iron Hands, White Scars, Blood Angels and Salamanders all following a different structure thanks to requirement or choice. While the core of that same structure Guilliman laid out could still be seen in them, he never went so far as to try and stamp out any effort to follow their own set of laws.

Guilliman himself was not quite so narrow minded as many critics of the Codex Astartes seem to think. Quite often when looking at the first founding chapters you can find examples of that. Ignoring the above ones for starters, other early chapters were still permitted to deviate from it in one way or another, or outright ignore it. Of the two most famous examples, the Black Templars and Space Wolves, one was allowed thanks to a loophole while the other's differences were accepted thanks to a very different way of war, but still retained a mutual respect. In part, and this is just personal opinion, this could most likely be put down to the Codex itself not being solely Guilliman's work. One detail sadly all too often forgotten by critics and supporters alike was that the Codex incorporated the teachings and ideas of many of the primarchs, and to call it "Guilliman's book" is misnomer. That same encouragement for diversity and to retain an army's strengths over total uniformity we've already mentioned is still present here.

Atop of having certain chapters retain the ways of war which still made them unique, Guilliman himself made no effort to force any total breakup between his legion or others. While the Ultramarines themselves had increasingly distant connections with some of their successors, they still maintained close ties with others. Others among the legions were the same. Dorn went to great lengths to ensure that while no longer under the same banner, his scions would still have a strong sense of unity, and the Dark Angels had a similar co-ordination. Albeit their one was formed out of less pure reasons and more out of shame. 
The point is though, that while Guilliman did split up their legions, he never wanted them to be entirely separate or cut off from one another. He and the others all understood a sense of brotherhood was still needed to ensure loyalty to one another and help prevent another major civil war. As such, while rivalries and conflicts would still exist among chapters, there was going to be enough there to help prevent any true sense of isolation.

The final point truly worth mentioning however, is that Guilliman's plan surrounding the chapters seemed to be ultimately unfinished. Struck down in battle by Fulgim, the astartes lost the major brain and political drive behind ensuring that the chapters continued to multiply in number or retain power. From what we can tell, the primarch's overall scheme seemed to involve continuing to increase each chapter's numbers and giving them further domains. While they would each control only a small semi-self sufficient sector of space, it would be the equivalent of the Imperium being split up into a thousand or so systems similar to Ultramar. Each able to govern its own needs, defend itself and remain individual while still ultimately answering to the bureaucracy of Terra. This would have solved many problems such as the long range communication issues, and allowed for faster responses, defensive efforts and maintaining the Imperium as a whole. You can actually see how the plan starts to fail as foundings produce less chapters and become a less frequent event over thousands of years.

Final Thoughts

Comparing the strengths and failings of each legions makes it hard to really comment which would be the truly superior approach to war. Both do have obvious strengths and failings, and it's not hard to see why some claim that the legions might have done a better job than the chapters in some cases. At the same time however, given what we know, it's still questionable as to how well the legions would have truly stood up when it came to protecting an established empire. That's really the crux of the problem here, comes down to the fact each faced down very different threats. The chapters were there to hold together a shattered galaxy and dig in to defend humanity, while the legions rescued vast swathes of worlds and completely annihilated xenos threats.

Really, the simplest way to settle this argument is just by focusing primarily upon the state of the galaxy when they were formed and compare it to the end of M41. With massive threats unlike anything the Imperium has seen before, it is fairly evident that humanity once again needs something on the scale of the legions to hold off the Tyranid Hive Fleets or counter the growing Necron threat. Both are simply too massive for the chapters to counter and the combined numbers and firepower of a full legion would allow for more decisive victories against them. At least victories without resorting to the scorched earth tactics it is currently having to employ. At the same time though, while this might be the case then, it's hard not to argue that the Imperium would not have reached that point without the chapters. The legions simply weren't suited to dealing with more minor threats or holding most of a galaxy together, and it would have likely been a far less stable empire without them. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Genius of Discworld - Truth, Justice, Freedom, And A Hard-Boiled Egg

No, I couldn't fit "reasonably priced love" into the title.

As many fans know, sadly the great mind behind the Discworld series passed away yesterday. As an author, few had the style, creativity and sheer genius which Terry Pratchett possessed, and while his daughter Rhianna will thankfully serve as custodian to his works, it's still a blow to the world. It's one more great creator who has passed away. Many websites will no doubt be making some tribute in one way or another to the man or remembering his life. Personally though, I try to only reserve such posts to those overlooked. The main reason Gerry Anderson and Ray Harryhausen received such tributes was because, besides admiration for their work, all too much of the world had forgotten about them. So, as such, rather than simply commenting upon the man, this is going to look into his creations. Specifically the core elements which helped make Discworld stand out so much.

Above all else, perhaps the single greatest element which helped so many Discworld novels stand out was their ability to bind together completely opposing aspects. The universe as a whole was a very tightly intertwined combination of every-man grounded logic, traditional trope parodying and absurd fantasy nonsense. The world is set on a giant turtle floating through space and an ensemble of four pachyderms, as a disc powered purely by magic. Yet at the same time, you can easily have a story about a old policeman remembering the bad old days and perhaps even regretting some turns his life has taken. This in of itself isn't overly unique admittedly, most comicbook universes can happily pull this off, but what helps it stand out is the way in which he inter-worked them.

Take Night Watch for example, the aforementioned policeman example. The story is set in Ankh-Morpork's past, with Sam Vimes having ended up there thanks to a time travel accident. Stuck at the dawn of a revolution, he has to contend with the criminal brought back with him, shifting events and also training his younger self in the skills he needs to survive. Now, this is a somewhat run of the mill plot when just summed up in those words and it's not in this respect that the story gains its combination of common sense and the complete absurd. That instead comes from how Pratchett built the world and presented events, often through the mind of Vimes or his more overt metaphors which seemed to get away from him. Perhaps intentionally, perhaps otherwise.

The chief moment, at least early on, which helps to sum up the more human element of combining the two is when Vimes is walking besides himself. Trapped in his own thoughts, his younger self eventually comments that he's been walking along a very familiar beat path, only for Vimes to curse, thinking that the feet themselves have brains. It's a odd moment, an even stranger comment which would never normally work in a story, but the way it's presented helps make it oddly human. This sort of thing continues throughout the entire story, with these brief asides or off beat moments which keep the characters feeling far more alive. The way in which Vimes' arrival at the station is treated, how Colon details his plan for the barricades, how Sweeper stops in the middle of talking about various junk representing something to complain about some bugger chucking beer bottles over the wall; all of these help to add something human about them despite being completely nuts. It's hard to detail them without going into serious spoiler territory, but they work by going from a common sense angle but presenting it in the most absurd way possible. It's utterly nuts, but at the same time you're connected to it.

The style of putting strange spins and asides as the plot spins onward only becomes ever more evident as it moves into commentary territory. In this case it focused upon how revolutions worked and the way in which repressed populations could be used. While humourous and keeping to the quirkier elements, it angles by stripping down preconceptions. Despite Reg Shoe standing on the cover like he's walked out of Les Misérables, the book makes it evident that revolutions happen thanks to "dark men making agreements in shadowy rooms." Everything on the streets, the elements always glorified in prior media is just chaff, and even when the revolutionaries ultimately win their new leader is little better than the last one. 

The quote from the title actually stems from this element, with The People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road starting to stand for all that's good, but their lofty ideals gradually sliding away toward more grounded goals. Again, direct and perhaps even expected, but combined with the elements of Pratchett's unconventional descriptions and unique narrative style, it presents it from a very human angle. The man was infamous, after all, for not using chapters and he could pull off the sort of narrative framework which would otherwise fail in anyone else's hands. As is the case with some artistry, he was able to emphasise flaws like no other while still presenting something of vivid perfection in its own way.

Atop of all these strengths though, was the ability to twist and turn his stories however he wanted. Pratchett could pick a subject to parody, mock and then nail it without any flaws. The above examples are, after all, just from a single book and the far weirder and more wonderful ideas were so often found in more flighty works of fantasy. He tended to have especially great fun when playing with older ideas of myth, such as throwing a blanket over a boogieman's head to put him in an existential crisis. If you were to read Night Watch followed by The Colour of Magic or the Hogfather, each would be the extreme opposite of one another yet they would still match up perfectly.

The character who tended to embody such elements the most tended to be Death, often putting in an appearence at least once per book, to take the deceased away. Often this would lead to questions of religion or even just the odd quirky joke at how certain characters reacted to their lives, or the nature of being close to death itself. An entire essay could likely be written surrounding the character, but given this point in time it seemed like it would be in poor taste.

This is just a brief summary of course, a short sequence of descriptions and ideas praising Pratchett for his work. There are others far beyond it and ultimately elements which could easily be looked into further, especially the very natural evolution of his characters over several decades. However, it seems only right to close out with something once explained by someone who knew the man well. A brief insight into his work ethic and the things which drove him the most. There are few better descriptions worthy of him.

"Terry’s authorial voice is always Terry’s: genial, informed, sensible, dryly amused. I suppose that, if you look quickly and are not paying attention, you might, perhaps, mistake it for jolly. But beneath any jollity there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise.

He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.

Or to put it another way, anger is the engine that drives him, but it is the greatness of spirit that deploys that anger on the side of the angels, or better yet for all of us, the orangutans.

Terry Pratchett is not a jolly old elf at all. Not even close. 

He’s so much more than that." - Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The God-Emperor - Tyrant or Saviour?

One of the biggest strengths of Warhammer is that everything is in question. While often pushed that bit too far or discarded at entirely the wrong moment, something which was once core to the canon was how everything was never entirely true. Books were often openly biased accounts, novels were the same and the Rashōmon style of telling the same story in three completely different ways was not uncommon. While united by certain facts, details and events, all other depictions were always to be taken with a pinch of salt.

This degree of mutability within the setting has always been strongest around its characters, none more so than those who witnessed the Heresy. None more so than the God-Emperor of Mankind himself. A figure wreathed in mystery and with few key details known about him, everything seems to be in question surrounding his actions. Some depict him as a crusading hero, others a tyrant, more of them suggest he was a god while others depict the exact opposite. Some argue that he united humanity, while others that he destroyed it entirely. So, since we have some free time, here's a short series of thoughts about the character. Though, before we start, it might be best to establish one detail:

Whether the Emperor was a god or not ultimately does not matter in the long run of things. 

While many have argued this way or another in relation to his ultimate divinity, the aspect which matters far more is his actions, motivations and what he was ultimately required to do. While the Emperor himself could be called a tyrant for his actions, it would be far truer to call him a necessary evil. Something which even he seemed to realise for himself.

Many of the oldest Warhammer 40,000 texts from when the Horus Heresy was truly established record one detail above all - His actions were brought about by his hand being forced. He had existed for millennia after all, both in the original Shaman documents and what exists now, and it was repeatedly stated that he had been attempting to direct humanity along certain paths and encourage its enlightenment for countless generations. Having first been born sometime into 8,000,000 B.C. when the shamans had merged their power, or some other early time going by the idea he might have simply been immortal, he had witnessed humanity's growth. 

The Emperor, while expanding and training his abilities, had seen the influences of Chaos and growing affect on humanity, surviving as a parasite which preyed upon strife and suffering, and sought to protect them. This was always his goal from the very start, even during times of peace and prosperity, without resorting to the later actions he is more famous for. The Empire which had existed prior to Old Night was something he had lived through, along with the conflicts all throughout history leading up to that point, every war or moment of strife. In some respects he might have been viewed to have been successful, but that ultimately came tumbling down thanks to the Warp and the growing mutation within humanity. It's been noted many times how dangerous the instabilities in humanity's geonome truly are to the Imperium, from the influence of Chaos itself or producing full blown psykers. Some are accepted but need to be trained, controlled and taught how to focus their powers, whereas others are all too easy converts and conduits to the Immaterium's denizens.

Through accepting such differences on a philosophical and genetic level, a utopia had been lost. The entire prior society was lost, destroyed outright and scattered to the winds, separated by Warp storms and degenerating into madness. Many died out entirely, denied resources they desperately needed. Others were lost to some nightmare technology or another, others were conquered by xenos forces and subjugated entirely, while the worst among them were twisted into weapons of Chaos, cults assisting in their power. A vast number of those mentioned so far have been seen many times over both in the Horus Heresy novels and additional books, with Nove Shendak, the Black Judges, the Ak'Hareth, and countless others showing humanity to be destitute, nearly destroyed or preyed upon by others. 
Those who survived with an degree of stability were exceptionally few, with even the Knight Worlds falling countless times over, and fewer still were the xenos races who treated humanity with any degree of apathy let alone respect. The likes of the Interex or Diasporex were exceedingly rare exceptions rather than the rule, so much so that Horus was shocked at such a society working upon finding them. Even many areas of Terra itself were a dystopian nightmare which would make the worst of the Imperium look good by comparison, such as the Tempest Galleries. It was only after seeing such destruction, at the end of the Age of Strife, seeing humanity on the brink of extermination from isolation, infighting, mutation and xenos races that he acted openly, launching his crusade.

However, even as the Emperor did so, it was noted specifically that he knew he would need to take actions which were immoral. He was under no illusions that he was being forced to commit wrongful actions for a greater good, he knew that innocents were likely to die in the wake of his behavior, but what was the alternative? Let humanity waste away, all knowledge lost and eventually allow for their annihilation? That was, after all, what this era was leading to. Despite how much their servants would later insist they needed humanity, that they respected them and that some mutual symbiosis was needed, remember that Chaos never once stepped into to actually halt such massed suffering and destruction. It did very little to actually save any remotely significant chunk of humanity, and was quite happy to let such annihilation continue. They benefited from it, lost nothing and, after all, there were thousands of other sentient species they could afford to prey upon equally as vulnerable to their influences once humanity was gone. It's certainly not hard to see how the Chaos gods might have benefited from the septillions of Orks roaming about the galaxy - arguments or debates surrounding their possible resistance to Chaos aside - and it had been their presence and actions which had almost entirely destroyed humanity initially in the first place. To stop them, to unite his species and attempt to stop the xenos and malignant gods attempting to render humanity extinct, he could no longer afford to act from the shadows.

However, even when he did resort to such actions, his ultimate goal was never fully lost. His plan was to allow humanity to forge its own path, to allow itself to control its own destiny without any influence from Chaos or alien threats, and to bring it back to glory. What he was doing was more for their sake than it ever was his, and many of his actions reflect this. Much has often been made of his subjugation of other human societies and forces throughout the galaxy and the lengths he went to, yet in each case there was ever the opportunity to allow them to join peacefully. He was certainly not above mercy and even then his offers were not a simple "join or die" affair. 
He ultimately required them to join the Imperium yes, but he was not above negotiating all throughout the Great Crusade. Many who did join were permitted to do so on their terms, and we have seen several examples of this over time. The founding territories of the Dusk Raiders for one, Old Albia, were fought against initially, but upon seeing their skill and resolve the Emperor halted his attacks and went to speak with them in person. He convinced, talked and negotiated with them so they would side with him, and bare in mind this was during a time when he was at his most desperate, trying to unite Terra as fast a possible. Later interactions would help to prove this, with the Dominion of Storms (also known as the Lords of Gardinaal) being brought to the negotiating table and spoken with for months at a time, only being broken off when the Lords attempted to secretly use psykers to turn the tables dramatically in their favour. 

Both of the aforementioned examples were primarily done thanks to their martial skill and considering their deaths a waste, but it did show the Emperor was willing to give considerable leniency. Better examples can actually be seen in many of the worlds themselves. Despite all the claims of complete cultural takeover and forced re-education a-la Fascist mindwipes and the like, there remains a considerable degree of diversity among the Imperium's worlds. In modern M41, Tanith, Pavonis, Armageddon, Gudrum, Hubris, Thracian Primaris, Boros Prime and countless others are hardly clones of one another. Each was allowed to retain its own traditions, its own beliefs, its own views, and nothing was truly done to curb these even by the Administratum itself. Even in M31, think of all the worlds we've seen so far. Mars and its semi-religious technocracy was allowed to retain its traditions beliefs, and ideals upon the Emperor's arrival. 

The countless Knight Worlds from Molech to Raisa, Alaric Prime, Chrysis and many others were not suddenly stripped of their powers or traditions under the excuse of enlightenment. The Knight Houses kept their positions of power, retained their own codes of honour and the like. The only difference was that some became more closely allied to the Mechanicus upon finding them and were sending their forces off-world to assist in defending the Imperium as a whole. Think of Terra itself then, at the very start and all we know of them so far. Many groups were divided up into different empires, different kingdoms and notabilities, yet even those subjugated by force of arms were still permitted to retain their own traditions and cultures. The Emperor, upon Old Albia siding with him, did not immediately demand drastic changes upon them, Europa retained its nobility and leadership despite the wars which they had fought, and Sek-Amrak was still noted to have its various tribes, clans and enclaves. For all that was different among them, the Emperor did nothing to suddenly try and cause some year zero nonsense or force that they only recognise him as their single overall authority.

Beyond even this, beyond all else, think also of the primarchs and their worlds. Chigoris, Fenris, the entirety of Ultramar, Chemos and Medusa were left unchanged despite the Imperium's arrival. Some accepted help certainly, with the resource starved Chemos in particular accepting off-world trade, but nothing was done to wipe out their shamanistic traditions or force them to become anything more like Terra in any way. Medusa still had its clans, Ultramar still had its cities, and any changes were usually offered and went through the primarchs rather than being forced upon the population. Even those which could have been viewed as potentially dangerous such as Nostramo, or even directly opposed the Emperor's objectives such as Colchis were not suddenly forced to start over or their populations wiped out. Diversity was never discouraged, and the only elements torn down were those directly seen as harming human populations or strengthening Chaos. If a world had just been freed from some xenos empire, its human population treated a second class citizen, there was something to help fill the void there in the form of Rememberancers and even educational facilities as needed. If a world supported a devout religion praying to a single deity, seen to influence and assist Chaos, that was systematically removed out of necessity rather than spite. The Imperial Truth was then brought in to fill that void, with the intention of taking over from any subconscious requirement for belief in a greater power, to have faith in something else. Like so many of his actions, this last point was only made as a requirement to help combat omni-demensional sadistic vampire gods who fed off of pain, suffering, anarchy and strife.

Now, think of the primarchs themselves for a second and how much many of them were shown a fair degree of leniency. Each was allowed to go their own way, to follow whatever path or tactic they desired most and the Emperor only seemed to step in when things went that bit too far. Think of Lorgar for a moment, just for starters. It took years of him disobeying the Emperor’s wishes, ignoring his requests and his legion’s slow progress to act in the way he did. There was no simple trigger mechanism which made the Emperor forcibly act against him, and the only reason he seemed to go so far as he did was thanks to Lorgar ignoring his words. Even then, when needed to make a complete example of them, to go further than he ever would have wanted, to supposedly ensure that they would stay on track, he went after a secondary target. It would have hit home that much harder to target Colchis over his actual one, Monarchia, yet he opted not to. It would have also hit far harder for him to have wiped the world out, to have left it nothing but a husk of skeletons and ruined buildings, yet even then he limited his damage. The Ultramarines were ordered to limit their damage to certain key cities, to allow the civilian population time to flee, and minimise causalities. It may have been an act of brutality yes, but like so many things here it was done only after there was seemingly no other option available to him. You can argue this was the act of a tyrant, but it was ultimately being done to try and prevent a far worse evil from spreading. Plus, unlike the forces he was trying to stop, the Emperor limited his impact to only as much as was needed, whereas Chaos’ reaction to disloyalty (or if they’re just in a particularly off mood that day) tends to involve complete annihilation, Chaos spawn and being devoured by daemons.

Consider also of the others who disobeyed the Emperor. Angron and Curze were known for their brutality, their massacres and use of terror or carnage as a weapon over others. Like so much else both the Eighth Legion and War Hounds were made to be necessary evils. They were to carry out the battles, acts and sins so no one else would have to, and to ensure something better would come of it. Even when they began to diverge from this, when they started to turn down a far worse path thanks to the criminals making up the Night Lords’ ranks or the Butcher’s Nails were implemented, they were not instantly censured. It took several acts for either legion to be turned upon, brought to heel in any way, and even then the Emperor seemed to show an odd reluctance to do so. Opposed to what was done with the Word Bearers, the incident with the Space Wolves ended in a stalemate, yet things went no further. There was little additional push to take them down or even bring them back to Terra.

Personally, I think this was possibly due to the Emperor being weary of what he was forced to do. Prior to that, he had lost two legions and two sons, both supposedly brought low by the Wolves for some reason, and was forced to betray an entire army of loyal followers. The Thunder Warriors, loyal as they were, were famously known as monsters and another necessary evil he was forced to perform to quickly unite Terra. Savage, powerful and psychotic beyond imagination, it’s no surprise they were cut down in favour of the more human astartes. We don’t know how many times he was ultimately forced to commit these acts, but as time went by he was showing far more leniency as and when it was needed.

Think also of Magnus and what was done with him. The events of Nikea came about thanks to a long string of incidents, from accusations of others, delving far deeper into the Warp than was deemed safe, to the apparent return of the afflicted flesh change. Like so much here, while the Emperor’s actions were often regarded as being drastic, but this was only done after so much had preceded it. Investigations were done in one way or another, it took multiple primarchs arguing against the libraries for it to take place, and Magnus showing no signs of heeding any warnings made to him about caution. It was only after Magnus showed no signs of halting his progress, arguing that he needed to discover all knowledge in his arrogance, that the Emperor tried to bring him to heel. It would have been easier to kill him and his entire legion there and then, removing a very possible future threat if Magnus disobeyed him, but he never went that far. It took a second, far greater betrayal, irreparably damaging a keystone in the Emperor’s plan to eventually send the Wolves after him.

It’s also not as if the legions were left completely unprepared or unaware of what awaited them in their foes.

You have to remember, the primarchs and space marines were hardly completely blind to the effects of Chaos or any of its abilities. Despite it being the very start of the whole series, a moment so often overlooked is the conversation between Loken and Horus following the Whisperheads. In that, it was made clear that they were aware of the threat daemons faced, but were informed they were more akin to other xenos races, and how psykers could be possessed by them. Horus and a few of the other primarchs were given a little more warning of the Warp, specifically relating to the entities there and to a degree where the Warp could break through. He specifically mentions locations where the barrier with the Immaterium was weak and how dangerous they were and it seems they were made just aware enough to help directly combat them. The flaw in this came from the lack of fully understanding Chaos’ effects or how it could alter or poison the mind. Fulgrim for example did not understand the effect his blade was having upon him following the conquest of Laeran, allowing it to corrupt him. The same goes for Horus following his visions, and his inability to fully react to Chaos’ influence. While they were both likely aware of how to fight their servants, its influence was another thing entirely.

This inability to fully relay such information or trust others with it was ultimately the Emperor’s downfall. If there was ever a flaw, it was that, along with believing that Chaos required prayer more than emotion, it was that he only gave out as much information as was needed. There are many ways to view this given the current lack of information. He could be seen to distrust his sons, he might have planned for them to perhaps learn the truth at a later date or even had just hoped they would never know of the threat itself. The last one is something which does make the most sense given his overall objective, supressing all knowledge of Chaos and waging a secret war against it. They were a target for Chaos after all and despite his treatment he did care for them. Even at his worst, with the full powers of the four gods behind him and in the process of killing him, Horus only accomplished what he did thanks to the Emperor holding back out of a desire to hopefully turn him back.

Unfortunately, whatever the reason, it was his undoing. Unable to trust many others with his information, there was nothing to stop his own failings. When he failed to judge the full influences of Chaos and how omnipresent they truly were, that left them open to manipulate his sons. It might have taken much of their effort to blind him, but without that same information the Heresy itself was permitted to come about. Whether out of hatred or even a misplaced sense of loyalty, bit by bit others turned against him. Such a lack of trust, perhaps even borderline paranoia, could be seen to be the trait of a tyrant. At the time of his death he seemed to have no plans for what would happen if he were killed prior to his work’s completion. There was nothing in place to truly guide the Imperium, or even fully replace him if needed, and it took Guilliman taking the reins to hold everything together.

Personally though, I think this was more that the Emperor’s plans were incomplete more than anything else. He had always been noted to work for the betterment of his species as a whole, and it was with a reluctance that he had taken the role of such a direct ruler. He had near perpetually put himself in harm’s way for their sake, from conning the Chaos gods twice over into giving him their power to fighting on the frontlines, and even killed off forces he thought were too much of a risk for the new government I.E. the Thunder Warriors. It was humanity’s Imperium after all, not his, not the astartes’, and we see proof of this at a key point in the heresy. During the events of The Outcast Dead, upon learning of his required death to ensure the Imperium’s survival, the Emperor does not hesitate to accept that. Rather than fleeing or trying to worm his way out of it, rather than trying to preserve and sacrifice others to preserve personal power, he was perfectly willing to die.

The final question then is, really, if his sacrifice was truly worth it. The Imperium gradually descended into a dystopia held together by faith, paranoia and gene-forged warriors yet guided by psychopaths. It was hardly the victory over Chaos some had envisioned, and some have gone so far as to argue that this was the Ruinous Powers’ ultimate victory. That with the Emperor supposedly dead, with new followers at their command, they had a system now in place to harvest strife from. A possible theory but ultimately and extremely flawed and very narrow minded one. Why? Because the setting already had their perfect environment take place. That was Old Night, with far more worlds trapped in a perpetual cycle of misery, despair and death, with no real knowledge of them or defence against their influences.

For better or worse, the Imperium as it stands now is united against Chaos itself. They emerged from the Heresy with knowledge of how to limit Chaos’ effects, measurements and put in place to prevent such an opportunity ever happening again. Institutions were created as a key part of the hierarchy to help protect against Chaos, the Librarians were re-instituted and many concepts such as pentagramic and hexagramic wards became known to psykers. To top all of this, while it might have been against his wishes, a new church was formed which served as the perfect bulwark against Chaos, the Ecclesiarchy.  Widespread throughout the galaxy, from teeming Hive Worlds to primitive lost colonies, almost all of humanity worships the Emperor over the dark gods. While they might benefit from emotion, the prayer they needed is instead being diverted into their arch foe. So much so that miracles have taken place with beings appearing with more benign aspects of power; the living saints, potentially the legion of the damned, even angelic beings that alter the flow of battle in the Imperium’s favour. 

Even if the Emperor himself is completely dead, something which is disputed to this day, his effect was more than enough to turn things against Chaos. What the Ruinous Powers ultimately wanted was a galaxy wide Eye of Terror, completely under their dominion and brimming with torment unimaginable to mortals. Founding a government which held that off for almost ten thousand years? That certainly seems like a win.

Tyrant? Saviour? At the end of the day he had shades of both, but I personally think that at his core he was the latter.