Thursday, 28 May 2015

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Film Reboot Announced

If you know anything about comics and films, you'll know that the relationship between Alan Moore and Hollywood has been strained at best. Many of his most famous works have been adapted in one way or another, often with extremely mixed results ranging from the well-intentioned but flawed to ones which just failed to get the message. Some have developed cult followings or have even encouraged readers to seek out the often far deeper source material, and now we have a chance to see an old sin redeemed.

Originally filmed back in 2003, the original League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen adaptation (infamously abridged to LXG on many posters) was released to less than positive acclaim. Critics derided it and fans disposed it thanks to what should have been Penny Dreadful devolving into The Mummy, remaining just as loud and bombastic as you'd think. Even atop of this, it sadly resulted in Sean Connery's retirement along with director Stephen Norrington following infighting. 

Even as someone who admittedly enjoyed the first film as a fun if stupid popcorn flick, it's hard to deny it's about damn time this was done. After over ten years and the comics industry in ascendance when it comes to film adaptation, this is one they should get right. many of the ideas originally in the comic such as My Hyde's far more grotesque nature, the repugnant nature of the Invisible Man and Mina Murray actually leading the group this time would all be welcome returns. Along with The Kingsman and a few others, it would be an opportunity to branch out from superheroes for a while and perhaps draw more people into paying attention to these classics.

And hey, who knows, we might even get to see the Martians or the Mountains of Madness if they go into the sequels.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Warhammer: The End Times Was A Failure From The Start

... Yeah, i'm sure that title's going to ruffle a few feathers.

Effectively serving as a second attempt at a massive, game-changing Chaos invasion, The End Times served as a finale to entire Fantasy universe. It's been extremely divisive, with some calling it a full blown grand finale which was fitting of the setting, and others describing it as "Chaos happens, everyone dies." I'll admit i've yet to read it the whole way through, so i'm not going to comment upon the story's effectiveness or general quality. Instead this is going to talk about one dominating problem with the whole idea of The End Times: It was an ending.

Whenever anyone talks about Warhammer settings, Fantasy or Science Fiction, there are two major points brought up (well, three, but one isn't over-saturated with space marines). The first is that the settings are static, with the status quo remaining utterly unchanging and there being no evolution or attempt by writers to promote galaxy wide change. The second is that both are mired in the final years of their timeline, with Games Workshop unwilling or unable to look past what appears to be Chaos victorious for both sides, save for a few brief timelines or events. 
The thing is though, when people complain about the setting's problems, what they want is to see things develop and progress, with stories showing what happens next. They want to see heroes rise, heroes die and the time line move onward, to have campaigns, wars and conflicts to have impact, changing the world. The End Times didn't offer, this what it offered was the complete opposite. It killed off all this potential, rapidly ended a myriad of stories in a very short span of time and brought everything to a close. It didn't offer new story opportunities, it slammed the book shut on future tales. In fact, it actually rendered just about everything prior to it moot as a result.

A dark ending can work in many tales, and we've seen many a Black Library story conclude on an especially grim note. Even the biggest battles are so often phyrric and the setting of Fantasy is fairly infamous for having no good guy. Much like George R. R. Martin's opus A Song of Ice and Fire, everyone seems to lose as much as they win at every turn. Looking from this angle it could be argued that a final defeat could have been the right move, but that also only works when you view it purely as being a story. Instead it's what it's always been: A game. An interactive form of media which player directly invest themselves in, playing out events and fighting one another to try and influence the outcome of events. 

Games Workshop itself has repeatedly tried to argue that players are "forging the narrative" when they play this game. We have seen multiple scenarios in the past pressed upon players that they are fighting for the survival of their faction, fighting to ensure that they emerge victorious somehow or even just make enough wins to walk away alive. Entire campaign maps have been built for small communities, from forming bandit kingdoms to trying to conquer Lustria, taking the land location by location and altering a small story as the result of that. Certainly, it's been criticised many times that the company has all too often ignored this and not let it truly impact upon the events. Yet despite this some were presented in such a way they could effect small communities or how bands of players saw the world. Then The End Times comes along and basically slams down the fact none of this ever mattered.

Chaos wins and that's that. The players are given no option to voice their opinion, change the outcome of these events or even shift how certain ones play out. It's the writers boat they're stuck in, and with no control over the setting they're just along for the ride. All those battles they fought, all those campaigns they played, the many wars, crusades, conflicts, skirmishes, prophecies and legends? They all meant nothing here. They were just swept aside and the pyrrhic sacrifices and battles of the more heroic factions meant squat at the end of the day. After ten years of storytelling, it sadly just boils down to the single most predictable outcome possible, and that actually becoming invested in the setting is pointless. What is now the incentive to ever become involved in any of this when the outcome is that Chaos is just going to ultimately win and everything will be destroyed? What's the point in becoming invested when you're given no chance to change what happens at all, and a bunch of people just kill off your entire faction with no chance for you to voice any objections? There's none.

However, while the above problems highlight some of the biggest problems behind The End Times, the damnably sad thing is that there was always an easy alternative to this. What alternative is that? Don't make it an event or an ending. Make it instead into an era. Just as Warhammer 40,000 has its M31 and M41 eras, likewise Fantasy could have easily featured the same points. Imagine for a moment a setting where Chaos is dominant, the Old World scattered and fragmented, many societies and civilizations reduced to shadowed remnants. The High Elves are desperately fighting to enact some vital gambit to hold their homeland, nature has been driven so insane that the Wood Elves have become tainted with savagery, and the Dwarf Kingdoms have withdrawn to ancient depths none previously dared travel. You could push to show what such a world could be like, how all those previous dreaded conflicts, events and nightmares being unleashed could result in, and perhaps push for even bigger ideas.

Even if they declared a reality where Chaos has all but totally won to be an alternate continuity, it could potentially lead to an entirely new line to promote the franchise. New models and armies could spring up, but unlike The End Times they wouldn't be fleeting creations for a short lived setting. Authors could be freed from the status quo to experiment with new ideas, the corruption and death of heroes, but with actual consequences and lengthy story driven impact to the tale. Not just ideas which were interesting but the authors had not intention of ever finishing off, such as a certain person becoming an Elector Count. Again, it would be a new line of thought to experiment and continue the story, not to throttle the existing one to death in order to promote new sales. How do I know this would have worked, and would have been possible though? Because, like so many things, where the company failed the fandom supplied.

Look up at some point a fanfiction by the name of The Shape of the Nightmare to Come and its sequel The Age of Dusk. While set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and based upon some older canon, it does the exact thing The End Times attempted but does it better. We see a new galaxy take shape after Cadia and Terra fall, we see the ascendant Tau Empire enter a full scale war against the Necron Lords. How the Imperium fragments into petty kingdoms is shown, rather than just effectively ceasing to exist, and the eldar themselves follow multiple paths in this time, from Ynnead's gambit to Biel-Tan striking out on its own. Plus it approached the subject in a far more in-universe atmospheric way and managed to create a dark tale without invoking so much of the apathy and cynicism some felt towards The End Times.

The overall point is that there really shouldn't have been The End Times. There should have instead been something like The Age of Ruin, or a new chapter in the story showing how things would develop. Writing a conclusion like this? That was never going to be the right choice, never for a tabletop setting of any kind.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt (Video Game Review)

Returning one last time, Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt serves as the capstone to Geralt of Rivia’s story. With the Northern Kingdoms embroiled in a bloody war following the death of so many of their kings, a bloody spectral force has entered the fray: The dreaded Wild Hunt. As Geralt embarks upon a mission of personal importance, he soon finds that he is key to halting their onslaught.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Devourer (Novella Review)

The problem going into this story is that, right from the word go you can tell it’s completely the wrong type of tale for this format. Novellas have been hit and miss in the pass with Black Library, and it’s not hard to see where those misses stemmed from. The unsuccessful ones overburdened themselves, trying to tell too vast a story with too many characters and perspectives at once, without streamlining itself. Daenyathos, Masque of Vyle, and the more renowned ones all did this, following a single straight forwards event rather than anything too vastly broad. The only one which has gotten away with this so far is Eater of Worlds, and even that was only thanks to an extended length and primarily focusing upon two groups of characters. Devourer though? You have three major parties, several major ambitions, and entire war and at the same time trying to present a completely alien perspective. Mashed together and compressed as they are, what we’re let with is an overstuffed and overburdened tale which would have been far better suited to a full novel, or ditching two of the major protagonists.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Rebel Galaxy (Video Game Preview)

Rebel Galaxy is a big departure by developers Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, whose previous work resulted in the seminal Torchlight duology and the initial success of Blizzard North. Rather than embracing the grim darkness of Action-RPGs involving demons however, this time their work is more Elite: Dangerous than it is Diablo. The setting this time is among the stars, where players are tasked with trying to earn their way in the galaxy however they see fit. With a mysterious gift offered from the start and universe of opportunities before them, just how they’ll survive is up to the player to decide. Offered six hours to play through and preview this new game, here’s a few thoughts on the pros and cons of what’s seen so far.

The main story here is the same kind of off-hands storytelling which worked so well with Axiom Verge; interesting enough to be engaging but never so much it seemed to be strangling the game for those not interested. While the opening missions to each port of call are more general tutorials to help players get to grips with the mechanics, even these can be quickly ignored and skipped. You’re offered an old beaten up ship, given some indication of an old relative’s wishes, and then let loose upon the galaxy. When and how you follow it is entirely up to you, and it avoids the mistakes of Skyrim by never trying to rush you into following the story above all else. If anything Rebel Galaxy encourages the exact opposite, urging you to spend as much time as possible between missions exploring, fighting and trading.

Imperial Knights Part 2 - The Rules (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 7th Edition)

So, that's the lore done and now onto the rules. People knew quite early on what we were going to get with this one, a few Knights with some slightly shiner helmets and bigger guns, and a giant power fist. While sadly not accompanied by, say, militia from a Knight world or something to help better flesh this out into an army. On the one hand, sure this is understandable. It's the whole point of their lore and they're supposed to serve as a supporting force. On the other though it's a little hard not to look at a book consisting of nothing but super heavy vehicles and not raise an eyebrow at just how hard Games Workshop seems to be pushing the Apocalypse angle of bigger guns into standard Warhammer 40,000. Honestly, the only thing which really saved it was thanks to the older book retaining a few obvious weaknesses to exploit, requiring backup from more traditional units and some of the best lore written in years.

If there is one thing to say about this new codex, it does improve upon the old one when it comes to rules. Not an admittedly hard effort given there was barely enough content in the prior edition to fill a White Dwarf article, but they didn't entirely skimp on things here either. The biggest difference right from the get-go is the equipment each Knight can be outfitted with. Notable among the new options are the addition of carapace mounted weapons. These add, atop the main arms and stubbers, the option for each Knight to carry a Reaver Titan style backup weapon to augment its firepower. The two missile pods (Ironstorm and Stormspear) are what you'd expect, with one being a Strength 5 Large Blast weapon, and the other firing off trios of krak missiles each turn. The real fun comes in the form of the Icarus Autocannon, a twin-linked weapon which offers Skyfire and Interceptor among its effects. Yeah, the Knights are no longer reliant upon Heavy Stubbers to shoot down aircraft. It's nothing which is going to ever overshadow dedicated weapons, but it's helpful in offering the Knights a little more suitability given their points costs.

In terms of main arm weapons we now have the Avenger Gatling Cannon (Stolen from the Strike Fighter of the same name and given an upgrade to make it Heavy 12 and Rending!) and the Thunderstrike Gauntlet. The Avenger is definitely the cheesiest among the new cannons, and it's not hard to see why. On the Strike Fighter it was already lovingly known as the "Fuck Space Marines" gun, and now with a greater output it can punch holes in just about any infantry in moments. It's thankfully limited to only a couple of variants, but i'd really like to know who the hell thought giving an already infamously powerful "rip and tear" gun an upgrade was a good idea. It's not especially fun so much as just watching the army quickly die.
By comparison the Thunderstrike Gauntlet holds up far better as a dumb if incredibly fun weapon. At Strength D - because by this point there seems to be some mandatory decree that there be at least one per codex - it's hitting as hard as you'd expect as a glorified power fist, but then you have the rules. Taking one of the Giant options from Fantasy, the Knight can now pick up and throw things at people. Yep, the rules for this are as follows -

"If an Imperial Knight fighting with a Thunderstrike Gauntlet destroy an enemy Monstrous Creature or vehicle in the Fight sub-phase, it can choose to hurl it (Gargantuan Creatures, Super-heavy vehicles and buildings cannot be hurles). If a vehicle was destroyed as a result of suffering an Explodes! result on the Vehicle Damage table, resolve any damage before hurling it. Any passengers must make an emergency disembarkation before their transport vehicle is hurled. To hurl an enemy model, immediately resolved a shooting attack against an enemy unit within 12" that is not locked in combat using the profile below. A hurled model is removed from the battlefield after the attack has been resolved."

While sadly not as fun as "Pick up and..." from the other armybooks, you can at least now imagine a Knight scooping up a Land Raider and crushing Dante beneath its burning wreck. To make matters even more hilarious, The strength of this attack is always equal to the Toughness or front Armour Value of the hurled object. It's dumb to be sure, but it's one of these ones which is frankly too hilariously dumb to be mad about. If anything it's just a shame they didn't take things a step further via Pacific Rim rocket punches.

Atop of the basic guns we also have a few unique items of note in here, which does help with the knightly theme. Let's face it, most legends revolving around crusades, chivalry and knights involve a few legendary weapons, from Excalibur to Joan of Arc's famous blade. In this case it's less weapons and more general items though. 
Listed as the "Heirlooms of the Knightly Houses" we have pretty much what you'd expect sadly. The Banner of Macharius Triumphant allows units within "12 to re-roll failed morale, pinning and fear tests. The Helm of the Nameless Warrior? Just grants Rampage, while the Mark of the Omnissiah offers It Will Not Die. Then we have the expected two killy weapons, known as The Paragon Gauntlet and the Ravager, the former being just a master crafted Thunderstrike Pimp Hand and the latter re-rolling rolls of 1 to hit. Oh, and of course we have one last one which offers a 6+ Inv save against anything not covered by its ion shield, but can't be used in close combat.

The sad truth is that while some of them have some surprisingly good lore for what little they get, these are just the same cookie cutter weapons we've seen time and time before. These are just the same motifs we've seen over the years, and while well priced and hardly game-breaking, there's nothing really interesting about them. It's honestly a shame as they seem to just be added as part of a checklist now rather than a fully outlined and described work.
Still, while the equipment is a mixed bunch there have been some improvements with the basic units. Rather than two, we now have five standard Knight variants to try and cover a wider variety of roles. Errant and Paladin both make a return appearance, but now we also have Warden, Gallant, and Crusader. Going from first to last, Warden is the one to show off all the new toys at once, Gallant the one who excels at combat, and Crusader feature more dakka. Their overall stats remain the same, meaning it's largely their weapons which define them. This said, they're genuinely not bad options as a whole.

Each of the Knights does seem to fill a good niche without going utterly nuts in terms of their gimmicks. For the most part each unit does seem to fit its role relatively well and offers a few good ideas, and the Warden in particular stands out exceptionally well in this regard. It's described effectively as a glorified siege weapon in the lore, yet it serves as a solid all-rounder. You have a Reaper chainsword with a under-slung Heavy Flamer, access to all carapace weapons and an Avengers Gatling Cannon to help thin out large roadblock units which might bog them down. Add to this a fairly cheap option to take up a Thunderstrike Gauntlet and the option to switch out a Stubber for a Meltagun, and at 375 points standard, it's not too shabby at all.

By comparison the Gallant is the one outfitted purely for close combat; offering only the peashooters of Heavy Stubbers as a basic gun, going all in with a Thunderstrike Smash-Fist and Reaper. The Gallant really is going to be the bullet magnet as it needs to get up close and personal, but it's also got another use in the codex. As the cheapest option on this list at 325 points (sigh) it helps to free up a little space on certain army lists for options. If you need an additional hundred points here or there, this is the Knight to take, good in a fight but with enough flexibility to fit in a few general upgrades. You can probably guess which items of wargear this particular one would be best suited to given its choppy nature.

The one which is really going to take the spotlight here is the Crusader as it, well, to be blunt it's going to be the powergaming monster here. It's already outfitted with the Avenger to muller more or less all infantry, but atop that you then have the Thermal Cannon as well. As standard. So combined with the Heavy Flamer you have a walking long range death machine capable of easily crippling anything it looks in the vague direction of. Even atop of that you then have the options to take up a Meltagun, add any carapace weapon you desire, and take up a Battlecannon for free. Along with being able to target each of these guns at an individual unit, you then have the bonus of it's still striking in close combat at  Strength 10 AP2. Hell, even toning things down to take the Battlecannon and a Stormspear Rocket Pod still means it can probably rip through anything you point it at. The only downside is a cost of 425 points, but that's barely a step up from the more even handed Warden and small compared to the obscenely large armies seen today. It's honestly just raw power incarnate and little else, no tactics needed beyond not letting it get in over its head.

Both the Paladin and Errant also make a return, but with no real changes. The Paladin is still the all-rounder at a cheaper cost than the Warden, armed with a Battlecannon and Reaper, and capable of taking on most things in single battle. So long as you're not facing down a few Strength D weapons or a few Lascannons with a range advantage, it's one with some decent suitability and can take on most units. the Errant meanwhile is the cheaper "hammer" options here when you can't get the Crusader on your list. The Thermal Cannon's short ranged nature means it's one you're more likely to be using for flanking attacks to cripple enemy heavy tanks, transports and bigger machines. Now further augmented by the ability to take a Thunderstrike Rocket Fist means it's well suited to quickly crippling the big centerpiece units, from Land Raiders to bigger super heavies.

Beyond one overpowered option - which is more down to one weapon than anything else - this is an odd army. The big problem is that, again, it's nothing but big super heavy vehicles and little else to compliment that, but for the most part it's relatively well internally balanced.  When it comes to the game as a whole though it's hard to see this as truly balanced. You can take all the Lascannons you want, but between the Stomp abilities and weapons, four of these things in a 2,000 point game means these will usually come out on top barring other raw power options. Codex: Eldar and Codex: Necron players, you know who you are.

The other big change atop this is more bloody Formations. By now you'll probably know my opinion on these things, as in my view they rob the game of some creativity and reward players for using pre-made lists done by others. Sure, some people have done that on forums, but you can argue that's a community aspect and that doesn't offer bonuses for doing so. They also tend to be a bit more creative, as the ones here often just come down to taking Knights of any kind. Okay, the list only has five units but that still seems a little limited to say the least.

With five of these in total, there's a very odd mixture. First up is the Exalted Court, which has the player take five knights of any variant and little else. The reward for this? The Special Rules known as the Council of Lords and Knight Commander. The first basically gives the Knights steroids. One (dubbed the High King or Princeps) gains an additional 2 WS and BS, with an additional +1 to their invulnerable save. Atop of creating a WS6 BS6 monster Knight, all others then gain an additional 1 point to their own WS and BS. So for no extra points you now have ultra accurate and high powered Imperial Knights. Oh, and all of them can take any of the Heirlooms wargear as well. The second is much more tame by comparison, offering only Warlord traits re-rolls if this is your main detachment.

The Baronial Court is the Exalted's more flexible cousin, at three to five Knights at a time.  You have Knight Commander again, Lord Baron offers one unit an additional 1 WS and BS, and access to the Heirlooms. The more notable and impressively useful ones are Knightly Vassals and Ionic Shieldwall. The first gives these damn things Counter-attack and Overwatch when in close proximity to their Baron (yeah, imagine five Gallants with Overwatch) and +1 invulnerable saves when a Knight is on close formation to another. This is the very nasty one of the list, and it's one which will easily rip through anything in sight, and so long as they're in close formation they're almost unstoppable.

In contrast to the two examples above we then have far more specific examples, the first up being the Tripartite Lance. As an aside, you've got to almost admire the gall in calling this thing a "lance" given these things were retired for so long thanks to so closely resembling Battletech lore. This one is what you'd expect from the name as well, three Knights, each of them the new shiny ones introduced in this edition. This is one of the only two with any kind of restriction, as the Knights here have to move as a single unit rather than going about individually. The buffs though, well, read for yourself:

"Knight Warden - Withering Fire: enemy units count their cover saves as being one point lower than normal against attacks from models from this Formation.
Knight Gallant - Wrathful Onslaught: All models in this formation inflict D3 Hammer of Wrath hits instead of 1.
Knight Crusader - Precision Bombardment: Blast weapons fired by models in this Formation gain Twin-linked special rule."

Yeah. You'd be forgiven for thinking the Gallant was going to be a third wheel until seeing the fact they work for all units. So even if you just outfit the close combat machine with a Stormspear Missile Pod, that thing is both twin-linked and nerfs cover saves from the enemy. To be frank, this thing is just the Knights' strengths taken to the Nth degree, and short of buffing their Invulnerable saves, this will just cause them to wipe out most things in their path. It's certainly going to help in ripping through any light armour, infantry or the like, and a twin-linked Thermal Cannon or those D3 attacks in combat will quickly end just about anything heavily armoured. This is the problem with Formations like these, it's no effort, no intelligence or skill, it's just three things mashed together and a bunch of bonus stats tacked on.

The last two are more general ones which really just reward taking lots of the same elements. The Gallant Lance (three guesses as to what variant they focus upon) just consists of three Knights, and immediately gives them Crusader, Rage and the ability to re-roll charge distances. Skyreaper Lance meanwhile just requires you to have three Knights of any kind, and to have Icarus Autocannons on each one. The bonus to this? Re-rolls to failed glancing or penetrating hits, and re-rolls to wound Flying Monstrous Creatures. Yep. Not much else to say beyond that, though there's a certain very limited degree of creativity in each. Especially with a single Formation designed to purely combat their previously single biggest weakness.

The last group to list off are the Warlord traits which beyond one or two points aren't very fun. To list them off in short:
Landstrider: Friendly Knights can add one inch to moving and charging when within 12" of the warlord.
Favoured of the Omnissiah: One standard weapon on the Warlord can be Master-Crafted with no cost.
Exemplar of the Joust: The Warlord gains the ability to re-roll hits upon charging.
Cunning Commander: D3 Knights gain Outflank in addition your Warlord.
Ion Bulwark: The Warlord re-rolls 1's on their Invulnerable saves.

Knight Seneschal: +1 attack.

Yeah, these are not too great on the whole. The most interesting ones are Ion Bulwark given how it can be combined with certain bonuses via Formations, Exalted to be specific, and Cunning Commander's bonuses. Beyond that though, there's nothing truly interesting here and too many once again focus too much upon an individual over the army as a whole.

In many respects the rules here are very much like the lore. They're not inherently bad, more bland and underdeveloped with one or two good points or ideas here and there. It's a step above last time on this front at least, but that's really thanks to how little was on offer there, and there's never a proper balance of power here. It's either wallpaper paste dull or giving the player so much power they can just walk through the enemy, with not nearly enough middle ground. It might be good enough to excuse fielding the new Knight variants, but in all honesty it's not worth the steep price of purchasing. Of course, a metric ton of people are sure to buy this in order to keep their very expensive Imperial Knights relevant to the game. Some days, you really do wish there were more choices in this hobby.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Forge World Warlord Titan - First Photo And Price Tag Leaked?

Because apparently the Manta Missile Destroyer wasn't enough of a cash cow, we're getting Warlord Titans. By this point it's really no surprise. Even before the trailer was released, announcing their addition to the next Horus Heresy book, people had been predicting their arrival for years. With Reaver Titans out, Baneblades fully milked to death and aircraft floundering, there was nowhere to go but bigger. How big is it? Well, there's been a few pictures released showing the Second Edition design, teasing their true scale but little else. 
At least until now.

Leaked onto Facebook by Maxwell Lacn, we have this particular post depicting the new class of Titan in all its gloriously goofy grandeur:

Yeah. Big bastard isn't it. Given the estimates of the leg size and the people standing behind it, we can guess this thing is probably going to stand at roughly 60cm tall. Give or take a little of course, and well under the full size a Warlord Titan is supposed to be, yet it's still one of the biggest things produced by the company to date. How top heavy this thing will be and how well the company's legendarily difficult resin will be to stick together, that's going to be another problem. 

For the moment though, let's look at that price. $1950 translates to £1240 in British terms. It's admittedly just a rumour, yet this would make it eclipse even the bigger Manta and might be another effort to see what they can get away with. The Manta was ultimately a one-shot, but with this they have the opportunity to try and expand things further, with greater range of variants and weapons. Those obscenely large shoulder guns at least look as if they could easily be switches out for a few more powerful cannons.

Anyway, if this is a fake then it's a pretty damn convincing fake.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (Video Game Review)

When it comes to villains, few can top the Nazis. Yet for all the fun Medal of Honour offers in taking them down you then have the likes of Wolfenstein bringing things to the next level; with its Tarantino-esque bombastic narrative, and then adding a level of occult and mad science Hellboy would be proud of. The Old Blood continues this trend, serving as a standalone expansion to The New Order and fleshing out B.J. Blazkowicz’s final missions in the Second World War.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Bioshock: Rapture (Book Review)

Upon its initial release, a few reviewers not starstruck by Bioshock’s grim atmosphere and complex themes were quick to point out one thing: The mechanics were terrible. While the came could stand up on its own, the gunplay and many of the core elements surrounding how the player interacted with the world were fairly bare basic, leading to a few criticisms that it was better suited as a book than a video game. With that in mind, John Shirley’s prequel is one of the best arguments both for and against this point.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Imperial Knights Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 7th Edition)

If you ever wanted to pin down exactly what's wrong with Games Workshop's approach to lore this edition, look no further. Oh, it's that the lore itself is bad, but when you actually stop to compare this with the prior codex, you'll quickly pick out where things have gone off of the rails.

This is how the old codex looked for the first twelve pages or so as it fleshed out their history, traditions and nature.

How does the new and supposedly improved Codex: Imperial Knights look by comparison? 

This is padding at its finest. They didn't even bother to just copy and paste old information.  What we're left with is Codex: Imperial Knights concentrate as a result, with all the prior information condensed down into a third of the overall word count. As such, while it conveys the general basic information, no time is spent on the more minor aspects of the technology, development of those worlds or even how the individual Houses behave. This could perhaps be understood if the codex had a substantially shorter page count, but it's actually the complete opposite.

The old codex: 64 pages in length.

The new codex: 120 pages in length.

The writers here had twice the space to work with here, and almost all of it is wasted rapidly padding out the book and shoving massive bits of (recycled or otherwise) artwork next to them. As such, what you're buying offers only a fraction of the background information this should ultimately be showing people. At its best it's offering somewhat shorter versions of old lore, and at worst its lacking so much of the depth the prior book contained.

There are also entire sections of once prominent information or useful passages which are now completely missing from this codex. The Ritual of Becoming and nature of each Throne Mechanicum is missing almost entirely from the beginning, and only is offered a handful of mentions here and there. The large viewpoint short tales showing a noble linking into his war machine, fighting against impossible odds or even some of the basic intricacies which seemed so fitting of the setting. Hell, they even removed the bit which explained how each noble entered their mech of choice Thunderbirds style.

Even the very timeline itself is a mere shadow of its previous volume, with information and meaning behind so much of what was once interesting ditched entirely. You're lucky to get a sentence at all to help properly define or even explain certain historical events, and these fail to have the same world-building impact of past works. Compare the following for example:

The old codex lists the following for one event:
"112.M41 First Contact
The Imperium makes first contact with the Knight world of Kragh after a localised warp storm, which has been raging for over twenty millennia, finally abates. Though much of the planet's surviving technology is revealed to be incredibly archaic, the Knight suits remain in remarkable condition thanks to a long-lost piece of STC technology. Initial attempts to integrate Kragh into the Imperial fold are met with open hostility as the planet's two knightly houses react to the perceived threat with deadly force. Peace is finally brokered by Baron Jakobus, a venerable Knight Seneschal greatly respected by both houses - but the fragile ceasefire is jeopardized almost immediately as a trio of Tech Adepts attempt to recover the priceless STC archeotech and return it to Mars."

Now, compare this with what's listed in the new book on this timeline:

"11.M41 New Contact
The Imperium makes first contact with the Knight world of Kragh after a localised Warp storm finally abates. It had raged for over twenty millennia without pause."

Yeah. Anyone else get the feeling the writers were skipping over a few things here? The sad thing is that this is the case for just about every single last event in the timeline, with only one or two getting even half the detailed length of the prior codex's events; and one of those is explaining what the Age of bloody Technology was! 

Do you want to know why this was done as well? Not because they had fewer pages to work with (the timeline in both editions takes up four pages) but because someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to have stonking great images of Knights taking up almost half of each page. Yeah, above all else in this codex, the background hasn't been sidelined and stripped down to make room for more rules, it's to make way for more images. Even as padding this makes no sense, as this is requiring far more effort than even just copying, pasting and slightly editing material from the past codex. In a few ways, i'm personally not sure if this was a better move or not.

Despite these criticisms, it would be wrong to say that there wasn't some push to try and have new information to support this. There are actually some interesting angles which were pursued to try and flesh out the universe and this setting. The problem here truly stems from the focus and way they went about this, and sadly actually diminishes the universe as a result. This is best seen in the hierarchy listed for each House, divided between those who are Imperial allied and Mechanicus allied. Now, on the one hand this is a very good thing as it does help to offer further insight into how certain Houses operate and how they differ from one another.

At the Mechanicus end, we have a series of ranks such as "Forge Master" "Master of Lore" and others all led by a Princeps. The layout is more expected of such a highly organised force, and the lore here specifies that they are less individual powers and more cogs in a greater machine. As such, they are more frequently used to augment Titan Legions, accompany Explorator fleets and the fact they share a rank with a Titan commander actually makes a degree of sense. While there is a notable problem in certain ranks (notably "Master of Vox" being seemingly irrelevant and useless given their structure), and it does fail to truly remain in-keeping with any feudal elements, those after a Mechanicus style army of mecha now have this option to work with. This isn't the problem here, the problem comes from when you move over to the Imperial one.

By comparison, the Imperial House is noted to be far more feudal, emulating certain chivalry elements far more and there is more of a focus upon ruling individual lands. Most of the Knights themselves are listed to be scattered across a world, securing certain holdings and governed by a single High King. It's structured and regimented, with Barons ruling in his stead and helping rule the world province by province. Now, this sounds good initially, until you realise this is exactly the same structure as the Mechanicus allied Houses, just with a few names changed. To make matters worse, this isn't just making it the same as that book, it's Codex smegging Astartes syndrome all over again. 
You've probably seen this for yourself in a few books, where all of a sudden an army's structure is rearranged until it's suspiciously like the tried and tested format used for genetic space marine chapters. Each House now consists of several detachments, each leader being a specialist elite led in some field and their leader elevated from their ranks to lead them all. This might sound generic, but when you really stop and compare the two, you could easily switch this into a Space Marine chapter's organisation and not even need to change ranks.

A bigger problem on this front stems from the fact that, on the whole, the structure listed in this book is supposed to be the definitive way all Houses work now. This isn't with some degree of variation, some smaller allowances for deviation or even entirely new forms, instead these two examples are supposed to cover every single Knight World in the entire Imperium. This removes a lot of opportunities for player creativity, but more importantly it makes the setting itself feel far smaller as a result, with so little diversity on offer by comparison. Oh, and atop that there's also the problem of treating the Imperial Knights as a standing army. While they might be a military force, what's in here should be more akin to Bretonnia or with only one or small groups of knights serving as watchmen for a province. What we have here instead suggests that the Knights effectively act in company formations, as the astartes so often do. Of course, once you actually skim through the bits on each House in turn, it seems that someone had the exact opposite idea, and took it to its ultimate extreme.

In a move which makes Codex: Tempestus Militarum's own bloated repetitive padding look conservative, we have countless pages about individual Knights. No, really, its the same few variants of the same image, with a few heads, weapons and colours changed, and two paragraphs added per one. This is done for each and every notable mech of House Terryn and House Raven, focusing less upon the Houses themselves than who is leading them at this time. Thirty-four pages in total cover this, along with the secondary Houses, and just as soon as you think it's over the book start's on the Freeblades. Over a quarter of the damn book is just devoted to page after page of the same thing, with incredibly little lore, when all of this could have easily been narrowed down to perhaps twelve in total. Hell, you could have ripped most of these out of the book and no one would have batted an eye.

The only good news here is that, again, there were some efforts to push for something better here. One of the big problems in the setting has always been how static things are, so with here several houses have been noted to change their heraldry over time. Several images depict each stage of this evolution, with small notes depicting what each addition connoted to the House. The problem is all of this stops as soon as they join the Imperium. What's listed here is just from M24-31, meaning that everything stops as soon as they rejoin the Imperium itself. Good idea, poor execution. The individual Knights depicted and their histories are also a decidedly mixed bunch. Some work well, others feel like pointless additions while others seem oddly off-kilter. Notably one Terryn Knight by the name of Alarbus contains the following passage, which is little more than shallow explosive bolter porn than anything with actual substance behind it:

"In his Knight Gallant, Honoured Vigilance, Sir Alarbus has already begun to forge a name for himself amongst his house's many heroes and veterans. To earn the blue and red stripes that honour House Terryn and the Imperium, a Knight must single-handedly slay a Titan-class foe. Although still reckoned young, the Noble Alarbus has already done so twice, earning stripes for both his reaper chainsword and thunderstrike gauntlet. He earned the first by felling a mountainous Gargant when his lance were sent to halt the rampages of Waaagh! Grazguts. Hard pressed by the Gargant's guns, the intrepid Knight hacked through the Ork machine's protective plates, before hoisting himself into the beast's iron belly, carving his way through and out the other side of the behemoth just before the Gargant's damage engines exploded catastrophically."

Anyone else thinking this guy's second name is Draigo at this point? It's admittedly one of the more extreme examples, but it shows just how badly some are put together. They do little to really examine the history behind the machine, use the pilot as a possible example to represent an aspect of his House, and it's the same old exaggerated bolter porn we've seen a thousand times over. There's no energy to it, nothing fun or suggesting the writer was really invested in this story, it's some stupidly exaggerated tale but without the fun of being stupidly exaggerated or nuts, and written in an insanely by the numbers style. By comparison a number of others, especially the Freeblades, stand out well as they add to the scale of the setting and truly seem to fit in well with the more fantastical or archaic styles of the setting. Geranitus and The Living Litany are two such examples of near legendary questing Knights done well. Others such as The White Warden (linked to the Red Waaagh! Games Workshop keeps pushing) are driven into taking up the Freeblade life thanks to political scapegoating on his world and internal disputes.

Now, if there is one problem above all others which needs to be highlighted and brought to the fore, it's how the codex treats Knight technology. As in, it treats it as if no one ever understood or remembered how to ever make Knights or any of the systems relating to them. Yeah, at every point the book goes the extra mile to slam home how making the Knights, the Throne Mechanicum or even the teachings given to the Sacristans are all somehow lost to time. Sure, it's a common thing in the Imperium, but the problem is that Codex: Imperial Knights was built itself upon establishing how the mechs were an exception to this rule. One of the main reasons, after all, that they hold such close ties to the Mechanicus was thanks to the Tech-Priests building, restoring and teaching them how to use their machines following Old Night. The new codex seems to forget this little detail, repeatedly bashing the reader with sections like this:

"Long ago it was realised that it mattered little if Knights marches out to protect their world only to return to find their strongholds in ruin. Without the irreparable equipment and mechanisms of the Chamber of Echoes and the Sanctuary, no new Rituals of becoming could take place, nor could Knights be repaired."

Overall, while you can appreciate the writers attempting to expand upon what was established, Codex: Imperial Knights is a definite misfire in terms of lore. Getting so many details of past books wrong, wasting pages on pointless padding, lacking the detail found in the past codex and really limiting the army's potential, it's a definite failure on almost every level. Certainly not a bad one, and not offensive enough to be remembered as a monumental slump in writing, but a sign that the perpetual wave of releases is harming the creativity of these codices. If you're buying these for the background or love of the universe, in all honesty you're better off with last edition's codex. Definitely save your money for something better than this rushed joke of a book.

Still, that's only one half of this. Now, onto the rules.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Axiom Verge (Video Game Review)

Between its charmingly blocky textures, vibrant environments and bleakly beautiful monstrosities as bosses, Tom Happ’s Axiom Verge remains head and shoulders above the competition. While the sheer number of metroidvania side-scrollers being released these days is beyond number, even experienced veterans will find themselves challenged by some surprising breaks in genre conventions.

Friday, 8 May 2015

5 Changes 7th Edition Codex: Imperial Knights Needs

Honestly, there's not too much which can be added to this one.

In an age of Kaldor Draigo, Sentinels of Terra ripping bits from novels for its own ideas, and well written lore being shafted in favour of explosions, the Imperial Knights' return was a breath of fresh air. In almost every sense it should have been a failure and broke several personal taboos. With minimal rules, only two units and promoting super-heavy individual models over armies, it seemed ready to bork up everything, with the background there only as padding to excuse the high price. What proved to be the astounding exception was how the book took its lore seriously. 

Rather than being a poorly researched half-baked cash grab, fans were rewarded at long last with a deep, detailed and varied account of a force's history. Stretching back to the Horus Heresy, it proved to be one of the few books to actually try to emphasise how much time had passed and focus upon more than just M41. To top this off, it was one of the few to truly try to examine the political impact of the Heresy, Great Crusade, the techno-feudal nature of each world and be about more than just a few flashy generals plus their cannon fodder. Rather than being the footnote, it became the book all others should be measured against.

With all that considered, many are hoping less for improvements to the lore so much as the next author managing not to royally screw things up. Still, as great as it was, there were a few notable improvements which still needed to be emphasised, and ideas explored. So, without further ado, here's five changes 7th edition codex: Imperial Knights needs.

5. Wars Of Dead Empires

The timeline for the last Codex: Imperial Knights featured the various Houses combating every kind of enemy, from a Necron Dynasty arising beneath one world to a Tyranid Hive Fleet. However, while it focused upon wars of all kinds, and even Dark Eldar incursions, it missed one vital point: The Exodites. In the original lore, the Exodites and Imperial Knights were old enemies, repeatedly battling one another for land. Wars against one another were frequent and battles so furious that it took Knights on both sides to try and push for any kind of victory.

The reason for avoiding mentioning the Exodites is understandable. For one thing they currently have no standing army on the tabletop, and for another they were too similar to the Imperial Knights themselves. Each was a semi-feudal society harbouring advanced weaponry and retaining mecha to try and push the other off of what they saw as their land. Even in a game where the most commonly reported conflicts are between astartes and Chaos worshiping astartes, this is admittedly a little too similar on the surface, yet despite this you have a very interesting dynamic. Each side is, ultimately the survivors of what was once a vast empire, overlooked by the forces which felled it and with Chaos playing a role in their destruction. Each society has degraded in different ways, and while their conflict could chalk up similarities others could easily be used to highlight their differences, such as the Exodites' use of the world spirits and land about them.

Even if there was heavy opposition to them sharing a world, easy excuses to have them fight, even during Old Night, via the existence of the Webway. Seeing two such societies fighting over one another and launching interstellar attacks would certainly be something unique even to this setting, and it would lead to some new twists in their traditions or histories. Plus it would be a nice nod to the Second Edition without going utterly nuts.

4. War Sagas And Battlegrounds

It's hard to tell exactly when this fell out of favour, but for a long time now codices have been avoiding specific detailed battles. Previous codices used to have a good six to eight pages devoted to covering certain campaigns and conflicts in great detail, covering them blow by blow was the wars panned out or even turning points in certain wars. It limited the focus admittedly, but it also helped to shape and show how certain armies fought and added detail to them.

Think for a second of how the recent codices have depicted such events. Either we have very narrow and generally short timelines largely focused upon M41, and giving a single sentence to explaining events, or they're simply rolled right into the unit information. While some can be surprisingly good, they just lack that impact and level of detail which other stories retained, and really this just won't work here. Firstly there are far too few units to really allow for this, and secondly the individual larger than life depictions of the Knights need something more. The book needs something to really emphasis how these warriors are legends in their own right, giving them war sagas or historical events to really flesh them out.

Such a tale would be very easy to cover, as the Knights themselves are widely distributed across the Imperium and attached to countless forces. The tales themselves could also  range from whole Houses going to war to an individual Freeblade fighting for glory and prove to be equally as effective as one another. The only obvious stumbling point might be focusing far too much upon the Knight specifically rather than using him or her as the representation of their army, but beyond that there's no reason not to have them. Well, assuming they're well written at any rate.

3. Mechanicum Dominion

One key aspect which definitely needs to be better explored is the relationship between certain Houses and the Adeptus Mechanicus. Not so much the way in which they co-operate as the way in which certain ones break from normal links and even directly conflict with Magos rule. We know that certain Imperial Knight worlds do hold very close ties to certain Forge-Worlds, yet at the same time others also distance themselves from the Mechanicus. Given their reliance upon the Tech-Priests for new parts, information and even training for certain recruits, this seems almost suicidal given how much power they should ultimately hold over them.

What needs to be truly examined and detailed is ultimately how a lord or lady of a House can get into political or even violent conflict with a Mechanicus force. Given their survival during Old Night and how some can still retain individual freedom like this, there must be some degree of self-sufficiency ingrained into each world. Certainly, there are elements the Mechanicum have in place to ensure their loyalty, programming certain members of each House to act as their spies and even the Sacristans themselves. It would be interesting to see how all this could be put in place, yet a world could still opt to willingly distance itself from such a powerful force.

Perhaps this could be done through political maneuvering, denial of resources, retaining ancient technology which requires less frequent contact with the Tech-Priests. Perhaps even the Sacristans of a world could prove to be more loyal to their House than the Omnissiah. It's a small but very interesting subject, and one with a vast amount of story potential to help better flesh out this faction.

2. Feudal Lords And Their Fiefdoms

For all the great work it did defining the Imperial Knights themselves, there was one area which seemed sadly lacking. It wasn't absent or overlooked, but by comparison it was just bypassed, and that was the very nature of the knights themselves. As nobles, they were committed to rule a planet, or even a large portion of a world and hold sway over it, defending its inhabitants against all comers. For all that though, we get surprisingly little on this front. Much of the information about the individual worlds boils down to single page or a handful of brief mentions, one which gives a few examples of worlds about a paragraph each, and the others scattered about the book. We learn, for example, that certain Houses on the same world hold massive feuds which can last centuries, that some deal even with alien dignitaries, and that certain Houses even joust in contests. The problem is that all of this is just suggestions, half hidden mentions and little else.

To really help flesh out the knights further, the book needs to emphasise just how they operated on their homeworlds. Rather than running across the galaxy as so many of these stories showed, we need to see bits where they are in their strongholds, running their personal kingdoms and dealing with threats at home. Perhaps some merely performing the task of patrolling the lands as a reminder of their powers, others questing to hunt down some vast Warp entity which has arisen and is threatening their people, or even how they combat invasions from home. All of these areas are definitely underdeveloped, and with just one or two key pages devoted to them we could see all of these aspects quite easily covered.

Of course, even atop of fighting from home however, there is one more important aspect the book completely overlooks: The feudal setting and its population. Think about the codex for a moment and what you've read. Now think about just how much of that actually examined how the worlds worked or went into vast detail about how the populace behaved. Just think of what images are conjured up at the mention of "neo-feudal societies", think of, not just in the case of knights, but how peasants, armorers, smiths and other roles would adapt themselves. Better yet, think of how an advanced or even more enlightened society might have evolved and adapted while still run by a hereditary warrior system like the Imperial Knights still holding power. The very concept of it would be a truly interesting one to explore, and better yet it could give some greater context to certain campaigns or conflicts, or even bigger story opportunities.

1. Free Digital Rules

Wait, before any of you roll over laughing, seriously hear me out on this one for a moment. Yes, it's a long shot, but if there's any army which might actually succeed in giving away free rules and still make a profit, it would ultimately be this codex. Why? Because it's been a massive success and proven to be the right way forwards with many other companies.

One of the games brought up before as a possible alternative to those pining for Battlefleet Gothic is Firestorm Armada, also Dystopian Wars as well. Made by the truly seminal Spartan Games, the company's approach to selling stuff has been this: You need to buy the models. You can get the individual fleet rules, stats and even the main rulebook all completely for free, yet if you do it will come with little more than a bare bones outline of the lore. If you buy the physical copy, you'll be getting the full background information and also a few additional pieces which help flesh out the universe. You know what? Rather than being utterly bankrupt as many Games Workshop employees would have you believe, this is actually helping them flourish.

The need for piracy only comes about when people feel they are being unfairly taken advantage of and overpriced. With Black Library and Games Workshop grabbing for every penny they can get, we've seen pirated copies of new codices available online in less than 24 hours and countless sources giving away PDFs for free. The same can't be said for Spartan Games' creations, as they have won over consumer loyalty and made piracy itself irrelevant. 

It's not just Spartan Games either. Corvus Belli's Infinity (AKA Buy this if you ever loved Necromunda!) has a somewhat similar approach, and as have a fair number of others. What keeps people buying new details is actually having concise, consistent and well written lore. Well, that and the desire to only have a few physical copies. Well, that and also the fact there is only a small fraction of the rulebooks required to play the game compared to Warhammer 40,000. The point is that though this where Games Workshop is earning the perpetual anger, rage and ire of their fandom, these ones are building loyalty. From this they earn devoted fandom willing to give them goodwill, defend them and stick with them. This is something Games Workshop lost decades ago, and with Codex: Imperial Knights they might actually stand a chance of emulating this.

Even with the additional Knight variants, the overall bulk of Codex: Imperial Knights should still be lore and background information. If they were to release the bulk of rules online for free, or even selling it at a vastly reduced price, you'd still have people buying up the codex purely for the excellent storytelling. Even given the choice, i'd personally still buy the book if it offered this same high quality writing. It's a forlorn hope to be sure, but if any book could make this work it would be this one.

As the very start of this article warned you, there really wasn't much to add to this one. The last codex got so much right for me personally that most issues were small niggling ones and it will take more time to highlight further points to really improve the army. Still, those are just the big changes I personally feel would help the book. If you have a few ideas of your own please leave them in the comments, it's always a pleasure to hear the thoughts of other fans.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Broken Age - Act 2 (Video Game Review)

Proving that good things come to those who wait, after one year and six months Broken Age has returned with the second half of its story. Picking up exactly where it left off with the first act’s aggravating cliffhanger, the tale sees the roles of Vella and Shay reversed. Each is utterly perplexed by the world about them, lacking the few answers gleaned by their opposite and as before both parts need to be played out to have the full story …

Monday, 4 May 2015

Oathkeeper (Book Review)

Oathkeeper is an outstanding second instalment to this series, and continues to prove that this could be one of the most uniquely layered and complex universes since Frank Herbert’s Dune. The world is one of sentient warsuits, cannibalistic offshoots of the elf species, ancient oaths and immortal societies. As the growing onslaught of the reptilian Zaur threatens all and ancient oaths drive the Aern to war, two princes initiate a desperate gambit to preserve their kingdom from the storm and enlist the help of new allies.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Eldar Craftworlds Part 2 - The Rules (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review)

So with the rather flawed and generally lacking lore out of the way, now we can move onto the rules. Let's be blunt with this one from the outset: 

Games Workshop has officially shit the bed. Not in quite the way you might expect but it certainly left a stink.

This is not something so instantaneously obvious as Codex: Grey Knights, yet by the time you lay eyes on the Wraithguard you'll be wondering just what the QA testers were smoking that particular day. Perhaps most damning of all, the exact way the game designers went about this completely contradicts the most basic gaming ideology behind the eldar.

Before we really get into the rules, i'd like to really discuss where I personally think this went wrong and how it fell to bits. Most of it can come down to three things: A lack of respect for any veteran gamers of any kind, a value of money over mechanical balance, and Unbound Armies. The last one in particular is likely the biggest point as the other two substantially contributed to its creation, and it's very likely this codex was designed with that system in mind first and foremost, to try and push new units.

Unbound armies, for those who have (understandably) stopped keeping up with new Editions, is a system which dispensed with the old force organisation chart. It effectively boiled down to allowing anyone to take any unit they want and had White Dwarf authors gushing over an all Broadside and all Riptide list for the Tau Empire. With this, tactics truly went down the drain and it has been an addition which has been both heavily derided and directly opposed for crippling the tournament scene and even damaging building the skills of new players. 

While the old style of armies can still be taken, in any outright battle or direct fight it's at a substantial disadvantage. Without that chart, there was far less of a structure to forces, far less of a need to balance things out, and less limitations on what could be taken where. It meant min-maxed forces could be taken en mass. This meant that there was going to be less of a need to build certain units which would need to have failings made up for by others. As such the ultra-specialised Aspect Warriors seem to have been written to be far far less the glass cannons of yesteryear. Rather than truly balancing them though, unfortunately it seems they took the Grey Knights route of just removing weaknesses and buffing just about everything possible.

The end result of approaching a problem like by adding effectively giving the army steroids is that it effectively removes any potential shortcomings and need for strategy. As such, even as some players are praising the fact Banshees are viable for the first time in living memory and there are some genuinely good ideas in here, they're missing the fact that this is ultimately turning the army into something which can be used to crush the enemy no matter which way you put it together. Unless you intentionally go in there and screw up the list beyond repair, you're going to have a fighting chance most of the time.

Such a screw up would be bad enough on its own, but the absolute blithering obtuseness on display here is staggering. Why? Well, it's actually focusing upon an army's most criticised points and promptly using them as suggestions for the new one. Think of it for a second, one of the biggest failings of the previous Codex: Eldar was how spammy it could be with Wave Serpents, Wraithknights and even a few other forces. This was already bad, but by making each and every unit here vastly stronger overall, it only opens the floodgates for this to increase tenfold. As a result, while the codex might appear sound on a mechanical level to play-testers, on a tactical and social level it is utterly abhorrent. It's a codex which makes the army strong with little to no thought - and we've seen how well that goes down in previous books, eh Blood Angels players? - and means players can get away with taking the easy option and still win.

Still, the design decisions and overarching problems with the book's structure are only the start of this codex's big failings. Time to get into the real cluster-fuck without end, starting with another staggeringly bad decision: Hand-held Strength D weapons.

What's a Strength D weapon? In short, it's the main gun on this:

Who did they give them to? These guys, among a vast number of others:

No, sadly this isn't a joke. You can now legitimately outfit entire armies with mini-Volcano Cannons and it's perfectly rules legal! 

Want to know the dumbest part though? Along with all Wraithcannon variants, apparently all D-cannons also count under this. Yep, the Vaul's Wrath Battery can now have a fifty-five point Titan-killing weapon attached to them via a small weapons platform. The cheap cost-cutting options of this army are now more dangerous and combat effective against expensive troop transports, vehicles and artillery pieces than most elite specialist units in other armies. 

Even trying to charge some of these units to take them down in close combat is tantamount to suicide now, thanks to the new D-Scythes which are exactly what you'd think they are. Sure, they top out at Strength 4 when it comes to Instant Death calculations, but that hardly makes these things any less stupidly powerful. You know, the review could just end here as this one part honestly wrecks the entire codex and any semblance of balance, even internally, yet there's still more sins yet to be seen.

Brace yourselves folks, the staggering paint fume huffing stupidity of this creative team is about to strike again!

Foremost among these is the Falcon Grav-Tank, long ignored and overshadowed by its APC cousin, this thing can now effectively pull a Storm Raven. Capable of Deep Striking and not scattering, these can be deployed in trios within four inches of one another. Yeah, on the second turn of both games you can probably expect half the enemy army to suddenly drop behind your lines and kill most of your big bloody units in a single strike, especially those expensive tanks with appetizingly weak rear armour. As if several bleak years of multiple space marine armies doing this exact damn stunt wasn't enough, apparently someone thought it'd be a great idea to bring it back in full force.

A few of the other speedily killy units in the Craftworlds' arsenal has similarly become insanely overblown to the point of being downright broken. The already fairly reputable Swooping Hawks are first on this list, with a staggering power boost which would make the Dark Eldar white with envy. Along with suddenly being able to move at 18" in movement which can lead to them leapfrogging across the table and crashing into enemy units before they have the time to fire back, all of them can now be equipped with Haywire grenades for four points per model. This works on fliers as well when they move over their position, meaning all of a sudden any expensive airborne skimmer is suddenly running the risk of being cut down by flocks of winged grenade lobbing elves. Along with retaining Skyleap, the unit also ignores scattering whilst Deep Striking when they are accompanied by an Exarch.

Striking Scorpions notably suddenly gain the ability to potentially kill Wraithlords on the turn they charge. No, seriously, their chainswords might not be able to hurt them but Mandiblasters now can. Upgraded so that they auto-wound on 4+, so anything over Toughness 3 is suddenly far easier to seriously hurt, meaning there's a chance the unit can run in and kill something they would otherwise be unable to harm at all. Atop of this, there's some surprising bonuses in that they gain Shrouded should they Infiltrate on a board but opt not to shoot at anything. So, all of a sudden they can move in close to an enemy, be extremely resilient to attempts to root them out, and then charge forwards to kill anything which strays too close. This would be akin to turning the usual Kroot Carnivore speed-bump tactic into something truly deadly.

Oh, but we can't just let any unit go without some serious firepower to back it up, so all of a sudden jetbikes can now roll in with enough firepower to make an Obliterator unit blush. This has already been infamous around the interwebz for some time now, and it's as ridiculous as you'd think it is. Windriders as they are now known offer the option to carry as many Scatter Lasers and Shuriken Cannons as the unit has models, with the possibility of even a Warlock accompanying them. So, just to make this crystal clear: You can have up to ten models, all armed with heavy weapons capable of skewering a Leman Russ in a few well placed shots, boosted by eldar psychic abilities, with a 3+ armour save, and moving at a speed which makes footslogging armies look like they're at a standstill. 
Nothing else to add here beyond what in the name of Posideon's salty balls were they thinking when they cooked this up!?

And then we get into the really nasty ones here. The staggeringly monstrous big units Games Workshop just loves to sell and needed to ensure people would buy them.

Trailing fire, destruction and triggering tears of joy from power gamers, we have the Avatar of Khaine. One of the less commented upon units in the build-up towards this release, the Avatar itself underwent a substantial power-boost which has made it into something worthy of Dawn of Eldar. While his overall stats have remained the same, both Khaine Awakened and the Wailing Doom have undergone a substantial upgrade. In the case of the former, it now offers Furious Charge and Rage along with making any unit within 12" Fearless, meaning those Strength 3 space elves are suddenly hitting much harder. The Wailing Doom meanwhile, well, It now makes the unit Strength 8 and counts also as a range 12" Melta weapon. Not a bad combination as fragments of dead gods go, but like so much here it's woefully cheap for what it's capable of pulling off; turning a glass cannon army into an unstoppable tide of melee which could shame anything Khorne Daemonkin in terms of sheer carnage.

The only unit in this army to receive any kind of points increase to balance out any boosted attributes was the Wraithknight. Already infamous for its surprisingly cheap value when it came to its capabilities and sheer damage potential, this seemed like a fair move. Unfortunately, someone decided to flip the Godzilla switch on this model. Along with now counting as a Lord of War slot, the howling monster of annihilation also now counts as a Gargantuan Creature with all the benefits that offers. Now augmented with Feel No Pain, immunity to Instant Death and the option to carry Strength D weapons, it can behead Stompas in single turns of combat and move through armies like a whirling reaper of death.

Just to make this clear, the design team opted to actually take the time to listen to fan criticisms and fixed something. They then immediately made the same problem a hundred times worse in the exact same damn book. Either someone got hacked off about one too many Imperial Knight vs Wraithknight arguments on the internet, or the people behind this have developed trolling to an art-form.

Now, despite all of this there are actually a few good shades of ideas found here and there in the book, some fixing prominent issues found in the last codex while others fixed long unpopular units. Well, fixed them without taking things to mind-bogglingly mad power-gaming levels of bullshittery at least.

The Wave Serpents in particular thankfully saw a notable downsizing of their main game breaking attribute, with their shields now being one shot weapons. Rather than the relentless barrages found in the prior edition, what was given here was a 2D6 attack which is more something to be used in desperation or out of necessity than a standard attack vector. This already solves a lot of its problems and the fact it fizzles out of existence following this means there's at least a lot less spamming on this front.

Similarly the Banshees are quite useful now. Gone is the sadly pointless reverse Power Fist effect of their masks, and in its place the unit now causes Fear and blocks Overwatching. Say what you will about that, but this means that there is far more reason to take these over other close combat specialists as seen in the past, and were it not for the balls out sheer power of other elements this would at least offer some variation and options on how to break gunline armies. Sadly, as it is, they may still end up overshadowed despite this upgrade.

Of course, this positivity can't last as next we have the formations, which are sadly as broken as you'd expect. They do not offer bonuses for clever thinking or thematic elements as one might hope so much as sheer power like so many other elements here. 
War Host is the big case of this which allows all units to run 6" without any need to roll or risk falling short at all. So yeah, cue eldar acting as if they've just merged with the bloody Speed Force, and Wraithlords breaking the sound barrier with their sheer pace of movement. 
Windrider Host meanwhile offers a rule known as the Tempest of Blades, giving any shuriken weapon in the formation the Shred capability. Bare in mind, this could be up to thirty Shuriken Cannons pulling off this stunt.
Aspect Host then offers a basic +1 to BS or WS (player's choice) and the ability to re-roll any tests for failing Pinning, Morale or Fear. Bare in mind, this is for just three units of any Aspect Shrine, so this is obscenely easy to put together and have this sudden bonus.
Dire Avenger Host is more or less exactly the same as the above formation, showing the height of laziness, but with the added rule that all shuriken catapults in the formation are assault 3 for one turn.
Crimson Death, which is just three Crimson hunters, then offers the ability to retain a permanent 4+ cover save, one which can then be re-rolled repeatedly until next turn should any one choose to Jink. Oh and Preferred Enemy Flyers, and Flying Monstrous Creatures just in case you weren't using them to shoot things out of the sky.

By comparison, the remainder of these units aren't that bad in all honesty. Some are actually pretty good if a bit pointless, such as Wraith Host which offers re-rolls to hit enemies if any Wraith units are within 18" of a Spirit Seer. This would be reasonable admittedly, if a little uninventive but then they're given perpetual Battle Focus. Yeah, you can imagine how much damage this is going to do to other armies, especially with their newly tooled up weapons. At the very least it's an answer to some of the more infamously broken formations dominating the game though.

Guardian Stormhost, a mix of Storm Guardians, Vipers and Walkers, really just comes down to avoiding a few points costs, allowing power weapons, flamers and fusion guns to be picked up without further points costs. Well, that and Preferred Enemy is given to the other units shooting at anything 12" from the Guardians themselves.
Guardian Battlehost, as with the Aspect example is more of the same, just with Heavy Weapon Platforms in place of the normal upgrades. 
Finally, there's then Seer Council, which is one of the more usefully balanced choices. 3+ will to harness a Warp Charge point and the ability to re-roll Warlord Traits aren't too bad, and it's an easy one to create without limiting at list.

On the one half we have a mostly harmless few elements and ideas for a codex, and on the other it's Plasma Syphon degrees of madness capable of just punching through anything in its way. This codex was just a bad idea, largely unnecessary and better saved until someone had the time to actually plan out how things should have been put together. Following so soon after Codex: Khorne Daemonkin and Codex: Skitarii likely hurt this book badly in terms of rules and lore alike, and it does reek of being rushed out as fast as possible. I'd like to say i'm mad by this point but, in all honesty, this one is something which seems as if it were built on a rushed schedule and forced out the door with a few insane ideas pushed upon them. 

We've not seen this level of game-breaking badness for a while, and it really only seems to be arising once every few few codices now. It could be down to a bad author or perhaps even just Games Workshop itself performing acts of executive interference to try and push people to buy more models. That or, given how opposed they often are to the tournament and professional scene, intentionally writing codices to drive away older players they no longer desire as a target audience. So much here seems to have just been lifted or with a skeleton taken from the previous Codex: Eldar and a few modifications made, and few for the better. Well, that and apparently one person on the lore team hated the army while the guy behind the rules loved them to bits.

If you have the option, if you care about the lore and desire a somewhat more balanced set of rules for your army, stick with the past codex. If you can get away with, it's the lesser of two evils here. Flawed as it might be, at least you won't be sacrificing your self respect by carrying about a codex whose idea of tactics comes down to "more" and "bigger" when it comes to stats and guns.