Earlier today, fans were given a very rude awakening and a reminder that sometimes their beloved franchises are never safe from awful creators. After the loud celebration at Matt Ward's departure from Games Workshop, the company has seen something of a minor golden age. While a number of releases remain extremely flawed, quality is up across the board, army balance has significantly improved and the number of Sisters of Battle massacres has dropped by 100%. Things were on the rise with even Age of Sigmar, initially derided as it was, slowly gaining respect and popularity among jaded fans.
That golden age seems to have been cut short, as we were offered this terrifying vision of the future:
Yes, it seems that like an especially bad case of Nurgle's crotch rot, his career at Games Workshop simply will not die. Kill it off, have him leave, and he will simply come back stronger. To say that this is bad news is an understatement akin to saying the apocalypse is "bothersome" for some people. In fact, given the dire nature of this announcement, I honestly would not bat an eye if Biblical plagues were to abruptly break out across Nottingham; going right from erupting boils to raining megalodons from the sky.
For those interested, here is my own eloquent and well worded reaction to this announcement:
SON OF A BITCH!
Now, some people are going to defend this. Some are going to look back at his work with rose tinted glasses somehow declaring that his work was good or going from his prior list of armybooks/codices to declare that not everything he did was bad. Oh, people will argue that the Second Edition Codex: Blood Angels was fine, or that his work on Lord of the Rings was solid on the whole. Well, here's the thing: Just about all of those? Yeah, those were the books where he was playing second fiddle to someone else, often working behind the likes of other authors or their vision on the book. He had someone to temper his insanity, and the overall guiding force was not Our Ward in Heaven here. What did we get when he went solo?
- A High Elves armybook so insane that, among other demented acts, it contained a banner which nullified all enemy magic directed towards the unit holding it.
- Single-handedly sparking the massed hatred of all Ultramarines, declaring that all other chapters in the game were either poor copies of his favourite force, or they were "doing it wrong". An event so bad that, when the original Ultramarines penman Graham McNeill tried to fix things, Ward apparently entered an undeclared edit war with the man.
- A Daemons armybook for Warhammer Fantasy so horribly overpowered that an entirely new Edition had to be wheeled out early, just to stop it breaking the entire game.
- A Codex: Blood Angels so obscene that it not only included flying dreadnoughts, massed power weapons, and insane lore no one could take seriously, but the Stormraven as well. Also known as "someone glued wings onto a Land Raider!"
- The first, and worst, Codex Grey Knights, which seemed as if it were scribbled down after a drunken bet to outdo the joke "Movie Marines" list. This is a codex which included the likes of the Dreadknight, a very infamous Sisters of Battle slaughter, nonsensically reworking the entire chapter to fit a Codex format, lore so bad it made the Horus Heresy impossible, and Kaldor Draigo. This book was, in fact, so bad that it not only broke the game, but took multiple efforts, retcons and massed rewrites by authors on damage control duty to try and mitigate what Ward did. Also, the Plasma Syphon.
- The Cron Air and airborne Grey Knights lists. Armies so bad that, unless you took massed formations of Hydra flak tanks, you might as well forfeit the entire game on the first turn.
Oh, and keep in mind, this is the short list of his sins!
While we might have criticized the likes of Mont'Ka, or Curse of the Wulfen, or the later Codex: Imperial Knights, there was always something good in it. There were always good ideas, better concepts or something worthy of praise even at the worst moments. With Ward? His books have consistently proven to be bereft of any redeeming idea, and often even manage to do the reverse; annihilating any good ideas the book touches or dumbing down the bigger, broader universe one paragraph at a time. Since he left, we have had great, good or disappointing codices, each with their mixed flaws and strengths. With Ward, we could only be assured of lore so bad that book burning would be excused to rid the world of his works.
While it would be wrong to call him the Frank Miller of tabletop games, he is most certainly the Rob Liefeld of Games Workshop. This is a man who, despite producing some of the worst examples of lore, rules and simple sanity ever witnessed in the game, somehow maintains a career either through sheer luck or divine intervention. So, yes, spend a few seconds comparing his works with the likes of Codex: Legion of the Damned, Codex: Tempestus Scions, Codex: Black Legion, and Codex: Khorne Daemonkin among others, and it's clear the world has been better off without him. His return is just a sign of Armageddon itself.
Oh, and speaking of Armageddon? Yes, we've had yet more bloody hints of Warhammer 40,000 following the End Times for some daft reason!
Faeit 212, being the hive or rumours that it usually is, picked up a few suggestions of what might be following in the Eighth Edition. Fans were already dreading the apparent "few minutes to midnight" focus thanks to Curse of the Wulfen pushing things all but directly into the 13th Black Crusade and a few major, never before seen, events. Of course, some spoke back against this, but given how things were going, it looked pretty damn sure like we were soon to see the entire universe collapsing in upon itself. If this is true then it only further confirms this, and let's face it, wrong as it can sometimes be Faeit 212 did predict the extinction of several major armies before anyone even heard about the End Times.
The article itself seems to strongly suggest this at every point, with multiple major campaigns building upon what we've had before. This either ties into previously semi-retconned events like Ahriman's battle at the Black Library's gates, or follows on from a few big storylines which have been set up. Unfortunately, pretty much all of those storylines are pretty bloody bad. One is the Wulfen conflict (argh.), another is focused squarely upon the "Ethereals = Evil! Ethereals = Evil! 1984! 1984! 1984!" theme forced upon he Tau Empire (Argh!) And the last one ties right into the Iyanden lore, pulled direction from the codex (ARGH!)
That last one is especially frustrating for two very particular reasons.
Firstly, Codex: Iyanden went out of print and was effectively ignored by all future releases, with even those following on from it avoiding getting into the nitty gritty. Even Valedor (both the campaign book and the Guy Haley novel) shared to little more than "Tyranids attacked Iyanden, a Harlequin was there when Yriel took up the Spear of Twilight" and nothing else. As such, this was stuff the game actually moved on from, and all of a sudden upon Ward's return, it's suddenly being pushed right back into the spotlight again. That's just a tad suspicious isn't it.
Secondly, there's the bit involving Iyanna, which goes as follows: "Iyanna, the special character we all know and love (or hate) but she becomes very dark and sinister, shes floating on wild growing wriathbone and spirits." Longtime readers might recall that Ward handled Iyanna in such a nonsensical and horrific way, that analysis of his works suggested he was presenting her as a raging psychopath willing to sacrifice others in the name of a potentially nonexistent god. Either his was Ward/whoever's plan all along (which seems unlikely given the number of lore errors and disjointed story elements) or someone is taking criticisms as suggestions for future works once more. You be the judge, but either way it does not suggest a promising future for this character or her storyline, especially after the raging storm of bullshit which became the Elf plotline in End Times.
Still, this doesn't quiet get into the core problem here, does it? Warhammer 40,000 is having an End Times event. An unnecessary one, which is likely to create far more problems than it can possibly solve. We have already pointed out in past works both the problems in trying to move into M42 and the Warhammer timeline itself. The writers simply can't handle a constantly evolving storyline on a galactic scale, and they seem so focused on the future that they have completely ignored countless prior events, or left major galactic changes extraordinarily underdeveloped. In just about every timeline, you will find a good twenty fully fleshed out articles in M31 and M41 for every stub or paragraph of an event in any other millennium, and this is simply a waste of good storytelling potential.
What makes matters worse though, is how Warhammer 40,000 has been built up. You see, Warhammer Fantasy had a few plot hooks hanging over, suggesting that the final war for the Old World was upon them, and a few big events with each faction surrounding that. In Warhammer 40,000, we have so many that an entire series would be needed to sort them all out before actually moving into any actual End Times scenario. Think about it, we have a good three or four major battlefields where it seems countless forces from across the galaxy are amassing, spoiling for a fight. We have multiple prophecies from the Blood Angels to the Craftworld Eldar, preparing for the return of someone to building a god to kill a Ruinous Power. We have the Grey Knights' "smash in case of Chaos" button, the 13th Black Crusade, the rise of the Orks, the Golden Throne breaking down, the Dark Eldar deal with the Imperium, and the Mechanicum's own designs. Those are just the basic ones as well, and it would take a full article to list them all off.
You see, there were always hints of this and a few points leaning towards a big end game event, but over the Fifth Edition and just past it, people went nuts. A few authors, mostly one the scrawler of words listed above, went berserk. They added in as may of these things as they could everywhere, until several factions now have what is little more than a "nuke everything" button allowing them to more or less win everything in an emergency. Trying to write around this issue would be akin to performing a victory lap about the Meereenese knot. Trying to even push one faction to oblivion at all will likely result in the instant annihilation of three others, especially if it's the Necron Dynasties who are getting desperate.
However, even above all this there is a vastly bigger problem which overshadows everything else. You see, love it or hate it, but the End Times was a conclusion. It was a finale, a full stop to a sentence, a beheading of a world and its total annihilation before moving on to a new one. Oh, the new one retained a few aspects of the old one, and a few characters, but for all intents and purposes it was a soft reboot, radically shaking things up and starting over. Warhammer Fantasy fans took this rather badly when it happened, and even now there is some derision thanks to this move; however, it was also arguably the only world you could pull this off in.
Trying to do the same with Warhammer 40,000, without that more intensely magical element and more of an emphasis upon feudal high technology and barbarous science, it just doesn't work. You would need to continue things in the setting, focus them upon the galaxy as a whole rather than starting over, focusing upon the same core characters, and an ending doesn't allow for that. It would be akin to ending a series, then promptly pressing ahead and trying to keep the story going, right after everything has been resolved. Most fanfics which have tried this have ended badly, and the few success stories (Shape of the Nightmare to Come being a big highlight) focus less upon a big concluding plot than a gradually evolving event. Something which, as before, the authors of this company are not well suited to provide for.
Perhaps this is an overreaction. Perhaps this is just suspicions getting the better of me, and this is admittedly an article built upon estimated guesses backed by a few facts. At the same time though, these are all problems we have seen before, and for the most part their outcomes are not good in any way. Speaking personally, I do not want to see this blog going back to the days where I was churning out negative review after negative review of codices, or ripping this company a new one. There have been improvements, and the old errors were being fixed despite stumbling at a few key points. To throw that all away now, just as things are getting better, is an act of absolute insanity.
The future is dark, it seems. Few can truly tell what it will bring with it, or what we will see in the decades to come. Rest assured though, until we do, I will be sitting here, producing my works as normal. I will be here taking the bullet when a book is bad, highlighting the underrated epics worthy of a greater audience; and always watching for that terrible sign that the worst has come to pass.