Warhammer 40k as a free-to-play game? Here's why it would be great | PCGamesN

Warhammer 40k as a free-to-play game? Here's why it would be great

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War

We’ve all got a game in us; a creation we’ve mentally put together over months or years that we’re convinced would be the perfect addition to our Steam library.Well I’ve got an idea for a Warhammer 40k game, and I think it would be brilliant. A combination of Dawn of War, XCOM, and League of Legends: it’s the videogame representation that Games Workshop’s hobby deserves. 

My ideal Warhammer 40k game is free-to-play. Woah - don’t leave yet! I know those words strike fear and disgust into many, but the best hobby games are all free-to-play. Hearthstone, Dota 2, League of Legends; they’re all about collecting things and using what you have to achieve victory. That’s exactly what Warhammer is. And it’d be nice to have a F2P game that wasn’t a MOBA, CCG, or MMO, wouldn’t it?

The basic premise is this: every player gets a starting squad of soldiers for each of the game’s races - Space Marines, Orks, Eldar, et al - provided for free. They are used to engage in the main combat section of the game, which essentially takes XCOM’s combat as a template. Randomly generated maps are host to turn-based multiplayer battles. Units are moved on a grid formation, and have the option to shoot or use a skill each turn. Participating in battles earns you currency, which is then used to purchase new units. 

Warhammer 40K Space Hulk

Like League of Legends, you’ll begin to amass a collection of characters by spending cash or in-game currency in the store. The more you play, the more units you can buy, and your army gradually grows. Like the tabletop hobby, some players will discover what army they enjoy the most and focus on them, while others may prefer to build smaller forces of numerous armies. Of course, the really dedicated player will be able to spend real cash in the store on tanks, hero figures, and additional squads to field in battle. The idea here is to replicate the excitement of buying new models. There’s something about a transaction - be that with real cash or otherwise - that can't be replicated by simply grinding up a tech tree. 

The key fear in a lot of free-to-play games is the idea of being able to buy your way to victory. Pay-to-win ruins otherwise perfectly fine games, especially when it comes to things like shooters that offer absurd overpowered assault rifles for five dollars. It’s a problem that the Warhammer 40k tabletop game also has when you think about it. What stops a player decimating another by simply going out and spending £70 on the biggest tank available? The answer is the points system. 

The points system would be the game’s equivalent to Hearthstone’s ladder, but arguably even fairer. If you only have the starter squad, you enter a 100 point battle, meaning your opponent can only field units equivalent to you. If you’ve gone out and bought yourself an army, you can go into a 1000 point game, or any of the point categories below, selecting the right combinations of troops for the category you’re in. This gives you a tremendous amount of choice over the kind of game you can play. Do you want a quick, tight tactical shootout to fill your lunch break with? Just field a single squad in a low-points match. Looking to spend an evening bombarding the enemy with artillery and outflanking them with teams? A big thousand-point match will serve you perfectly. 

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2

Despite the points system keeping things fair competitively, it’s important to make sure progression can happen without the need to plough money into the game. That’s why every unit would have its own skill tree. A standard Space Marine tactical squad, for example, if used frequently could level up to equip a flamer or a missile launcher, add a sergeant with a chainsword to the squad, or unlock some skills to use in battle. This allows progression and achievement for players in between purchases.     

Further adding to the hobby feel, it’s mandatory that the game has an army painter, where your units can be customised with colours. The whole idea is to replicate all aspects of Warhammer, not just the lore and people exploding, so something from the craft side of the game is essential.  

The sheer breadth of units available to choose from means it would be a game easy to expand upon with expansions and updates: be this an entire new race, or starting small in scope and gradually adding new units at regular intervals. A Hearthstone-style adventure mode would be great for seasonal content, with special campaign maps featuring narrative objectives and loot rewards for completing them. 

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War Imperial Guard

It’s not the sort of thing that’s going to have an ever-evolving meta that has a million players attempting to find that one killer army set up, or people collaborating on strategies for OP units that need to somehow be defeated. But it does have the potential to be an engrossing, long-term hobby game. As gamers we all seem to have an inherent need to collect things, be that Steam titles, Hearthstone cards, or MOBA champion skins. A free-to-play Warhammer 40k game provides that, without any of the randomness of Hearthstone’s card packs, or the mere cosmetic value of a MOBA skin. 

And everyone likes setting fire to orks with overly-decorated tanks, right?

That’s my take on a great Warhammer game. But like I said earlier, we’ve all got a great game in us. What is your ideal Warhammer game? Or non-Warhammer game, for that matter? Take your best ideas and scribble them down in the comments.  

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Tim Edwards avatarsubedii avatarpanbient avatarboniek83 avatarLlamaalarmallama avatar
subedii Avatar
2 Years ago

"Hello is that the office of the Inquisition? Yeah hi, I believe I've found some heresy that needs purging before it spreads and corrupts the very foundations of all existence."

"No I understand you're terribly busy, it's just that if we don't nip this in the bud we'll probably have to resort to going full exterminatus and burn the entire franchise to the ground in cleansing flame."

Yes: I'm going to rant a bit here. I'm truly sorry, but I just cannot go along with that line of thinking.

I'm sorry, but I have ALWAYS hated the idea of F2P getting into RTS's (or strategy games in general). This is something that I feel like Relic have actually done _better_ than anyone else in the DoW franchise, and I don't want to see them regressing to the kind of shenanigans that other games pass off for "depth" when they're not outright becoming "Pay-2-Win".

To be candid, I do NOT want a progression system where I have to play 100 hours as a Space Marine to unlock the tac missile "upgrade". I hate that stuff, it completely messes with balance. What people describe as "progression" systems is almost always just a means of "gating" the tools the player wants to use until they put in the requisite number of hours (or pay). It's bad enough in multiplayer FPS's. I couldn't stand it in strategy.

I didn't dump around 400 hours into DoW2 + expansions because of "progression", I did it because I thought the core gameplay was freaking fun (and I feel as if every time people treat "progression" systems as a modern and necessary gameplay mechanic it's almost like they're saying they can't enjoy a game without stuff _taken away_ from them whilst waiting for a progress bar). I don't want the "excitement of buying new models", I want the excitement of a good match where I don't feel I've been stymied by the fact that I haven't "invested" enough time or money to unlock the tools I want to make use of.

I mean you make mention of Dota 2, but Dota explicitly has ALL of its gameplay mechanics available to everyone regardless of pay or play time, and the additions are purely cosmetic.

Similarly in DoW2, whatever microtransaction based additions and advancements they've ever had have always been either purely cosmetic or singleplayer only. Actual expansion of the core gameplay have come in new race expansion packs (whilst still giving new units and content to existing players).

I don't have a problem with them releasing a dozen DLC packs altering the races (like the Death Korps of Krieg) cosmetically. But locking mechanics behind progression would be a step _backwards_.

EDIT: Re having a "points" system: I feel like what you're describing is something that would heavily fragment the multiplayer community (something that few but the largest games ever survive). Much like map packs, it splits people into haves and have-nots. Doesn't matter what modes people _prefer_, the ones that have spent more have all the options, the ones that haven't are stuck in an ever dwindling pool of players split across different tiers.

This again, is something that Relic have always been exceptionally good with, since almost every time they released an expansion pack, everyone was still able to play with everyone else. The only time I can remember this didn't happen was when Retribution released and made the split from GFWL to Steamworks. At which point they simply gave _all_ the races to _all_ the players. That was awesome. The proposition here feels like it wants to roll back that decision to instead be like everyone else.

I realise this is a huge rant. Maybe I am just hyperventilating and this could work better in a turn based setting. But honestly, I feel like somebody just took a look at GOG.com and said "yeah that's nice, but everyone else uses DRM, shouldn't we really be going with the accepted industry standard since it's been established as so much better?".

Tim Edwards Avatar
2 Years ago

I'm with Subedii. Purge.

panbient Avatar
2 Years ago

There's nothing inherently wrong with Free 2 Play.

Too bad what you described here is Pay 2 Win. As soon as you have units or upgrades available for purchase it's P2W no matter how you spin it.

Here's how to fix that and keep people coming back for more.

Limit the amount of battles within a specific time frame. Call it 'battle fatigue / recovery' or 're-supplying' etc. whatever.

It could be a 1 hour cool down between battles with an option to stockpile up to 3 battles for example. Or you pay X$ for the option to have unlimited battles for a few days or week or whatever.

Every player gets full access to the entire game content and has a regular opportunity to play - for free. Those who want unlimited play can pay.

And you monetize the crap out of something as cosmetic as the army painter regardless of how fundamental it is to the real world hobby.

boniek83 Avatar
2 Years ago

Dota 2 business model would fit Warhammer 40k perfectly.

Llamaalarmallama Avatar
1 Year ago

I'll make mine simple:

Take planetside 2's engine.

Now plug in all the WH40K assets and lore.

Yep. Exactly.