My gameplay impressions of Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade

[Update]: After many struggles, Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade has now closed its doors.

Once finished, Eternal Crusade is going to be a large scale action MMO where four unique factions (Space Marines, Chaos, Eldar and Orks) vie for supremacy over a war-ravaged world.

However, as of right now Eternal Crusade is an objective based third person shooter very similar to the Battlefield franchise. It features only two out of the four factions (Space Marines and Chaos), a handful of maps and a bunch of interesting systems that are either unfinished or hampered by poor performance. But most noteworthy is the fact that its actually a lot of fun to play.


Even though the maps themselves aren't massive there are so many players on each team that when a battle inevitably breaks out it feels great to be a part of it. The best thing about them is how at the very beginning of a big fight the only thing you can hear is the constant sound of bolter fire, with the occasional plasma shot that splatters someone next to you, which then slowly transitions in to a more manic tone as defenses falter and melee orientated Marines pour in.

It is these sort of desperate close quarters battles that first got me interested in the Warhammer 40k universe so I'm incredibly glad Eternal Crusade has been able to replicate that feeling so well. The big problem here is that the performance can get so bad during big battles that you end up operating at sub 10 FPS which as far as shooters go is unacceptably low. I would be a lot more negative about the whole performance problem if I didn't have an entire day after a hotfix patch where everything worked as the Emperor demands. Issues sprung back up tomorrow but at least now I know they can be solved in the near future.

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade Plasma Gun

The plasma cannon is just awesome to use

While the performance still requires a fair bit of work the actual gameplay of Eternal Crusade is surprisingly well done for an early alpha. There are a variety of weapons to chose from across the five available classes, many of which are similar but unique enough to appeal to different players. Even though I've tried and enjoyed the ranged classes, the real highlight of Eternal Crusade to me is the melee system which is a bit ironic because I consider it to be quite bad right now.

How it works is that you three main attacks: a light but fast jab, a heavy but slow strike and finally a defensive bash. Each of those plays a role in melee combat because the system is pretty much rock, paper, scissors with light attacks countering bashes, bashes countering heavy attacks and heavy attacks countering light attacks. While that sounds perfectly balanced on paper in reality your melee engagements are decided with the roll of a die.

Let's say you start the fight off with a heavy attack and your opponent chooses a light attack. If this happens you're just dead and there is nothing you can do to save yourself while your opponent wails on your now stunned face. It really is a shame since the melee combat in Eternal Crusade makes you feel like an actual badass Space Marine that can charge enemy lines (ideally from the back) and cleave through enemies in an orgy of death and destruction. However, these complaints might be short lived as the next big patch is set to bring a complete rework of the melee system.

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade melee combat

Heh, this'll end well for the Chaos scum

Since not every situation is favorable towards melee playstyles I did also spend a good chunk of time playing around with the ranged classes, especially the default and "boring" Tactical Marine. The kill times are generally low enough that through skillful play, good aim and ideally ambush tactics you can bring down multiple unaware opponents before going down yourself. Now I'm not sure whether this was on account of the server lag, my performance issues or me simply being bad but I found the spray control to be rather challenging, especially with the rapid-firing Devastator class. Its nowhere near Counter Strike levels of recoil but its enough to make you pay attention when you shoot and its definitely a feature I appreciate seeing.

Given that we are, after all, talking about Space Marines here - simply shooting your enemies isn't usually enough to bring them down for good. Once a player is killed with "small" caliber weapons he will drop down in to an injured state from which he can then be revived albeit with limited health. The real trouble starts when there is an Apothecary or a Sorcerer behind enemy lines as they can quickly negate any health lost, even for those downed.

The solutions are about as simple as you might expect. You can either kill the medic and ensure the steady stream of healing stops, just finish off your downed opponent or better yet, use a weapon so powerful the enemy will need a spoon if they want to find the body. Just for the love of Khorne don't execute people by using your E key as the animation, while incredibly cool, takes 5+ seconds and is about 5 times as slow as simply stabbing them once or twice in the fleshy bits.

Warhammer 40k: Eternal crusade has some nasty finisher moves

Executions in Eternal Crusade can get pretty nasty

But if being a foot-soldier isn't your thing you could always hop in to a vehicle and give those a try... and then promptly hop back out because they're boring. Its not that they're not powerful, because they can be devastating, its just that the entire playstyle is so one dimensional and ordinary in a game where jet packing Marines rain from the sky. Take the Rhino for example, its a troop transport that serves as a mobile spawning point for your squad. Its great and its absolutely invaluable in an offensive push but once you have it positioned you're done with it until it inevitably dies, after which you spawn a new one and repeat.

The Predator tank however is the more problematic of the two since for some reason it can shoot 10 shots in quick succession which is poor against other vehicles but oh so good when it comes to spawn camping. When your team isn't absolutely disorganized spawn camping is easy to deal with but if you're stuck with a bunch of newbies, and odds are you will be because Eternal Crusade just launched in Early Access, its going to be the most frustrating experience this side of the Warp.

Every map is designed in such a way that you have two separate spawning locations that ensure you can never be pinned down in your base but for some reason the majority of the people NEVER stop going to the same one, despite it getting shelled for the past 10 minutes. This might be a personal complaint but I would prefer it if the defending side didn't have access to anti-infantry tanks as it just promotes a bad gameplay experience.

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade Predator Tank

The Predator tank might be a pain in the ass but its not a very large beastie

While on the topic of maps there aren't that many of them on offer right now but the ones we do have are decently well done variations of the standard capture & defend game mode. The reason they work well is because when you have 20+ people per side the battle lines become obvious and its always easy to find your way towards the nearest scrap so you can go and get yourself shot once again. I'd like to see more modes and obviously maps in the future but for an early alpha I don't have many complaints as far as variety or design goes.

The same comment works for the design of characters as well. The couple of different Space Marine and Chaos models Eternal Crusade has right now look pretty good though once again I look forward to seeing more of them, and especially faction coloring so I can rock that Thousand Sons Sorcerer look.


Eternal Crusade is nowhere near its lofty MMO goals but the objective based shooter on offer right now is pretty good and even though I've spent the majority of my playtime under 30FPS I can't say with a straight face I didn't have fun. It is very much so unfinished and unpolished so if that's something that bothers you then do not, under any circumstance, get it just yet because you're simply going to drive yourself up the wall trying to get playable FPS on some rigs.

The good news is that the developers have a very rapid update schedule (I've seen 2 patches during my week of playtime) and that the upcoming update is going to bring with it the Eldar faction, a new and improved melee system, performance fixes, new weapons and a bunch of other features.

What I mean to say with all of this is that Eternal Crusade is not there yet but has so much potential that I can easily see it becoming truly great a couple of months down the line. If you don't mind some performance issues and lack of gameplay features then by all means jump in but if you want a more complete experience you might as well wait a couple of months, the game won't disappear anywhere.

As it stands right now Eternal Crusade is really fun but also really unfinished so do buy with caution.