Eternal Crusade is an online third-person shooter set in Games Workshop's dystopian science fantasy universe Warhammer 40,000, offering grand multi-player battles that take place across the long lost planet Arkhona, as the prominent races struggle for dominance.
Games Workshop has always had a rather erratic although prolific relationship with video games, licensing many different title from their various, long running series over the years. There has never really been much consistency in the quality of these products, with many being what could a best be described as 'hit and miss', as some capture the essence of the hobby, like the recent Total War: Warhammer, while others seem to barely take advantage of the license. With such a rich lore and a well-documented battle torn universe full of charismatic heroes to draw upon, it seems inevitable that board games such as Warhammer 40,000 would be portrayed in video games, yet no-one could have expected it to be translated into so many different genres, including first- and third-person shooters, strategy games, card games, and even adaptations of chess. Which leaves us where we are today, looking at Behaviour Interactive's latest contribution to the long list of Warhammer 40,000 games, considering what it offers new players and fans of the series alike.
Eternal Crusade was in a way initially part crowd-funded, with the developer offering Founders Packs. These were similar to a pre-order program, where people could buy packs before the game released allowing them to get the full game and several bonuses, such as in-game currency and unique items. Originally the game seemed to be an ambitious MMO that claimed to feature a persistent, ever-changing world represented by the ongoing battles you fought in the name of your faction. This, however, seems absent from the final build, other than a world map that you can't interact with.
After having internal development issues Eternal Crusade has been left somewhat in-between the idea of a persistent online 40k warzone, with the presence of the world map depicting the struggle of the various forces on the planet, and a low budget third-person shooter which is reminiscent of early Battlefield games. In turn the maps are quite bland, uninspiring affairs, yet they do seem to capture the feel of the 40K universe giving any fan a sense of the tabletop game. Officially there are nine maps in total, although most players will encounter only around five as the rotation of modes seems limited in the current build. In addition to this the locations are unfortunately disappointing and although reflective of the Warhammer 40K universe, are not very experimental in terms of diversity or design. The graphics are acceptable for what was designed to be a massively multi-player online game, but don't expect anything impressive here - they have a grainy quality that is more noticeable in the large battles, but not to the point that this affects the gameplay.
Mechanically the game feels clunky and poorly optimised. Even on a more than adequate PC, movement has a slight laggy feel that makes the experience less smooth than you would desire from an online shooter that requires quick reactions. The weapons feel on the whole inaccurate and we found aiming to be a little buggy at times, which makes players utilise melee weapons more favourably in the online environment. This is not exactly a negative, as it is enjoyable engaging in hand-to-hand combat and performing gruesome executions when you best your adversary. Although the melee mechanics still need some tweaking, at present they are satisfying enough to have fun with. The game has a shocking lack of control customisation options for an online competitive shooter, though. There's no option to change the reticle or the auto centring of your view, which at times throws off aim. Your available changes basically boil down to adjustment of look sensitivity and the choice to invert the movement camera, which is frankly limited to say the least.