Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lost in the Grimdarkness

In 1987 we were introduced to the grimdarkness of the Warhammer 40k universe through the first edition of the game known simply as “Rogue Trader”.
Dat cover art tho

Since 1987 the franchise has grown through eight editions of the tabletop game, tabletop spin offs, various video games, and a large collection of novels. The Warhammer 40k brand has come to be one of Games-Workshops most popular brands. Despite it’s ever evolving narrative, the one thing that has remained consistent throughout the franchise is the grimdarkess of the 41st Millennium. Unfortunately it is the brand’s dependency on the grimdarkness which has lead to the lazy writing and story progression of the 8th edition of the game. The latest edition of the game comes with the creation of a new form of Space Marine in the form of the Primaris Marines.
An example of a true sca- I mean, Primaris Marine

 For those of you who are not familiar with the series, a Space Marine is a genetically enhanced super-soldier that is heavily indoctrinated into the Imperium of Man’s so-called “Imperial Truth”. These soldiers were created using the genes of the twenty genetically engineered sons of the Imperium’s ruler, a man known simply as the “God Emperor of Mankind”. For most of the brand’s life the Space Marines were the epitome of greatness, they were the bravest, strongest, smartest, and most brutal weapons of the Imperium. The latest edition of the game however introduces a new form of marine which is supposed to be more loyal, stronger, and overall better. These so-called Primaris Marines were the result of 10,000 years of experimentation and research by one of the Imperium’s agents known as Belisarius Cawl.
Cawl looking like the atrocious amalgamation of tech and flesh that he is. 

 This in itself is not a negative when it comes to the advancement of the Warhammer 40k story, the problem comes when we consider that altering the Space Marine creation process has been attempted before. The first time they attempted to create a new form of marine, with supposed improvements to their gene seed, what resulted was known as the “Cursed Founding”. Almost every chapter that resulted from the cursed founding ended up with severe mutations or were incredibly susceptible to corruption by the Forces of Chaos (Essentially, Demons).
For being the supposedly best of the best, these guys sure are susceptible to Chaos.
 So the problem with the Primaris Marines is, how did Cawl get around the issues that were faced in the cursed founding when he altered the Space Marine geneseed? How did he solve the mutation issue? How did he solve the susceptibility to chaos corruption? None of these questions are ever really answered, we are simply forced to accept the explanation that somehow Cawl fixed it. Beyond the Space Marines we have another faction within the Imperium, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Machine Cult. This group worships technology, seeing the manufacture and creation of machines as a sort of religious ritual. There is one big problem when it comes to technology in the Imperium though, and that is that in this world of grimdarkness there is little to no innovation. In fact most of the tech that the Imperium still makes use off is manufactured through the use of “Standard Template Constructs”.
Rogue Trader holding an STC, imagine fighting a whole war for one that only builds Toasters.

These pieces of tech hold the blueprints necessary for the construction of things like bunkers, tanks, guns, armor, and other technological items used by the Imperium. Innovation is basically non-existent. It is for this reason that eighth edition’s introduction of the Space Marine Repulsor Tank raised a few eye brows. It’s true that most standard template construct technologies can be slightly modified, for instance look at the similarities between the Rhino, Whirlwind, and Predator vehicles which all use the same chassis. This is the cop out they try to use for the Repulsor, stating in the Wiki that the vehicle was created using STC tech, but this falls apart when considering how significantly different this tank is from any other armor in the Imperium’s arsenal. We again are directed to the explanation that “Cawl fixed it” or in this case “Cawl Innovated it”. This goes not just for the Repulsor tank, but also for many of the newer weapons which are being used by the Primaris Marines. This is the problem that I have with the latest edition’s fluff. For so long the Warhammer 40k has relied so heavily on the grimdarkness, that the writers have essentially written themselves into a corner.
So Much Grimdark

Think about for a bit, the universe relies so heavily on the dystopian aspect of the lore that for years it is one of the only aspects of the franchise that has remained consistent. So we find ourselves in corner where we have established that we do not have innovation, with an empire that is xenophobic and scared of change, that is strictly adherent to the indoctrination of the Imperial Truth, and thus the only way to fix it was to create Cawl as an exit. All we can do is wait and see how this turns out. Perhaps as the story continues to progress it will be revealed that the Primaris Marines actually can be corrupted, that perhaps Cawl’s innovations were a result of heresy through the implementation of xeno-tech. Perhaps Games-Workshop will balance Cawl’s plot armor ability to seemingly be able to “fix” everything with some more grimdarkness, while learning to not write themselves into a corner. So Early in this edition all we can do is wait and see, and hope that as the story progresses that every other faction doesn’t get their own “Cawl”, and that the writers actually create engaging, immersive, and interesting characters and fluff with the right touch of grimdarkness.

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