In 2015, the Warhammer world ended. You know, that place you fight over in Total War: Warhammer and Vermintide 2? Games Workshop literally blew it up. From its ashes rose a new setting, in a new era: the Age of Sigmar.
This grand, mythic universe, full of warring gods and arcane realms, hasn't had much of a videogame presence yet, other than a smattering of mobile games and smaller titles. With its new RTS Realms of Ruin, developer Frontier is hoping to fill that void—and introduce gamers to a whole new world of Warhammer.
I got the chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at the game for the latest issue of PC Gamer magazine. You'll find my full six page cover feature in issue 384, on sale in shops now and available online very soon.
Realms of Ruin is a real-time strategy game in the traditional mould—you build units, send them into battle with a click, advance up a tech tree, and activate abilities in the fray to try and get the edge. Its grouped-up squads and focus on capturing objectives put me in mind of another Warhammer game: the classic Dawn of War.
But that doesn't mean it's just retreading old ground. Frontier is aiming for a fast and super accessible take on the genre. For example, though you can build pivotal defensive structures on certain captured points, and upgrade your HQ, there's otherwise no base-building in the game, and multiplayer matches are designed to take no longer than 30 minutes.
Sandro Sammarco, principal designer and co-writer of the story, describes Realms of Ruin as "a burst of real-time strategy goodness." The goal is to get players right into the action without any barriers to entry—and then reveal more and more tactical depth as you play.
"The core principle of why we've aimed the game this way, it's to make sure that we're being authentic to the table top game, which is really, it's about battles," says Sammarco. "It's about fighting. It's about getting in there and sticking your axe into the guy's face until he doesn't want to fight anymore. Games Workshop's franchises are all about [that], there's always a visceral nature to them that's very compelling. And so we wanted to make sure that we were hitting that."
In addition to multiplayer battles, the game will feature a full singleplayer campaign, aiming to provide an authentic but accessible introduction to the Age of Sigmar setting. In a story co-written by Games Workshop veteran Gav Thorpe, players will get to meet (and play as) the gleaming, holy knights of the Stormcast Eternals, and the vicious, swamp-dwelling Orruk Kruleboyz, as they battle across the bestial realm of Ghur. Two more factions are yet to be revealed—I wasn't given any insight on those, but any fan of the wargame could probably speculate that they might be an undead faction, and some form of Chaos worshippers.
But it's a story driven primarily by its heroes, not just its armies. "We want you to care about the characters," says Sammarco. "We put a lot of time and effort into making them plausible and believable—and obviously cool as well! So it's a proper high quality and full cinematic experience."
Winds of change
Ambitions are high for Realms of Ruin—Frontier want this to feel like a blockbuster game, huge and bursting with production value. If the studio can pull that off, it'll not only be the first big flagship game for the Age of Sigmar setting, it'll be a major event for the modern RTS revival. After lying fallow for years, real-time strategy seems to be having a comeback, but major releases from well-established studios are still more the exception than the norm—and for fans nostalgic for the ambitious, story-driven RTS campaigns of old, this could be a breath of fresh air.
Not an easy goal—making a great modern RTS is hard enough, let alone also trying to introduce the Age of Sigmar world and please its existing fans as well. But a grand plan suits such a grand setting, and if Frontier succeeds, it could kick off a whole new era of Warhammer games on PC.