Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online preview

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Dave Adams is upset with modern MMOs. “I look at an MMO and it's like, 'yeah that's what console games were like five years ago.'” Hey, other MMOs! Come over here. See that man, the general manager of Vigil Games, and overseer of development on Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online? He just totally dissed you.

Fortunately, no one knows how to fight like the online custodians of the Warhammer 40K franchise. Dark Millennium Online, like the tabletop game, is set in a brutal future where the main pastime, hobby and employment is war.

Lots of war. Enough war that it doesn't fit into any existing MMO template. “Warhammer 40,000 is different. There's gunplay and space and vehicles, and we really wanted to capture as much of the universe as possible. Obviously I play a crapload of WoW, and it's a great game but it doesn't map to space marines and guns. We want Dark Millennium Online to look like a cool action game.” So is this an attempt to use the tabletop 40K universe in a run and gun shooter? Are Vigil stripping out the dice-rolls and cover modifiers and little red rulers you use to work out if your bunch of painted figures can hit some other bunch of painted figures?

No, says Adams. To the first bit. I didn't get a quote about the rulers. “It is an MMO, with all the trappings of an MMO, all the depth and quests and NPCs, but, presentation-wise, we want it to be more visceral.” Vigil's differentiator is ranged fighting – integral to Warhammer 40,000's version of future-o-war. Other MMOs, look away now: “Ranged combat in the traditional MMO model is boring. You just stand across from each other and shoot each other in this weird, awkward, slow dance of death. We wanted to have people look over your shoulder and say 'oh wow, is this an MMO?'”

The locations aren't nailed down – Dave's 'no-talk' list is long at this stage in the MMO's lengthy development – but the game will take place in the Sargos sector. Riven with warp storms, it's a reality-challenged corner of the wartacular galaxy. One faction is dedicated to maintaining the sector as a part of the functioning galaxy; the other wants to split reality entirely.

Footage shows the usual collective of Orks, Chaos Daemons and the bulkiest space marines you ever did see. 40K thrives on intra-species tension, ostensible 'goodies' like the Eldar and space marines tearing each other's throats out when there are no greenskins to unite and stomp. But Dave is sure Vigil will focus on the things that make 40K an enduring universe. “We really don't want people to play the game and go 'I guess it's got the logo, but it doesn't feel like 40K.'”