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Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin's story campaign will have plenty of "meat" on its bones

The Elite Dangerous studio are also taking a "multi-pronged" approach to ensure it's an RTS for old and new players alike

A winged Stormcast Eternal unit from Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

Next month's open beta for Frontier Developments' new Warhammer RTS Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin may be focused on testing its 1v1 multiplayer mode, but the Elite Dangerous studio have told me there's still plenty to look forward to in its single-player story campaign. I got to chat with principal designer Sandro Sammarco last week, and he told me they've been hard at work making sure it's "filled with loads of cool new stuff that people really haven't seen before". He also said that their partnership with Games Workshop has allowed them to "really go to town in terms of the visuals, the lore, [and] the story that we're telling", and he hopes that the way they've characterised the campaign's principal faction, the Stormcast Eternals, will give players plenty to sink their teeth into when it launches in full.

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Sammarco tells me Frontier have taken a "multi-pronged approach" to making sure this is an RTS that newcomers and strategy game veterans alike will be able to have a good time with. "We haven't set out to reinvent the wheel, we don't want to fix things that aren't broken," he says. "We just want a really great modern, fresh take on what an RTS could be, so there's a level of familiarity there in terms of the controls and the way that you play an RTS game."

Since the game will also be launching on consoles as well as PC - and with full crossplay support, no less - Sammarco says these controls "are all as equitable as we can make them." Naturally, PC players can also opt to use a game pad if they desire, while consoles will support compatible mouse and keyboard setups as well to make sure "it's as accessible as possible".

If you don't happen to be a hardened RTS player, however, Sammarco believes the "very clean principles" of Age Of Sigmar's fantasy world will still be enough to draw in newcomers to the genre, and introduce them to this lesser-seen side of Warhammer video games - at least compared to the deluge of Warhammer 40K games there are around right now, that is, which present an altogether bleaker and more futuristic version of the Warhammer-verse compared to Age Of Sigmar's Tolkien-esque fantasy battles.

Stormcast Eternals line up for battle in  Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Stormcast Eternals fire arrows in battle in  Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments
A dragon unit from Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

"It's a classic struggle of good and evil, and because we're looking at the characters and their motivations, you'll see that there are consequences to those actions as the story plays out," Sammarco continues. "We're not trying to tell the biggest story in the world. We're not trying to do too much. But what we are trying to do is make sure that the story's got some meat to it. That there are some things to think about there, because it's a character study, fundamentally - you've got these great heroes and villains, and so our story is really about the inherent qualities of these heroes that stand apart, and how that ends up driving them to do the things that they do."

A close-up screenshot of a Stormcast Eternal from Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
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As was previously announced, Frontier have been working with Black Library writer Gavin Thorpe to help bring Realms Of Ruin to life, and Sammarco says Thorpe has been an essential part of "[making] sure that it's got that authentic Age Of Sigmar flair to it [and] it's got the Games Workshop DNA embedded in it." Thorpe was also present for all the rehearsals with Age Of Sigmar's voice actors, too, Sammarco tells me. "We wouldn't have got to where we've got to without his help, he's been absolutely integral," he says.Image credit: Frontier Developments

These heroes are the aforementioned Stormcast Eternals, who will be battling against the nefarious Orruk Kruleboyz, and Sammarco says the team have had great fun in figuring out how to turn these static tabletop miniatures into moving 3D character models. "Our watch word was to be 'authentic' to Age Of Sigmar," he says. "Games Workshop have been great in letting us work out what the game needs to be without making us be slavishly matching up with the rules of the tabletop game. […] It's all about making sure that when you see a Liberator or a Stormdrake Guard, the game rules are there to make sure you can have a fun, engaging experience, but we also want to make sure that there wouldn't be a disconnect. That you'd go, 'Yeah, this is what I thought a Stormdrake Guard would look like, this is how it's going to fight'. It's a giant flying lizard with an armoured knife and a lancer sitting on top of it. There's gonna be some impact there!"

In truth, Sammarco says that most, if not all of the factions in the tabletop version of Age Of Sigmar would have made equally great candidates for leading a real-time strategy game. After all, the Stormcast Eternals and Orruk Kruleboyz are just two of the eventual four factions you'll be able to play as in the game - Frontier are saving the reveal of their other factions for closer to launch - but he did tell me that there were "a number of criteria" that helped them settle on the ones they've gone for here.

A close up of Kruleboyz units  in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

"We wanted some factions that were clearly recognisable, as this being Age Of Sigmar, this is what it's all about," he says. "I don't think it would have been right to have an Age Of Sigmar game and not have the Stormcast Eternals at the end of the day. They're great, and they're the poster child for good reason."

Indeed, in case you're unfamiliar with the Stormcast Eternals, these are warriors who are continually reborn from the souls of dead heroes. However, they don't always make it back to the land of the living completely intact, Sammarco tells me. They can lose part of their humanity in the process, and it's this potential for shades of grey to creep in that make them such fun and deep protagonists for players to wrestle with.

The Kruleboyz, on the other hand, are a "great antithesis" to the Stormcast Eternals, Sammarco says. "[They] are just horrible. They're mean, sadistic, sneaky. They were never going to fight fair, so it's a really nice counterbalance. But they're still recognisable as Orruks. They're this weird, new breed of Orruks, which have come from this stinking miasma where you're just as likely to be strangled by a vine or sucked into quicksand as be killed by an enemy. So rather than the classic Orruks, they don't rely quite as much on brute force. They're just sneakier, they're prepared to bide their time, although having said that, they've got some pretty beefy units, so they're not without power when they need it."

Stormcast Eternals and Kruleboyz do battle in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
A fight breaks out in a swampy battleground in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Warriors charge into battle in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Stormcast Eternals battle against Orruk Kruleboyz near a bastion point in a swamp in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

All in all, it's been a "great collaboration," Sammarco tells me, and that they're now "deep into the final balancing" of the game. Alas, he still won't let slip exactly when we might see Realms Of Ruin in full, unfortunately, but as our chat draws to a close, Sammarco stresses that Frontier are "in this for the long haul".

"We're going to fully support it all straight out the door and ongoing," he says. "We don't like doing fire and forget where you just release the game and then move on, and we're all very passionate to make sure there's some real length to the tail of this game."

What shape that tail will eventually take is yet to be seen, of course, but based on the early alpha footage I saw when the game was first revealed last month, I'm pretty excited to find out. And if you, too, want to discover how its multiplayer might shake out, make sure you keep an eye on the open beta taking place on Steam between July 7th-10th.

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