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5/31/2016

Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Last Wall" by David Annandale

"The Beast Arises" series is in full swing, and "The Last Wall" does not dissapoint. It's another solid title for fans of good, old grimdark space opera.


Being the 4th title in this, so far, excellent book series, "The Last Wall" starts with an Ork moon hanging over Terra, while the High Lords argue and bicker constantly. The Throneworld's citizens are terrified and worldwide riots spread like a wildfire. The Adeptus Arbites try to impose some sort of order, but it's a futile attempt, since the planet is in the grip of a total, and all-consuming, panic. Meanwhile the Sons of Dorn are still in the middle of formulating a battle plan, that would enable them to counter the Beast's unstopabble advance, while their arch-nemesis also have to fight for their lives, against a force of xenos so brutal and cunning, that even their experiences from the Great Crusade cannot be compared to the current situation...

One of the most badass covers ever

David Annandale once again proves that the depressing, truly grimdark side of Warhammer 40,000, is what he's really good at. From start to finish, readers can clearly see how far the Imperium has fallen. Endless politics, law enforcement brutality and the eternal squalor of trillions of God-Emperor's subjects, are the main themes of this book. Just like in "Damnation of Pythos", we get the feeling that there is no hope, no future and, what's worse, it was us, humans, that are to blame for this. The High Lords of Terra fight and bicker constantly, with only Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of Assassins, trying to do something, anything to counter the threat, presented by the Orks. When the ruling council of Imperium proposes a horrible, but potentially effective, plan with which to destory the Ork Attack Moon, hanging over Terra, almost no one bats an eye.

The plan itself? Organise the Proletarian Crusade, composed from Terra's citizens, and send it to orbit to destroy the alien abomination. When I was reading this, images from Soviet and Nazi Germany's propaganda videos, came to my mind immedietaly. Of course the person who proposes this horrible solution, does not take part in the assault itself, which only works to further the feel of hypocrisy and total disregard for human life in the Imperium of Man. It's also worth noting that this is still the 32nd millenium, and not the "hopless and grim future" of modern-times Warhammer 40K. Yeah, let that sink in for a while...

Friggin' depressing (ADRIANHILLMAN VIA GETTY IMAGES)

This plot, being the most important in the whole book, really shows how far the Mankind went from the ideals of the Great Crusade and the Imperial Truth. The fires of zeal and fanatical fury have been stoked high by the High Lords, and most citizens of Terra sail out to their deaths without regret or fear, the catechisms of hate and prayers to the Emperor on their lips. It's at once incredbily depressing and fascinating, and Annadale shows this horrible mindset in a truly masterful way.

Now there will be minor spoilers, since I wanted to talk about a major thingie in this book, that still makes me shiver with terror. You see, "The Last Wall" may just have the highest, single bodycount of all Warhammer 40,000 books and novels so far. Of course, I mean the highest bodycount in a single land engagement, during the shortest period of time. I may be mistaken, but there is a scene at the end of the book, where... many people die. Like really, really many of them and in a horrible, gut-wrenching way as well. I literally winced as I was reading this, and the best part? It fits this book so damn well, it's almost scary, as is my mind, since I've enjoyed this part immensly. No more spoilers. You'll just have to experience this part yourselves.

Aside from the Crusade plot, there's really not that much going on. The Inquisition tries to dominate the High Lords, while struggling with inner conflicts. The Techpriests of Mars once again prove that they are their own masters and try to formulate a plan, that will preserve them, even if the rest of the Imperium falls. Vangorich and his deadly lieutenant Esad Wire, also knowns as Beat Krule, work their own, shadowy deals, that are ultimately aimed towards the goal of defeating the Orks, but the ammount of players on the board, and their influence and power, make this deal a real chore, and a dangerous one at that.

The Sons of Dorn also plan to take the fight towards the Orks, and Captain "Slaughter" Koorland, the last Imperial Fists, quickly becomes the main leader, behind whom the rest of the descedants of the 7th Legion will gather. He takes it hard, still haunted by the loss of all of his brothers on Ardamantua, but just like any real son of Rogal Dorn, he intends to fulfill his duty, no matter where it might take him.

Daddy's watching, so do your job

There's also a tasty bit about the fate of a certain Traitor Legion, getting his ass kicked by the Greenskins. As it turns out, not only the Imperium falls to the might of the Beast. It's also very refreshing to see some of the bad guys getting their shit pushed in, especially since nowadays Black Library mainly makes them into immortal badasses, who "did nothing wrong." Their portrayal is also really, really good, with Annandale not falling into an obvious (but still dangerous) trap of showing them as a "kill, maim, burn!" kinda guys. Good stuff.

The book ends in a massive cliffhanger, with another faction joining the fray. No spoilers this time, but I can only say one thing: Terra sure lacks major defences on its lower levels.

This is it, my review of "The Last Wall." Loved this book a lot, and while I know that David Annandale can be a hit or miss to some of the fans of WH40K, I think that in this case he made a really, really good job. Sure it's depressing, dark, gritty and horrendously bloody, but let's be honest - this is 40K we are talking about, so that's quite normal and mandatory, and it simply works. I highly recommend this title to anyone, who loves a good, solid and dark sci-fi experience.

Pros:

- Fascinating portrayal of Imperium, in all its heartless glory.
- Various agendas, shadowplays and politicking. Great counterparts to heavy action, of which there is a lot.
- The first appearance of a Traitor Legions. They are both intimidating and flawed, just like they should be.
- The final engagement is simply stunnig and crushes the reader into his chair/couch/floor etc.
- At this point, I'm not going to write about how awesome Drakan Vangroich is. You know that already.

Cons:

- This book is really, really dark and sombre. Not for anyone, that's for sure.
- Did I mentioned that it's also depressing?
- Like, a lot. God, I'm getting a drink. A lot of drinks in fact.

Until next time! A review is in the works, and it's about a certain game, set in a certain fantasy world. Stay tuned.

Sup?

Xathrodox86

5/05/2016

Xathrodox86's initial impressions on the Dawn of War 3 announcement

Straight to the point. Two days ago Relic has shown the whole world the new trailer for Dawn of War 3, along with some gameplay pics. Is it everything that we've hoped for?

I like Dawn of War games a lot. Both the first one, more in the spirit of the classic Starcraft series (which never stuck with me for some reason), and its sequel, which took a lot from Company of Heroes, and showed us that smaller scale battles in the universe of 40K can be just as exciting. I've never finished the first DoW titles, an error that I plan to rectify by installing the whole collection on my Steam account and playing it, one after the other. With DoW 2 I've managed to play the first two titles from start to finish, and had a real blast with them, especially with the corruption system in Chaos Rising (Avitus got what he deserved, the racist, Guardsmen hating prick that he was). As for the Retribution, it's installed and ready for my (medicore) RTS skills.

Why have I installed all of these games? Because I'm hyped as all hell, after watching the trailer for Dawn of War 3. It's been literally years since I couldn't wait for a game so, friggin' much.

My body is ready

The trailer looks incredible. It has everything that makes 40K such a unique and awesome universe in my opinion. Not only does the minimalistic setting of blasted landscape work like a charm, but the music and the eerie prayer gave the whole viewing, a bone-chilling feel. Then there's the action... Oh God, the action! Simply magnificent. First of all, kudos to Relic for making the Astartes look like they're actually mortal and vulnerable, and not like a bunch of mary sue, one man army, stereotypes. Sure they're tough and awesome, but when you charge a Deff Dread with only your chainsword, the outcome if quite predictable.

Maybe he'll roll a one on his WS test... six times

Anyway, the Blood Ravens return, and I think it's really great. Sure, they could've gone for some other chapter, but let's be honest: Dawn of War = Blood Ravens. I'm really excited to find out more about these bad boys, especially their connection to the XV Legion, which at this point is a given fact really. Don't you dare accuse me of spoilers!

The Sons of Vidya are looking good as always, especially their head honcho, the Big Man himself, Gabriel MANgelos, who sports a fancy suit of Terminator Armor and still wields his signature hammer, the God-Splitter. It's good to know that he's back, but I also hope for return of Cyrus, by far my favorite Blood Raven of all, and the rest of the gang. Except Avitus. He was an asshole.

Aside from the Bloody Magpies, the other two factions are Eldar and Orks. It's interesting to see that Chaos will not be in the core game, altough I'm pretty sure that they will release it in DLC, alongside other races. Already people all over the internet are making bets which one will be the first to emerge in the form of paid content. My bets are on the Necrons, but we shall see.

Anyway, back to the foul Xenos. I simply love the fact that both the Eldar and Orks have been presented as a genuine threat. The scenes of Boyz finishing wounded Space Marines, as well as the aformentioned Deff Dread tearing a Blood Raven in half, were quite intense. As for the Eldar I have only this to say: Wraithknights. Both huge and majestic, the Eldar war walkers moved and killed with a sense of grace, that only the sons and daughters of Asuryan possess. This however brings us to the next, big reveal in Dawn of War 3 - the super heavy walkers. Aside from the Wraithknights, we'll also see Imperial Knights (their brutal charge was one of the high points of the trailer) and possibly Morkanauts and Gorkanauts. The addition of super heavies in DoW 3 is no huge surprise, given their popularity in the tabletop game. I'm only wondering if we'll also see Titans. Not the big ones of course, but a Warhound and a Stompa would be cool to future in the campaign, maybe as a kind of super weapon. A man can dream...

Pictured: your average, 1850 points game of WH40K

The devs also advertise the orbital lasers as a huge feature of the game, but this is nothing new. We've already had these in the previous titles, so it's no big deal, at least to me. Granted, the particle effects look really good, but honestly, there are other things in this game that make people want to play it as soon as possible. Like the super heavy walkers. Seriously, how cool is that? I hope for some customisation options, like in the Freeblade mobile game. It'd be awesome.

Of course there are those who point out the weak sides of the trailer and gameplay footage. For example the scale of the Astartes and how thin they seem to look. I agree that they could be more buffed, but the marines in question are only in a single shot of the trailer, so I don't think that it's such a big deal.

Next comes the criticism about the graphic quality of the gameplay footage and the fact that the game is too colorful. Given that Dawn of War 3 will be released in 2017, probably around summer, I expect that the current game developement is in the late alpha stage. The graphics will change, we can be sure about that. As for the ammount of bright colors, I don't honestly think that it's such a bad thing, as it really makes the details clearer and sharper, which is always a nice thing, especially in the case of 40K models, which have a lot of tiny, intricate eye candy.

Pew Pew Pew

Finally the biggest, and probably most important issue, discussed by people all over the world, concerns the ammount of factions in the core game. Dawn of War 3 will feature only three, playable races, the rest, no doubt, being availabe through various DLCs. Honestly, it sucks and it's the only thing that irks me about this game. The fact that Relic won't include Chaos as one of the core armies is just weird, and not in a good way. My inner Guardsman also weeps to see that the Hammer of the Emperor will have to be bought for additional credits. Of course I'm pretty sure that the devs will allow for some sweet, pre-order deal with extra stuff (for some extra money that is), which may consist of a faction or two, but 3 races in the core game? That's waaaay too few, and it stinks of a future, DLC cash grab. Granted we live in times, where most games are only "half finished" during their release, almost always requiring players to spend more money, if they want to enjoy them fully, but many of such titles offer a lot of content during their initial release. Dawn of War 3, on the other hand, is kinda minimalistic when it comes to that. I just hope that the basic campaigns will at least be long and have a high replayability, otherwise it really will be a blatant and disgusting money grab.

So these are my initial impressions on Dawn of War 3. Like I've said before, this is the game that I'm eagerly waiting for. With this and other titles, such as Freeblade, Inquisitor Martyr, TW: Warhammer and Man O' War Corsair, as well as huge advances in both rules and plot of Warhammer 40,000, it fianlly looks like Games Workshop is doing something to revitalise their brand and gain more followers, who'll be more than happy to spend their hard earned cash on some plastic/digital crack. I'm one of those people, but despite my enthusiasm, I believe that it's always a good idea to remain at least a bit sceptical and critically minded. You know, just in case.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

P.S. The announcement of Dawn of War 3 brought us one more, glorious thing: memes. Brace yourselves: the 40K memays are coming.

Glorious