I’d like to preface this by stating I really do understand the pressures from various directions that Fat Shark finds itself between.
I’m going to be very long in this post, and I’d like to state first why does this matters. It matters because Fat Shark’s development team need to think about how these weapons will actually work so they can simulate it for us, their loyal fans.
Fat Shark has a license from Games Workshop to do a first person shooter in the W40K universe. This means they need to conforming to established lore. To conform to the well established look of the W40K universe. On top of this, there is issue of balance, the issue of fun, the issue of power-levels,
And most importantly the issues of taking all of this into what is genuinely a new format, the first person format.
It is hard to stress enough that what looks good in a cartoon often does NOT work well in a live action movie. What sounds good in novel may not look right in a picture, etc.
This cannot be an easy tightrope to walk. I complain, but I do understand the competeing forces on Fat Shark, and I really do want to see Darktide and Fat Shark be successful.
That said, there are a lot of problems with the melee weapons at present.
Firstly, we have base weapons like knifes and hatchets, which work well enough but could be in any non-w40k game. Some will disagree, but for many, shovels and combat knives are just not as interesting as chain blades, powerswords, and force weapons.
These are the iconic melee weapons of the w40k universe.
My most pressing points will be that these weapons should always be ON, and not require micromanagement to keep them ON, and they should absolutely NOT stunlock the player in place when they are used. Micromanaging a weapon that is simply ‘on’ in all other w40k franchises is grating, feels the player with irritation. In the case of the powersword, it does not do much to slow the player down, but it is a terrible impediment to the chain and force weapons, and the thunderhammer… and Lastly, that the effect on target should be both amazing and satisfying to the player.
The main objection will be they will be too powerful. That can and should be solved in other ways then on the weapons. Examples might be getting the enemy to defend or evade, moving players up a tier, or some entirely different idea I haven’t thought of.
The first weapon to address are the chain weapons.
Consideration of Form
Presently there are four chain weapons, though one is only in the hands of enemy maulers.
Currently the best chain weapon in the game is the Evisarator. The Evisarator is not bad, but should be close to epic. We also have the Cadian Assault Chainsword, which is very bad, and the chain axe, which comes off as a bit silly.
Now, in the first place, artforms do not always change formats well. A good example of this is Homer Simpson looks fine as a cartoon, but does not in 3D.
In similar fashion, the chainsword and axe should receive very slight alterations to make them more realistic in first person -WHILE MAINTAINING THE ICONIC PROFILE.
The reason why I believe the shape should see a slight alteration is that in game art function may follows form rather then the opposite, as in the real world.
In short, it is helpful that it looks like it will work to help the animator conceptualize it working, and thereby design the animations to go with it.
As you will see in this photo, the current chain axes (both the 1H the players have access to as well as the 2h the NPC maulers are armed with,) are not axe shaped in cross-section. They are hammer shaped. We at present do not have chain axes, we have chain hammers.
I propose the chain weapons, axes especially, should be axe shaped in cross section with the chain in the point, and to accomplish this the cross section was reduced by 20-40%, narrowing it, while angling the side plates inwards. It would look like an axe, then add the chain teeth on the edge. The Chainswords are lightly over chunky, and should be reduced in width somewhat, with the removal of empty space inside.
Please note, that even with this reduction and removal of seemingly empty space, the chain weapon would STILL BE FAIRLY CHUNKY. Chunky is a part of the look of the Imperium of Man, and I am NOT suggesting it be removed, only reduced.
Additionally, I would propose the player axe be replaced with the mauler axe, and either reduced or made 2handed, as the mauler axe profile is much more realistic for a weapon of this type, resembling a high tech Lochaber axe. The mauler axe feels like it has the size to do more then ‘hard chop’ and ‘hard chop’ is the least believable attack you could make with a weapon that is insanely optimized for the slicing cut.
This will maintain the profile as seen from the side, make it appear more functional, take up less space on the screen when idle, (currently it blocks much of the view) and would likely please Games Workshop because it will maintain the iconic profile while changing it just enough to increase realism to look good in first person. It would be sensible for Games Workshop to agree with this because as it’s chain-weapons are shown in more places, the need for the causal viewer to accept them will increase, and a slow, small changes that maintain the iconic look butt slowly step toward verisimilitude will help with that.
Additionally, the chainswords in the game are ALREADY MAKING this change, though I propose that it needs to be somewhat more dramatic.
If you look at the side plates of the chainswords, (Assault Cadian or Evisarator) you find the side plates are slightly angled in. This is an excellent move, though I propose the Cadian chainsword could be made narrower, removing empty space and thereby increasing realism while (in theory) concentrating mass. (It would still be chunky, but not overly chunky)
Note in the above photos that the sideplates DO meet the chainteeth, but there feels like there is empty space that can be removed, and the meeting of the plates to the teeth can be more flush and angled such as to facilitate the movement of the chainsword through an enemy. The left above is the Cadian Assault chainsword, and the right and mostly in red is the Eviscerator.
If you consider the “Emporer’s Wrath” chainsword, I got from a w40k wiki, you will note it is already shaped like an oversized blade with a chain added. While the chainsword has also been depicted with a square hammer cross section, the depictions of it with a blade cross section are more realistic and not unknown.
The wiki describes them thusly: “The chainsword is essentially a sword with powered teeth that run along a single-edged blade like that of a chainsaw. Most versions of the weapon make use of monomolecularly-edged or otherwise razor-sharp teeth.”
The reason this realism matters is how blades cut … There are many ways cutting can happen. A plain blade pushes the cutting medium to either side, and this is the reason is has a cross section like an almond or a boat, to pass more easily though. The “Hammer like” chain axes would stop on the surface while the chain made a long, ugly, but ultimately shallow wound. A blade shape with the chain in the center and forming the cutting edge would allow cleaving cuts where the body of the weapon can follow the chain in.
Now, I’d like to address how blades actually cut.
There are three main ways a cut can happen. A chop, a slice, and (for lack of the correct term) a grind. (Penetrating stabs are another matter.)
A chop would be like a wood axe impacting a tree, a slice would be a kitchen knife on an apple, and a grind would be a saw blade against wood, which slowly draws out sawdust. Most weapon blades use a combination of chop and slice, in that they hit and slide as they apply force. A sword in hand will hit the target and then be pulled across it as the hand continues the motion. If an effort was made to prevent the slide it would not cut as deeply.
Again, why does this matters: Because Fat Shark’s development team need to think about how this will actually work so they can simulate it for us, their loyal fans.
Consideration of Function
A Chainsword would best work as a sword with an independently moving edge. The sword edge moves as much as you can hit and pull. A sword with an independently moving edge would be like being hit with a sword of insane length that just kept going and going and going. The efficiency of the cut would radically increase.
A Chainsaw on the other hand, (which is surely the inspiration for the chainsword,) would not be a good weapon because it cuts slowly and requires the user to stand still. Additionally, while a chainsword has sideplates, a chainsaw has a central bar. The bar is not as wide as the chain so it can pass through a cut made by the chain. Chainsaws can be dangerous, but are not designed to cut people, but wood.
This is a video on chainsaw safety tips.
Of particular note is that the chainsaw can yank itself, yank the wood, and either can be dangerous to the user. A chainsword might do the same, pulling on the chaos cultist, or pulling itself into him, or flinging him away if he were to hit the chain going the other way. (Chainswords can be reversed in lore.)
Now, conceptually a chainsword designed purely for function might look like this:
A pure sword cross section with a moving serrated edge.
NOTE I DO NOT ADVOCATE THIS DESIGN FOR THE GAME. It is included to help conceptualize chainsword use.
Considerations of In-game use
In game, at present, the only chain weapon that feels good at all is the Evisarator.
The Cadian chainsword and the chain axe do not feel as if they cut, they feel as if they clunk.
All chain weapons have the same speical, (shared by the force sword and power sword) and this is to ‘power up’ the weapon. This feels very bad on all of the weapons, as IN EVERY OTHER GAME/MEDIA this is not required.
In both the Emporer’s Wrath diagram and the Darktide chainsword close ups, a trigger is visable. This is the ‘throttle’ and is activated by merely closing the hand. To strike with a chainsword at full power, one only needs to grip it tightly and the chainsword will rev, to idle, release the grip.
Needing to hold the chainsword infront of you while ‘revving it’ feels weird and is offputting. This is also true of the power/force weapons it’s used on, and I propose that it be discarded all togeather and the weapons be used at full power. This will certainly overshadow some plain weapons, but this is unavoidable with power weapons use as they should be used… and the should be used TURNED ON
Additionally, the chain weapons lock the player to the target, which prevents defense and evasion in a game where a major issue is avoiding taking damage. It is for this reason that other weapons such as the combat knife and some of the plain axes dramatically overshadow the Cadian Assault Chainsword. Because you can use them more safely.
In other games, the chainsword is either used entirely as a plain sword, and is only used like a chainsaw for executions. It would work with a press, (while most weapons would not) due to the moving edge, but in “Space Marine” this is only done for executions, and executions serve the purpose of healing the player, so the ‘sawing action’ does not lose the player health, it gains the player health. It is true the player can choose not to saw when it is unsafe, but this limits the use of the chainsword to the point of being almost entirely useless.
By comparison, the powersword, even with it’s irritating micromanagement, is much more effective and more importantly much more SATISFIING to use. It hits HARD, and it FEELS like it’s cutting. You feel powerful striking with the powersword, and you should feel powerful striking with the chainsword.
Instead you either feel like you gave the enemy a light clunk with the 1H, a bigger clunk with the axe, or did okay (but not over the top amazing) with the 2h Evisarator.
The chain weapons of all kinds should be -as satisfying- and as effective at -something- as the power weapons.
What should a chainweapon actually do? It should crash in, cut like a heavy sword, but have some ability to push through, especially when meeting resistance. When not meeting resistance, such as hordes of pox walkers, it should completely splat them.
There is also the possibility of the chain pulling or pushing the target.
Additionally, some attention should be paid to the SPEED of the teeth. At present they seem slower then on chainsaws I’ve used. IT is possible the ‘razor sharp teeth’ of the chainsword might be moving at an extraordinary rate of speed. I am unsure what would happen if the teeth moved even half as fast as a bullet, but I’d be curious to explore the subject.
There are band saws (saws with a loop of metal ribbon) which butchers use to cut meat and bone, and they do this VERY quickly and effectively. A chainsword should cleave at least as well as a butcher’s bandsaw, but with the added impact of the sword.
TLDR. Reduce the cross section of the chainswords/axes and make the side plates flush with the teeth/angled V shaved into the cutting direction. Turn all the weapons on and leave them on, remove self imposed stunlock, and make the thing more powerful both for stagger, cleave, and give us the illusion of actually CUTTING with it on normal attacks.
Maybe give us a ‘reverse the teeth’ option.