Warhammer Skulls 2023 – more grimdark gaming than you can shake a Bolter at (pic: Games Workshop)
The biggest day on the Games Workshop calendar has revealed a bunch of new Warhammer video games, as well as… Powerwash Simulator DLC.
These days, if you mention the word Warhammer it better have the word Leviathan after it, as the new 40K miniatures core box and rules is dominating the discourse. Available to pre-order in June, it’s bound to sell out instantly, but luckily there are some equally exciting video game offerings from Games Workshop and their licenced partners, as demonstrated during this week’s Warhammer Skulls event.
Hosted by actor and Warhammer fanatic Rahul Kohli, who you might already know from EastEnders and Holby City, this edition of Warhammer Skulls marked the start of the seventh annual celebration of Warhammer video games. It took place alongside celebrations for 40 years of Warhammer, with enough new content to keep everyone happy till Leviathan drops like a bag of bricks on our doorstep. After the show, there was the opportunity to take advantage of a week-long roster of discounts, including up to 90% off Warhammer video games.
The screams in my house this week have been in frustration at the level of difficulty in the new first person shooter Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, with its fast paced 16-bit graphics reminiscent of Wolfenstein 3D. This retro throwback sees you play as a Space Marine on a perilous mission across the galaxy, as they battle against the Chaos Space Marines and daemons of Chaos. Skulls showed off a nifty blue and gold Boltgun Xbox Design Lab controller, fit for any soldier of the Imperium.
The biggest moment of Skulls was undoubtably the first ever big budget Age Of Sigmar real-time strategy game, Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin. The game features a single-player campaign drawn from the Dawnbringer Crusades in the Warhammer 40K miniatures game, with the powerful Stormcast Eternals tasked with reclaiming a realm that is under attack from a dangerous Orruk faction. While it would have been nice to see a new Dawn Of War I’m keen for Realms Of Ruin to deliver some Command & Conquer/Age Of Empires style nostalgia.
Other highlights included Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, with its compelling strategic combat and immersive environments. This is the first role-playing game set in the Warhammer 40K universe and is developed by Owlcat Games, the studio behind Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Wrath Of The Righteous. The closed alpha released in December 2022 will transform into the beta version of the game, with brand new locations and enemies, as well as a new companion: the Space Wolf, Ulfar.
The closed beta dramatically extends the amount of content available and features the prologue and the first three chapters of the game. Rogue Trader is full of promise and I’d love to see that realised, so I can match the 200 hours I’ve put into Pathfinder.
Orks love a junker and there’s plenty of them in the free-to-play, fast-paced vehicular combat game, Warhammer 40,000: Speed Freeks. The alpha playtest is now available on Steam, with 16-player matches for enough chaos and confusion for any convoy. The multiple vehicle classes, including support and damage, and 16-player matches should make things pleasingly chaotic and, well… you won’t lose any money giving it a try.
While we’d all love a Total War: Warhammer 40K we are just going to have to make do with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2. Warhammer Skulls gave us a glimpse of the Tyrranid enemies who are also the enemy faction in Leviathan. These xenomorph style baddies swarm through the game’s new trailer in insane numbers, hot for Lieutenant Titus who is trying to hold his own. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 will be out later this year but still doesn’t have an exact release date.
There’s many who would love to see Warhammer 40K: Darktide come to console, after its release on PC last year, but that’s not happening yet. This four-player co-op horror shooter is the 40K equivalent to Vermintide and is due to get a huge content update though the Rejects Unite DLC, which adds two new missions and new enemy the Chaos Spawn.
With Vermintide 2 now in its fifth year there’s some new Dwarf action to spice things up, with the Karak Azgara DLC that features three maps inspired by the capital city of the Dwarf races in the Grey Mountains. In this DLC the Ubersreik Five, a motley band of Old World heroes are called in to help a struggling Dwarf war party sabotage a Skaven army and turn the tide in their favour. Karak Azgaraz is free to play and will release June 13 for PC and later in the summer for console.
While everyone is now talking about Total War: Pharaoh, Creative Assembly is still supporting Total War: Warhammer 3 and it got a mention in the 40 year anniversary event, with new legendary hero and Chaos Champion Harald ‘Harry the Hammer’ Hammerstorm, who has a special hatred of the living dead and likes nothing better than to dispatch their souls back to the undead realm of Morr.
Last but definitely not least, the collaboration we have all been waiting for: Games Workshop vs. PowerWash Simulator. In the dirty world of the grim dark, you can now get your Land Raider squeaky clean with this bizarre new DLC. There’s no release date yet but it will be available on all platforms.
Finally, you can break out the new red and green vinyl release of the Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus and spray down some heavy beats. These operatic overtones will wash away any worries you might have about the announcement of Blood Bowl 3’s first competitive season and fears of how buggy it might be.