Games Workshop (GW) is iconic. It breeds passion and has been around since the dawn of the gaming boom. Parts of its ageing portfolio have been released, and shelved to gather dust, before some of you were even born. That means if one of these GW games was to return now, it could be happily mistaken as totally new.
Allow me to introduce you to one such futuristic boardgame, first released in 1987...
New York is faced with invading forces from an alternate, dark reality. Their goal is to rip the city of New York from this world into theirs. Humanities only hope is a lone cyborg super-human. You are the Chainsaw Warrior, an eighties sci-fi action hero from the same minds that also thought up Space Marines. Your objective is to fight through swarms of zombies across New York tenements, locate the evil spewing rift and destroy it before the dark hordes kill you. Unlike normal boardgames, this was designed to be played entirely alone. Its the solitaire of cyborg-hero, zombie-slashing mayhem and its played against the clock.
We were invited to the indie studios over at Auroch Digital, where they are well into the revival of Chainsaw Warrior, with a clear goal of bringing it to PC and tablet. As always the Games Workshop heritage shows its face in the form of sheer nostalgic excitement from the devs. We speak to Tomas Rawlings, the Design and Production Director, who like many others, grew up with this game in their gaming library as a young lad. Yes, we all had our own gaming library back then.
Tomas is not new to this though and has worked on bringing other iconic franchises to the digital stage, including Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land. So when THQ disbanded last year, the Games Workshop licence (THQ had bought rights to the licence for the foreseeable future) became available again and Tomas was ready. This was his chance to attempt to do something he had always wanted to do, revive a classic Games Workshop game and bring it into the digital era.
GW IP's are highly regarded, each abundant with rich imaginative ideas. But that means GW have to work hard to maintain their IP integrity, sometimes with teams of lawyers ready to serve cease and desists. And yet we are now seeing a number of indie developers successfully negotiating to use IP's from their childhood. Space Hulk is another GW title in the works, that's also shaping up nicely. Now that a single giant publisher is not holding on to all these potential GW goodies, these iconic games will come along relatively fast. With indie studios driving the development, each game is more likely to focus on the niche it is good at, while still under the watchful eye of GW. Whereas large publishers can usually only attempt to develop a game if it has the broadest possible audience reach, as they can only operate on much larger spends. And that is what PC gaming is all about, offering something for everyone. We get the big budget monster releases, while also enjoying the eclectic indie titles. And when they come with the rich pedigree behind them, like Games Workshop, we can usually expect an interesting title.
Auroch Digital are developing a faithful remake, complete with revamped effects and graphics.
Your fight was against the game and the clock, not other people, and the fight wasn't easy. With countless ways to die and only a tough road to victory, the boardgame is something akin to the grandfather of the rogue-alike concept. One of the big flaws with the game was the need to keep track of a plethora of effects, on your own. Despite this drawback, and like almost all GW games, Chainsaw Warrior was still well received. Now that Auroch Digital has a hold of it, they intend to keep that difficulty intact, but the computer can do all the work of stat & effects tracking. Allowing the player to focus on the fun stuff - Brutalising zombies and picking up cool equipment.
Even with the aim of game simplification, Auroch thought it would be a good idea to add in some of the more popular alternate rulesets that were released for the game. The hardest of the three difficulties will be equivalent to the original boardgame where all of your stats are randomised and locked, and your equipment is as well. On medium you get the chance to look at your equipment by paying a points cost, while on Easy you are free of any costs and can choose the equipment you want, as well as being able to re-roll your stats.
All three difficulties will have save games. Auroch felt that since you are only playing against yourself and the board it should be up to the player to decide how they felt the game would be most fun and if that meant constant quicksaves then that option is there.
For those of you oldies that can remember, the boardgame had an accompanying comic that introduced the mysterious Chainsaw Warrior and his background. The Warrior would most certainly have been played by 80’s Arnie, had a movie released along with it. Auroch showed us that the awesome comic is being digitally enhanced, turned to colour and animated to help deliver the player into the world of the Chainsaw Warrior.
There's not long to wait either, as the Chainsaw Warrior is due for release in August/Sept this year. We are expecting it to be rolled out across tablet, IOS and Android first and then shortly after we will see it on PC & Mac. Pop back in a few weeks for our full review of Chainsaw Warrior.