Categories
Hobby

Warhammer+ First Impressions

So far, so good; let’s see where it goes.

I think that’s probably the best way to summarise my thoughts day one of Warhammer+, Games Workshop’s new subscription service. It’s received a fair bit of hype and attention over the last few months and, paradoxically, because of that my expectations were low. But it looked on the surface to be a good deal so I figured I’d sign up for the first year and see how the various services covered by the subscription grew.

Signup was – for me – very simple, and I was up and running before the service officially launched. The Warhammer TV app was available in the App Store by the time I woke up, so I had it on my phone and Apple TV in minutes. At the time the app didn’t offer in-app subscription options, and because of Apple’s rules the app also doesn’t display any links or instructions on how to subscribe outside of in-app purchases. So for a few minutes I figured there was no choice but to wait until the go-live announcements were made and instructions given – and then I remembered the whole thing was driven by the same MyWarhammer account system which powers the 40K app and the online store. A quick login later, and I had the option to upgrade my 40K app subscription to Warhammer+.

Now, here is where I had a much easier time of it than many of the people I follow on Twitter. My previous app subscription was not made through iOS, so I just had to give my billing information, pick my free miniature, and my upgrade was done. It took seconds. In-app subscription users have had to jump through several hoops to do the upgrade, which I can imagine were frustrating.

Linking the app on the Apple TV to my subscription was a case of entering a one-time code into a web page, just like the YouTube app and similar. After that, I was able to access the small library of launch video content.

The app itself is fine, and does what it needs to do. There’s a small amount of free content (trailers, some basic painting tutorials) so there’s at least something you can try out to see if the experience is OK on your devices.

There’s also a web version, if you’re using a device which doesn’t have a supported app.

A screenshot of the Warhammer TV web UI

So far I’ve watched the Masterclass painting videos, and two episodes of the Hammer & Bolter anthology show. The painting videos are really good: clearly presented, with great production and a high level of detail. There’s a lot of why to go with the how, which is refreshing to see.

Hammer & Bolter is a show I know will split opinions. It’s interesting, and it’s got a unique style – but I can definitely see why it wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s not a slick anime or polished CG animation, and often comes across as cheap and lazy… but there’s something endearing about it that I enjoy. Personally, I think the look of it is 100% a stylistic choice, rather than a cost-cutting concern. The initial episodes have a bit of an 80’s Saturday morning cartoon vibe (with the violence ramped right up), but the comparison I keep coming back to is an animated heavy metal music video. It’s a bit low-budget looking and over the top, but it’s fun.

I’ll be watching the other videos as time allows over the next few days; I’ve heard good things about all of them.


So that’s the streaming service bit, but what about the rest? Warhammer+ (for now) covers two more services: the 40K app, and Warhammer Vault.

The 40K app isn’t really worth spending any time on. After an update which rolled out mid-morning it works with the new subscriptions, but otherwise it’s the exact same app, warts and all.

Warhammer Vault, however, is something I’m very interested in. It promises to be the official go-to repository for out-of-print lore material and magazines. For many people, high quality and simple access to old White Dwarf issues is worth the price of Warhammer+ alone!

Oddly, he Vault isn’t delivered as an app at this time, but a website. This stands out a bit given everything else digital covered by Warhammer+ is an app you can download. Games Workshop have released apps for this sort of content in the past, so I wonder why not now? Maybe it’s something coming later and wasn’t ready for launch?

The Warhammer Vault

The reading experience is fine enough for the moment; it works, which is the main thing. It’s basically a “PDF” viewer embeded in a web page so you lose some of the potential reading area to the website UI. You can’t download files for offline reading, and you can’t make them fullscreen by themselves. The file sizes are massive too, which could cause issues on older devices or metered internet connections. Even my PC and iPad struggle to render some pages without it getting stuttery. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something to be aware of.

The more I think on it, the more I do hope they release an app with an optimised reading experience. Perhaps with the ability to curate reading lists? Better organisation would also be good to see, because at the moment there is none. Everything is listed on a single page. While I’m poking holes, do I really need to see a large “subscribe to Warhammer+” banner if I’m logged in and subscribed?

The launch content selection is a bit eclectic… but it’s generally good stuff. there’s the lore sections from a dozen or so old supplements and rulebooks, with seemingly no rhyme or reason why these particular publications are available and not others from the same period. There’s the Gathering Storm trilogy from 40K, which sets the stage for the current state of the in-game universe, along with a few pieces from 7th Edition. On the Age of Sigmar side, there’s the lore from the first edition rulebook of the main game and from the Underworlds spin-off.

The stars of the Vault in my view are the entire 30-issue run of Warhammer: Visions, and every issue of White Dwarf from 2020. Visions was a great-but-misunderstood magazine from 2014-2016 that was packed full of great miniatures photography and inspiration. I’m looking forward to diving into it again, and hopefully more people will come to appreciate how nice of a resource it was.

I suspect most people will be interested in the White Dwarf back-issues. For now it’s just 2020, which has a lot of good content – including some I was about to buy back issues for – so I can’t really complain. Games Workshop have said they’ll be adding content to the Vault on a weekly basis, so I’m hoping we start seeing some truly ancient issues appearing in the not-so-distant future (by which I mean issues from my childhood!). I’m interested to know the lead time between new issues of White Dwarf hitting the shops and then being added to the Vault will be. I suspect it will be around a year, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Even beyond magazines, there’s 40ish years of publications to draw upon, so there shouldn’t ever be a “content drought” in the Vault.


So… to wrap things up in a bow: Warhammer+ and the various services it covers are off to an fine start.

The content that’s available is (in my opinion) good, but there’s obviously not a huge amount of it yet. Weekly additions are promised, but I can totally understand if you take a wait-and-see approach right now.

The means of accessing the content work well enough, but could do with at least a little refinement in the coming months. Nothing’s broken in a “the 40K app at launch” kind of way, it just would be nice to see a few improvements to the user experience.

Ultimately, I like what I’ve seen so far, but I’m more excited about where things go from here. If they can keep up the momentum, regularly add interesting content, maybe even add new services, and sustain the services beyond the launch “honeymoon” period, then Warhammer+ could be a real winner. If not, then I feel like I’ve already got access to enough to justify this year’s subscription fee.

Categories
Books

Alpharius: Head of the Hydra, by Mike Brooks

A photo of the front cover of the book Alpharius: Head of the Hydra, by Mike Brooks, taken shortly after I had finished reading it.

Synopsis

Legends abound of the glorious or infamous deeds of the Emperors sons. Yet almost nothing is known of Alpharius, the most mysterious of them all, for the Lord of the Alpha Legion is unparalleled in the art of obfuscation. Such are his gifts of secrecy and deceit that even his rediscovery has remained an enigma until now. But when the tale comes from the serpent’s mouth, where does the deception end and the truth begin?

Thoughts

It’s felt like it’s been ages since I’ve read a Black Library book that I just can’t put down and end up finishing in a single sitting. Alpharius: Head of the Hydra turned out to be just that sort of book. Without giving away any spoilers: secrets and origins are revealed, and there are insights into one of the sneakiest and most enigmatic characters in the Warhammer 40,000 mythos are given.

Or are they? Alpharius is at his core a master of subterfuge, and Games Workshop make heavy use (personally I’d say overuse) of the “unreliable narrator” trope in their world building. So there is definitely scope to discount everything in this book as nothing but a gripping yarn woven by the narrator to distract from what really happened. But based on how the story is framed, I choose to believe that the events of the book are canonical fact.

Mike Brooks takes a character which is supposed to be largely unknowable and deceitful, and manages to make them a well rounded – and often sympathetic – protagonist. It’s not easy to do when the subject matter is a giant, genetically-engineered trans-human intended to be a demi-god for all intents and purposes. The biggest problem with a character like Alpharius is that they often come across as knowing everything and are fully in control, right up until the plot-point where they conveniently aren’t. There’s a popular meme – “just as planned” – where even in apparent defeat certain characters “win”. That meme could be tailormade for Alpharius under most circumstances, and while there are a few moments of that in this book, they’re minor and don’t get in the way of the rest of the characterisation.

Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.