(This post deals with the rumoured conclusion of Games Workshop's Gathering Storm storyline and speculates on where that rumoured conclusion might lead. Whether the rumour is accurate or not I do not know but, please, treat this as spoilers and proceed accordingly).
A few days back, Lady Atia reported on her blog War Of Sigmar a short extract apparently from the conclusion of Gathering Storm III: Rise Of The Primarch:
“The Gathering Storm is over.
“We saw Cadia burn, a Craftworld shattered, and we followed Eldar and Saint into the nightmare. We saw a Primarch rise again, and we went to hell itself to reach Terra.
“The Gathering Storm is over.
“Old Night is once again upon us. the gods fight against each other and laugh. But we won't give up without a fight either. We will muster. A new Great Crusade must begin. For Terra, and for the Emperor!”
Okay, so this here's a rant that's been building for a long time.
See, a problem I think Games Workshop has is that it keeps addressing the wrong problems. They killed off my beloved Fantasy because it wasn't selling. Their solution was to destroy the world they'd spent decades building in order to create a new setting out of mangled Norse mythology that had golden Space Marines in it, retooling what units and ideas they could and discarding others including basically the entire continuity, almost every established character and every setting they'd ever created.
Why this was the first instinct to a sales problem in a game that had seen massive per unit price rises in an edition that simultaneously incentivized taking forty man or larger block units is anyone's guess.
And now they're blowing shit up again. They blew up Fenris, they blew up Cadia and by the looks of things the whole galaxy is about to get a bad case of warp storm. Also, as with Age Of Sigmar, it looks like there's going to be shift of emphasis away from the ordinary footslogging human level to the level of warring gods.
The problem with 40k, as so many people claim loudly on forums and comment threads, is that it does not advance. Now, I can understand the complaint and once you'd lived through a couple of editions the fact that every few years you buy yet another Codex for your favourite army for which you get incrementally higher production values, one or two new units, a slight points rebalancing and exactly the same background with a polishing rewrite does get a bit frustrating.
But has it occurred to anyone that maybe just blowing up whole settings is probably not a sustainable way to grow the story?
I mean, they've chopped Fenris and Cadia. So much of the unique character of the Space Wolves comes from living on that ice-covered, pre-feudal hellhole. Similarly, Cadians are the go to, bog standard Guardsmen in their fiction and now they're a finite resource in the universe.
Cadia and Fenris are both planets with unique characters within the universe, with aspects many writers have used to craft brilliant stories. Blowing them up was good for a moment of shock value, even if going for the same shock value twice is a pretty dumb mistake professional writers should know better than, but it doesn't subsequently offer anything new for the Space Wolves or the Cadian Shock Troops to do. It turns the Space Wolves into yet another chapter who lost their homeworld except that most chapters with that background usually didn't have such a strong and developed investment in their origins as the Space Wolves do (everything from their psyker training to the board games they play are established to have a strong connection to Fenris). Meanwhile, every Cadian regiment in the galaxy is just the Tanith First & Only without the Scottish nationalism and we've already had thirteen novels and a short story collection featuring those guys (and please, please release The Warmaster soon, Black Library), nevermind the fact that a couple decades further down the timeline they'll just all be dead or charging out of the trenches on their grav-zimmers.
This isn't plot progression, this is empty spectacle seemingly building to the creation of a Horus Heresy-esque status quo with a new Old Night and a new Great Crusade.
Well, okay, but there are warp storms everywhere already and its not like the Imperium is short on crusades left, right and centre. Mainly right, ultra far right (fascism joke). Its not actually much of a change and how screwing over the Cadians and Space Wolves (the latter, at least being a really, really popular faction) was useful in setting it up is questionable at best.
Its just massive overcompensation. Instead of actually taking a look at the dozens and dozens of potential plot hooks they've been dangling for the end of the 41st millennium in their Codex timelines and using those to drive the plot forward one army at a time they just decide to make a big noise blowing up perfectly useful planets for show and trying to make the setting more like The Horus Heresy because that system is massively popular with high-spending players.
Oh, well, its not as if I paid much attention when they destroyed the Warhammer World, is it?