Dark Nexus Arena has blown our collective minds. This is a big deal – Games Workshop might have done something good for once and let’s not kid ourselves – Warhammer 40k video games, by and large, suck. They’re pretty much universally terrible, despised by reviewers and fans of gaming and the franchise alike, seen as nothing more than cash grabs with maybe a passing respect for either gaming or the lore but never both. Every time a new game is announced we still come around, hoping not to be sorely disappointed yet again by an inferior product given maybe a passable paint job over a rotten core.
Conversely, this is one of the reasons we love Whitebox Interactive. They love Warhammer 40k as much as we do, and there’s not a single table in the dev pit that isn’t littered with paint, codex books, models, and art work. In those quiet moments before the dev team trickles in, the office looks like a gathering of fans that have come together to share tips and play some table top.
Even after the offices fill up, there’s banter about the armies and their strengths and weaknesses, arguments over color schemes, heated discussions about bits of the lore. It’s pretty great, and lets us know that these are people that love Warhammer 40k as much as we do.
It’s a good place to start understanding why the game is so damn playable.
We’ve been part of the beta testing team for a few weeks now, delving into the depths of the characters on offer and learning the mechanics of the game. We sit in, mostly, but the hardcore mechanics are there, melded with the lore in such a way that the whole experience traps you and feels authentic.
Dark Nexus Arena isn’t a Warhammer 40k MOBA; it’s what every Warhammer 40k video game dreams of being when it grows up. It’s not even a real MOBA, not as they’re currently understood. DNA is to the fastest growing genre in video games what Doom was to the first person shooter in the early nineties – such a giant leap forward in technology and application that every other game feels like a fading echo.
MOBAs grew out of real time strategy games. They started as Warcraft III hacks. A lot of the control mechanisms are still designed around real time strategy, when the simple truth is that interface is dated and has no place in the modern scene. It’s a vestigial organ that DNA does away with, giving us complete control over our character in a way that is both intuitive and groundbreaking.
Warhammer 40k has developed the most complex lore in all of gaming. Starcraft? Warcraft? Diablo? Cool games with interesting lore that they cribbed from Game Workshop. Amazing how the Tyranids / Zerg and the Eldar / Protoss are still invading Imperium / Terran territories, isn’t it? Forsake? Vampire Counts. Prime Evils? Gods of Chaos, C’Tan, take your pick. And they’re not the only ones that have done this.
The point is, everyone cribs off the grandaddy of them all, and everyone falls short of capturing the true scope and majesty that Warhammer 40k brings to the table. The technology was never there to grasp it until this very second. Because here’s the truth: Whitebox Interactive has done it. Every faction. Every major character type. Everything. It’s all in this game, it’s all drawn from the lore, and it is perfect.
Now, we should note that one game came close – Dawn of War. A game that came out of the now defunct real time strategy genre, it brought all the armies to the table. Every faction was represented, and it added an engaging story that drew on the lore Games workshop has established to tell a hell of a story. It’s PvP was some of best of its time, but it failed to take advantage of one of the best and biggest parts of Warhammer 40k. It did not give you the ability to customize your army.
Customization has been a part of Warhammer 40k from the get go. Creativity is a big part of that culture, and that customization has recently found a place in video game lore. From the create-a-wrestler modes of the wrestling games to the hats of Team Fortress to the conversational models of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, a personal experience has become part of what video gamers crave. Dawn of War couldn’t give them that. Dark Nexus Arena can.
Over sixty character types are planned at present. Each character has 5 basic skins for players to choose from, and every skin can be customized with symbols or colors of everything – armor, weapons, symbols, even explosions and attacks. There is no part of the player’s character that cannot be customized to fit the player’s taste, making each character as unique as the player wishes.
Better still, there’s no need to invest in characters the player isn’t interested in. Real time strategies forced you to manage resources so that you could get to the characters you wanted to play with, whereas Dark Nexus Arena starts you off with what you want. No wasted time. No milling about, farming, prolonging the experience. No, this is exactly what you crave from start to finish.
Yeah, sure, there’s only Orks and Tau and some Imperium in play now, but we’re starting to see the Chaos and Necrons that Whitebox Interactive has planned, and they’ll blow you away with their detail and differences in play. We’ve only seen them being tested, but we can’t wait to get our mitts on them and rampage through the Dark Nexus Arena with them, and we wait with baited breath to see what Whitebox Interactive plans on unleashing next.
As Games Workshop abandons an expansion of lore for the quick cash grab of ever more expensive models, Whitebox Interactive has picked up the torch to provide a lore-intensive, intuitive, and immersive experience. They have the love of the lore and skill of development, and they’ve combined both to make a game that is going to rock the grim darkness of the future, there is every other MOBA vying for second, and Dark Nexus Arena shining like the favored Primarch of the God Emperor himself.