Mordheim: City of the Damned was revealed recently, an adaptation of the 1999 boardgame that featured various Warhammer Fantasy factions, made up of smaller scale warbands, kicking the crap out of each other in the ruins of the titular city. I recently had the chance to speak to first-time development studio Rogue Factor's lead designer, Bruno Parenteau, about the game.
Strategy Informer: For those who've never heard of the boardgame, could you tell us about the setting of Mordheim?
Bruno Parenteau: Basically the background of Mordheim is that it's a city in the Warhammer universe where a comet fell, and since then all hell's broken loose. The comet had some things called 'wyrdstones' in it, and whether it's the Empire or the Skaven or the Possessed, everyone wants this resource. So that's the reason for all the factions to get there and get their hands on the wyrdstone, which leads to bloody battles. It's a cursed city as well, so a lot happens there, a lot of unnatural stuff happens. So it won't be just the other warbands that are the issue, the city itself is an enemy.
Strategy Informer: So Mordheim will have both singleplayer and mulitplayer, could you tell us what we can expect from the campaign?
Bruno Parenteau: We do have a campaign, that's for sure. We're not ready to disclose any information on it yet, but that will come very soon. But there is a campaign.
Strategy Informer: Okay, so how about combat?
Bruno Parenteau: So on the tabletop game, players would play their entire warband at once, and then the enemy would do so. We decided to move away from that, so every unit has an initiative value, and based on how you build your unit and your equipment, you'll play your units in a specific order. So it will alternate between you and the enemies, and it will go on until the turn ends.
Strategy Informer: Presumably there will be the usual skill trees, special moves and so on?
Bruno Parenteau: Each warband will be made up of a specific number of units, and those units will have access to skills, but those skills will not necessarily be linked to the units. Players will be able to add statistic points to their units, their weapons and also decide which skills they want to purchase for their units.
Strategy Informer: And you can equip your warband with whatever weapons and equipment you like?
Bruno Parenteau: Indeed. Obviously every unit will be restricted to a specific group of weapons, because certain units don't use certain weapons. Sisters of Sigmar, say, don't use bows or ranged weapons, so you'll be restricted by that, but otherwise you'll be able to decide which type of weapon you want to equip your units with.
Strategy Informer: Speaking of factions, which ones will make an appearance in the game?
Bruno Parenteau: Right now we've got four factions that we've unveiled, which are the human mercenaries from the Empire, the Skaven, the Sisters of Sigmar, which are a special group that exist only in Mordheim, and then we have the Cult of the Possessed, which are basically mutants. All factions from the original boardgame.
Strategy Informer: Can you play as each of these factions in the singleplayer, or is that only the Empire?
Bruno Parenteau: We are still debating when we'll reveal everything about the campaign. So we don't want to commit, but we have plans, that's for sure. Every warband will be playable to some extent in both campaign and multiplayer.
Strategy Informer: So about those wyrdstones. Are they basically objectives to capture, or do they do other crazy things too?
Bruno Parenteau: Well they are resources, but as mentioned they're pretty much stuff made out of Chaos (primal energy that offers power, but quickly corrupts the weak-willed). So gathering them will not only 'go in, get them and get out', every time you pick them up there might be weird, unwanted effects that occur. Or maybe not! It's Chaos after all, so you never really know what happens. So they might change the course of battle, but they can also be sold, earning faction reputation and money to allow you to get your characters levelled up and equipped.
Strategy Informer: So, as always in Warhammer, you've got to be a little wary of Chaos!
Bruno Parenteau: Yeah exactly! Touching Chaos stuff is always tricky and can be an unpleasant surprise...
Strategy Informer: Presumably there are spellcasters you can recruit?
Bruno Parenteau: Yes, there are. Just like skills you'll be able to decide what spells you want your character to learn. And as this is the Warhammer universe, it's always dangerous to use magic, because that also comes from Chaos, so it might again bring unwanted outcomes in the battle.
Strategy Informer: Okay, so what about the maps and levels we'll be fighting on? Is there both an exploration mode and a combat mode?
Bruno Parenteau: Well we have two different map types. We have maps that are pre-set for the campaign, so in the story we have those where we control everything. And then we have the maps when you go wandering in the city, those are generated procedurally, so you never fight in the same map twice. So basically this will bring you different advantages and disadvantages, and different ways to explore the city. In multiplayer, if you're the type who wants to know every inch of the map, you can use those campaign maps that are always identical, but if you want more of a challenge you can play with procedural map and you''' never never how the layout will turn out.
Strategy Informer: Talking of challenge, will there be an XCOM-style 'Iron Man' mode?
Bruno Parenteau: Actually that's what the game is all about. Mordheim is a pretty hardcore place, so if your character dies in battle, he's gone. How this works is in battle your character will become out of action and won't be able to fight, and after the battle you'll find out how bad the wound is. So he might not die, but he could end of with one arm chopped off. He can still fight, but he's not going to be able to dual-wielding, no more shields and so on. So injuries will have a big impact on the game. This is a hardcore city and a hardcore game. It will affect the development of your warband, and this is true for the campaign and multiplayer too.
Strategy Informer: That's pretty cool. We'll be able to replace soldiers when they run out of limbs, though, right?
Bruno Parenteau: You can hire people, you can build up your team as you desire with the available units you have. Some of them are restricted in the amount you can use, but you can alternate between certain teammates for each battle. If you go inside a building and think your marksman won't be useful, you can use a warrior instead. It's pretty much like a sports team.
Strategy Informer: Will there be opportunities to customise your team cosmetically?
Bruno Parenteau: Yes, definitely. There will be options, we don't want to define everything because we're still working on what we are going to make available to the players, but there will definitely be ways to make your team look unique and different.
Strategy Informer: This is Rogue Factor's first game as a development studio, it must be quite a coup for you to be working on such a popular license as your first project.
Bruno Parenteau: It is pretty awesome. It is our first game from Rogue Factor, but it isn't for the team, because we've got a team of core veterans that have worked on many games in different studios, which brings a lot of of interesting views on the game. And we are all fans of Games Workshop and their different games, some people love the Fantasy wargames, some love 40K. So we've touched on everything that Games Workshop has done in terms of tabletop games, and that brings a different influx of information for the video game version we want to do.
Strategy Informer: How closely do you work with Games Workshop on the lore and the feel of the game?
Bruno Parenteau: We work very, very closely with them, and in fact they review with us everything we want to add. They also discuss things and give us a lot of feedback, to help us make the best licensed game that we can.
Strategy Informer: Did they work on the campaign story, or is that your creation?
Bruno Parenteau: It's a mixture of both really, we work with them on everything so obviously they help us, but we have a professional writer on the team. So we're still working with them on the story very closely.
Strategy Informer: Is there anything else you think players will be excited to see in Mordheim: City of the Damned?
Bruno Parenteau: This game will be as fun in the campaign as it will in the multiplayer, because that's what the tabletop game is about, playing with your friends. This is important: we're not just making a singleplayer campaign, we're making a cool campaign and a very cool multiplayer mode, and the setting is hardcore both in city itself and in what happens to your squad.
Strategy Informer: What do you think makes the city of Mordheim a good setting for a video game?
Bruno Parenteau: It's really the feel of the city and the hardcore setting. It's gritty... Warhammer has such an interesting lore behind it and Mordheim is such a unique location in the whole setting, you won't find anywhere else like it. Again, having Chaos stuff in a game can bring you so many surprises, it's really exciting for us to be able to have that in the game and work on it.
Strategy Informer: And I imagine you have fun designing all those Chaos-warped monsters.
Bruno Parenteau: The art director is in heaven, I can assure you!
Strategy Informer: Do you have any future plans for other games in this universe, or other ideas you'd like to add to Mordheim?
Bruno Parenteau: The possibilities are endless, right now we're really focused on Mordheim because that's what we're trying to bring to the player as best as we can, but yes, we're always keeping an eye on the thousands of possible projects in this universe. Because everything is doable! So we'll see what the future brings, but right now we're focusing on Mordheim.
Strategy Informer: I don't suppose you have a tentative release date yet?
Bruno Parenteau: We're still talking about that, so sadly I can't tell you when, but....soon!
Many thanks to Bruno for speaking to me. Try as I might, I couldn't prise any information on a possible release schedule out of the stoic developer. Despite my brutal interrogation, he remained resolute. Expect more information on Mordheim: City of the Damned to surface in the coming months.