Thursday, August 26, 2021

Warhammer+ First Thoughts

Warhammer+ is finally here and yesterday I made sure to sign up nice and early so I could thoroughly explore everything that it offers. So, does it live up to the hype from the past few months? Let's find out!

I've been pretty excited about Warhammer+ ever since it was announced. Well, before then really, since the animations had been teased well in advance. I believe Angels of Death by Richard Boylan was the first animation announced. I love his Helsreach animation, so I was super excited to see what he could do with the full support and financial backing of GW. Warhammer+ offers more than just animations though, it has other shows, as well as the Warhammer Vault too. Since there is so much to cover, I'm going to split up my overview of it into distinct sections.

Warhammer TV

The first part of Warhammer+ that I was super keen to check out were all of the new shows. These are all housed on Warhammer TV. You can find this by going to a website, downloading an app, or as a streaming channel on some devices for your TV. I do have to say that this was initially confusing. There has been so much advertising for Warhammer+ in the past few months, but I don't think Warhammer TV was ever mentioned. I know a few people who didn't even know there was an app they could download for their phone since they were probably searching for Warhammer+, understandably. There definitely needed to be a bit more clarity on this before the launch. I think most people, myself included, assumed that all of it, the shows and the Vault, would be contained within one app/website called Warhammer+. They seem to have since put out more communications trying to clear this all up and make it more apparent, but it was definitely a bit of a missed opportunity ahead of the launch which caused a lot of people to have moments of confusion and frustration.

Moving on from that, I really love the Warhammer TV app/website/streaming channel. They're all organized pretty much the same, regardless of where you're looking at it from. It's a really clean and easy to navigate UI. You have each show with its own block on the UI, so you first need to go into Hammer and Bolter for instance, and then you can pick which episode you want to watch. This is pretty standard for a streaming service. The only one that doesn't seem to follow that is the Battle Report show, which at the moment, shows both the 40k one and the AoS one on the home screen. That might be how they're going to organize that one though, with all of the AoS related ones under one block, and the 40k one under another. As more shows are added to the service in the future though, it might make it a bit cleaner just to lump all of those under one Battle Report block. All in all I think they did a great job on this! Having navigated through some pretty clunky UIs for other streaming services (HBO Max), this one looks and operates great! The one really weird and pretty glaring omission I did notice is a lack of being able to watch the shows in full screen when on a computer. They take up pretty much the whole browser window when you start playing them, but at the moment there seems to be no way to watch it in full screen on your computer.

Angels of Death

Now onto the shows themselves! I managed to watch most of them yesterday, and I have to say, I really enjoyed them all! Since Angels of Death was the one I had been looking forward to the most I started with that. It definitely lived up to my expectations. I was surprised by the length, almost 20 minutes, which was longer than I was expecting. That's almost the length of a regular 30 minute TV show once you take out commercial breaks (they're usually around 22 minutes). Helsreach was done in much smaller chunks, which is what I was expecting, but I guess it makes sense the GW would be able to put our longer episodes.

The visuals look great in this. They definitely have the stylized flair I was expecting from Richard Boylan. I really like the black and white with just the red colors picked out. It looks great, really highlights the Blood Angels, helps set the grim dark mood, and I'm sure lets them get away with a bit more since they can just hide some stuff in shadows when needed. One example is a scene where the marines are putting on their helmets. It looked perfectly natural since the area where their shoulder pads are almost certainly clipping through their backpacks was hidden in deep shadow. This is a great example of their chosen visual style being used to hide some of the "limitations" of Space Marine armor in real life examples.

The story was engaging, the voice acting top notch, and I was surprised by how good the faces look. The only thing that seemed a bit off at time was the mouth movements matching what they're saying. I know that's the hardest part of animating people, so I'm willing to give it a pass and hopefully it will be improved upon with time. All in all I really loved pretty much everything about this show and I'm super excited for the next episode. There wasn't much action in this one since it was setting everything up, but it absolutely nailed the look and feel of 40k. I highly recommend you start watching this show. You can even watch the first 5 minutes of it for free on WarCom!

Hammer and Bolter

Hammer and Bolter is an anthology series, with each episode being a self contained story. It uses a more traditional 2D animation style, and had the episode Old Bale Eye available for free this past Saturday. At time of launch there are three episodes available, including the one mentioned above, and then Death's Hand and Bound for Greatness. Death's Hand follows an inquisitor desperately trying to avoid his own death which has been foretold numerous times in the Emperor's Tarot. Bound for Greatness follows a lowly adept whose only job is to count the number of books in a giant library day after day. One day he starts to notice something a little off. I don't want to give anything away about the plot in either of these, but I enjoyed them a lot.

Death's Hand has a good amount of action, as well as several twists and turns. Bound for Greatness on the other hand is more of a slow burn horror with lots of feelings of paranoia. It does a terrific job at showing how oppressive and horrible the Imperial regime is for the average worker, while also showing off some of the more insidious sides of the 41st millennium. If I had to pick my favorite out of the three it would probably by Death's Hand, but it's a close tie with Bound for Greatness. I actually think Old Bale Eye is the weakest of the bunch, though it's still good. Due to the way its story is told, its animation style is a bit more like moving comic book panels, while the other two have a lot more actual movement in them. I also like how they show the more obscure and dark parts of the 41st millennium. I think this format is perfect for exploring those parts of the lore that aren't taking place on the battlefield. 

The animation style itself reminds me a lot of the animated HBO Spawn series from the early 2000s. That's definitely a good thing as that show was awesome and looked great. They've really nailed the grim dark look with them, without being overly grim dark. I know all of this first season of the show will be set in the 40k universe, but I'm excited to see some AoS content in season 2 hopefully. I think this style would be perfect for following a Witch Hunter of the Order of Azyr, or a horror story in the streets of Ulfenkarn. Again, I really enjoyed this show and am super excited for more episodes in the future.

Battle Report

The official battle report show from GW does everything you'd want it to do. It has beautifully painted armies, amazing looking tables, and engaging hosts. I love that they fully show off both of the armies before hand with some really cool shots. That's always been a bit of a problem with a lot of the battle report channels out there, you don't really get a sense of how the armies look. These also seem to be personal armies of the players, or at the very least not the 'Eavy Metal models. I quite enjoy that since it shows off new color schemes and paint styles. We all know how the 'Eavy Metal armies look already.

The show cuts between overhead shots, side shots, a few close ups of stuff on the table, then interview style shots with each player, presumably shot after the game was done, with them explaining some of their choices or what they did. Stuff like movement is generally sped up, with the player just saying what they did while a few overhead shots are shown. Major combats are all shown with each dice roll, while some smaller ones are also sped up. Each of these is about an hour, so that feels like the right choice. One thing I did notice is that when they're showing the dice rolls, which is in a dice box to the side, you're not always seeing what combat they're actually fighting. For example, near the end of the 40k report they'd be rolling dice for some combat on the other side of the table, while on the screen you're seeing the dice box and then a combat between a dreadnought and some scarabs, just because it happened to be on that board edge. It was a bit confusing, especially while you're looking up periodically while painting like I was. I would love to see them put the dice rolling in a little boxout on the screen while they had the combat it pertains to as the main image. I get why they don't want to roll on the table next to the models, but it would keep everything that's pertinent to the combat on the screen at the same time.

Overall I quite enjoyed them. There were a few times when some of the interview style shots felt a bit stiff, since they're probably reading off of a prepared script, but that will hopefully loosen up a bit with more episodes and experience. I did feel like the 40k report felt a bit more natural, with both players seeming to be "in" the game more. I think they were both using their own armies for that too, which of course would make you more invested. The presentation is pretty nice though and I think it will only improve with time. They use plenty of graphics on screen to make sure you know the score and what units are being selected during the overhead shots. I would also like to see a few more closeups of the units as they're playing, but I also understand those are probably the most difficult to get in the middle of a game.

Painting Masterclass

I only had time to watch the Wet Blending episode of this so far, but I thought it was great! Louise is a fantastic painter and presenter, and the instructions she provided were clear and easy to follow. I really like how they showed multiple examples for wet blending, and also went into stuff like the color wheel. A more advanced painting show is a welcome addition to GW's many video tutorials already out there and I'm really looking forward to watching the one about painting faces and seeing what they cover in future episodes. 

Shooting and composing painting tutorials is something GW is already an expert at and they definitely have it down to a science now. Louise's style and presentation are fun and enjoyable to watch, so it's a winning combination for sure.

Warhammer Vault

The Warhammer Vault is where all of the old publications and magazines can be accessed. This is actually on a separate site and has no app at the time of writing this. At the time of launch it has the Gathering Storm books, a few other 40k campaign books from 7th edition, the first AoS big book, a painting book for AoS, the lore sections from old editions of Warhammer Underworlds, about a year's worth of White Dwarf from 2020, and all of the issues of Warhammer Visions available. All of the campaign books have had their rules removed and just present the lore sections, which works great for me since those are my favorite parts of the books. 

When you select the book you want to view it loads it up as a PDF that you then scroll through page by page. The quality seems super crisp, so there shouldn't be any issue with reading it. I only checked out a few of the books though. I tried it on both my phone and computer, and funnily enough the books loaded much slower on my computer. It took about a minute for a book to open on my computer, where on my phone it was probably 10 seconds or less. I do wish there was a way to view them two pages at a time on my computer, especially when there's two page spreads with gorgeous artwork. I imagine the best way to utilize this is on a tablet which will more accurately replicate the experience of reading a book. I look forward to seeing what other books they add in the future. The End Times series from WFB is an obvious choice. I hope they start digging back into even older issues of White Dwarf as well. I understand that the quality may drop a little once they get into issues that don't have digital versions, but I'm fine with that. As they start adding more books it might be nice to have it organized into categories as well. So I can pick 40k, AoS, WFB, White Dwarf, etc, then scroll through all the choices. It would be fantastic to have White Dwarf organized by year too, so I could filter it down to issues from 2003 or something.

At the moment those are all of the options available from Warhammer+. I understand some people had a hard time signing up for it and picking their free model, but it all went smoothly for me so I can't really comment on it. I REALLY enjoy this, especially the shows. I've wanted Warhammer themed shows ever since I started the hobby 20+ years ago, and it's finally a reality! All of the writing so far seems terrific, the quality of the animation is great, and I can even watch it on my TV through my Roku! I really like the non-animated shows as well and am looking forward to the premiere of Loremasters next week. I'm curious to see what other shows they may come up with as well. Maybe a converting show, or a sculpting show even! Wednesdays are definitely going to be something I look forward to weekly now. I'm already super excited for next Wednesday and hopefully new episodes of Angels of Death and Hammer and Bolter. I do wish the credits on the shows listed the writers and such. Richard Boylan's name isn't even listed on Angels of Death for example. Maybe that's something they can address in the future.

I highly recommend signing up for Warhammer+ if you're a Warhammer fan like myself. The joy of seeing animated shows set in my favorite universes is something I could only have hoped for in years past. The cost isn't too high for everything you get since it also includes the 40k app, and will have the AoS app as well in the future. Personally, I would pay the fee just for the streaming side of it alone. Here's to next Wednesday!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment