Saturday, April 15, 2023

REVIEW: Arks of Omen - The Lion

The wait is finally over! The final book of the Arks of Omen series, and the much anticipated return of a certain Primarch has finally arrived. The Lion is here, and with him the conclusion of Vashtorr's nefarious scheme. What has he been building to? Where did the Lion come from? How's Dante involved? Let's find out!

First off, I would like to thank Games Workshop for sending me free PDF copies of these books to review. I've been really enjoying this series so far. I'm going to cover each book seperately, and will mostly focus on the lore, while just briefly touching on the rules in each one. Now, let's take a look at Arks of Omen: The Lion! Just a quick warning, this review is a little more spoiler heavy than past ones, as it’s hard to avoid with the final book.

It's all been building to this. Four books, more than half a year of hype, and we finally get to find out what happens leading us into the upcoming 10th edition! This books wastes no time, and we're immediately introduced to the newly returned Lion. The book doesn't go into a ton of detail about how he first returned to the Imperium. There's a brief mention that he woke up one day and was in a mysterious forest, implied to be Caliban. From that forest he's able to appear anywhere in the galaxy. Basically a warp portal, but tied to Caliban and the Watchers in the Dark, who have probably been watching over him as he healed in his sleep. It sounds like he's been active for awhile now, but only fighting in the Imperium Nihlus, explaining why Guilliman hasn't been aware. He's just been showing up where he's most needed and helping out the beleaguered Imperial forces. There's a brief mention about how the Blood Angels have been tracking this mysterious figure. Since Dante as the head of the entire Imperium Nihlus, that makes sense why he would want to find out what's happening. They're able to track him due to a unique psychic signature he leaves at the sites he visits. When we meet the Lion he's already on the flagship of the Blood Angels as a guest of Dante, and they're all on their way to confront Vashtorr. We don't find out how he linked up with the Blood Angels, which is a bit sad, as I'm sure it's a great story.

He also has a handful of Fallen with him. He sought them out and has redeemed and forgiven them. These are the one who haven't fallen to Chaos and were just on the wrong side of the war. He calls them The Risen, and they're kind of a personal guard to him. He wants to seek out as many of the Fallen as he can to either redeem them or kill them if they're too far gone. I have to imagine a lot of these questions and events are going to be answered in the upcoming Lion novel, but I admit it's a bit disappointing that it's not touched upon more here. This is a BIG moment in 40k history and a huge resolution to a decades long plot point. Does he know about Guilliman? How does he feel about that? What about the existence of Chapters since he was put  into a coma before that happened. I plan on getting the novel, and I highly expect it will all be addressed there. I mean, a novel is probably an easier place to address these topics as they're more cerebral and less fighty, but still. I think I would have liked a bit more here. Who made his new armor? How did he get the Emperor's Shield?

From there we leave the Lion and the Blood Angels and rejoin the Dark Angels as they also make their way to the Somnium Stars, where Vashtorr supposedly is. They have gathered together as many of the other Unforgiven Chapters to their side to help as possible. It's mentioned that it's nearly legion sized at this point. Led by Azrael the collected Marine force arrived at the Somnium Stars where a vast fleet of Chaos warships awaited them, and behind that fleet an indistinct object. Met with great resistance the Unforgiven fought their way through the Chaos fleet and finally found what they had been guarding, a planet twisted by the warping energies of Chaos, part industrial hell scape, part demon world, the truth was finally laid bare. Before them was Caliban reborn as a demon world, renamed Wyrmwood. Using all of the collected artifacts, Vashtorr had brought this hellish nightmare into reality. The Arkifane then revealed to Abaddon what he had been seeking all along. Amongst all of the artifacts were 3 pieces to what he called the Key, which would open the Vault. This Vault laid outside reality and the warp, for it contained some ancient weapons from the War in Heaven, either of Old One or Necrontyr design, it's not revealed which. To access it they must bore through the webway by uniting the elements of the Key. One of these Key fragments was at the center of lost Caliban, hence why it needed to be brought back.

Unwilling to let this affront to nature stand, a large strike force of the Dark Angels and Unforgiven launched an assault on the surface of Caliban, while the rest of the forces stayed in orbit to fight the battle against the traitor fleet. Upon the surface the Dark Angels eventually fought their way to a ritual circle where Angron himself was summoned into reality. As a nice tie in, I think this might be what we saw at the end of the Angron book where he was summoned away by random cultists. If so, that's a really nice tie in. In fact, there are a lot of great little connective bits scattered throughout the Arks of Omen books which at first might not seem like anything, but then when you read the next book it falls into place. While the Dark Angels were fighting the World Eater forces on the surface, a new fleet arrived on the outskirts of the system. The Blood Angels had arrived and with them the Lion! The forces in orbit were stunned to learn that their Primarch had returned, but vox communications with the surface were garbled, so they were unable to inform Azrael. Dante then led a relief force himself down to the surface while the Lion disappeared into his mysterious forest realm. Dante intervened directly into the confrontation with Angron and held him at bay at the cost of much of his Sanguinary Guard. Eventually Dante himself was laid low, but before the final blow could be struck Lion El'Johnson stepped forth onto the planet's surface. He would face his brother alone and give Azrael enough time to save the Chapter Master of the Blood Angels. Meanwhile in orbit, Abaddon tried his best at wiping out the Imperial forces and protecting the world, and Vashtorr worked on obtaining the last piece of the key. There was something he was trying to obtain from the Rock earlier that he failed at, but now the Rock had conveniently come to him and his demon world...

This all leads into the final confrontation, which I'll leave to you to read. Who will come out victorious? The Red Angel or The Lion? Will Vashtorr succeed in creating The Key? Will the Vault be unlocked? Overall I enjoyed this book, but I was still just a bit let down by the lack of explanation for The Lion. It's also never mentioned how or why Dante crossed the Rubicon Primaris. I did enjoy the confrontation between the two Primarch brothers, as well as the Dark Angels finally reuniting with their Primarch. All of the battles were pretty fun and engaging too. There was a good mix of space battles in here, and I'm a sucker for a good space battle. I really hope we see the direct consequences of Vashtorr's plan fairly soon in 10th edition. I kind of feel like it will be sidetracked for awhile though with the new Tyrannic War. I'm also eagerly awaiting the reunion of the Lion and Guilliman. That's going to be super interesting. 

On the rules side of things we get the final set of faction rules for Boarding actions with rules for the Leagues of Votann, Custodes, Thousand Sons, and Agents of the Imperium. This includes special rules for forming your party, as well as a few more Stratagems specific to each faction. Nothing overwhelming though, with only a handful of new Enhancements and 6 or so Stratagems per faction. We also get some new scenarios for something called Dread Encounters, as well as Breaching Actions. Dread Encounters are a mix of climatic moments from the entirety of the Arks series, as well as other cool ideas that utilize some rather unique rules and twists. Breaching Actions use the new pieces of scenery from the Soulshackle Kill Team set, mainly the breachable walls. We get 6 Dread Encounters, and 12 Breaching Actions. At the very end we also get some new datasheets and points for The Lion, Dante, Imperial Breachers, Rogue Traders, and the 3 flavors of Arbites. You can get most, if not all of these online for free right now too from GW. I'm really excited to see the Arbites rules. At this point I'll be waiting for 10th to do anything, but this at least gives me an idea of what they're likely to do.

With the Arks of Omen series completed I'm super looking forward to 10th edition, for both the new gameplay, as well as the continuation of the storyline. The Tyrannic War looks awesome, but I'm also excited to see what happens with this Vault. If it involves the Necrons I'm even more excited. No way the Silent King would let Abaddon and Vashtorr just abscond with a bunch of Necron technology and weapons. The Lion also has a ton of narrative potential. I can't see the two remaining loyalist Primarchs seeing eye to eye on everything. They have some history too with the Imperium Secondus.

If I had to rank the books for me it would be: Angron; Farsight; Lion; Abaddon; Vashtorr.

What did you think of the Arks of Omen series? Which book was your favorite and where would you like to see this storyline go in the future?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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