Friday, April 8, 2022

40K Friday - Warhammer Plus ... 8 Months In


So I've talked about the service at launch and a month or so in but I haven't said much since - so how is it?

The short version? It's ... disappointing.

There is some really cool stuff here but they are so slow to release material that it feels like something is out of balance when it comes to price or content  - it just feels like there are problems in the pipeline somewhere. 

Animations are supposed to the big draw here, right? Well ...

  • Angels of Death is very cool, the "most" 40K thing on the service. There are ten episodes adding up to 190 minutes of space marines doing space marine stuff. It took the over 3 months to get all of that out, so it was not even an every week kind of release schedule, but the end result is good.
  • Hammer and Bolter has also made it to ten episodes. Now it took 7 months to get there and considering they launched with 3 episodes ready to watch it has been roughly one new 20-minute show per month. Seriously. That's terrible. What they have produced has been mostly interesting, at least. These are stand-alone stories and the subject matter has varied from orks to chaos marines to eldar to adeptus mechanicus and more so this is the not-marine area of content. I am still not a fan of the animation style but I can deal with it for now. It's just really slow to release. 
  • Oh look - they put Astartes up on the service ... all 13 minutes of it. Yeah, I'm not giving credit for something that was produced and freely available on YouTube before Warhammer Plus went live.
  • They have a 5 minute video of the armoring of a space marine.This is listed with the other animations as if it's a comparable work. It's not. This is effectively a videogame cutscene or a videocard rendering benchmark.
  • The Exodite - alright, it looked like we were getting a tau-focused show with some serious animation and we did ... for an episode or two. Then it became much more about the eldar ... then it ended! yes, apparently 3 ten-minute "episodes" are the complete series. It took 5 weeks to get the 2nd and 3rd episodes out. It looks pretty but there's no depth to it at all. This really just adds up to one episode of a show, not a complete series. 

They have battle reports too. In 8 months they've managed to put out 8 40k batreps, 3 Kill Team batreps, 5 Sigmar batreps, and 1 Warcry batrep. So, 17 battle reports showing people how the game  is played on a service that touts weekly content updates. That's roughly one every two weeks so far. That still seems light for the company that makes these games, makes these minis, and has staff devoted to making and testing and painting these things. There are YouTube channels with strong production values that release more frequently than that. 

There is an internal talk show that discusses their other shows, sort of like "Talking Dead" was with Walking Dead. I've never been super excited about these kinds of shows because I have a)friends and b) the internet where I can talk about them myself ... interactively. They've managed 4 episodes of this and if it's your cup of tea that's great but I would never pay for this kind of content. 

Beyond these we have:

  • Loremasters - there are 15 episodes of this now. It's the same thing I discussed in September. It's a guy reading well-travelled lore from other sources - there is nothing new here - mixed with slow pans and zooms of artwork you've seen many times before. I suppose it's something you could listen to while painting but even then if you've read, for example, any of the Gotrek books, you're not going to learn anything new about Gotrek in his episode of Loremasters. It's 18 minutes of summary ... like the Cliff's Notes version of an abridged audio book. 
  • 24 episodes of "Citadel Colour Masterclass" - it's a painting tutorial. Each one focuses on a specific subject - faces, ork flesh, grey knight armor - and it's totally fine but there are many, many painting tutorials out there on YouTube and the rest of the internet. I would never pay for this - considering the nature of the business, this should be something they put out on their YT channel and their web page for free. They do have videos like this on the Warhammer YT channel but it looks like they are different videos. Regardless, there are a lot of good painters out there who are happy to show off techniques for free. This is a nice extra but it's not a reason to subscribe. 
  • They have a "Learn to Play" series of videos for each of the games they make. Excellent! They should! Many game companies do this now - and no one should ever pay for them. Again, there are many free resources out there on the internet that can show you how to play Game X. 
  • Finally there are trailers. They have a trailers section for shows they have produced, are producing, and will be releasing in the future. They also release these on the YouTube channel so it's not as if they are exclusive or anything but I think it's symptomatic of this company's, and this service's problems - they think trailers are content. They're not - they are advertisements for what should be your real content. But when you don't have enough content you start announcing trailers as if they were the real show. 

The other part of the Warhammer Plus subscription service is the Vault and this is something I think could have some real value but it weirdly implemented right now. This web site allows you to access issues of older White Dwarf magazines and the "lore" parts of older codexes and game supplements - stuff from prior editions. This could be really cool but it's presented as  PDFs that can't really be downloaded separately, say into a reader program of some kind. They also have all of the game-specific material cut out which is jarring to those of us who were around in those days. It's a weirdly insecure policy, as if they're afraid someone might try to (gasp!) play one of those old versions of the game if they left the stats from Curse of the Wulfen or Warzone Valedor in there. I have mixed feelings about it right now but I think it could turn into a really cool repository of old Warhammer lore someday.  

The 40k app still has problems - I see bugs brought up almost every day in various online groups. I trust Battlescribe far more than do the 40k app, even after this much time. I have no idea what state the Sigmar app is in as I haven't touched it in months. 

Overall I have very mixed feelings on Warhammer Plus. Part of me says hey, it's only 6$ a month and if you're using one of the apps then all of the rest is a bonus. The problem is that there are free alternatives to everything it offers - many of which are better than what GW is offering. There are many battle reports, painting guides, lore channels, and even army builders out there. Even the vault material is out there in physical from, albeit for a price. The only thing that is truly exclusive to this service is the animation content and I feel like that was over-promised and under-delivered. It's been slow to release and when it is released there have been multi-week gaps between episodes which damages interest in the story - well, where there is one. I'm going to ride out the rest of my first year but at the end of that time I'm going to have to think about whether I want to keep supporting something that feels this lackluster.