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Friday, 22 May 2020

New Firestorm Backgrounds

Warcradle is pushing out a fair amount of content on FSA of late (hey, it's what has got me to post again!), and a fair bit of it has been mixed concept art/background pieces. I'll cover the concept art on another post (I think it deserves it) but I'll go through the background pieces that have been put out so far as they foreshadow more than pretty pictures.

Terran Directorate

Yep, Warcradle led with this one out of the dock on their new Black Ocean Facebook page, and here's the first of the bigger departures from pre-existing fluff (let's call it "Spartan Lore"). The new Terran faction are a melding of the old Terran Alliance, Directorate, Works Raptor and Hawker. I kinda get why Warcradle did this, but as a former Directorate player, I can't say this fills me with joy. Now, without a Spartan Lore historical perspective, this is fine - it makes the Terrans a much wider faction with a LOT more ship options (as a core faction), and the Directorate were, at one time, part of the Alliance anyway, so you could almost view it as an "alternate timeline" evolution of the game. Again, as a former Directorate/Zenian player as my first choice, I'm unsure about how this will play out in terms of the game, so I will have to wait until we see some beta rules until I make further judgements.

Dindrenzi Federation

The Dindrenzi still mourn Dramos, they still use big electromagnetic rail guns and they still have big armour plates. There is some detail in here about their society and so on, but overall the flavour has not changed much as far as I can see.

Sorylian Congress

The Sorylians were always clever military tacticians, and this wasn't terribly well reflected in their gameplay on the board. Their ships were fast, in order to bring their scatter cannon into range as soon as possible, and their squadron sizes were larger due to their superior tactics. Sorylian small and medium ships were their strength, with their battleship seen as a bit of a lumberer. They weren't good at the more personal three-dimensional experience, so didn't use SRS as much as other races (consider they were waging war against the Aquans and Relthoza, who both were good at that - why confront an enemy on their strong fronts?). They were also the race that first set up a wormhole network (or at least, utilised an existing one and expanded on it), with this tech being integral to their society.

The recent fluff has them controlling drone fighters which are able to pivot about their axis and launching salvos of kinetic weapons, both as they drop from lightspeed. Their three subspecies are engineered, as they are now master geneticists (a slot previously held by the Aquans - but more on them later). They are still measured, superb scientists, and they still hail from Kerendar. Overall, I don't think the fluff changes so far for the Sorylians are much beyond trivial. Sorylians have always had long-range kinetics, though they were really something designed to harass the enemy either into closing or to strike whilst the fast frigates and cruisers closed with the enemy fleet.

Veydreth Authority

The Veydreth are now one of the eight factions of the new Warcradle FSA, and they now hail from Oroshan (which I guess means that particular faction are no more in their own right). Their ship aesthetic is VERY different from before, incorporation elements of the original Oroshan designs but they are really 100% Warcradle otherwise. Veydreth used to be fearsome centauroid creatures - now they are gangly bipedals, and the Terran moniker of "Star Dragons" comes from the look of their ships, not the creatures themselves. I think this is the only piece I am a bit disappointed with here, centauroid star dragons were interesting...gangly bipedals just seem a bit "meh" by comparison. The Veydreth fluff in Spartan Lore was "spartan", which is I suppose why Warcradle used them as the basis of creating another faction where they could run amok without annoying too many people! Much of the background is a fusion of SL Veydreth and SL Oroshan with Warcradle overlay and reimagining. Overall, I can't say that this version is particularly disruptive or upsetting to too many people.

Ryushi (part of the Storm Zone Coalition)

The Ryushi were always wanderers, and they remain so in Warcradle's iteration of FSA. Warcradle have built up the narrative in a bit more of a joined-up way (never a strong point of Spartan), and expanded it with some nice detail. The Ryushi are one of the races in the Storm Zone Coalition, which also includes the Xelocians, Sauran Guild, Rangers of Terquai, Jowrion Disciples, Illosi, Shevaka and Kedorians. I wonder if all these races will be represented by Warcradle, or we'll just get those races which already have ships....I personally would love to see the Illosians finally - the one last project at SG which was never realised before I ceased association with them.

A'quan Sebrutan

So you'll notice that the Aquans are now the A'quan, a change which I'm not really understanding - it almost seems like the GW penchant for making names they can trademark (like Orruks instead of Orks), and that may well be the case here - I don't know. Anyway, the fishy dudes are a BIG departure from prior fluff - essentially you can scrap all the fish jokes guys, because THEY'RE NO LONGER FISH. No, instead of hailing from a water world, A'quan are now sentient bi-mechanical space-dwellers, each one being located within - and one with - the ship around it.

A'quans have a very different "feel" in this new iteration - before they were somewhat benign, expert geneticists and a little "Tau" in their kind of philosophy. Now they are disruptive star-eating individuals that are kind of a galactic pain in the ass and pretty aggressive. They're space-hornets.

I'm a bit on the fence on this one. It's kind of cool, but I can imagine it's not going to sit well with a lot of existing Aquan (no " ' " intended) players. There are some other interesting snippets in the fluff here too which indicate departures in their gameplay too - gravity shears are mentioned, along with their "unique" ability to manipulate gravity...not sure what that means for you, Tarakian players... and you thought Aquans were too powerful before.... lol. another interesting thing is the mention of the "Vo'nar Holotype" - the Vo'nar being a long-mentioned but never realised Spartan race that was around Relthozan space....seems Warcradle have dusted that one off and incorporated it into A'quans now -which does make sense given their new directions.

Relthoza Unity

OK, my favourite faction, what I started Firestorm Armada out with, the spiders. Again, another BIG departure from SL here, and I must say, one I'm not really feeling. Essentially you can bin all of the Dindrenzi first contact, misunderstood cultural concepts and uneasy alliance of SL, the Relthoza never met another species before becoming the Unity. This AI cloud consciousness was once a way for the Relthoza to prevent internal wars, but became out of control, and subsumed the Relthoza into itself, becoming the Unity. It learned exponentially, and developed space travel fast etc etc - now it must bring peace to all life.

In effect, the Relthoza are now a kind of "Pathogen with a Purpose", and in fact it seems Pathogen are now merely unity ships seeking independence. Hmmm.

Now I know Stuart from Warcradle is a Rick & Morty fan, and Unity is exactly this in that series....does this make a good direction for the Relthoza? Well, for me, no. If I'd wanted to play that kind of consuming plague, I'd play Pathogen (and I have). The Relthoza, however, appealed to me both for the look of their ships, and their arachnid klingon-esque militarism. Whilst the new Warcradle concept art for the Relthoza looks fantastic, I'm just not excited by their fluff. The "Hive Mind" thing is a common, and a little tired, trope in Sci-Fi, and I think it makes the Relthoza much more bland than they were before.

Overall Takeaways

So I said before, Stuart has stated and the fluff released thus far emphasises it, Warcradle's FSA is a new game. It's NOT the SL FSA we knew, and it's probably best to come at it from that PoV. At the moment I will hold judgement until I see beta rules before I decide if it's a game that I want to learn...if it is then the fluff is not necessary, I can have whatever fluff I want for my universe, ignoring anything I don't like. Otherwise I will just use the new models to refresh and fill in gaps in my existing fleets, and play the game I already know - not the end of the world.

Monday, 11 May 2020

FSA v3 on the horizon...

Well once again the world has changed dramatically since my last post in 2019...I've a new house with my partner (both of which demand a lot of my personal time!), COVID-19 has made work busy (we manufacture testing equipment and tests for COVID-19, and supply the UK government - among others - with these for the 100,000 tests/day requirement) and lockdown makes everything in the physical world slightly more awkward. My Roll20 D&D game continues unaffected, which is great, but what of other, physical, games?

On this note, Boris is lifting restrictions (slightly) as of yesterday, and Warcradle are being more vocal about their version of Spartan's old IP, Firestorm Armada. Much has changed, and I think it best to view the game as something completely new compared to the old. For example, bases have now changed to Hexagonal...why?...I've no idea! I've not been involved in this edition at all, beyond a couple of early conversations and discussions a couple of years ago. Back then, it became clear that my (and the old FSA testing groups) view of FSA was very different from some others from the old community involved in those discussions - creating something of a regional split in thinking between NA and Europe from what I could see.

Anyway, my real life became dominant, and games like Firestorm waned in my personal priorities. I was also getting way more fun out of D&D than arguing with people about game theory in a fictional universe set way in the seemed far too much like work. So I've been very much out of the loop in all things Firestorm fro a good long time.

I think this is a good thing - now I get to view and enjoy the future game as a player, rather than having to think of nuances and consequences of decisions taken in good faith and then criticised or misinterpreted by others "out there". The atmosphere at SG was very toxic towards the end in both business and community, so I see this as a very positive development. My only hope is that many of those (vocal) individuals from that time end up shaping the old game we all love into something we no longer recognise and don't find as enjoyable. At the moment I'm cautious - I love the concepts coming out of the Warcradle studio, but when I hear things like Hex bases I think "Why?"

This is part of my psychological makeup, I know - in DISC terms (look it up if you've no idea what I'm on about!) I'm a high D, high I problem solver - I do a lot of kaizen/process improvement things with work, and I see issues in plans and process easily...and want to work to a solution, to make it better. It's one of the reasons I ended up working with SG in rules development, and the driver is always to make things better for everyone. Of course, from outside, people can see it as negative/disruptive/arrogant - but then, people see what they want to.

So back to the Hex bases. I look at the old FSA and the things that "needed" (it's a strong word, v2.0 was actually not a bad ruleset) changing (or tweaking, at least - maybe a better word is "streamlining") did not include basing or firing maybe the new ruleset has tactical and strategic elements that make this introduction either necessary or it adds a new layer of awesome....but off the top of my head I can't think of any. Some of the complexity of the old FA in ship stats was in firing arcs, so I'm interested to see how more facings will be dealt with in game. Whatever this is. and however this is dealt with, it's a seed change in the game itself, because bases used to define movement and firing, it's different from every other instance of the game. It might not seem much, but it affects core mechanics - so straight away those of you expecting a few "tweaks" are going to be disappointed.

Then there is the lore....Stuart indicated before that this will be a reboot of the game, and although some aspects are there (Dramos being nuked, for example), Warcradle have re-imagined the universe...not a bad thing (and they did the same with DW), but those of you expecting Directorate Fleets being the secretive baddies against the Terran Alliance will not be happy. There are 8 new factions incorporating all the old SG races, but fused into things with a different face and feel. Just take some of the description of the Sorylians firing kinetics whilst slowing from lightspeed and it's a very different image than the rather lumbering lizards with their scatter broadsides and odd kinetic sniper.

Now I'm not saying either of these things (radical rules reshaping and lore re-imagining) are necessarily a bad thing. They're DIFFERENT from before, that's all. Now how you view this depends on what you're looking for from FSA v3 (not a name we're likely to see, by the way). if you're looking for the next iteration of FSA v2, then you're likely to be disappointed, aggrieved or even angry. If you're looking for a space combat game that you can use your old models with in a slightly refreshed universe, then you're likely to be pleased.

This is why, from my side, you should be looking at Warcradles Firestorm Armada as a different thing from SGs FSA - it's like Prometheus is to the Alien saga - it doesn't have the original xenomorphs, it doesn't have Ripley/Sigourney Weaver in, though it is set in the same universe and is part of the same franchise. I personally loved Prometheus, but many did not...I'm sure the same will be the case with the new Firestorm Armada.