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W40K Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters interview: Mortarion and storytelling

Published: 17:03, 14 April 2022
Updated: 00:21, 15 April 2022
Complex Games
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters

We had a chance to talk with the head of Complex Games about the writing for the upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters as well as the possibilities and complications a treasonous Primarch brings.

Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters is setting an interesting precedent for video games with the appearance of a Primarch that can be interacted with, something no video game really did before. 

Previously, the biggest appearance in a 40K video game a Primarch made was by Roboute Guilliman in Battlefleet Gothic Armada and it came down to a few lines of dialogue with still images on the screen. Daemonhunters, however, brings Mortarion in the flesh, wings, tentacles and disease before our Grey Knights and as such, we couldn't resist but keep asking questions about him when the opportunity presented itself.

In this case, the opportunity came in a grand fashion - an interview with Noah Decter-Jackson, the CEO and co-founder of Complex Games. 

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Noah Decter-Jackson (Front-centre, purple shirt) Noah Decter-Jackson (Front-centre, purple shirt)

Having lost time due to technical issues, we quickly jumped into the questions about Daemonhunters and the implications that come with featuring a Primarch in a 40K video game.

AltChar: There are so few video games that are even touching on the topic of Pirmarchs at all right now, so how did it impact the development of Daemonhunters that Mortarion is appearing physically?

Noah Decter-Jackson: Yeah, it was a process... It was a big process to get Mortarion involved, if I can put it that way, and I can't get into the nuts and bolts particularly because these things we generally don't talk about but what I will say... is that with great care [laughs] is the answer because of exactly the reasons you suggest. 

The Primarchs don't generally, or have not up to this point, really appeared in a significant way outside of certain mobile games that cover a wide gamut of personalities. They haven't really appeared as a personality in many digital games for 40K or just the general Warhammer franchise.

And... just getting into that point a little more, because the focus of this game was so specifically on this Bloom and this Galaxy-spanning plague and because that tied so adroitly to Nurgle, we saw it as the ultimate build-up for the conflict in this kind of game and that absolutely from day one we wanted to find a way to get Mortarion into the scope of the challenge that the player would have to face.

We were successful with that and we think we've done it in a very particular way that ties very well to the story and does good service to the IP and GW (Games Workshop) wouldn't have let us do it if they didn't feel that was the case. So, we just think that Mortarion's involvement is super interesting and we think that players will really enjoy how he's worked into the plot.

And he's tough. Very, very tough.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Mortarion in Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters

AC: Grey Knights are obviously powerful badasses but we control four of them at a time and we are going to up against a Primarch so is there a hint of an ace up our sleeve or is it coming down to buffing up our stats and gear?

NDJ: It will come down to more than that but I don't want to... I can't reveal anything that's going to ruin that encounter.

AC: Yeah, I understand it's a spoiler minefield. 

NDJ: It will come up to much more than that but that's all I'm willing to say [chuckles]. I don't think anyone is going to be disappointed by that encounter. That's what I'll give you, it's as far as I can go [chuckles].

Complex Games W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters This could do the trick

AC: So you have Aaron Dembski Bowden as the writing lead on Daemonhunters, who has written some of the most beloved novels in the 40K universe. Does he manage to translate that feeling of a novel into the video game, given the problems with the video game writing complexity?

NDJ: Yeah, we are not trying to translate the feeling of a novel, what we're really trying to translate and what we've worked with Aaron on was trying to recreate this narrative feeling of being immersed in the 40K universe, in the context of the story we can deliver in this kind of game.

Aaron actually has experience beyond the scope of his Black Library work, working in video games. So when we originally pitched him on the idea and he's the person we want to work with... he obviously wrote The Emperor's Gift (a novel involving Grey Knights and a different incident caused by a traitor Primarch) and a ton of other great Black Library novels that we're big fans of.

Complex Games W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters W40K: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters

But with Aaron, he'd already come in with the background of working on some games as a writer. So he sort of understood the kind of constraints that we're under, and really to, kind of, pin it down... our focus was on trying to make sure that we captured great dialogue and really concise moments that tell the beats of the story as you advance through certain research goals, find out more about the Bloom, that allows you to kind of attack this plague in different ways. 

You know, from the introduction of the Inquisitor early on, through chasing the Reapers, which are these massive bosses, through to the end and your confrontations with Mortarion, the focus has been on making sure that our cinematic cutscenes, and more broadly - the other text of the story that you can read and also hear fully, really captures the feeling of being the 40K universe, particularly of commanding a strike force of Grey Knights and also of the tensions that exist in various political factions that you're dealing with.

Complex Games Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters Presumably one of the Reapers

For example, even on Baleful Edict, your ship, you've got an ally in Brother Ectar, who is a veteran Purifier and he's also your advisor, but there is also a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus onboard who you have to work with as well, who's Lunete - a Tech-Priest and Dominus, and then finally, of course, the Inquisitor Vakir herself who arrives very early and drives a lot of the plot. 

They are allies but they are not natural friends. So that kind of interplay between the characters is essential for telling that story and Aaron really helped drive the awesome dialogue that we think is present in the game. 


We would like to extend thanks to Noah Decter-Jackson for taking the time for this interview and Heaven Media for setting it up.

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