Speaking to NME, Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin game designer Daniel Saunders has discussed the effort that goes into turning a Warhammer story into a real-time strategy (RTS) campaign.
Set in the savage realm of Ghur, Realms Of Ruin‘s campaign takes place as a band of Stormcast Eternals – some of humanity’s strongest warriors – fight to secure a foothold against Orruk tribes, undead Nighthaunt, and Chaos-touched Disciples Of Tzeentch.
“Getting to a campaign to operate where you’re playing from multiple perspectives is quite tricky,” shared Saunders. He says more of that challenge lay with principle designer Sandy Sammarco and veteran Games Workshop author Gav Thorpe, who worked with Frontier Developments on the plot.
“They had to weave together a story where each of these factions having something to do with each other, whatever that may be, had to make sense,” said Saunders. “We just had to plot gameplay around what they’d created.”
As for how that process worked, Saunders explained that most narrative games typically go through a “story treatment,” which breaks down everything that will happen in the story. During Realms Of Ruin‘s treatment, the team was given narrative beats that needed to be hit in the campaign’s missions.
As an example, Saunders pointed to the introduction of Sigmar’s Stormcast warriors and the realm of Ghur, two story beats that Frontier covered in the first mission. It also demonstrates how designed content often has to serve multiple purposes.
“This [level] is both a tutorialisation of what Realms Of Ruin is, but also an introduction to how beastial and terrifying Ghur is – on top of [showing] the Stormcast and how powerful and different they are to things players may have seen before in other fantasy genres.”
Saunders uses a later mission against the Nighthaunt, in which players need to conquer and hold a series of ethereal chains, as another example.
“[Beats will] be things like, ‘at this point in the story the Stormcast are going to discover the artifact but they’re going to be ambushed’. So we need to come up with what’s going to happen within that – so things like the chains coming up happened through a collaborative effort between design, cinematics, art and animation teams.”
“It very much plays off everyone’s strengths to create the best thing that we can,” he added. “Within gameplay, we sit down and go, what sort of unique twist can we have in each mission? In this case, it was breaking down each of the ethereal bonds to release the artifacts. That’s something that sits within that mission, but not any of the others. We’ve tried to carry that over as much as we can throughout the entire campaign.”
With Realms Of Ruin launching today (November 17) for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, Frontier’s campaign has been popular at NME. In our four-star review, we praised “Gav Thorpe’s penmanship, clever mission design, and gripping cinematics” for bringing the single-player elements together.