This title brings good memories back, as almost any other video game from the Game Workshop’s twin universe. Although it’s rather hard to recall the details after more than a decade, I’m quite sure that the Polish review of Final Liberation published in the distinguished CD-Action magazine was one of my first approaches to the Warhammer 40.000 franchise. A few months later I actually managed to obtain a pirated copy of the game, which unfortunately was a CD-rip version, castrated of the cutscenes and most of the soundtrack. Despite this, I still enjoyed it very much, if not for the gameplay (I never was a passionate strategos), then for a universe so deeply different from the so called Sci-Fi I had known before. I played it on Normal difficulty and gained some terrain in the main campaing, only to eventually abandon it for some new, exciting title. Now, fifteen years have passed and now I’m ready to visit Stalinvast again — this time enjoying the Gothic soundtrack and stern face of Commissar Holt judging my every move.
Stalinvast. What an appropriate name for a planet to be conquered in a WH40.000 game. Of course, it sound’s a little cliché in a universe which can be summarised as Fascist Porn — a franchise which feeds on the morbid fascination of the upstanding Western citizens with totalitarianism and its innate militarism. Still, I admit that the name was well chosen, because playing Final Liberation is an experience similar to any WW2 game about the battle of Stalingrad. To be more prices, it sums up the worst experiences of the Germans and Soviets.
The first steps in my career as an Imperial Commissar, or rather a featureless commander of an Imperial Guard unit subjugated to a Commissariat official, was the tutorial, was the tutorial scenario, which went quite smooth, if you’re inclined to overlook the loss of a Predator tank and a few of genetically refurbished superhuman soldiers. Following this, I started the main campaign on the hardest difficulty level, being pretty condifent in my tactical skills. The cruel, GRIM reality of the universe didn’t lose time to prove that I was mistaken.
My initial approach to the first battle was a disaster and I’m really surprised that Commissar Holt didn’t carry out a summary execution. The Space Marine landing force under my command had to face the Ork resistance which not only had an overwhelming advantage in numbers, but also proved to be surprisingly efficient in bringing the Emperor’s finest to their knees. The hallowed power armour and even the Predators proved to be an easy prey for the most common Ork warriors. As it always was and is going to be, the fault was my poor tactical skill and underestimating the enemy. After a few fruitless approaches, and at least one rage quit, I came to the realisation that in a game starring the Imperial Guard, even the Emperor’s finest should adopt the tactic of their subhuman cousins. Indeed, they shall know no fear — but caution will become their second skin.
Surprisingly, my new attempt to beat the first scenario was quite satisfactory, in a simple, almost childish way. Playing hide-and-seek with the armour, carefully micromanaging my scarce airforce, a single Thunderhawk, and hiding the Astartes dug deep in a forest, eventually led to a festival of the most beautiful sound in the universe. The sound of a dying Ork. Salve Victoria!
My initial euphoria was quickly replaced by the realisation that if the first scenario of the great campaign was like this, there was a chance that more complex maps may become a true nightmare. This is the Grimdark Universe, so of course I was right.