While Warhammer 40k’s roots are bedded deep in the tabletop gaming world, it’s nevertheless become one of the most prolific videogame IPs of the modern era. There are some greats among them, including Dawn of War and the original Space Marine, but the middling reception to recent releases like Darktide has left me more skeptical of the brand’s place in videogames than I’d like. Now, I’m pinning my hopes on the prodigal son’s return, which is truer than ever following our Space Marine 2 interview with creative director Oliver Hollis-Leick during Gamescom 2023.
Let’s get this out of the way now: Space Marine 2 looks like a blast to play, making smart use of developer Saber Interactive’s proprietary tech to have hordes of enemies swarm the screen, just waiting for you to rip and tear your way through them, the way you’ll naturally want to in the best Warhammer 40k games. That said, if you’re like me, you’ll have one question on your mind: “are the Space Marine games canon?”
Let’s start by traveling back to the ancient past of 2011. In the original Space Marine, you play as Titus, an Ultramarine and the Captain of the Second Company. You and your squad are sent to the Forge World of Graia to stop an Ork invasion led by the Warboss Grimskull. Through impeccable environmental design and weighty combat, the game feels truly authentic, both as a Warhammer experience and as a space marine power fantasy. Still, despite that fantasy, the game wraps up with members of the main cast either dead, hated, or, in the case of Titus, marked as a heretic. It’s a bitter end.
The canon elephant in the room here is that there has never been mention of a Captain Titus in any official Warhammer literature, and it is only with the arrival of Warhammer 40k Boltgun and a miniature release that we’ve finally seen him mentioned over a decade after his introduction.
“Yes, Titus was never mentioned in the official literature prior to this game,” Hollis-Leick agrees. But, he says, “using a process of extrapolation from what [Games Workshop] have publicly said, if Titus is in the tabletop game, that means it’s canon, right? I can’t tell you yes, but I will say it certainly looks that way.” Even I, a Warhammer lore diehard, have to agree when Hollis-Leick says “the most important thing is that the game is fun to play. It doesn’t matter what universe it’s set in.”
The expectations placed on the team at Saber Interactive no doubt vary wildly from player to player. For some, the game’s lore and its place in the wider canon will be a primary concern, while others likely couldn’t care less, with gameplay trumping all. For me, a mixture of both is integral to Space Marine as a series and ultimately Warhammer 40k videogames in general. I can’t help but feel that Space Marine 2 is in good hands and is shaping up to be something special. You’ll be able to get your first hands-on look ahead of the Space Marine 2 release date during the upcoming beta. While you wait, why not check out our lists of the best Warhammer games and space games on PC in 2023?