Inside ‘Battle Sister’: Warhammer 40K’s First Original VR Game

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We sat down with developer Pixel Toys to get the details on this gruesome VR shooter.

The Warhammer universe is heading to the Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2, bringing with it all the over-the-top violence you know and love. Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister will have you battling alongside your fellow warrior sisters as you engage in a long and bloody campaign against the forces of chaos across a variety of blood-soaked battlefields.

As a member of the legendary Sisters of Battle, you’ll command a variety of powerful abilities that allow you to slow time, force push enemies, and form protective barriers. Of course it wouldn’t be a Warhammer game without an arsenal of ludicrously powerful weapons. There’s a total of 15 weapons and war gear items to utilize, such as Meltas, Flamers, Chainswords and, of course, Bolters. When all else fails you can call upon incredible “Acts of Faith”. 

From what we’ve seen so far Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister is shaping up to one hell of an adventure, albeit a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, we had the chance to sit down with James Horn, Creative Lead and Project director of Battle Sisters to get the scoop on 40K’s first original VR game.

What was it like bringing a universe as massive as Warhammer 40K’s to VR?

“So obviously a huge privilege and a huge challenge as well, because, as you say, it’s one of those things that people get really passionate about and it’s got so many years of lore there and experiences all built up. And one thing we found in the team, but also in feedback from when we first announced the game, is how passionate people are about that.

We’ve worked with with with 40K Games and Warhammer Games for a few years now as Pixel Toys and so we know much the details really matter to people. There’s a variety there which actually people want to see as well; so some people desperately want to see certain races or certain weapons or certain planets. We were looking in general at a whole load of different races and different directions we could have taken it. And I think there was something about the Battle Sisters that really took our interest.”

The Warhammer Universe is famous for its massive scale and many factions. Why exactly did you choose to focus on the Sisters of Battle specifically?

“I think partly we thought we could tell a really good story with them. Space Marines are amazing and cool and brilliant, but one thing about them is that they are very binary. And also there’s quite a few stories that have been told with them; amazing games like Dawn of War, Space Marine, things like that.

And actually with the Battle Sisters there’s some really interesting stuff there about faith and about doubt. But also they’re these really powerful, amazing women and we thought as well that that was a really good story to tell and a really great thing to have in a game. And they’re also normal size as well, which is quite cool.”

How exactly does Battle Sister set itself apart from other VR shooters?

‘With Drop Dead (Pixel Toys previous title), it was quite a few years ago that we developed that, and the environments were fairly limited; it was on rails. And what we wanted to do was, ‘Okay, how can we make a game for 6DoF that’s going to feel like you can run around in this world?’

And again, that fits with the scale of 40K. You can’t just be on rails really for that. There’s a sort of dynamism that the Battle Sisters have. We wanted you to be able to sort of race around this world and, you know, get your chainsaw in a cultist and things like that. So, a lot of it’s about that open world, pushing technology, having lots of enemies, using spatialized audio, all that kind of stuff. We’re really trying to push as far as we can for the Quest.”

What were some of the challenges bringing the experience to standalone VR?

“Frame rates. Always frame rates. I mean, obviously the hardware on the Quest is great. The hardware on Quest 2 is much better. When we first saw the specs of that (Quest 2] we were really, really excited because we knew that we could make use of that.

What we wanted to do is make sure that things like Bolters and when you’re up close with a with Space Marine, that the materials looked good and you’ve got that sort of materiality. And that’s definitely been a challenge because a lot of game techniques have been moving on over the last few years into PBR technology, that kind of thing. It’s seeing how far we can push that on mobile and continually sort of trying to move our pipeline forward in that way.”

How will Battle Sister treat newcomers to the 40K universe and what can longtime fans expect?

“So we needed to make a game which appealed to a really wide range of users. And so what we tried to do is just make a really, really good shooter and also to have this narrative element within it. We’ve got a story-line that runs throughout the game and that’s about Sister Ophelia. You play the character of Sister Ophelia and she is Battle Sister.

And she finds out that her twin sister, who she was separated from quite a few years before, is actually still alive; she thought she was dead. And so alongside that, we also have a really classic adventure story where you’re obviously hunting the bad guy, and those two stories intertwine as they go through. And that’s something which the battle sisters allowed us to do more than perhaps potentially an Adeptus Astartes.

But for the 40K fans as well, we’ve got plenty of things that hopefully will get people excited there. Obviously we worked really closely with Games workshop and spent a lot of time looking at miniatures and made sure to get those details right, but part of it as well is also to get some of that really, really black humor that 40K has.”

Last question. Can I perform Exterminatus and why not?

“Well, that would be a spoiler, wouldn’t it? If I were to say yes or no, it would be a spoiler. But I’m sure you know we’d need an Inquisitor if we were going to do something like that. You know, if we had an inquisitor, then who knows.

We’re really excited about the game and we’re just squishing the last few bugs out of it and just trying to get it already. We can’t wait to get it in people’s hands and have people enjoying it and playing it.”


Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister launches December 8th 2020 on Oculus Quest/Quest 2 headsets. Keep a look out for our full review, coming soon.

Image Credit: Pixel Toys

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