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In 2003, a computer game was released based on Games Workshop's ever-popular Warhammer 40000 tabletop game. This had happened before several times (the Space Hulk series, Aspect Warrior for the Mega Drive/Genesis), but this one was a first-person shooter. Granted, the Space Hulk games technically were too, but suffered from a rather cumbersome click-to-move interface closer to that of old adventure games than modern shooters. Needless to say, all of these were subsequently overshadowed by the massively popular Dawn of War series of real-time strategy games. Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior remained the only shooter set in the universe until the release of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine in 2011.
Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior focused on a young Tau Fire Warrior named Kais. The Tau, for the uninformed, are a relatively young species introduced to the setting in 2001, with a highly Animesque design. Originally, while naive, the Tau hardly had any Crapsacky elements to them and were a rather out-of-character attempt to inject some optimism into the relentlessly Grimdark 40K universe. This didn't please the fanbase, who saw them as Designated Hero, and the Tau were made more morally ambivalent - new storyline included forced annexation of nearby worlds, rumoured sterilisation of populations with a history of rebellion, and a "join us or die" mentality (this character shift justified by an Imperial invasion, which caused them to wise up about how hostile the wider galaxy really was).
Anyway. Fire Warrior focused on the first mission of young Kais, which over the course of 24 hours went horribly wrong. A relatively simple mission to rescue an Ethereal turned into an all-out war between the Tau and the Imperium of Man, until the arrival of the forces of Chaos forced the two sides to come to an uneasy truce, in which Kais briefly teamed up with an Space Marine Captain of the Ultramarines named Ardias, who was trying to sort the whole mess out.
All in all, it was a pretty mediocre game, meeting with average reviews. Unlike the later Dawn of War series, developed by RTS veterans Relic, Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior was made by the relatively unknown and inexperienced Kuju Entertainment (Who would go on to make the Battalion Wars games). It isn't a bad game by any means - it's quite fun in places - just totally forgettable. The book based on the game however is pretty well liked, going more in detail about the Tau culture, mindset and giving the main character a backstory.
This game and its novelization contain examples of:
- Action Survivor
- Acceptable Breaks From Reality: One of the main criticisms of the game, at least from hardcore 40k fans, is how Kais doing so well in his campaign is ridiculously improbable by the setting's standards.
- Anti-Hero with Good Publicity: Despite Kais' dad being a completely and utter son of a bitch in reality, as Lusha reveals, having once shot a subordinate for a relatively minor offense and generally being a Bad Boss, the Tau public at large have a very idealized view of him as a heroic figure due to the Water Caste media editing out any depiction of him as such for, presumably, propaganda reasons. There's a reason they call Tau Blue Space Communists...
- Battlesuit Rescue: When Kais is facing the greater daemon in its final form of a bloodthirster of Khorne, he has been blinded with Unstoppable Rage, run out of ammunition, infected with disease, just Lost An Arm, and crossed the Despair Event Horizon, when El'Lusha and his Crisis team drop in, unloading missiles and fusion guns into the thing, smiting it in a flurry of heavy gunfire.
- Beginner's Luck: AND HOW!
- Broken Pedestal: Kais' father is held up in Tau media as being a great hero of the Tau Empire, and stalwart champion of the Greater Good. Kais himself lacks the self-discipline expected of a Fire Warrior, a fact which he feels quite shameful over, and believes that he is a disappointment to everyone who expected him to be as great as his father, especially his father himself. Shas'El'Lusha reveals to Kais near the end, when Kais finally succumbs to the Heroic BSOD that has been building all during the conflict, that Kais' father was actually considered quite a Jerkass by those who fought alongside him. He was a great commander, but also impatient, vengeful, and a Bad Boss, all of which are traits left out of the depictions of him in the media. Kais is relieved to discover this.
- Canon Immigrant: Rules and models for the Tau Orca Drop Ship, the Emissary-class cruiser, and the Rail Rifle were made for the tabletop games later on.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Novelization details that during a battle on the bridge of a Tau ship, Kais is shot in the head by a Space Marine, and the bolter shell miraculously turns out to be a dud. The unexploded ordinance remains embedded in Kais' helmet.
- The Coconut Effect: The depiction of the melta.
- The bolter comes close, but misses the Rapid Fire part.
- Enemy Mine: The Imperuim and Tau join forces to stop Chaos, Khorne starts backing Kais as well
- Defictionalization: Sort of, Games Workshop later published rules for using the Rail Rifle in regular 40K, as well as a special character profile for Kais and a scenario based on the Descent mission.
- Determinator: Kais, yet again, he refuses to stop, they're a reason for that.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Kais ultimately plays a role in the destruction of the daemon Tarkh'ax, a Lord of Change.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The game and its associated Novelization were released shortly after the Tau were first introduced, and thus a lot of details of their fluff had yet to be codified. There are some elements present in Fire Warrior which were later dropped or given minor retcons. For example, the ship that the Tau arrive in is initially described as a kind of warship, before later fluff reclassified it as the multipurpose (though primarily diplomatic) Emissary class cruiser. The game also depicts Tau blood as being red, while later fluff (and its own novelization) describes Tau blood as being cobalt.
- Follow the Leader: The game takes more than a few nods from Halo: Combat Evolved, such as the two-gun limit, and recharging shields (despite the fact that Tau fire warriors have nothing of the sort)
- God Was My Co-Pilot: In the novel, the Heroic Willpower Kais gets is actually Khorne boosting him on. After all, he cares not from where the blood flows, as long as it flows...
- Go Mad From the Revelation Supplementary materiel reveal that Kais' mental stability was never quite the same after the events of the game.
- Argubly before that.
Kais: BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Among pretty much every Tau who serves with him, Kais is feared and reviled for being too good at killing. Justified, because all Tau fear the return to the 'Mon'tau' and believe Kais is falling back to that sort of savagery. He himself even refers to that side of himself as the 'Mon'tau Devil'. Ironically, considering that 'side of himself' is Khorne, they're right on the mark about the bloodshed and savagery.
- Heroic Willpower: In the book a voice in Kais' head keeps telling him to get and and fight on, that voice happens to be Khorne
- Humans Through Alien Eyes
- Heroic BSOD: Kais gets this a lot and in the end is a complete wreck.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: A literal example. Daemonic possession requires that a sentient have an excess of emotion, some kind of fear or desire that a daemon can latch onto, a chink in the mental armor through which it can worm its influence into them. The attempt to turn Aun'El'Kovash into a daemonhost fails because his emotions are in perfect balance, with each emotion checked by every other, and there is nowhere in his mind that a daemon can find purchase to invade and take him over.
- Inferred Holocaust: Invoked by one of the Tau Air Caste captains during a space battle with an Imperial fleet. He wonders how the gue'la manage to cope with the complexity of space battles without the aid of artificial intelligence like what the Tau use, reasoning that they compensate by shear numbers of manpower. This causes him to realize that every missile impact he makes on one of their ships is genocide. He finds it a sobering thought.
- Leave No Witnesses: The Space Marines sent to capture the Ethereal were ordered to kill off any witnesses.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Governer Severus employed the Raptors chapter of Space Marines to capture Aun'El Ko'vash on the basis that they were a chapter know for being risk-takers almost to the point of recklessness and were not given to second guessing their missions.
- Military Maverick: In the Novelization, this is deconstructed with Kais. He lacks discipline, but despite that finds an innate talent for killing. However, as a result of this Kais feels primarily shame, considering his failure to live up to the standards of his father, who is considered a hero to the Tau, to outweigh the benefit of his skills. It says much about Tau society as the other Fire Warriors in his cadre seem to regard him with fear after discovering that he is too good at killing, believing he is too much like their savage ancestors before the old Tau tribes were united into castes.
- Not So Different: Aun'El'Kovash tries to give one of these speeches to the Xenobiologica adept in charge of his imprisonment, comparing his faith in the God-Emperor to the Greater Good. The adept is not swayed.
- The Obi-Wan: Shas'El'Lusha is not the highest ranking Fire Warrior during the conflict, but he is the one that Kais reports directly to. He passes orders to Kais over the comm, and gives him encouragement and advice when he doubts himself and his place in the Greater Good. He fought alongside Kais' father, and sees powerful potential in the young Shas'la, but also worry that Kais might not hold himself together long enough to realize it.
- One-Man Army: Egregious, considering the universe it's set in, and you're playing as a basic footsoldier not too far removed from a human Imperial Guardsman.
- Done much better in the book, he has a squad with him most of the time, for the most part only kills a few dozen. Most of his kills are a result of him damaging an Imperial Ship. Also he's very, very much horrifed by his actions, oh and the Chaos God Khorne been helping him by giving him Heroic Willpower
- Playing Possum: When trading fire with an Imperial Guardsman in a prison chapel, Kais narrowly dodges the guardsman's lasgun shots by diving for cover behind a pew. He gets this idea, and cries out in exaggerated faux pain to trick the guardsman into thinking he had been wounded. When the guardsman comes to finish him off, Kais already has his rifle trained on him.
- Scenery Gorn: One of Fire Warrior's strong points is one of the best on-screen depictions of Exterminatus.
- Super Prototype: The rail rifle is explicitly invoked as this when Kais discovers it during the game. It later became a mass produced weapon that tabletop Tau armies can field.
- Villainous Breakdown: Severus grows increasingly desperate as Kais and Ardias continue to cut through his Chaos Marines and push closer and closer to him. In the novel, when the Daemon realizes that Kovash is literally too pure to be possessed, it...doesn't take it well.
- Villain Pedigree: You won't be fighting any more Guardsmen by late-game.
- Voice of Dramatic: Say what you like about the game, but at the very least it gave us a trailer of Tom Baker declaring "It is the 41st Millennium...and there is only WAR"
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Kais in the book.
- What a Piece of Junk!: Kais' first impression of a weather-worn Leman Russ tank. He is forced to revise this initial opinion when it opens fire on a landing Orca dropship...
- For those not 40k savvy, on the tabletop a plasma gun has a one-in-six chance of killing the user with every shot, discounting armour saves