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Video Game / Fire Warrior

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In 2003, a computer game was released based on Games Workshop's ever-popular Warhammer 40,000 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 more popular Dawn of War series of real-time strategy games. 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 Grim Dark 40K universe. This didn't please the fanbase, who saw them as the designated "good guys", and the Tau were made more morally ambivalent - new storyline included forced annexation of nearby worlds, rumoured sterilization 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, 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. Also notably, the Tau commander of the Dawn of War expansion Dark Crusade is called "Shas'O Kais", with developers heavily implying it's the same man (well, xenos).


This game contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Kais is one. While he is a fully trained Fire Warrior, certified for combat, he has never been on an actual combat deployment, having only ever fired his gun once outside of training or ceremonial salutes. However, he discovers he has is a lot better at combat than he has any right to be. It forges him quickly into an expert.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The Heavy Stubber stands out for being a bog-standard assault rifle ripped straight out of a contemporary FPS in a galaxy full of [[Energy Weapon]]s and micro-RPG launchers.
  • A Fire Warrior Is You: A mute Powered Armor-wearing rookie taking orders from a Voice with an Internet Connection to shoot up "aliens" in narrow corridors? Yep, it's all there.
  • 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...
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Shas'el Lusha, Kais' immediate superior and mentor shows himself to be one of these late in the novel. He finally breaks etiquette and explains the unthinkable to Kais: that The Greater Good does not really exist, and the Tau will never achieve it fully. However, he says the important thing is the reaching for ideal, not the attainment of it, and just trying is an ennobling thing in itself.
  • Beginner's Luck
  • Badass Normal: Kais kills no less a foe than a Space Marine in the first hour of the game and progressively gets more insane from there. By the end of it he'll have killed well over a hundred Space Marines, dozens of Chaos and Tech Priests, multiple powerful daemons, three Dreadnoughts, a Titan, and a Lord of Change.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: In the novel, Kais ends up building up a fine caking of human blood across his armor during his first sortie on the ground, intimidating his comrades when he links back up with them later. He switches into a fresh suit shortly after returning to the Tau ship, only to get yet more human blood splattered across it shortly thereafter. He quickly gives up any hope of keeping his armor parade-ground immaculate, ashamedly coming to see the blood on his armor as being reflective of his inability to keep himself under the emotional control expected of a Fire Warrior. It later helps him when The Legions of Chaos break loose on the Imperial flagship, as the Chaos forces who see him hesitate to attack, his disheveled and barbaric appearance making them wonder if he is one of them.
  • Boarding Pod: In one level Kais has to fend off an Imperial Guard boarding party that uses these.
  • 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. Notably, Forge World's Orca is far, far larger than its videogame counterpart.
  • 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 effects of some weapons in the game are actually accurately depicted from the descriptions often given in the text of the rulebooks, sometimes in defiance of what the artwork (often found in those same books) usually depicts.
    • The depiction of the melta.
    • The bolter comes close, but misses the Rapid Fire part.
      • On the tabletop, "Rapid Fire" is lenient, often meaning "a semi-automatic gun in an expert's hands". Furthermore, the video game bolter's reduced fire rate is justified by the Tau being relatively small creatures who aren't accustomed to high-recoil slugthrowers.
  • Competitive Balance: The severe Nerfing of the native Tau weaponry seems to be to encourage the player to actually use many of the other weapons in the game, which otherwise the Pulse Rife and Carbine would out-shoot everything but the heavy weapons.
  • Determinator: Kais, yet again. He refuses to stop, ever. There's a... "good" 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.
    • Subverted in the novel, where the Lord of Change is replaced with an equally-powerful Bloodthirster, who utterly demolishes Kais. Double Subverted when a Mini-Mecha team shoots the Bloodthirster to pieces with heavy anti-vehicle weaponry.
  • Drop Ship: As part of playing Follow the Leader to Halo: Combat Evolved, Fire Warrior needed to get the protagonist from level to level via a drop ship. However, no such craft existed in lore,note  so the developers at Kuju made one: the Orca Drop Ship. This later became a Canon Immigrant to the setting in general.
  • 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.
  • Emergency Weapon: A wakizashi (short sword). Based on what was added to the Tau lore later, it's probably Kais's Bonding Knife.
  • Enemy Mine: The Imperium and Tau join forces to stop Chaos. Khorne starts backing Kais as well.
  • Foreshadowing: So subtle it was quite possibly unintentional, but that pile of skulls Kais is on top of on the cover. The novelisation reveals he had Khorne giving him Heroic Willpower the whole time, and which Chaos god is associated most with piles of skulls?
    • At several points in the game, you overhear Imperial communications talking about enemies 'coming out of the walls' that 'aren't ours or Tau', foreshadowing the presence of Chaos forces.
  • God Was My Copilot: 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.
  • Gunship Rescue:
    • In the novel, 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.
    • In the game, however, Kais kills the demon lord singlehandedly (a Tzeentch Lord of Change this time). He still needs the Gunship Rescue, but only because there's no ladder back to the surface.
  • 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: The humans of the Imperium are presented as an otherworldly, genocidal, and tyrannical race of Scary Dogmatic Aliens, mostly represented via Faceless Mooks. The opening scene of the game, where Space Marines are stomping around a Tau city and butchering civilians, is framed very much like a typical Alien Invasion flick.
  • 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.
    • The Tau race in general are difficult to corrupt with Chaos, since their weak connection with the warp leaves little psychic presence. Khorne can only influence Kais because he's just a little bit too into this whole "Fire Warrior" thing, making his relatively dim presence in the warp just bright enough to catch the Ruinous Powers attention, and even then he doesn't lose rational thought or start mutating like most Chaos followers.
  • 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 killing thousands of people. He finds it a sobering thought.
  • The Goomba: Blue-suited Imperial Guardsmen are the weakest enemies in the game, going down after a few shots and being armed with horribly inaccurate lasrifles.
  • Justified Save Point: Your suit records everything you do, then uploads it to the cruiser's computers at each autosave location as a kind of digital sitrep. During this process, the suit's visual feed goes offline for the few seconds it takes to complete the upload, showing Kais the upload progress and reminding him of the mission objectives it is tracking. In other words, the loading screens actually exist in-universe, and Kais is stuck in place staring at them.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Averted but not inverted. Kinetic and Energy weapons are spread over the power scale pretty much randomly. Played relatively straight with the Rail Rifle, which is a de facto 11th-Hour Superpower that handily outperforms every other weapon in most circumstances. The stubber (an M16 assault rifle in all but name) also outperforms the Imperium's lasrifle, but not the Tau Pulse Rifle.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: El'Lusha in the novelisation has seen enough of the universe to realize that the Greater Good is hopelessly utopian and the Tau are struggling in a Crapsack World. However, he stresses to Kais that as long as they follow the right path and do everything in the name of the Greater Good, that in itself is good enough.
  • Leave No Witnesses: The Space Marines sent to capture the Ethereal were ordered to kill off any witnesses. Keep in mind that in-universe, this probably wouldn't even have been a problematic or controversial order for the Space Marines, even if the witnesses happened to be Tau civilians, children or whatnot, because, well, they were xenos.
  • Limited Loadout: the player is able to use two weapons and the bonding knife, but one of those weapons (The standard-issue Pulse Gun) cannot be replaced, forcing the player, in practice, to drop any gun they find to get another one.
  • 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. Keep in mind that Space Marines are famous for making the Leeroy Jenkins tactic actually work most of the time. The Raptors just happen specialize in it. The funny thing? Later information from Games Workshop and Deathwatch turn the Raptors into a whole chapter of Combat Pragmatist.
  • The Mentor: 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.
  • 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.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Or rather, it hates you. When Ardias takes over for your Mission Control. Most of the time he keeps his xenophobia reeled in for the sake of the mission, but during the "blow up the titan" level he can't go two minutes without calling you and the whole Tau race sniveling weaklings.
  • Not So Different: The novel plays with this several times.
    • 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.
    • Kais comes across a statue of the God-Emperor and cannot bring himself to destroy it as he can "feel" the importance of it as well as its resemblance to a kind father figure.
    • When Kais asks about Chaos, Ardias describes it as "evil," Kais recites his teachings that state that evil is just sense of perspective to which Ardias dismisses as heresy. The joke is that while Kais's teachings are very human and reasonable in the scheme of moral relativity, Ardias is completely right in his description of Chaos.
  • One-Man Army:
    • Even though a Fire Warrior is not too far removed from a human Imperial Guardsman, Kais racks up a ridiculous body count, including seven hundred Imperial Guardsmen and over a hundred Space Marines, on top of blowing up dozens of artillery pieces and mechs. He literally kills more Chaos Space Marines than Captain Titus! He does this all in under 24 hours, by the way.
    • Downplayed in the novel adaptation. While still extremely impressive, Kais has a squad with him most of the time and only kills a few dozen enemies in direct combat. Most of his kills are a result of him damaging an Imperial Ship. Also he's very, very much horrified 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.
    • In the game, certain Chaos Marines can do this. Thankfully there's three ways to double check if they're really dead: your auto aim isn't fooled, you cannot pass through or jump on top of enemies who are still alive, and their weapons don't fall to the ground until they're dead for real.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: When a Tau delegation comes aboard the Imperial flagship in order to negotiate a cease-fire, Admiral Constantine observes them through remote cameras, noticing that the Tau diplomats were dressed in imitation of Imperial fashions, though without necessarily understanding the meaning behind them. For example, one had a sash with several things that looked like military medals, but only vaguely fit the pattern of Imperial ones, and another wore something akin to a Stormtrooper's gas mask, but was clearly only decorative and non-functional. All of the items were of xenos manufacture rather than captured human items, presumably in an attempt to make the humans more comfortable with them. Constantine reflects that he would have found the procession comical if he were not so concerned about contamination.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ardias. He immediately realises the Chaos threat is far greater than the Tau one and goes so far as to threaten Severus if the negotiations fail. He allows the Tau fleet to depart in peace at the end of the game.
  • Scenery Gorn: One of Fire Warrior's strong points is one of the best on-screen depictions of Exterminatus.
  • Secondary Fire:
    • Select Fire: Most rapid-fire guns (excluding the lasrifle) can fire a single, accurate shot by right-clicking.
    • Under/Overslung Weapon: The pulse carbine has a Grenade Launcher, which is used with the grenade key.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Spread in this game is absolutely horrendous for every weapon but the Rail Rifle and Plasma Rifle. Common weapons like bolters and lasguns will require several shots to obtain one hit even with the crosshair squarely on the target at ranges as short as 10 meters.
  • 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.
  • Sword and Gun: Imperial Officers armed with a laspistol and chainsword appear as enemies.
  • Team Killer: A scene present only late in the novel taking place on the bridge of a Warlord Titan in the midst of it's awakening rituals in it's hanger. The bridge is packed full of heretic Astartes, there to witness the coming slaughter as they forcibly take control of the previously inactive Titan. Kais enters the room and darts around the Astartes' legs, where they're too packed in to fight effectively or coordinate. A Khorne berserker present keeps trying to swat down the annoying xenos with his chain axe, getting only more enraged with each miss. By the time he realizes Kais is out of sight, the rest of the heretics are dead at his feet. Kais then shoots him.
  • 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"
  • Warrior Poet: Kais gets some shades of this in the novelization as he reflects on the situation he finds himself in. For example, upon coming across the remains of a Fire Warrior squad and Imperial Navy Armsmen team butchered by Chaos, he has this observation:
    Here a tau arm lay, knuckles clenched, beside a de-limbed human corpse. There was a symbolism here, perhaps. A sense of unity, a sense of physical sameness. Given a talented enough por'hui journalist, this scene might mean something. `In death, we're all the same'...
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Kais in the book.
  • Wham Line: From the novelization:
  • 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...
  • Worthy Opponent: Captain Ardias of the Ultramarines has this view of the Tau. For all he, as a Space Marine, hates xenos, he does at least find the Tau respectable and honorable enemies. Which is part of why he is willing to ally with them when the situation escalates to a warp incursion.


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