Warhammer 40K: Psychic Awakening is Weird
Let’s take a look at the weirdness of Psychic Awakening.
Psychic Awakening is the GW’s big new campaign series for 40K. After a lot of hype, it launched with Phoenix Rising. Phoenix was followed recently by Faith and Fury, and then by Blood of Baal. Three more books have already been announced, coming out in the first three months of next year. These books are likely to be followed by several more as GW has promised that every army will get new rules in Psychic Awakening, and these six books will likely only cover around half the armies in the game. Overall this is a huge undertaking. Now that we are three books into the series, we have something of an idea of what it offers, and I have to say, Psychic Awakening is an oddball. Let’s take a look at why that is.
Hazy Overarching Narrative
So far, the three Psychic Awakening books have dealt with three separate events. Phoenix Rising covered some of Yvraine and the Ynnari’s struggles, in particular being hunted by a Slanneshi daemon. Faith and Fury included a Chaos attack on a before now unmentioned system. Blood of Baal covers the aftermath of the Devastation of Baal.
While the incidents may be interesting in their own right, there is nothing obvious to tie these three together narratively or thematically. Even the Psychic Awakening doesn’t seem to be their focus; it is just kind of happening in the background and not a significant part of the narrative so far.
Now it’s possible later books will tie things together better, or that these events will be shown to have more in common than thought, but it’s odd that three books in there isn’t any real sense of what is going on. Thematically an anthology campaign dealing with the Psychic Awakening could also make sense, but if that were the case, you would think the individual books would focus on the Awakening itself more, which they don’t. Overall it feels like we are covering new ground but in a disjointed way.
Beginnings Without End
Another odd aspect of the Psychic Awakening books is that they seem to be just the beginnings of stories with no ending. Phoenix Rising is the best in this regard. It tells the story of a conflict between Yvarine and a daemon, and while their story is not finished, the particular battle is at least told to completion. The same is not true of the next two books.
Faith and Fury details three battlefronts in the Chaos assault on the Talledus system. In each battlefront Chaos attacks, and has initial success. Though Chaos comes close to winning, the Imperials in each front are reinforced by Space Marines and begin to counterattack. Then the story ends with each battlefront entirely up in the air.
Blood of Baal follows in the same footsteps, as it again details a plan to attack three battlefronts. The story then covers a battle on a totally different front, the successful attack on the first of the original three fronts, and then gets halfway through the second front before ending, with no mention of the third front at all.
Both of these books are very odd from a narrative standpoint. It would be like if the Vigilus narrative ended halfway thought the first book. The grand narrative arc is incomplete. Perhaps the story will return to these fronts later for closure, but given the scope of PA, I don’t see how it easily can. There are already so many fronts it will cover that it CAN’T have time to go back to each in turn.
The modern 40K timeline is all kinds of wack right now, but in the in-universe fluff and when trying to look at lore as a reader. The fact that in-universe they admit the timeline is off is a great way to get a pass on things, but it doesn’t mean that I want to ignore all timeline related things. So far, the PA timeline is all over the place; even though, as we’ve said, these events aren’t directly connected.
Faith and Fury is set right at the start of the Indomitus Crusade, and Blood of Baal is set later, maybe midway, though the Crusade. Phoenix Rising is set in an unclear time frame, but likely also during the Crusade. Now, this does mean that all the events are taking place in a roughly 200ish year period, but not all at the same time, which means it should be hard to tie them together into a grand ending, if that even is the plan. It also means we have books that take place AFTER the events of PA, or at least the ones that take place during the Indomitus Crusade, so we (theoretically) know the shape of the post-PA galaxy.
Lastly, I will say it’s kind of odd seeing who gets rules in the PA books. Phoenix Rising deals mainly with the Ynnari and Slannesh. In the book, Craftworld Eldar and Drukhari get new rules, and the Ynnari get their rules reprinted. While these three choices make some sense, it’s odd the Daemons, the antagonists don’t get new rules, nor do Harlequins, the 3rd part of the Eldar trifecta. Faith and Fury features Sisters of Battle and Astra Militarium fighting Word Bares, Night Lords, and Iron Warriors. The Imperial sides are later reinforced by Salamanders, Black Templars, and White Scars.
Rules wise… ALL Space Marines get new rules (even though the masters of the chapter aren’t featured in the narrative) Black Templars get rules (which makes sense), and six Traitor Legions get rules, even though only three of them are in the story. Sisters of Battle and AM get nothing. Blood of Baal makes perfect sense. It features Blood Angels and their successors fighting Nids, and both those factions get new rules (though Hive Fleets not near Baal do get updates).
It’s a bunch of odd choices that are about half directly connected to the narrative, and a half only very tangentially connected. Some factions that are important in the narrative and seemingly should get new rules do not. Overall, this feeds into the feeling of two sets of information with loose connections to each other – the narrative and the rules. We’ll have to see where it goes in the next few months. I can’t wait to see how they tie it all together – and what bigger things it leads to.
Let us know what you think of Psychic Awakening so far, down in the comments!