Astartes - a fan made animation
"A Warhammer 40,000 fan-film project. Mini-episodes released as a five part series. 100% unofficial and in no way endorsed by Games Workshop."
- – Description of the Astartes Youtube Channel
Astartes is the name of a short, entirely fan-made and totally fuckin' awesome set of videos depicting an orbital boarding action by the Retributors chapter of Space Marines (not to be confused with the Sisters of Battle Retributor Squads). The official description promises five videos, the last of which was released on April 2, 2020. The channel may be found here.
Following a series of incidents cataloged as the 'Argosa Uprisings' in 482.M39, the Retributors Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes is tasked with assisting in the hunt for fleeing renegades and their leaders, and bringing down the Emperor's justice for their crimes.
A surprisingly high-quality series of videos from such a small outfit (And by that we mean a one-man team), with equally surprising attention to detail from art and designs to sound. The animation is masterful, fluid, and impactful, while models and props are beautifully detailed - even more such details can be seen only by carefully pausing (for example, names can be seen etched on the left pauldron of some of the Marines in part 4). By contrast, the cinematography and storytelling focus on the strengths of minimalism, such as using negative space and darkness to draw the eyes, or silence to heighten the following sound effects. Because the videos lack dialogue, most of the audio component is either music or the sound of the weapons and equipment the characters are using.
Done almost entirely without dialogue and showing how the Retributors Marines and their heretic adversaries duke it out, it goes about as well as you'd expect for the heretics. Despite the rather one-sided nature of the action, there are equal demonstrations of good tactics and responses by both sides, which quite clearly illustrates why you don't mess with someone who does this as a day job.
It also showcases many smaller, more humble elements of the 40k universe, or expands on how they might be used practically and effectively. Examples include a Caestus Assault Ram (launched from a Cobra Destroyer for some reason, probably because no one expects Space Marines to board from such a vessel), blind grenades, multi-lasers, boltguns and a few others besides.
Episode 1 establishes the time and place, as well as the animating chops of the creator; consisting mostly of the Retributors boarding their Caestus with short flashes of other scenes, it's less than a minute long.
Episode 2 features the Retributors boarding the traitorous ship, and it's a clear example of how even simple and logical actions can still be awesome alongside 40k's usual dose of crazy. The Retributors' assault ram makes a beeline for their target while a Thunderbolt Fighter (
which is a little strange, seeing as the Thunderbolt is an AIR rather than space-superiority fightermost likely the Kestral class variant that's void capable) draws fire to make sure they arrive and later takes out the ship's engines. The ram itself has a Magna-Melta on the top used primarily for softening up even the thickest of armour and deploys a pair of (most likely servitor-controlled) defensive drones that protect the ram by throwing themselves in the path of oncoming missiles before exploding to prematurely detonate them. Then we see the ram doing what it's designed for: Firing off it's concentrated magna-melta beam while simultaneously slamming into the hull of the ship so the 5-man team of Astartes can board and capture it. The poor armsmen who get to the ram's position before the marines emerge stand zero chance, most getting off only a single burst from their autoguns before a bolt shell rips them in half. The Astartes, for their part, are cool and collected aimbot killing machines that feel entirely unconcerned with the incoming autogun fire and never waste a single bolt shell; each armsman takes one hit and dies instantly. Things fade to black as they move further into the ship.
Episode 3 starts off with the traitors clearly putting all hands on deck to stop the Astartes, while a couple of huge men in script-covered gold masks stand in front of a massive vault door while goading the armsmen on. This is where we really see the Astartes in action, and it is glorious. The ship's defenders are clearly acting with intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, setting up:
A - a barricade at a choke-point with a heavy stubber, lasguns, and a missile launcher. B - an ambush from a maintenance passage with an autocannon. C - a twin-linked multilaser on the other side of a chasm that a corridor opens into, effectively drawing one of the marines into a perfect kill-box.
And absolutely none of it works because the Astartes are just that damn unstoppable.
The men at the barricade die to bolter fire before the marines are even visible, with the rocket one of them manages to fire casually dodged before it can hit them, while the autocannon causes the marines to pause their advance just long enough for their comrade following them inside that very maintenance passage to kill the men operating it. Because the marines saw that coming a mile away.
The team operating the twin-linked multilaser does the most damage to one of the marines by scoring his armor, but are still dispatched with contemptuous ease in a sequence that words simply cannot do any justice. Go watch it and you'll understand just what I mean.
Episode 4 is where we see the Astartes meet their first real challenge: those masked guys, who turn out to be psykers. This entire episode is one long, glorious sequence of the Astartes thinking and behaving tactically against two opponents with psychic powers and managing to come out on top. Once again, words cannot do the sequence justice. Why haven't you watched it yet?
The 5th episode is the longest (and most glorious) episode at a shocking 7 minutes and 33 seconds but has a lot of unclear and cryptic questions, some of which were answered in an AMA the creator had on Reddit. The scene opens with a strange orb floating in chains with an Imperial Psyker wearing robes of the Inquisition psychically monitoring it while a Retributor veteran and a Beakie marine standby. The scene cuts to the OG squad of marines, walking down a corridor and passing by a massive golden construct in the shape of a man, obviously still under construction. The marines enter a large room and find another orb unchained and illuminated by a central light source. The orb attempts to resist the marines approaching by unleashing some psychic waves but the marines give absolutely no fucks. The marines take out some bladed energy draining devices and stab into the orb. Back with our inquisitorial friend, he can hear the chained orb speaking to the unchained orb through the warp.
"...no escape. I have failed brother."
"We have all failed. The Astartes deny our touch. You must return, break your seal."
"Impossible, (I) will never survive."
"You must! Take them!*"
- May also say "Take the Alpha!", referring to the inquisitor psyker, meaning he's pretty powerful.
The psyker immediately warns the veteran marine of impending doom and this break in concentration results in a failed Stealth roll as it draws the attention and the words "At last" from the chained orb before his mind ends up becoming overcome by whatever warp monster decided to eat it (or more likely the xenos within the ball did it). As is the way with Grimdark, the veteran Retributor gives him a George Foreman right cross before Beakie Marine dumps a handful of bolt rounds into him for good measure, although the guy whose soul was being incinerated was probably pretty grateful for it. Back with the squad, the orb activates, reveals an absolute WTF of a creature, and begins absorbing the marines into itself while all of them struggle in vain. Sergeant of the squad pulls out his trusty plasma pistol and.... blows off his own hand trying to wound the orb. A+ for effort I guess. Once all the marines have been absorbed, we see the xenos creature living inside the orb is some tentacle monster and has teleported them into the warp with all 5 marines constrained by the tentacles. Almost immediately, some shadowy warp creature attacks the tentacle xenos and it fades to black. Sergeant Handless suddenly appears in a desert environment surrounded by strange skeletal statues with horns that tower above him, some flashes of light appearing on stone platforms similar to the one he is standing on (presumably the rest of the squad being teleported in).
At the end of the video, we are treated to a quick action sequence of another homebrew chapter "Death Hands", fighting an off-screen enemy and struck on his pauldron by some needle weapon (Perhaps Shurikens?). A predator rolls into frame and unleashes some glory for the Emperor. Also shown in the ending title screen are Angels Sanguine and another homebrew chapter "Star Dragons".
Extra Information from AMA
- The xenos were supposed to be an original creation, one half of a now-extinct xenos/human empire. Similarities to the Yu'Vath were undeniable but coincidental, due to "lack of research."
- The orbs around the xenos were originally designed to protect them while traveling in the warp. Hence the one who "broke free" was eaten by some creature lurking there.
- The unfinished giant metal construct was designed as a more preferable alternative to the orb for the xenos to inhabit.
- The one-armed psykers belonged to the inner cabal of the rebellion in cahoots with the being in the orb.
- The planet that Sergeant Lefty was teleported to was confirmed as a planet once used by the ancient xenos.
- Imperials had already captured two of the xenos and were using them to hunt any others they could discover, to learn more of their origins (to kill them), and how far they might have already spread, subverting other planets/systems.
Main Squad's Names:
- Kohren (Sgt) has the plasma pistol
- Veteran Marine 'Commander' = Hakael
- Beakie Marine = Unnamed (Some fans were saddened with no name beakie but hes already famous for being such a classic icon of original Rogue Trader marine design)
- Other Retributor standing behind was also unnamed.
The hacking debacle
The channel was hacked in November 2019 by a scummy YouTube channel reseller. The guy who bought the password tried to promote his own channel, and host livestreams of the supercut (in shitty 360p for some reason) to steal ad revenue. Obviously this didn't work because 40k fans get shit done and spread the word about the injustice.
The Emperor protects, because the shitty hacker(s) thankfully never bothered deleting the videos themselves (possibly, the idiot who got his personal Facebook account exposed attempted to steal ad revenue from the millions of views, which they probably failed to make a profit on what he bought it for). At one point the scum closed the channel (a sort of reversible deletion) then sold to another guy who re-opened it. And finally in December the original creator finally navigated the labyrinthine YouTube bots to get an actual moderator to restore his access. All's well that ends well.
Hacking is bad but it happens to the best of us despite our best precautions. That's why it's called hacking. Thought for the day, be a good internet browser and enable two-factor authentication today.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
All Hail the Omnissiah, for by His hand is the Machine made Pure.
New work post-Astartes Nov 2020
The creator has released a trailer of various Marine Chapters on his Patreon account. When the trailer is openly released this will be expanded.
The link to teaser and 5 videos. The 5th video was released on April 2, 2020.