Coyote Assault Troopers

“Give me soldiers who can think and I will give you victory.”

Cpl Maria Perez lay flat at the top of the bluff and peered down through the early morning mist at the target building. From their vantage point, Perez and her fellow Coyotes had a clear view of the former school that UNM intel revealed to be a forward operating base for the Cult of the Dragon. They had observed the structure for twelve hours now and, although they had not witnessed any movement or signs of life, Perez noticed that the walls were pockmarked with the signs of a recent firefight. The Ether readings from the nearby village were also off the chart, so she knew that this was exactly the sort of location that she would expect to find the Cultists lurking.

“All units, ready up”, Perez ordered over the closed loop comms system, and was aware of dozens of hidden bodies rising to their knees, ready to move on her command. “Sharp eyes, CATs, it’s gonna be pretty tight in there. I want everyone in, two by two, standard CQC. If these Cultists really are here, you know what to do. Weapons ready, let’s move”.

The CATs fell immediately into their well drilled formation and made their way quickly down the hillside, weapons pointed at the school’s main exits, their eyes darting from window to window as the building filled their field of vision. Halfway through the 300m sprint, there was still no movement in front of them as they fanned out and slowed to a quick march. As they drew to within throwing distance of the front wall, the silence of the previous minute was broken by the shattering of glass as a dozen tattooed and snarling Acolytes burst through the first floor windows and hit the ground running full speed towards them.

Perez grinned to herself as she dropped to one knee and fired a burst through the chest of the leading cultist; “All units, weapons free! Let’s send these bastards back to school”.

Coyote Assault Troopers (CATs) are an amalgamation of U.S. Marines, Canadian Army Rangers, and Russian Rifle Troops. They are the work-horses of the UNM military, moving into previously-scouted areas in large numbers and with well-drilled effectiveness. They move mainly on foot, covering ground quickly, and are experts at finding and holding strategically important points on the battlefield.

CATs are lightly armoured and, due to the effectiveness of their lightweight composite armor, they have a great balance of defensive strength and maneuverability. They carry mid-range automatic, projectile-based weaponry – mainly assault rifles – which can project a solid offensive force whilst maintaining flexibility. In addition they all carry a machine pistol sidearm and a trauma pack. Whilst all CATs are bio-engineered, they have few visible augmentations. Reflecting the overall ideology of the UNM, most advanced or Ether-based technology tends to be worn or man-portable.

Lt Mitchell Ward, Veteran Coyote

“Death carries no burden but duty weighs heavy on the soul.”

Shattered Earth - Lt Mitchell Ward - Concept ArtConcept art by Anthony O’Donnell

Now a veteran soldier, Lt Mitchell Ward was part of the first class of post-event trainees at the newly created Special Future Tactics (SFT) Advanced Training Facility at Fort Bragg. He rose through the ranks when the U.S. fought alongside the European Socialist Collective (ESC) in numerous battles against the Deathless, against violent religious proselytizers, and in skirmishes against the early Cult of the Dragon cells.

A valuable leader of the US Special Forces at the time of the founding of the United Nations of Mankind (UNM), Mitch immediately became one of the UNM’s most crucial battlefield assets. Despite feeling comradeship for some individual soldiers of the Children of the One True God, and having empathy with some of the more progressive political ideas of the Humanist Rebellion, he remains a loyal UNM soldier. He knows that the chain of command is sacrosanct and that the Earth’s best hope of wiping out the malevolent forces from the immateria is with a strong UNM guiding the way.

Shattered Earth - Lt Mitchell Ward - SculptSculpting by Seth Nash

Although having enough experience and respect to hold a senior strategic position within the UNM Army, Lt Mitchell Ward is a particularly strong leader of soldiers and so chooses to remain on the front line with them. He is at his most effective leading by example, his troops lifted by his steadfast manner and his calmness in the face of horror. On the battlefield, Mitch is a force to be reckoned with. He is a veteran Coyote Assault Trooper, and packs a number of additional upgrades beyond the standard Coyote loadout.

He favours the tried and tested over the latest available equipment, his armour and Ether Matrix having seen him through countless battles, and his cybernetic exoskeleton guided him over thousands of miles. He carries a rifle with underslung shotgun, advancing on his enemies until he can look look them directly in the eye whilst sending them to their grave.

Acolytes of the Dragon

‘Sometimes fire must be fought with an inferno.’

The Cult of the Dragon rose to power through the blood and sacrifice of its unwavering Acolytes. Where once Lee Kyong-Min had commanded legions of adoring fans, he now led an army. These are the devoted servants of the Dragon, dedicated to spreading chaos and entropy – ‘do as thou wilt’ taken to its chilling conclusion.

Deployed on the front lines, the Acolytes of the Dragon are a fearsome and deadly opponent. They experiment with technology and body modification, enhancing their human abilities and turning themselves into ‘living weapons’. Oftentimes these enhancements are unstable, causing massive neurological damage and shutting down their hosts’ pain receptors.

The Acolytes of the Dragon wield vicious cybernetic implants, each one a unique and personal creation. Forearm blades, powered gauntlets, even razer-sharp scythes where legs once were. They attack with extreme aggression, engaging the front ranks of the enemy and causing chaos and panic. They eschew defence in favour of all-out attack, working themselves into a frenzy of blood and steel.

Whilst capable of rational thought, once they are engaged in battle it is often difficult for Acolytes to react with any tactical awareness; to this end, and despite their numbers, they are utilised primarily as shock troopers. Each Acolyte has sworn a blood oath and would rather die than be captured. In a barbaric symbol of their zeal, each one carries an implanted explosive device, activated in their death throws as a final devastating attack on their enemies.

Czernobog, the Black God

“All that awaits is oblivion.”

Czernobog - Concept ArtConcept art by Marco Caradonna

The Deathless arrived without warning. Creatures of nightmare, beautiful and terrifying, they fell upon us while we were still struggling to comprehend what was happening to our world. The loss of so much life, the landscape forever altered, the vast tears in the fabric of reality bleeding Ether like raw wounds; we were not prepared.

In the remote northern territories between what was once Russia and Scandinavia, the isolated pockets of survivors living there stood no chance. Fighting for their lives against an enemy they could not even comprehend, they were wiped out within hours. The Deathless had taken first blood, and it would not be long before the rest of humanity learned of this new threat.

Since time immemorial they have watched our world through our own eyes. And they have shaped the thoughts and feelings of many; from gifted artists to deranged killers, all have been at the whim of the creatures from the realm of dreams. Clear motives are as difficult to ascertain as the personality of any single Deathless. That is to say, we simply do not know. What we do know is that the Breaking of the World has shattered whatever fragile peace existed between the species – and humanity is under siege.

Shattered Earth - Czernobog - SculptSculpting by Glauco Longhi

From what humanity has uncovered, it appears there are different ‘aspects’ to the Deathless, almost a distinct ethnicity. Where mankind has divided along cultural and geographical lines, each aspect of the Deathless is reminiscent of certain personalities or creatures from human folklore, usually from a particular region or culture. To date, the two aspects most frequently encountered by humanity are that of the Shadow and the Beast; the former resembling creatures from Slavic mythology, the latter closer to Western European paganism.

Czernobog, literally the ‘Black God’, is the de facto leader of the Shadow Deathless. He was first across the breach, leading an army of shadows in an inscrutable crusade. Manifesting in the physical world as a large winged creature resembling a demon of some kind, he is the nightmare vision of mankind’s destruction.

Like all Deathless born of Shadow he is almost intangible, like smoke coalescing into solid, physical form. His very nature, along with that of all Deathless encountered thus far, is anathema to modern machines and technology. For humanity’s frontline soldiers, this presents a unique challenge. Sweeping in under a cloak of shadows, Czernobog and his followers strike without warning, devastating their foes and leaving behind no trace but for the corpses of their enemies.

Letting Go

Now that the game is public knowledge, I have had the odd but very satisfying experience of seeing it mentioned on gaming websites and blogs. It has been a real pleasure to see that people we have never met seem excited about what Simon and I are working on and are looking forward to playing the game and handling the miniatures that we’ve created.

This of course also comes with an additional level of responsibility, as we are no longer working just for ourselves but for a public audience. It also comes with the knowledge that we no longer ‘own’ the conversation around the game. Sure, we can try to steer it in the direction that we prefer but, going forwards, people will be less likely to get their information about the game from us directly and rather from website writers, reviewers, bloggers and the commenting public.

This level of public scrutiny is nothing new for Simon, who has gone through it countless times on big video game releases, but it is not something I have any experience with. The work I do in my day job will generally only directly affect a few dozen people and I know who they all are, so the whole concept of an unknown audience is taking some re-adjusting on my part.

Of course the whole purpose of starting the company was to create games that will reach a wide audience but, until now, only a few friends and family members have known what we are up to. So the best we can hope for is to try and enjoy this transition to having hundreds or even thousands of people read our words and view our art. After all, if the game is a success, this is the last time we’ll be in this position.