Salutations my fellow heroes and heathens of the good Imperium of Man.
I would like to open a discussion on one, and only one topic that has caused a divide in this forum community: the topic of sprinting assault terminators in the gameplay trailer we received, as well as their Pre-Alpha movement speed. I do not want this discussion to in anyway include Gabriel Angelos or what he is doing in his terminator armor. That should be its own segment for another time, as are many other queries in regards to the footage. Now that we have the header out of the way, let us continue.
The first question, and easiest to answer is, “do terminators sprint in the canonical universe of Warhammer 40k?” The answer is no. I am sure that if you look long and hard enough through various sources of Space Marine material you may find an instance where an individual in terminator armor is moving much faster than he should, but it is generally accepted that terminator armor (also known as Tactical Dreadnought Armor for us lore-mongers) trades off speed for enhanced defensive and offensive capabilities. So, why then are they sprinting in the footage?
I want to go off track for a moment and challenge a narrative that has cropped up here and again that Relic employees do not know anything about the lore of Warhammer 40k or the previous titles. This is false. We have confirmation from the staff posted on these forums (my account cannot link URLs, but I was able to see it on the forum front page. The post in question was made by Kellie_Re) that the entirety of the development team has either played Dawn of War I, Dawn of War II, or both. Whether you believe that is your opinion, but it is the official word. I make this statement because if we believe that the team understands the lore, then they must known that terminator armor should not be something a space marine can sprint in. This means that having terminators sprint was not a mistake, or a whim, or an oversight. It was an intentional design decision.
Now, the big question is for what gameplay reason did they make this lore unfriendly change? In truth, I do not know, but I can hazard a few guesses.
In any strategy game where there are ranged units and melee units, there will be an attempt to kite said melee units until they can no longer pose a threat to the ranged units. You can see this is Starcraft I & II, Dawn of War I & II, The Total War Franchise, etc. In such a scenario, the worth of a melee unit is determined by how quickly and reliably it can close the distance to its target. Assault marines have a jump pack to close that gap, assault bikes have high movement speed, and assault terminators have teleport. Let us talk about teleport.
Teleport (for assault terminators) is awful, both canonically and on the table top. Lore-wise it is unreliable, incredibly dangerous, and is mostly used to get units to the battlefield rather than moving around on the battlefield. On the table top, teleporting the unit in prevents it from attacking in melee for an entire turn, making it a veritable death sentence. A drop pod circumvents both the lore and tabletop issues, but there you see it is a one time use drop pod and not a consistent gap closer. This was actually a problem in Dawn of War I as well, where terminators were charted fairly low among the Elites Unit tier list, though they had several more problems than just their slow movement speed and lack of catch mechanics.
Veterans of Dawn of War II will notice that assault terminators did not not suffer from this problem. There are a few things contributing to this, but I want to highlight the ones that I feel are the most important. The first thing you can point out is that the map scale is much smaller in Dawn of War II. Not the size, the scale. This suited the terminators' slow, lumbering movement. In fact, almost every unit in Dawn of War II moved in a slow manner, regardless of whether or not they should have in compliance with the lore. Tactical Space Marines move painfully slow in Dawn of War II compared to their potential. Keep this in mind, because it has some very important ramifications regarding design decisions in Dawn of War III. Specifically:
Dawn of War II Tactical Space Marines move at almost the same speed as Dawn of War II Assault Terminators. Dawn of War III Assault Terminators move at almost the same speed as Dawn of War III Tactical Space Marines.
From this, I conclude that assault terminators have gotten faster in gameplay (and thus now sprint) because the base speed of the tactical space marine, and possibly every unit, seems to have been increased. On the tabletop, melee units do not need to be that fast if they're brought onto the middle of the board because you cannot readily disengage from melee. You are trapped until either your squad wins combat, dies, or their morale breaks, which almost always leads to death. In Dawn of War II, assault terminators are at a relatively similar speed to other squads, break through cover, and are never suppressed which gives them the potential to catch other units. Dawn of War III looks (from the bits of the game we have seen) the most like Dawn of War I in terms of design, and the assault terminators there were a subpar unit at competitive level play.
So, if sprinting assault terminators are an issue, what can be done to keep them lore friendly and competitive? The basic answer is simple: give them something that makes them difficult to kite. The problem with making them slower in a game where everything is faster, is that they will never catch a squad by walking to it. If you make them slower you would need to give them something in exchange. For example, it could work if whoever they hit were stunned, slowed, disabled, or given some other hindrance, but then you will have terminators that leap-frog from target to target via teleportation. That is both lore unfriendly and micro intensive. You could heavily reduce all forms of ranged damage to them, but then you would need to make them worse in melee to compensate, thus defeating the purpose of the assault variant of terminator. The easiest way to solve the problem is to make them faster and give them a gap closer on a long cool-down that gets them into the fight, which is what we have now.
Is this gameplay change worth the sacrifice of lore accuracy? That is a subjective question, and goes beyond the scope of this discussion. Obviously, we all want the game to play well, and we all want to feel immersed in rich universe of Warhammer 40k. For some, this will break that immersion. For others, they will not care.
There are also other variables we have no information about. How fast will regular (ranged) terminators be? What about land raiders? Would they be able to board them? What other problems would such a land raider create? And so on.
But that is enough for an opening post. How do you the rest of you view this change? If you view it as a problem, how would you fix it? Discuss.