A Fan Led Project

staff_james_vanniekerkI’m James Van Niekerk, Art Director for the upcoming mobile game The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault. This has been more than a dream title to work on, as I’ve been playing Warhammer 40,000 and Fantasy since grade school.


Here’s a bit of history on my obsession with Warhammer 40,000 over the years.

The Astra Militarum

My entry into Warhammer 40,000 took place in high school, where I played as a World War II-themed Astra Militarum force. This conversion-heavy army started as a labour of love. I quickly learned that while green stuffing helmet brims onto guardsmen makes them look really cool, it becomes murderously time-consuming when you want to expand your force to over a hundred models. All that time and effort was worth it though! I won a Best Painted Army award at a local tournament.

The Dark Eldar


These days I play in a semi-weekly Warhammer 40,000 group with my friends and brother Jonas (who is the lead artist here at Complex Games) where I play a bloodthirsty Wych Cult of Dark Eldar. This army of ladies is a bit touch and go, meaning they tend to win big or lose big. Flying on a fleet of paper kites at break-neck speeds is always a volatile recipe.

Dark Heresy Role Play

On our lunch hour, Complex Games staff can be found immersing in the lore of a Dark Heresy role play game. I play as Withers McCarthy, a decrepit old psyker who has seen the terrors of the warp. We’re a group of mercenaries hired by the Inquisition to investigate the mysterious disappearance of large numbers of psykers to a strange cult in the depths of an un-trusting hive city.


Bringing it all into The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault

My experience playing and painting over many years has been crucially important when making decisions for Drop Assault. From something as simple as, “No, a boltgun doesn’t mount on a predator” to something more technical such as, “That ‘I’ symbol is from the inquisition, which didn’t exist during the time period of our game”, I’ve discovered depths of technical nerd-dom I never knew I had. I’ve learned a lot about the impressively rich lore of the Horus Heresy in the process, especially with the counsel of help we’ve had from Games Workshop and our experienced writers.

One the things I’ve been really excited about is the ability to depict a lot of these amazing Horus Heresy units and effects for the first time in full motion and sound. We’ll be breaking animated ground on loads of unique units and weapons which are exclusive to the Heresy Era. Take for example the devastating Scimitar Jetbike, which wields a Volkite Culverin that violently reduces organic matter to ash, or the Conversion Beamer that fires an unstable beam of antimatter which implodes in a concussive thunderclap. Working with effect artists in the studio to bring these weapons to a visual reality has been amazing. And having the actual gaming context to understand how they are meant to behave has been essential to doing these weapons justice.

So suffice to say, between myself and many others, there are a lot of fans in our office who are all really excited to unveil our dream project to you in the upcoming weeks / months. Stay tuned here for some unit spotlights and dev diaries, where we’ll be unveiling more units and news!