When Space Marine 2 was first announced, its debut trailer led players to believe the biggest enemy to fight would be the hungry hordes of Tyranids swarming the Imperium. They’re still a major threat, but the latest gameplay trailer revealed the game’s other antagonist: the Thousand Sons, servants of the God of Change. But who are these bad guys, exactly, and why are they such a threat to Titus and the Imperium of Man?
Over 10,000 years ago, before the current grimdark setting of Warhammer 40,000, the Emperor of Man created 20 Space Marine legions. Things immediately started going off the rails; two legions were purged from history, their fates unknown. A civil war called the Horus Heresy split the remaining 18 legions 50/50, with half on the side of humanity and the Emperor. The other half, including the Thousand Sons, ended up siding with the extra-dimensional and wholly malevolent Chaos Gods.
The Thousand Sons are arguably the most tragic traitor legion, and some fans have argued that their primarch, Magnus, did nothing wrong. (He absolutely did a whole lot of things wrong, but that’s a whole other article.) Each legion, loyalist or traitorous, has their own specialization; the Imperial Fists love to fortify, the Raven Guard is the best at stealth, and members of the Death Guard are tough to the point of near-invulnerability. Magnus and the Thousand Sons are top-tier pyskers; these guys aren’t just Space Marines, they also have a ton of space wizards in their ranks.
Back in the days around the Horus Heresy, Magnus the Red — who enjoyed a lot of freedom and power as one of the Emperor’s sons — spent a lot of time mucking about in the Warp. What he didn’t know, because his dad never clued him in, is that the Warp is the domain of the Chaos Gods. One of these malevolent entities, Tzeentch, reached out to Magnus and started some space Skype calls.
Tzeentch offered to fix up a little problem the Thousand Sons were dealing with: a rampant mutation called the flesh change. Magnus traded his eye for a solution to the flesh change. This started a series of bargains that eventually accidentally turned Magnus against his dad and loyalist brothers, and ruined his father’s master plan for the future of humanity.
Making matters worse, the flesh change returned. Ahriman, the favored son of Magnus, decided to engage in a little paternal rebellion of his own. He cast a complicated spell, called a rubric, in an attempt to cure the flesh change. It kind of worked; Ahriman stopped the flesh change because the spell turned every non-psyker Thousand Son into a storm of dust trapped inside their armor. Oopsie doodle!
The Thousand Sons have been a long-running antagonist to the Imperium, and Magnus even showed up at the beginning of the current Era Indomitus to try and stop the Ultramarines primarch Roboute Guilliman from making it to Terra. The Thousand Sons showing up in Space Marine 2 is a little bit of a grudge match. As Titus stomps his way through Rubric Marines and Tzeentchian sorcerers, I’ll be thinking: My dad could beat up your dad.
Tzeentch is a tougher boss to depict in video games than the other Chaos Gods. Change, manipulation, and fate are abstract concepts compared to Khorne’s bloodshed or Nurgle’s plagues. The Thousand Sons are a good way to put a face — well, or a helmet full of dust — on Tzeentch and his infinite number of schemes. I hope we see some of this Chaos God’s weirder elements, like two-headed demons that can tell the past and future, but not the present.
Space Marine 2 is due to be released this winter on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X; it has no concrete release date.