RETRO – Among the classic fantasy universes the Warhammer universe, is the most awesome, and brutal of all, that is why when a PC game is announced I get hyped. Unfortunately, the only adaptation we got was from 40K, and we needed to wait eight years that finally, the original Warhammer has a go.
“There is no escape from Chaos … it marks us all” – Can be heard in the intro cinematic of Warhammer: Mark of Chaos which was created by the award-winning Digic Pictures studio. The studio gave its best to provide the best feeling of Warhammer, for Black Hole Entertainment’s brand new RTS game, which can be considered a remake of Dark Omen. The development team gave it all, but it seems that the saying of “Chaos marks all “ also happened to them.
The figures come to life
Every time I walk past a Warhammer fantasy shop, I always stop for a few minutes to admire the figures. I only admire them as I got over my collecting phase of figures back when I was a kid, and the other reason is that it is quite an expensive hobby. Luckily we have the video game world for us; that allows us to experience the Warhammer universe much cheaper, with its orcs, rat people, goblins, dwarves, and human soldiers.
The first classic Warhammer game was the 1995 Shadow of the Horned Rat (one of first Windows 95 games with Directx) only had mild success, but the 3D rotatable camera and the ability to control units in squads, platoons (just like in the later Total War series) was really neat. The atmosphere and the game were great. However, the actual potential of the system was unleashed with The Dark Omen.
I tried liking Horned Rat, but I could not just get myself to like it entirely. Dark Omen was the opposite of this; it was “love at first fight.” The excellent, and relatively new combat system (finally an RTS that did not clone the system from other games), great characters, battles, missions, and adventures bound me in front of the PC entirely, and I completed the game even though the last missions were moral.
Let us fast forward to the present, as we needed eight years for a classic Warhammer game that does not take place in the Warhammer 40K universe.
Nostalgia is a good thing. People remember the good times and the excellent games which they spent endless days.
One thing is sure that Black Hole Entertainment tried to mimic Dark Omen, as Mark of Chaos’ gameplay, control, the combat system is eerily reminiscent of that classic RTS game.
Just like in Dark Omen’s campaign, we get to play in a well-crafted linear campaign – the difference is that while we could only be the “good” guys while controlling Morgan Bernhardt, here we can complete two campaign. One as the champion of the empire Stefan von Kessel, and the champion of Chaos, Thorgar the Blooded One. This is a welcome addition as we only got to try the forces of Chaos in the multiplayer mode of Dark Omen.
Great addition so lots of plus points for that, especially since both sides tell the same war, but with different outcomes.
Unfortunately, the campaigns, in the beginning, are generic, the characters are uninteresting: Between the Dark Omen’s captain and Stefan von Kessel, the captain is still more original than Kessel (who was even marked by the dark) just to make him more attractive.
To be honest, the generic story becomes apparent once we see the cinematics after the intro, and the details of the scenes are pretty bad and boring. The cinematics is compressed wrong, and the 3D models look generic when zoomed into the max.
I would like to note: that if it weren’t for the narrator mentioning a Chaos sign marks Kessel’s face, I would not have noticed it from the cinematics, and I still needed to look out for it.
Later both campaigns become more attractive, but it still has a lot of standing around and talking bits.
As we move forward the map, and the missions, we sometimes can visit side paths, if we wish. These are optional objectives. If these were not in the game, the main map would be pointless. While it is detailed, it is so…. Brownish that after awhile you can get bored looking at it. What is annoying is that some of the locations are entirely pointless. As when we arrive there nothing happens, we just get a short description such as: “The enemy army was here, they left blood and destruction after them”.
The cities are not too detailed either, but they are useful. Through these static places we can upgrade, and develop our armies, heroes, new armor can become available, weapons, spells, and horses (we can also sell our worthless stuff). It is quite a fun idea that instead of buying new soldiers from towns, we get to raise them from the dead from the church (and the heroes also). I think the developers wanted to cut the weird system from Dark Omen where if you bought new units into an existing platoon, that platoon would constantly be demoted to rookie status. Also, another great new addition is that we can go back to the conquered cities with a click from the main map for a bit of extra help. Although this kind of ruins the illusion that we have to go on a fixed point for everything else.
Out with the tabletop
Okay so the main map part of the game is not a big deal; however, the battles that are in the game are fun. The combat system is from the familiar Dark Omen, or from Total War games: We control different platoons, squads, and the most important part is the correct unit placement, and the use of the unit’s advantages, as brute force, is not enough. For example, it is important to rush from a hill with the cavalry, or to place the artillery from a high vantage point, or to place them in a tower to see the battlefield well enough.
Speaking of the line of fire, it is worth checking out for any obstructions: as if our cannons shoot with something in front then the enemy will not get hit – just like in real life. As just in real life, every precise hit can create huge losses in platoons, which will result in the survivors running for their life. Other important factors of the battlefield also need to be taken into account: our musketeers can hide behind cover, the cavalry can charge-deadly from a hill.
I must say that there are not too many formations in the game: we find more of these in other RTS game. The battlefield itself is like a tabletop: large, beautifully made, varied with towers, hills, forests, that are already rotten and destroyed by the forces of Chaos, so some of the locations can give us the chills.
We also see a lot of units that are part of the Warhammer universe. The army of the Empire, for example, has modern musketeers, cannons, and early forms of Gatling guns, while the forces of chaos have the usual Orcs, Rat Men, and other demonic monsters. Both sides have “air units”: such as noble eagles, harpies.
The battlefield is not just decided by pure strength, a lot of factors result in the victory or defeat of our army. The most important are the morale, as a platoon with high morale can defeat a lot of enemies. However, if they are scared to death, only with the use of unique items, and abilities can we get them back on the frontlines.
There is also a huge part of the spells that our heroes know as they can change the tide of battle. Other spells allow us to cause massive damage to the enemy; we just need to make sure that the spell hits the right targets.
Controlling platoons are easy, we just click the left mouse button to the location, and with the right mouse button, we determine which way they should look. Before a battle, we have some time to setup our troops: our shooters, cannons in well-defended positions, on a vantage point, our cavalry to the flanks, and our infantry into the middle.
Controlling is okay, but the friendly fire feature works weird at times and can cause some huge amount of frustration to us. Our Musketeers do not damage our soldiers, but the cannons do deadly damage against our units if we do not look out.
There can be times when our cavalry destroyed most of the enemy, and as the cannons fire slowly they shoot one more time, which results in the cavalry getting hit. Wish they would have allowed us somehow to cancel such shots, as they cause more harm than good.
Make Warhammer not love!
The most fun part of the game is multiplayer which mimics the tabletop experience and rules excellently. We can set our formations, with a point system, and to create a well-balanced match, everyone has the same amount of points. The bigger the platoon is or the powerful the unit, the more it costs, so we have to think through how we spend the points, and how we make up our army.
There is also a free-for-all or deathmatch, but there are more interesting modes such as siege, or reinforcement type games, where we will have to take over certain points on a map, to generate gold so we can create more units. The multiplayer matches last more than the campaign’s scripted battles, as a few quick and smart maneuvers can change the tide of battle
Sadly connecting to the servers is a bit buggy, and after patches, it still happens to be not so great of an experience. Luckily we can play over LAN; it is just that not everyone has the time to get together in a Lan party.
Warhammer is a good RTS game, but with a weak story, boring cinematics, and a bit of a bad UI. Still, the developers did a great good job with the title, and the multiplayer is well-crafted (which is always the important part in such games). So this Warhammer game is not bad! I await the sequel or the expansion pack.
-Bad Sector- (2006)
+ The Warhammer world comes to life
+ Well-developed Dark Omen / Total War’s tactical part
+ The Digic’s opening scene
– Linear campaigns
– Certain logical tactics do not work
– Bad story
Developer: Black Hole Entertainment