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Warhammer: Mark of Chaos


(2005-10-14)

If you are at all familiar with the tabletop miniatures war game Warhammer, started by the British company Games Workshop way back in '75, you'll know what a dark, rich, and gothic fantasy setting the game boasts. It is a world teetering on the brink of global war, in which armies of men and monsters clash on bloody battlefields and the sun rises on mounds of festering corpses. Sounds like it would make a great real-time strategy game, no? Well, Black Hole Games thought so too, and they made one.

Following in the wake of the surprisingly successful Dawn of War, another real-time strategy game based off of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer Fantasy's futuristic twin), comes Warhammer: Mark of Chaos, and it's looking to be a good one. However, it's always risky business to get in on the real-time strategy genre, being that there are so damn many titles to choose from, a lot of them great, but Black Hole Games thinks they've got a winning solution.

Mark of Chaos will focus on large-scale combat. You won't be piddling around with individual troops, but commanding whole regiments as single unit choices, which is in keeping with the Warhammer tabletop game. As such, battles will be big and bloody. Individual casualties won't be so important to you. Instead, you'll be worrying about unit morale and the overall fighting strength of each regiment. If a unit takes too much of a drubbing, they'll turn tale and run. However, if they achieve success on the battlefield, they'll become hardened veterans, and will continue on to the next battle with you instead of simply disappearing when you've achieved victory.

Another interesting facet is special characters. These heroes and heroines, who play such an important role in the Warhammer game itself, will make an appearance in Mark of Chaos as well. Toting magic weapons and boasting abilities far better than the average grunt, you can attach these combat behemoths to various regiments, not only to increase their killing power, but also to bolster leadership. Of course, if they fall to the enemy, you can expect panic amongst the ranks, so protect them!

Now, when I first said "real-time strategy game" you probably made a funny face as you debated whether or not you should really continue reading this story, lest I introduce some tedious-as-hell micromanagement system of wood-chopping and fish-catching. Well, fear not. Being set on so grand a scale, Mark of Chaos won't have you worrying about that. You will not be building brand new bases from the ground up on every map. Instead, you'll have a capital on the world map, a single base of operations that's always there. It can, of course, be improved upon, but like I said, no wood-chopping is necessary. The way in which you gather resources is by capturing vital points on the world map, such as mines and farms. So long as you can hold these areas, you'll receive revenue, which you'll then use to research new technologies and improve your armies via your capital.

So this world map thing I'm blabbing about, what's that? Well, it's how you fight your battles. Mark of Chaos is a world domination sort of deal, with everyone starting off in their own little corners and slowly expanding outwards, capturing enemy territory and eventually sacking their capital cities. Remember Risk? Same thing.

Four of the Warhammer races will be playable (both online and offline), and they are: the Empire ("good" humans), the hordes of Chaos (evil humans with demon allies), High Elves (fairly obvious), and Skaven (rat-people). In addition, you will be able to add Dogs of War (mercenary units) to your armies to compliment its strengths or make up for its deficiencies (need a cannon?).

As for that online play, details are still sketchy. You can most definitely expect both cooperative and competitive play, and the online mode will probably be the game's focus (like it is with Dawn of War). The single-player experience seems like it'll act as boot camp for online play, as you'll be able to take your heroes and veteran units online with you. This, of course, could lead to some imbalance amongst online players, and a lot of newbie stomping, so Namco (the publisher) and Black Hole Games have created a ladder system that matches players of equal skill.

The environments in which you play are highly detailed and, in a word, gorgeous. Everything from fields of soft grass blowing in the wind to dark underground tunnels will be featured. There will also be important tactical aspects to the maps as well. You will be able to, for instance, garrison a regiment in, say, a farm house to increase its defensive capabilities as well as its morale. More than that, you will be utilizing elevation. Obviously, missile weapons and war machines shoot further when placed atop hills and such, and it's easier to shoot down on someone if they're stuck in a valley. Thus, you'll be able to set up cunning ambushes and traps, instead of simply throwing your battle line at your opponent's battle line and letting the computer decide the outcome for you.

The units and everything else also look spanking. You need only glimpse a single screenshot to realize that Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is worth keeping your eye on. Unfortunately, that eye might get a little tired of watching as the game is set for release for the PC sometime around Christmas of next year.

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