Warhammer: Mark of Chaos PC

It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like many a traditional Warhammer fan’s prayers have been answered. Those who would prefer something more faithful to the original tabletop miniatures game than the (rather excellent) Dawn of War series finally have something to look forward to, and it seems like it’s going to be worth the wait.

Warhammer: Mark of Chaos, being developed by Black Hole Games, offers a real-time strategy experience that closely resembles the Total War series’ style of play, with large armies beating the crap out of each other across vast landscapes. Soldiers are controlled in large groups as opposed to single units, allowing more time for greater strategic planning without having to worry about fiddly unit selection, and it’s this tactical element that really adds depth to the battles. Skill is more important than numbers here, and the use of the right units at the right time combined with the right abilities and equipment can result in victory for a heavily outnumbered army just when it seems hopeless.

However, equipment and abilities are just part of the customisation available, as Black Hole Games have included a whole wealth of options to change. This ability to personalise your army is one of the main captivations of the board game, adding a unique charm and character to every unit on the battlefield, and the same is true for Mark of Chaos. Battle armour can be made to look how you want, within reason, with a large range of crests and colours available to choose from, and equipment can be assigned to whichever units you feel will make the best use of it. With so much care and attention put into your troops, they become something more than just units in an army; you’ll actually start to care for their well-being, mourning the loss of any fallen comrades, and you’ll take greater effort to keep as many of them alive as possible. Now, this may just seem superficial, but it actually affects how you play the game too; it’s suddenly a lot harder to send your carefully groomed swordsmen against a raging mass of ogres without worrying about their chances of survival, so you’ll position some riflemen on the banks above to provide some cover in order to protect your beloved soldiers, and the feeling of joy after a successful tactical victory is supremely enjoyable.

Alongside the regular units are the hero characters, each with their own special abilities and stat bonuses. For example, having a hero charge into battle might give all the surrounding soldiers greater attack strength, thus creating a much more potent force than normal. In the single player campaign, these hero characters are usually mission-critical, so it’s best to not leave them on their own to hold off an entire army by themselves. Even so, they put up a hell of a fight, and add further strategic elements to the proceedings with their special skills, whether they’re offensive or defensive.

The battlefields themselves are beautiful, as are the units dying all over the place. Zooming in fully reveals a huge amount of detail on every unit, whilst pulling the camera further away reveals large, frenzied battles with bodies flying all over the place; siege cannons in particular produce spectacular results, with the initial impact explosion being followed by a rain of bodies falling out of the sky. Buildings can be garrisoned for extra defensive protection, and line-of-sight can be used to great effect by having units take cover behind walls and on cliff tops.

As if the single player campaigns weren’t enough, there’s a massive amount of fun to be had online. Mark of Chaos supports up to eight players in one match, each choosing their own units and heroes with a set number of points allocated at the start. How these points are spent plays a large part in the final outcome, as simply choosing a load of units at random and pitting them against an army of purposefully hand-picked soldiers will almost certainly result in defeat.

Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is shaping up to be an excellent game, with masses of variety in both units and locations. There’s enough content here to keep strategy fans happy, and the amount of effort that’s gone into keeping the game faithful to the original board game is sure to please hardcore fans of the franchise. The customisation on offer makes this game stand out from most other strategy games available, adding a highly personal touch to the beautifully realised battles, and the variation in gameplay keeps the action fresh and exciting. Mark my words; this is one to watch out for.

Release Date (EU): 24th November 2006