This week I have mostly been playing Warhammer: Mark of Chaos & it’s almost un-marketed expansion Battle March. The game was published by Namco Bandai and made by Black Hole Entertainment & Deep Silver. Why did two development studios make the game? not really sure I just see both of their logos when the game launches. Possibly one did multiplayer and one single player. In any case something very strange happened with this games marketing & development.

When the original game launched it was reviewed and marketed as is traditional, shortly after that the official site stopped getting updates and pretty much hung about with a forum for another 18 months or so essentialy dead. They released an expansion but somehow it managed to fly under the radar of pretty much everyone including fans of the original game. Looking at the box I notice there isn’t even a games workshop logo on it which makes me curious if there was some disagreement about the game’s content that the IP creator didn’t like.

So as I was saying, I have been playing this all week. I finally got hold of an ebay copy of Battle March the expansion  and have been playing through the Orc and Dark Elf expansion campaign aswell as replaying the original games Empire/High Elf and Chaos/Skaven campaigns so I’ve been kept pretty busy.  The Reviews of the original game where reasonably ok but most “fans” of Warhammer slated it for reasons I am unclear on, maybe it was just fashionable.  It’s a real-time strategy game with some rpg character development for the heroes you can use in each army. The heroes have three talent trees for leading troops, fighting enemies and even dueling enemy heroes, calling them out of their regiments and dueling to the death.

The regiments have some upgrades you can purchase with money earned from battle looting after a mission victory and as your troops gain experience you can purchase musicians, champions, banners, upgraded armour, weapons even siege ladders or explosive barrels to destroy walls. There is artillery in the form of catapults, cannon or giant ballista like weapons and cavalry or some monstrous creatures such as giants or trolls although they mostly feature in multiplayer or as npc enemies. Pretty much all the units you would expect to find in a Warhammer game.

The strategy is there although it’s not on the same scale as say a total war game. There are standard pitched battles aswell as sieged attacks or defences, as is the usually you do missions following your hero and his army across the campaign maps as the story unfolds you fight various enemy armies and grow in strength and army choice.

Personally I love the game, I can’t see why so many people hated on it, I’ve probably played the main games campaigns about 4 times each since I bought the it many years ago and now I am playing the expansion finally I still don’t see why people were so negative. It looks and feels like a Warhammer game, it has all the elements that make a Warhammer game unique including some truly excellent voice actors and a decent storyline for each campaign.  The opening cinematics by Digic Pictures are proper Hollywood quality visuals and some of the best cgi I have seen.

If I had to criticise I would say that its a little too arcade and not enough simulation. As I said the strategy is there but you can often get by without worrying too much about flanking or unit morale. Your heroes are pretty powerful and can often make up for any lack of strategy or mistakes you make. It’s an rts you play for fun rather than to prove how brilliant you are at carving up little digital models.  Perhaps some Warhammer fans were hoping for a faithful recreation of the tabletop game, of course it isn’t that. Games Workshop would still like a reason to do business after all. If you play Warhammer Mark of Chaos & it’s expansion for what it is you will enjoy it, if you focus on what it isn’t you will likely forever be disappointed.

The mutiplayer component, which doesn’t work anymore since the developer and publisher have pretty much forgotten it existed and taken down all patches and websites relating to it, is actually very in-depth, you can build your units just like you would in tabletop choosing their body parts, picking an army colour designing your army list by spending gold to buy units, equipment and experience and war machines or monsters. Playing various battle types on a selection of maps including some siege maps. You can still play it over LAN I suppose or as single player vs AI skirmish but finding two people who like this game and like multiplayer is probably pretty difficult now. It’s a feature they clearly spent a lot of time developing it seems a shame it never shined.

I have also managed to find a copy of Dark Omen, the previous Warhammer strategy game I used to play a long time ago, if I can get it working I will also have a talk about that one. It seems I am in need of a new Warhammer game since I’m digging up all the old ones!