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Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is a real-time tactics game set in the Warhammer universe. It was developed by Black Hole Entertainment and co-published by Namco Bandai Games in the US and Deep Silver in PAL territories. The game was released for Microsoft Windows in the US on November 14, 2006, with subsequent release in PAL territories on November 23, 2006.[1]

An expansion, Battle March, was released on September 2, 2008. It contains one new campaign and the addition of Dark Elves and Orcs & Goblins as playable races. An Xbox 360 version was released and titled as Warhammer: Battle March, dropping the Mark of Chaos moniker.[2]

Gameplay

File:MOC-Duel.png

The game, according to the developers, is a game "focusing on the armies and battles while de-emphasizing the tedious aspects of base and resource management". Set in the Warhammer Old World, the player can command one of 4 armies from the tabletop game.

The gameplay is primarily focused on battlefield tactics, thus not featuring RTS gameplay aspects like base-building, resource harvesting or in-battle unit production. Instead, the gameplay is intended to be focused on high fantasy/late medieval battles. Its gameplay is superficially similar to its predecessors and the Total War games; however, the basic game play model is significantly more simplified, and battles are more similar to real-time strategy games like Warcraft III than other real-time tactics titles.

The objective for each battle is defeat of the enemy army by either completely destroying it or causing the remaining units to flee off the battlefield. Battles are fought on a variety of landscapes and settings, with specific terrain types granting bonuses or penalties to units.[3] Units also have morale, and will break and flee if they suffer enough damage or get hit by specific types of weaponry,[4] and stamina, which will cause them to lose defense and speed when sufficiently drained.[5]

The basic troop type present in the game is a "unit" which is anything from 1 to 96 "models" depending on the type of unit.[4] The control system is similar to the Total War and Dawn of War in that each unit is given orders as a single entity. As well as standard orders you are also able to arrange your units into a number of formations, with each formation conferring advantages against specific kinds of attacks.[4] Units will also gain experience over the course of a battle or campaign and will gain improved statistics and more models.

In addition to standard units there are special "Hero" units; unique individuals considerably more powerful than the average man or creature. In addition to being able to use and learn new abilities, they can also be equipped with additional weapons, armour or potions that grant the hero with both offensive and defensive skills and bonuses. Heroes also gain experience from fighting, and by gaining levels the player is able to unlock various skills that supplement its combat abilities.[6] They can be attached to standard units, giving the unit a morale boost and increasing its fighting capability through the use of skills. Hero units can also initiate or be challenged to duels, where they fight the opposing army's hero uninterrupted until one slays the other, resulting in a morale penalty for the losing side. This is for the most part fully automated, however the player is also free to activate any duel specific skills the hero has during the course of the duel.

Single Player

There are 2 single player campaigns, each separated into 4 chapters, one following the Empire and Elven Forces and the other the Hordes of Chaos and Skaven forces.

The majority of the single campaign is a number of different battle scenarios, in which your pre-selected force will combat a number of enemy forces. Winning the scenario will award the player gold. Between battles the game switches to a map of the area, with the location of their army denoted by a figure of their champion. The player is then able to select his or her army and move to another location. This will bring up a force selection screen, and the player will then have to select a limited number of troops and heroes to play the next scenario with. Although the campaign is for the most part linear, there are also optional side quests, which although mostly unreleated to the story will usually result in the heroes acquiring additional gold, troops or equipment that can be used in the campaign. As well as traditional large scale battles there are also Duel scenarios in which a hero character of your choice will enter straight into a duel with an enemy champion, with victory of either champion immediately ending the scenario.

On the map the player can also access towns and encampants, which serve as the replacement for bases found in other strategy and tactic games. The player can use the gold acquired in previous battles to purchase replacements, new or improved units, upgrades such as better armour or attack power for their existing units and also wargear and items for their hero units. Conversations between characters will also occur at certain points on the map, advancing the story.

In addition to the campaign, the multiplayer modes can also be played as single player skirmish battles.

Multiplayer

File:MOC-Editor.png

The game allows for up to 4 players to battle using either a LAN or over the internet. Multiplayer battles are played in much the same way as the single player. The game includes four different game modes, including normal battles, siege battles where one team has to defend a stronghold from the opposing army, and a reinforcements mode, where capturing strategic points on the map awards points that enable players to buy new units during the battle.

Prior to the battle, each player has a certain amount of points with which to select an army, which is chosen by the host of the game prior to army selection. The points can be used in a variety of different ways, either buying new units, upgrading units or buying additional equipment or skills for your hero units. This enables a player to outfit an army in a variety of styles suitable for their playing style.[7] Although the player is free to choose any configuration, there are also examples of army configurations for each of the 12 factions featured in game. In a tribute to the tabletop game, players are also able to customise their army's colours and banners. In addition, there is also a comprehensive model editor where players can change the look of individual models using a variety of heads, limbs, armour and weaponry sets. These army configurations can then be saved for use later.

Setting

File:Warhammer-Old world map.jpg

The setting of Mark of Chaos is the Old World of the Warhammer Fantasy universe, one year after the Great War against Chaos. In the aftermath of the war, the chaos warbands scattered, some returning to their homelands in the north, some staying and raiding the farms and villages in the northern fringes of the Empire. The Empire, already pushed to the brink of collapse as a result of the war, is undermanned and struggles to protect the isolated farms and villages. If the tribes of chaos were once again to reuinite, the Empire would most likely fall.[8] The game has 2 campaigns that follow the story from both the Empire and Chaos perspectives, with each campaign having a different progression of events.

Races

The game features four different playable races from the Warhammer game, and the units available to each race are taken straight from the tabletop wargame. All the races are visually distinctive, and have their own unique units, although there is a lot of crossover between factions and each type of unit will usually have an equivalent unit in another race. Within in each race there are also 3 different factions, which are available to be used in multiplayer games. However beyond cosmetic differences, and the selection of troops there is minimal difference between the 3 factions.

The Empire is a vast human empire which resembles medieval Germany in its looks and organisation. Their forces are primarily human soldiers of various specialties. In addition they are, along with the Dwarves, one of the few races who have developed black powder weaponry, and have access to handguns, cannons, and other gunpowder based siege weapons. The 3 playable factions are the Ostermark, Nuln and Talabecland armies.[9]

The High Elves are an ancient and elegant race. In addition to their normal ranks of elven spearmen and archers, they have a considerable number of elite troops, and an above average number of magical specialists. The 3 playable factions are the Ellyrian, Shadowlands and Saphery kingdoms.[10]

The Hordes of Chaos are Humans from the Northlands, corrupted by the gods of Chaos by their ambition, lust or the other base instincts and emotions of humanity. In addition to human warriors and Marauders they also have access to supernatural creatures such as Daemons and Spawns of Chaos. The 3 playable factions are the cults of the chaos gods Nurgle, Khorne and the pantheon Chaos Undivided.[11]

The Skaven are a race of subterranean man sized rats. Though as individuals they are weaker than members of the other races, they compensate through vastly superior numbers. In addition they utilise a mineral called warpstone to mutate members of their race to create giant rats and rat ogres. The 3 playable factions are the Eshin, Skryre and Warlord clans.[12]

In addition to the four playable races there are also additional races that serve as both additional enemies in the single player campaigns and also as mercenary "Dogs of War" units available at certain points in the single player campaign, and also as additional choices in multiplayer games. The available mercenary races are Greenskins and Dwarves. The Vampire Counts are also present in the single player campaign, however are not available to be used by the player.

The Hordes of Chaos Campaign

The Chaos campaign follows the progress Thorgar the Blooded One, a Chaos champion who fought alongside the warlord Asavar Kul in the Great War. Now he is looking to build his forces to launch another attack on The Empire. During this time he is guided by a sorcerer by the name of Sudobaal, who instructs Thorgar to lead his men to a Chaos shrine. After enduring a series of trials Thorgar obtains the favour and patronage of one of the chaos pantheon; either Nurgle or Khorne, depending on the player's choice. Sudobaal then instructs Thorgar to locate an elven mage who knows the location of the body of the defeated Chaos warlord Asavar Kul. During this time he allies with Kasquit, a skaven warlock engineer of clan Skryre. Having angered the skaven council, Kasquit quickly accepts the alliance in order to receive Thorgar's protection, and agrees to help Thorgar locate the mage. The campaign concludes with Thorgar killing Sudobaal for turning on him and his elevation to daemonhood, and the subsequent destruction of the city of Talabheim. Roaring his victory to the gods and claiming he can't be defeated. In the distance a huge greenskin army is preparing to launch its own attack against the Old World, this possibly heralding the game's expansion: Battle March.

The Empire Campaign

The Empire is placed from the perspective of "Stefan von Kessel" a captain in the army of Ostermark under Count Otto Gruber, he is however plagued by his sad past - his father and grandfather killed for chaos worship and him being branded across his eye with the mark of chaos. the campaign starts with Stefan fending of an attack by chaos marauders. The battle is won and Gruber, Stefan and the other captains: Felsturm and Steimer hold a council of war and Steimer referring to Stefans past several times. Stefan is tasked with going north while Gruber and Steimer attend to other things. Stefan goes north and after several battle with chaos and ork forces he arrives at the fortress he is heading for and takes it though he damages it in the process. After a heated exchange between him,steimer and Gruber he is sent to help the elves after the Reiksmarshal brings "requests" from the emperor. It's at this point we meet Aurelion, a Archmage of Saphery. Stefan sets camp while the elves go to gather their forces who are arriving by sea. It is during this brief meeting that Aurelion inquires about the mark on his face their conversation goes something like this: "What is that mark on your face?" "It is a scar from a hotbrand. My father,my grandfather were executed for chaos worship. It is a reminder for me and a warning to others." "There is no mark upon you." "I have always thought...." "If you were truly marked I would have killed you." The elves then set of Aurelion finds her people have been scattered. She gathers them and after fighting chaos and skaven forces (Ratmen) they arrive at a fortress soon to be assaulted. The story switches back to Stefan who makes his way along. He can chose to head southwest to an old ruin or cross a bridge held by chaos worshipers. Either way he must cross the bridge and arrive at the fortress to relieve Aurelion and the other defenders. After the battle Stefan and Aurelion speak with Prince Khalanos who wants Stefan to go north with him to counter the advance of chaos while Stefan's orders are to head east to deal with a gathering. In the end they go their separate ways and Stefan, after helping Brother Gunther (a warrior priest of Sigmar defending a shrine from the Skaven), learns that Count Otto Gruber (who's army could not found) was guilty of worshiping Nurgle the Chaos god of the rot. Stefan is outraged for it was Gruber who accused his father and grandfather taking their lands for his own and in fact, accusing them to cover his own misdeeds. Stefan retrieves a Daemon slayer's sword from the tomb of a vampire count and heads east to deal with Gruber. He is stopped, however, by plague clouds. Two scouts die bringing him the news and he is forced to pull back. Meanwhile Aurelion and her warriors decide to find out about the clouds. They locate and destroy a shrine dedicated to Nurgle therefor allowing Stefan to make for Gruber's fortress. Stefan arrives to find a massacre: Gruber's army has been slaughtered - no doubt after they had discovered his treachery. Taking a siege tower and battering ram into his army Stefan attacks and destroys Gruber's defences and kill Steimer who was in league with Gruber (and who in the first mission comments on how he hopes Stefan can be trusted) and mortally wounds Gruber. As Gruber lies dying in the dirt Stefan stares down at Gruber's sword the following conversation goes like this. "The runefang, the sign of an elector count." "It is mine" "You stole it from my father!!" "It was not meant to be like this... I would become immortal... standing at the right hand of the lord of decay. I..have failed....the Rot consumes me... I am. (Gruber's body is consumed in a plague cloud - his body rotting.) "Burn it and send the ashes to the emperor with my best wishes." "I am hereby reclaiming the runefang and the lands of Ostermark. if any man disagrees then raise your voice" (cheer) (scout arrives) "sir, news has come THAT the chaos hordes are still moving. they head for talabheim." "then we shall stop them!" "Men of the empire - this war is not yet over. we fight on!!!" At this point we move to Aurelion who on the roAD meets the high elf mage Teclis who tells her that Prince Khalanos is dead. She asks if they should leave for Ulthuan but Teclis tells her: "the time for us to stand alone against the forces of chaos is over. We fight with the empire." Aurelion heads for Talabheim and after the usual orcs and chaos battle arrives near to the city. The story switches back to Stefan and after fighting his own path through the lands arrives at Talabheim to fight beside the elves. The battle for Talabheim ends with Thorgar the blooded one (now a daemon prince) being slain and all the chaos warriors being killed. The Reiksmarshal arrives having survived a battle at the bridge to the north after taking some of Stefan and Aurelion's soldiers. The story ends with Stefan's claim to the throne of Ostermark being recognised. Before it goes to the main menu Teclis initiates a conversation. "Our people are advanced in the arts of healing.We could remove that for you" indicating the scar on his face. "No, I shall keep it. As you say it is but a scar - one of many I now have."

Development

Development of the game was given to Black Hole Entertainment, who were hired by Namco Bandai Games after being impressed by their work on the real-time strategy title Armies of Exigo.[13]

Two different styles of box art were released, one depicting an Empire Warrior Priest and the other depicting a Chaos Champion. At the same time, a Collector's Edition was released, containing the official soundtrack on audio CD, the official novelization written by Anthony Reynolds, an art book, posters and several Warhammer themed ornaments.

Soundtrack

The game features an orchestral soundtrack composed entirely by award winning composer Jeremy Soule, who is most famous for his work on Supreme Commander, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Icewind Dale, and the Guild Wars series of video games. The entire soundtrack is included in Audio CD format in the Collectors Edition box set. The CD is not sold separately, however it is available for download direct from Soule's website.[14]

Track list
  1. Warhammer Theme (1:48)
  2. Trial of the Gods (1:34)
  3. The Hordes Advance (2:10)
  4. For the Dark Gods! (1:33)
  5. Preparing for Battle (1:13)
  6. Men of the Empire, Make Ready! (1:21)
  7. Sigmar Protects (2:16)
  8. Forges of Nuln (1:44)
  9. From the North They Come (2:05)
  10. Leave None Alive! (1:46)
  11. The Siege of Gotterung (1:09)
  12. Onwards to Victory! (1:55)
  13. Patrolling the Old World (1:49)
  14. Unscrupulous Methods (2:13)
  15. Skulls for the Skull Throne! (1:44)
  16. Dark Winds (2:14)
  17. Stefan's Vengeance (2:42)
  18. For the Emperor (2:07)
  19. Vigilance and Strength (2:10)
  20. Sudobaal's Treachery (1:20)
  21. Stalking the Prize (2:13)
  22. Shallya Watch Over Us (1:48)
  23. Patrolling the Borders (2:06)
  24. The Aftermath of War (1:55)
  25. The Talebheim Crater (1:51)
  26. Grim Preparations (2:09)
  27. Mark of Chaos (1:06)

Reception

Reviews Sample
Publication Score
Edge
<center>6 out of 10
<center>IGN <center>8.0 of 10[15]
<center>Game Informer <center> 6.75 out of 10
<center>PC Gamer <center>83 out of 100
<center>GameSpot <center>7.2 of 10.[6]
<center>GameSpy <center>3.5 out of 5[16]
<center>PC Zone UK <center>82 out of 100[17]
<center>PC Gamer UK <center>69 out of 100
<center>Official Xbox Magazine <center>5.5 out of 10
Compilations of multiple reviews
<center>GameRankings <center>74 of 100 (based on 40 reviews)[18]
<center>Metacritic <center>73 of 100 (based on 29 reviews)

</div> The game was received with mixed and extremely varying reviews. Reviewers generally praised its distinctive and varied visuals, with the character models and the special effects earning high praise from the majority of reviews, but also criticised the rather basic combat animations and a shallowness of tactical depth for a game focusing purely on battlefield operations.

The single player campaigns received criticism for its linearity, and the storytelling especially when compared to the game's opening cinematic. The multiplayer support was also disparaged for its temperamental and glitch-prone account system and connection issues, although this was addressed and partly fixed in subsequent patches.

Despite the criticisms received however, the game received positively overall, obtaining an average score of 73 at Metacritic[19], and similarly an average score of 74% at GameRankings with over 80% of reviews scoring 70% or better.[18]

Criticism

The game received criticism upon release, mainly centered on two things: the marketing of the game, and, related to this, the lack of faithfulness to the Warhammer tabletop original.

Before release, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos was claimed to feature "dynamic cooperative campaign mode and a full assortment of multiplayer modes for both casual and competitive gamers". However, the cooperative campaign was omitted from the released game, even though still marketed as featuring this (the developer's homepage still listed it as a feature as of July 2007). Mark of Chaos was marketed as of "epic" scale, with "thousands of characters battling on screen";[20] in reality, the game features hundreds rather than thousands of individual characters. Namco, the publisher, targeted the substantial tabletop game fan base by naming Mark of Chaos a faithful translation to computer game format[21], however, core elements of the tabletop game (e.g., formation movement rules, combat resolution systems, and unit overlap prohibitions) are missing, invalidating tabletop tactics.

Further common sources or criticism in reviews, discussion and technical support are that the game suffers from numerous bugs, instability and prohibitively long load screens: "the standard loading screen is preceded by its own loading screen, for meta-loading", as Game-Revolution put it in their review[22]. Also, the hero duels, one of the more distinctive features of the game, are often singled out as dull, repetitive or distracting[23].

See also

References

  1. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Information. Gamefaqs. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  2. IGN: Warhammer: Battle March. IGN. Retrieved on 2008-09-11.
  3. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Features. Official Site. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 IGN Review Page 2. IGN. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  5. Namco Bandai (November 2006). "Stamina". Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Game Manual: 23. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gamespot Review Page 1. GameSpot. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  7. GameSpot Review Page 2. Gamespot. Retrieved on June 9, 2007.
  8. Reynolds, Anthony (2006). Warhammer: Mark Of Chaos. Black Library. ISBN 378 1 84416 396 0 
  9. Races - Empire. Namco Bandai. Retrieved on June 8, 2007.
  10. Races - High Elves. Namco Bandai. Retrieved on June 8, 2007.
  11. Races - Chaos. Namco Bandai. Retrieved on June 8, 2007.
  12. Races - Skaven. Namco Bandai. Retrieved on June 8, 2007.
  13. Developer Diary #1. GameSpot. Retrieved on June 9, 2007.
  14. Jeremy Soule's Soundtrack Catalogue. directsong.com. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  15. Adams, Dan. Warhammer: Mark Of Chaos review at IGN page 3. IGN. Retrieved on 21 June 2007.
  16. Lopez, Miguel. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos review at Gamespy. GameSpy. Retrieved on June 21, 2007.
  17. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos review at PC Zone work=PC Zone. Retrieved on June 21, 2007.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Mark Of Chaos Reviews. GameRankings. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  19. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos (pc: 2006): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  20. http://markofchaos.com/features.php
  21. Deepsilver TV. Deepsilver. Retrieved on June 18, 2007.
  22. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos review for the PC
  23. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos PC Review. 1up. Retrieved on July 18, 2007.

External links

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