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Mark Marrow
04 Jan, 2007

Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Review

PC Review | It's back.
The Warhammer franchise has picked up in momentum on the video game front in recent years, largely thanks to Relic’s spectacular adaptations of the Warhammer 40K universe. And deservingly so too - the classic tabletop hobby boasts a fantastic setting and fan base that often leaves a question as to why developers hadn’t tapped into the franchise any earlier; or tapped into it with more success at least. With Dawn of War constantly spinning in our PCs, and our bodies soaking in drool from anticipation of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, now is a better time than ever to enjoy the attractions set out for Warhammer fans.

Attraction is something that is provided in bucket loads with Black Hole’s Mark of Chaos, and plenty of homage for Warhammer fans too. The game is almost recommended purely based off the game’s unbelievable opening cut-scene, which kicks the buttocks out of anything we’ve ever seen. But all due respect, the game provides plenty of other spectacular editions to feed the needs of Warhammer junkies, and fans of strategy titles in general. Mark of Chaos is a real-time tactics game and plays in a similar manner to the Total War series, and even the tabletop game itself. You’ll deploy your units on the battlefield, issue strategic commands to avoid instant death and consider many of Warhammer's features such as Magic, environment hazards and Hero-to-Hero duels – it’s all there for you Warhammer maniacs.

Any fan of the Warhammer-Fantasy series will quickly appreciate the detail given to units, the rules and the settings. It’s a great addition to see certain rules such as morale, terror/fear, formations of units and even the ‘controlling of large beasts’ rule rub off onto Mark of Chaos, making the game feel much closer to the tabletop game than, say, Dawn of War. In addition, there are other aspects extracted from the hobby and relayed into the game too: army painting, fleeing off boarders and even customisation of your units. Admittedly, some areas of the tabletop game are highlighted more than others, but it’s satisfying for fans to see many of the hobby’s features relayed into the game.

Orcs...Orcs...Orcs...

Orcs...Orcs...Orcs...
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The battles themselves are also a nice retreat for Warhammer fans. There’s a strong reliance on formations and your skill in utilising unit’s abilities. To help understand what units are best suited for each situation, most come with their own unique abilities: most cavalry units have formation differences to help them cleanout units when they charge; spearmen can hold up their shields to avoid damage from archers; artillery can fire different ammo depending on who you’re fighting.

What is slightly more disappointing though, is that Mark of Chaos does a poor job of utilising the Warhammer-Fantasy license in terms of depth with armies and story. The game centres around four races – High Elves, Skaven, Chaos and Empire – but also gives momentary roles for the Dwarves, Vampire Counts, Orcs and Goblins. When compared to Medieval II: Total War and its few dozen armies, Warhammer’s four core armies is sort of shameful, especially since the game has many more exciting races hidden away in its story and that a game nearly 6 years old provided just as much depth in the form of Warhammer: Dark Omen. In addition, the game does a poor job of implementing a nice section of units. In each faction you’ll get your typical units such as spearmen, archers or axe throwers, but there are plenty of units left out of the mix; once again overshadowed by Medieval II: Total War’s deep selection.

Remarkably, Mark of Chaos also sports a fairly uninteresting story. With the backing of such a large and savage brand, it’s disappointing that the story lacks the brutal and captivating feel portrayed in the tabletop game. The game allows you to play through two separate campaigns as either the Empire or Chaos, providing gamers with a different perspective on the same war. The two stories are fairly similar, as both leading characters travel through the Old World in an attempt to secure forces to fight with them, as well as protecting and securing certain items that’ll aid them in their fight for victory. In the Empire campaign the High Elves’ll assist you, and in the Chaos campaign you’ll be assisted by the Skaven. This eventually allows you to play as two armies during each campaign, and branch off into two separate paths as you command both of your allegiances’ armies to the same goal. The story is generally predictable and the outcomes of a few major plot changes are equally obvious – a bit of an insult to the Warhammer-Fantasy franchise.

Pretty? Not so much - the tactical map is still a lot of fun though.

Pretty? Not so much - the tactical map is still a lot of fun though.
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The campaign mode is broken up into various chapters, where you’ll begin each on a tactical map allowing you to direct your army to each battle. The tactical map is populated with various icons indicating to gamers what sort of battles they can expect to fight in – siege, normal or simply a duel against enemy heroes. In addition to this, the map also includes neutral camps that act as a safe house where you’ll be able to buy reinforcements, equipment such as weapons and war banners and even potions for your hero characters. You’ll often be given the opportunity to wage war in a number of optional battles too. While these can obviously be avoided, in many cases these battles will provide your army with new troops, gold and items that’ll assist you further on.

The progression and the battles themselves are done exceptionally well, providing you with a number of different scenarios to tackle. While the core gameplay is centred on defeating your enemy, the campaign throws a few curve balls by requiring you to hold castles, escort defenceless units and save units from hordes of enemies on a number of occasions; breaking up the game that little bit more. The campaign mode is extremely satisfying in terms of length. Each campaign will take the average gamer roughly 10-12hours each, meaning there’s plenty to indulge yourself in.

In addition, Mark of Chaos has skirmish and multiplayer options to explore too. Unfortunately though, there’s a severe lack of maps and options to fully enjoy this area of the game - there’s only one siege map, and a few other maps included in the game. The obvious lack of depth with customising each battle is a little disappointing too; especially in light of Medieval II: Total War’s beefy selection of maps and customisation provided.

Total War-hammer.

Total War-hammer.
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Another rough spot with the game is that it suffers from a number of AI problems. Units have dreadful awareness of their surroundings, meaning that they’ll stand there despite buildings or nearby units being under attack. While the game is generally quite attractive with its deliciously detailed units and environments, the game features some atrocious animation.

Despite not being a remarkable step forward in the real-time tactics genre, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos manages to provide fans of the series with an enjoyable experience, if not a little sparse in depth. The recent release of Medieval II: Total War dwarves this game in comparison, highlighting Mark of Chaos’ lack of unit and army depth and visual polish.
The Score
Likely to be appreciated by the Warhammer fanatics amongst you or Total War fans looking for a fantasy-based spin. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Content

Warhammer: Mark of Chaos demo available
06 Nov, 2006 May take a while to download.
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Preview
11 Oct, 2006 We take an in-depth look at Warhammer's video game revival.
E3 2006: Warhammer: Mark of Chaos screens emerge
12 May, 2006 Just what the Chaos gods ordered.
7 Comments
7 years ago
Do you review everything with the word "Mark" in it? icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
You know the picture that you used on the main page (little guy vs big troll/bull thing).....yea I want another Shadow of Colossus type game but with that sort of art direction! Oh man...it's all I can think about now.
7 years ago
i agree with the review, it's a damn fine game engine, but the specifics, namely the lack of army choices, and story, really let it down.

mind you, i was similarly disappointed with DoW when it was first released, and it was with each successive xpac that the game really came together.

i would love to see this engine utilised with all the armies included. there doesn't need to be a campaign, just let us play the game as we would the tabletop version, with an army selector and everything. Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war(hammer).
7 years ago
I want this and Dawn of War just for the FMV, anyone know where I can get my hands on all the FMV for Dawn of War? Is it cheap enough for me to buy and maybe throw a couple of cheats on it so I can unlock the FMV (just don't have time for RTS anymore)?

Obs? I'm thinking Youtube or Speed demos or something.
7 years ago
tbh - i think there is only the one cutscene in Dawn of War.

at least in the traditional, pre-rendered sense, there's a lot of in-game exposition cutscenes in the original (and Winter Assault). Dark Crusade has a pre-rendered intro, but it's pre-rendered using the game engine, so might as well have been done on the fly.

i haven't played a huge amount of Mark of Chaos, but i've only seen the one cutscene there too.
7 years ago
I bought this for my cousin for xmas and played it for a bit - quite good I must say. Let's hope for an expansion to iron out the issues.
7 years ago
I'd pay money to see Ugh battle the Greater Daemons of Chaos icon_lol.gif

I think you can watch the "FMV" without having to play the game. They're just .avi files in the main install.

I won't be picking this up sadly. I really only play skirmish, which sounds not very good for varied battles.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Namco
Developer:
  Black Hole Entertainment

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