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Warhammer: Dark Omen

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Jeff Gamon & Steve Leney

GAME DEVELOPER:Mindscape

GAME PUBLISHER:Electronic Arts

Copyright 1998, Mindscape

Warhammer: Dark Omen is a superb sequel to Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat, Mindscape’s first real-time tactical strategy game based on the Games Workshop’s popular tabletop RPG franchise. The game boasts superior graphics to SOTHR, and a streamlined and much more intuitive user interface that makes battles much easier to manage. Marc Reissig says it all about what makes Dark Omen a great game in his review for the Games Domain:

Dark Omen is primarily a real-time tactical game in which you direct an army of up to ten regiments that each comprise anywhere from one to twenty individual units or so. You control your army at the regimental level, so at the most you have to worry about giving orders to ten entities at any point in time. Like Myth: The Fallen Lords, it’s a refreshing change of pace from most of the current crop of RTS games. There’s no base-base building or unit manufacturing here – you are left entirely free to contemplate the subtleties of the slaughter. If you like Myth: Fallen Lords (and just for the record, I do), Dark Omen is about the closest you can get right now if you’re looking for more.

The tactical module is pretty outstanding. Cavalry regiments will turn in formation and then charge into the vulnerable flanks of an unsuspecting enemy. Archers launch volleys of deadly arrows through the air, and the battlefield is filled with the sounds, explosions, and smoking shells of lethal cannon and mortar fire. Wizards are also available to conjure a variety of dangerous magics that can mow the enemy down or set them on fire and send them screaming into the hills. Height matters, line of sight is of extreme importance, and the dangers of friendly fire mean that you can definitely be your own worst enemy. Sometimes you will have a defensible position and sometimes you will be surrounded on all sides, but you will almost always be outnumbered. Get used to it.

Between engagements, the story is moved along by the occasional cutscene and by conversations between on-screen “talking heads” that are pretty similar to the dialogues used in Starcraft‘s excellent campaigns. These same types of characters can also appear on-screen during battles to give you helpful updates. At its best, Dark Omen manages to create a sense of drama both on and off the battlefield.

So what’s not to like? Like Shadow of the Horned Rat, Dark Omen is a tough game. This challenge in and of itself is not a bad thing – at least you spend most of the time worrying about fighting the battles rather than fighting the interface for control of your units… The game is also pretty linear. The small strategic elements that the game offers off the battlefield are definitely nice touches – it’s fun to decide what armor to purchase and who gets to carry the newest magic sword, and it’s interesting that you sometimes are allowed to make a decision like whether to stay and face the more immediate peril or to move on to the greater objective given to you by your employer. Even so, though, you will sometimes find yourself fighting the same battles three or four times in a row. The first time your wizard might be slain by a lucky shot from enemy artillery (restart), and the second time you might accidentally place your cannon (shallow arc) behind your cavalry instead of the mortar (high arc) and obliterate about 1600 gold pieces in the first barrage.

Despite a few shortcomings, I find that Dark Omen has managed to re-capture the elusive “fun factor” that I felt was missing in Shadow of the Horned Rat. The combination of a re-vamped and streamlined interface with a powerful and smooth graphics engine makes Dark Omen a joy to play. If you enjoy the fantasy setting, don’t mind real-time combat and are looking for a meaty single-player tactical challenge, Dark Omen is the game for you.” If you enjoy real-time strategy games, especially very challenging ones, Dark Omen is a must-have. Two thumbs up, way up.

Note: We have been asked by Games Workshop to remove downloads of games based on the Space Hulk and Warhammer universe. Please contact the company directly if you are interested in obtaining this title.



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