Warhammer: Dark Omen
is a real-time 3D-battle game based on , the world's best known fantasy battle system, by Games Workshop. The battles are depicted in a true real-time 3D environment with freedom to move, rotate and zoom the viewpoint as desired. Command regiments of cavalry, infantry and archers as well as wizards, war machines and huge monsters challenge you in your role as a mercenary army captain, tasked with wiping the hordes of darkness from the face of the map.
Dark Omen casts you in the role of Commander Morgan Bernhardt, leader of Grudgebringer mercenary army. Your army begins the campaign with one of the following regiments: Infantry, Cavalry, Crossbows and Cannon. As the campaign progresses you will get the chance to hire new regiments and buy reinforcements. You ride with the cavalry regiment during the campaign and if you die the campaign will end in defeat.
Skirmishes against the enemy take place on the battlefield. You will choose which regiments to take with you into battle and which ones to hold in reserve. You will issue commands to the regiments before and during each battle and when you complete a mission, your surviving regiments will be rewarded with experience and gold. When you are not on the battlefield, you will be at camp making decisions about what to spend your gold on. As the campaign matures, your army will grow in numbers and in experience, the latter making your troops better fighters. The more experience they accrue, the better they will become. The amount of experience they gain depends on how many enemy troops they defeat and how tough they were, the tougher the enemy, the more gold your troops will earn.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The action can, and does, get fast and furious in this primarily mouse-controlled game. Using the keyboard, you change your view of the battlefield by zooming in and out or rotating the field underneath you. Each battle begins with troop deployment. Surveying the battlefield, you must choose how to best deploy your troops to accomplish your mission. Do you put your cannon on the top of the hill or at the end of the canyon? Do you lead with your cavalry or attempt to lure the enemy into the crossfire of your archers? Once you feel you have answered all these questions, it’s time to begin the battle.
During the battle you attempt to outflank your opponent and counter pushes into your lines, laying down cover fire with cannon and mages while protecting them from close combat with cleverly placed infantry and quick maneuvers from your cavalry. Easy to read status bars inform you of reload/recharge time for your units. Audio and video clips of the units give you information about who is charging, when new enemy units are spotted, and who just died. Banners above each of the units keep you informed of the type of units in the battle.
After each battle, audio and video clips update you on the story line. It is also time to purchase reinforcements and increase the armor of your units, time to prepare for the next battle. Will it be green skins or undead? Who knows, but you need to prepare for the worst.
One thing to note that really impressed me was the way Electronic Arts incorporated line-of-sight into an overhead game. The entire battlefield can be viewed from overhead, but only the enemy units visible to your units can be seen. In the same manner, the main control panel has a status icon to show whether or not your units are hidden as well. This does well to stress the strategy of unit placement even before the battle begins.
For multiplayer games (yes, I said multiplayer), Electronic Arts has allowed for two players to design their own armies and meet on the battlefield. This at first seemed very limited to me, only fighting one live opponent, but after playing a few rounds I saw how wrong I was. The maps that are available are just not large enough for more than two armies at a time. This is one place that Electronic Arts can improve upon in a next version; however, it does not take much away from the game as it stands.
Although a 3D accelerator card is not required, this reviewer would definitely require it as part of the Dark Omen experience. The game is playable without an accelerator and the animation and detail will impress you. However, with an accelerator the smoother scrolling and increased zooming range will make the game much easier to play. The accelerated graphics and animation will leave your jaw on the floor. When you zoom in on the individual battles you can actually see each unit and their weapons.
There is one distracting thing to the animation, it seems that to make the characters more real during the video clips in between battles, the characters continually rock forward as if to exaggerate a point. After a short time this becomes fairly distracting, although the wonderful textures and detail outweigh any of the distractions during gameplay.
Audio feedback to your commands is always a benefit and Dark Omen incorporates these into its engine. Along with the clear speech and the audio cues for new enemies spotted, unit retreats, deaths, and much more, your units give audio answers to movement orders and attack orders. Within the realm of audio, Dark Omen had me disbelieving one feature specifically: directional sound. What do I mean by directional sound? Well, to put it simply, when there is a battle off the right edge of the visible screen, the battle sounds seem to come from your right. The first time I realized this was the case, I shook my head and dismissed it as my imagination. Then I ran a few tests and found it to be true. This above all the audio tricks stands out as very impressive. (Or as Darth Vader himself would say: "Impressive, most impressive.")
Required: Windows 95, Pentium 120, 16 MB RAM, 32 MB free hard disk space, DirectX 5.0 supported PCI video card with 2 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 5.0 supported sound card, mouse
Recommended: Pentium 166 or higher, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM drive, 265 MB free hard disk space
Electronic Arts has done well in documenting the game. They even included some documentation on the meaning of your troops' comments. Tips and strategy hints help to flesh out the manual. The only thing I found lacking was a short narrative on the background story. Personally, I enjoy a game that has a great deal of background story surrounding it. I know that Warhammer has a great deal of history; however, EA seems to assume that everyone purchasing this game either already knows this background or is not interested. The _Warhammer _storyline is rich and wonderful and having a brief background narrative could have only added to the richness of the game itself.
In a genre that is full of heroes and goats, Electronic Arts rises above most of the competition with Dark Omen. If you enjoy a rich story and the overhead action strategy genre, this is a definite must for your collection. Look forward to hours of enjoyment and watch your back, the greenskins and undead are around every corner.