Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat

a game by Mindscape
Genres: Sports, Strategy/War
Platforms: PC, Playstation
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 3 reviews, 5 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 3 votes
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See also: Warhammer Games

A game of toy soldiers for people with spots

...Or then again, maybe not. Warhammer is a tabletop fantasy wargame, typically recreated using small painted figures and modelled terrain and played on wet Saturdays in Games Workshop outlets in drab shopping centres. However, it's considerably cooler than American-grown fantasy shite because instead of +2 swords of thigh-snapping it features strange goblin artillery that explodes periodically, killing all the crew. Yup, Warhammer has a sense of humour and it's not afraid to use it.

The transition to computer game is one that GW were closely involved with, just as they were with Space Hulk. But they haven't just recreated the tabletop game on screen, they've added a new dimension - real-time. Nor have they robbed an existing tabletop design; Shadow Of The Horned Rat is an all-new story, and a fine one at that.

Shadow Of The Horned Rat

You assume the mantle of Captain Bernhardt, a feckless young mercenary making quite a name for himself in the Reikland as leader of the Grudgebringers (not to be confused with Captain Sensible, leader of the Grungebringers, wielder of the mighty axe Les Paul). You start off in the pay of the Border Princes, who are having a spot of 'bovver' with ores and goblins (they've obviously never lived in Peckham, otherwise they'd just call Big Ern). Instead, you embark on a series of battles that get progressively bloodier (and harder). Various cut-scenes reveal an overgrown rat fond of muttering "kill kill nice nice... much pain yessss..." who is up to no good in the Empire. You are drawn inexorably into the plot, meeting characters and influencing events as you go. There is a definite feeling of involvement, and even if you think that fantasy settings are just for knob-wits who have a complex about the size of their sword, Warhammer is surprisingly engrossing.

So how do you play, then?

Take a look at the annotated screen. The main 3D view is where the action takes place. You can select units by clicking on them here or on the overhead map view; in practise though, as soon as battle commences you use the map window for all your selecting, as it gets messy in the 3D view and you end up activating the wrong unit. You can issue orders to move around, attack specific troops, wield magic items or spells and so on. Your troops all have simple ai -basically, if anything comes close they attack. All the tabletop rules for fear, hate, etc are implemented and you have to read the small print at the back of the manual if you're to get anywhere.

The campaign is controlled from your paymaster's caravan; from here you can save games, check out what missions are available, recruit new troops and get replacements while keeping an eye on your gold stash. Each mission requires you to pay your troops, so the fewer you take into battle, the better.

Does it work, then?

Er... sort of. The early missions involve only a few units, and the enemy's rather pathetic. Although you've got a reasonable opportunity to construct a strategy and put it into action, as soon as you have more than five units under your control, it gets ridiculously fiddly. All the flags on the map are overlapped, and there just isn't enough time to fart around giving meaningful orders. Once the troops are actually busy fighting, you find yourself frantically trying to boost their strength and hoping that the luck factor will give you the edge.

In the mid-game missions the enemy is numerically superior and fairly tough, so you need fate firmly on your side if you're going to win through; this means playing and replaying battles until you finally get lucky - frustrating just isn't the word for it. For example, at the end of the Border Princes campaign you have to attack the main ore camp. By now you've got artillery, and if destiny is going your way, you can more or less rout their forces with this alone. But half the time your artillery blows up and it's almost impossible to avoid losses in hand to hand fighting, even if you win decisively. The thing is, if you do suffer fatalities, you won't make it through the next campaigns (as you realise three battles later).

So you go back and start the section all over again, playing until the damn random element allows your artillery to actually survive. This isn't strategy-stretching, it boils down to luck and perseverance. After about five days of playing the game I'd completed the first campaign several times, conserving cash and troops for the next round, only to discover it required even more bloody campaign faffing and replaying - either the playtesters were geniuses or the missions were individually playtested. Go on-line and you'll find that 90 percent of the gamers out there have given up even earlier; the only way to enjoy the game to to with a hex editor.

There are annoying campaign twists I too. At point you have to cross a mountain range. Of the three routes two are 'impossible', with only one 'possible'; however, in one of the 'impossible' missions I routed the enemy without losing a single soldier, yet I still got chucked out. And in the next battle I tried to use a magic item I'd picked up earlier on; though it was supposed to reflect magic in a random direction, it didn't. A bug to B add insult to frustration. Bastards.

Why's it scored 73, then?

Because it's so soooooo addictive. The concept is absolutely brilliant: a realtime strategy game that's challenging, with an interesting setting and strong plot. Once you're hooked you'll come back for more, even though it's too hard, the control system is too fiddly, and chance plays too much of a role. But the flaws are skin deep; with more cash at the start and better access to reinforcements, it would be fine. You can find hex-edited savegames on the Net and CompuServe, but if like me you don't want to 'cheat', you'll end up throwing it away after a week in disgust and disappointment. Even though I'm probably going to have another go at the weekend... see what I mean?

Download Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Playstation

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

A mediocre title for the PC a year ago, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat retains its mediocrity on the PlayStation. Extreme intellectual complexity and slow action take the thunder out of Warhammer for all but the most strategy-minded gamers.

War Weary

In this long, drawn-out game, you play as the commander of a mercenary army who becomes aware of a plot to disrupt the kingdom. You methodically complete 40 missions, accumulating wealth, experience, weapons, spells, and skilled lieutenants as you go. Each mission, however, becomes a bit monotonous because you have to wait until an outcome is reached between your troops and various groups of enemies.

While you can implement commands, such as spells and morale boosters, to bolster your army's strength in battles, Warhammer remains a game of probability.

Adding to the monotony is the need to have the manual open while you're playing, until you master such aspects of gameplay as identifying command and function icons for faster, successful campaigns. While the information in the manual is very clear, the game would have been better served if more of the manual's info was incorporated into the gameplay.

Moreover, the controls are sometimes frustrating, especially during battles when tension is high, but the button commands are unresponsive.

The Sights and Sounds of War

Graphically, Warhammer is above average. Although the sprites look jumbled together at default settings, they're sharp and clear when the camera zooms in during gameplay. Backgrounds are also generally impressive. However, problems crop up in battle--you won't know who the victor is or how many troops are left until the winning army leaves the battlefield.

The sound serves the game well with grunts, groans, and moans across the battlefields creating the right wartime ambiance. While voice effects for the animated sequences are out of sync, they do add to the depth of the characters.

Warhammer will fill the time between highly anticipated RPGs for the PlayStation. If you like strategy/RPGs, then rent Warhammer first. If you don't, Final Fantasy VII is just around the corner.

ProTips:

  • In the Sven Carlsson mission, look for a surprise along the northwest wall of the tower In the northernmost comer.
  • To Increase your chances of successfully charging enemies, use the Training Ground to hone your skills at setting battle formations.
  • At the beginning of missions, send out some troops with the A.I. switch on. If they encounter enemies while you're attending to other business, they'll automatically attack.
  • After each mission, replenish your forces by hiring more men so you're at full strength when you're surprised by monsters.
  • To help gauge the enemy's strength and speed, send weaker troops Into battle ahead of your stronger troops.
  • Search battleflelds thoroughly because you might find some magical surprises.
  • Don't retreat outside the black border, or eventually the mission will fall and you'll have to start over.

Following in the footsteps of some of the world's most notorious conquerors, such as Caesar, Alexander The Great and Napoleon, players now have the chance to hone their marauding skills and play the role of a mercenary leader in the comfort of their own home. In SSI's latest strategy and conquest title, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat, players are given the opportunity to test their cunning and leadership against hordes of mythical creatures in lands filled with magic and danger around every corner.

In Warhammer, you play as Morgan Bernhardt, the commander of the Grudgebringer mercenaries and leader of the Grudgebringer Calvary Regiment Your goal is to earn a king's ransom in gold and swell the ranks of your army to become the most powerful and notorious leader in the land. But to get to this giant goal, you must hack your way through many bloody missions offered to you by wealthy patrons who pay you well to do their dirty work for them.

Begin your adventure from the Mission Start Screen. Here you can browse through reference books depicting the use of magic and describing the enemy troops. You can also keep track of your finances as well as hire new troops to replace the ones defeated in previous battles. However, the only places you can replenish these troops are in the cities where your guide, Paymaster Dietrich, informs you that they are available. Meaning only if a town where you are currently at has some potential warriors can you hire them. You can also choose a training mission from the general Pre-mission Screen to use as practice for yourself before you go into a serious battle. Useful for beginners, but once you understand the controls, this option is nearly useless.

After the mission is selected, you get the chance to listen to Dietrich's words of advice about the upcoming mission as well as your goals. Once you have had enough of his talk, you proceed to the Mission Screen and look at the battleground before you.

In some of the missions, you are allowed time before the enemy starts to advance to track their location by scrolling around the screen and then to place your troops in the most logical places and formations. In other situations, where you are supposed to escort a caravan or such, the mission begins in a hurry with the word "AMBUSH." In these situations, you have no time to waste and must send your troops immediately to defend off the invading hoards.

Once you start to build a reputation for yourself, you will begin to find many different types of warriors offering their services to you. This will allow you to further your reach of power, and if you so choose, defeat the enemy with the volume of your troops instead of quality. Archers, war machines, genre al troops and wizards will all be fighting for the chance to serve a great leader such as yourself of you lead well).

Besides the power of additional troops, you can also add the power of in-combat magic on your side. This type of magic can be found littering the ground of a battlefield. Here your troops can find and acquire the object if they stumble across it while in combat. Additional combat magic is controlled directly from the onscreen menu, this allows you to cast a variety of spells to lay a path of destruction down in front of your marauding troops.

In combat, day and night is taken into account, reflecting the darkness of the land into the battlefield. Ambush situations make a world of differ-ence-it is a lot more difficult to see the enemy troops as they mount their attack. And finding magical items in the dark is a near impossibility.

Graphically, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat is really good for the game and story depth that the title tries to bring across to players. The larger graphics, such as the villages and the surrounding lands, are fairly detailed. This carries true even to the smaller graphics in the troops and the enemy units. The littering of corpses and the flocking of scavenger birds over their rotting flesh are even seen in high detail as the battle continues somewhere else on the screen. Screen refresh rate is also acceptable. But because Warhammer isn't an extremely fast-paced game, play speed isn't taxed too much from on-the-fly fast regenerations.

Sound and music fit surprising well, even though no awards are going to be won in this category. It is again just what is needed to make the title complete with little to no bells and whistles. Background sound is really soft and nearly non-existent giving total control to the sounds coming from the confrontations happening all over the play area.

Graphics and sound help out the entire title, but the foundation for all the strategy-based excitement is found in the play. Although the control is a bit overwhelming at first, players will quickly pick it up and master control of the army waiting for their commands. It helps to know how the enemies are going to attack so players can position their troops in the optimal place to defend against their advances. But even if you happen to make an improper movement that causes you to falter a little in your mission, you have the option of continuing on to the next mission and accepting the consequences or you can load your previously saved game (from the memory card) and give it another go. Game options are the key for players to have an outstanding experience by having every game based solely off the player's selections and the outcome of the missions. Whether a player wants to save his/her money and try to fight off three invading armies with only one of his/her own or use backup support to overwhelm the opposition, the choice is his/her.

This type of flexibility in any title can make it a hit. Warhammer: SotHR fills the void that players have had for a while for a mercenary-style game where you can choose your own adventure and make game selections from the point of your character.

Gamer's EDGE

In a raging battle, players don't always have the time to spend scrolling around the screen in search of invading troops. Their time is usually soaked up with controlling their own forces which gives little time for scouting.

One really helpful feature in Warhammer: SotHR is the tracking feature that is wrapped around the outside of the screen. These little icons can show the player exactly where the enemy and their own troops are located with a glance of the eye. The icons move freely around the outer rim of the screen and show the position of all units on both sides relative to the current view of the player.

The Icons also show a small representation of the banner of the troop in question, so you can quickly understand what your troops are doing to combat the enemy forces. The best feature about the unit tracking is how you don't even have to be looking at any units on the screen and you can still have a general idea what is going on. As with any feature like this, only with proper practice and continued use can troop locations be quickly apparent to the avid gamer.

  • MANUFACTURER - Mindscape
  • THEME - Strategy
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1

The popular fantasy miniature game Warhammer will be translated into video-game form. Faithful to its source. Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat has all of the Ores, Skaven and Chaotic hoards one would expect.

Assume the role of Morgan Bernhardt, a mercenary with an army of men. Use tactics and skill to combat the enemy forces in real-time combat. Anything can happen in a battle against Chaos, so you better have trained warriors and mages on hand.

Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat is steeped with devious plot details and surprises that can turn the tides of war.

The graphics of this game are fully rendered. The battles are shown from an overhead view. To keep the story alive, 30 minutes of full-motion video have been added.

If you've ever wanted to play Warhammer, this game gives you a chance.

RPGers will soon see what the PlayStation can bring to their fantasy worlds when the long-awaited real-time RPG Warhammer is released. Based on the board and miniature games, Shadow of the Horned Rat is the first in a series of Warhammer titles.

In a 3D world with ores, elves, and dwarves, the Empire struggles for control over chaos. You play a human mercenary commanding an average troop. By completing progressively difficult missions, such as rescue operations, you earn cash to buy weapons and better talent, including magic users.

Warhammer's real-time capability attempts to mirror the experience of the card games. During the troop-deployment phase, for instance, time is suspended. Once the battle begins, the game proceeds in real time. Multiple camera angles allow you to rotate, zoom, and pan.

Warhammer may save RPGers from being left in the 16-bit dust this winter.

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