by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
From figure painting to the computer screen
Being a long-time RPG gamer (the original pen&paper ones), I used to see these racks of miniatures and painting gear in RPG shops. Even if I lacked painting skills myself, I knew that the miniatures were pretty popular amongst gamers and I knew that Warhammer was one of the most popular brands. I did not know, however, that there was a game designed specifically for these miniatures until I started to see Warhammer games being published for computer platforms.
Warhammer games come in two flavors: Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The Sci-Fi variety is called Warhammer 40,000, while the Fantasy variety carries only the basic Warhammer title. Quite a few Fantasy and Sci-Fi titles have been released for PCs over the years, since about 1997, but it was probably Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War, the RTS released in 2004 by THQ, that finally struck home with the gaming audience. While Warhammer 40,000 will receive its second add-on later this year, we are also being treated with a new RTS game in the Fantasy flavor: iWarhammer: Mark of Chaos. The developer is a first-comer to the Warhammer universe, Namco Bandai Games, and what we know of the game so far seems very promising, indeed, for any RTS fan.
What's new in the world of RTS?
Like most RTS games, the point is to build up your army and wreak havoc upon your enemies before they do the same to you. However, the CEO of Namco Hometek, Nobuhiro Kasahara, has stated that the emphasis in the upcoming title has been shifted from the often tedious base management towards epic battles between vast armies and mighty champions. What this means is that you will spend much more time controlling your armies on the battlefield than you will be trying to upgrade your bases into producing more of those armies. Resource gathering will also be different as your focus will shift away from trying to make use of resources located in the middle of a war zone.
The world of Warhammer is inhabited by several races, four of which form the major factions that the player can control: Empire, Chaos, Skaven and High Elves. The Empire consists mostly of Humans, while the Chaos faction consists of creatures that have been inflicted with chaotic changes in their physical appearance, such as scales, wings and horns. The Skaven are the unique feature of the Warhammer universe: a race of malicious rat-men, who live in vast underground tunnel networks. The High Elves, on the other hand, are well organized and march to war in perfect unity, armored in strong scale coats and wielding elegant, high quality weapons. In addition to these major factions, there are other, less organized factions, such as Dwarves, Orcs, Vampires and Goblins.
Each of the major factions have their own racial story lines, and things that they strive for, that help the player to find motivation to take the role of their invisible leader. The Dwarves for example, aim to push the green-skins back and reclaim their land. The grand motivation for the people of order is naturally to push the chaos back and build an orderly society, while the people of chaos naturally strive for the opposite. Basically, the goals of the various races merely give them a good excuse to beat each other to death for all eternity, translating into an environment of grand battles and heroes emerging on every side.