DO/Warhammer: Dark Omen
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Warhammer: Dark Omen
|Release date(s)||May 6, 1998|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
|System requirements||Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 265 MB disk space|
|Input methods||Mouse, Keyboard|
Warhammer: Dark Omen, the sequel to Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat (1995), is a real-time tactics wargame. It is one of the earliest fully recognisable and seminal of the genre and seminal in being an archetypal specimen.
Rendered entirely in a freely rotatable- and zoomable steep isometric 3D overhead perspective, the game features for its time remarkable 3D graphics of terrain, terrain features and buildings, and advanced support of the first-generation Voodoo 3dfx 3D accelerator card effects. The 3D terrain and features are combined with 2D sprites ("billboarding") to render the hundreds of individual units simultaneously on-screen on the limited hardware of 1998; a technique still employed in games many years later, a good example being the essentially similar game Shogun: Total War (2000). Warhammer: Dark Omen is based on the Warhammer Fantasy Battle miniature tabletop wargame rules and situated in the Old World in the Warhammer Fantasy world and makes good use of the vast background, creating a deeply engrossing storyline that develops over the course of the game through illustrations and voice acted conversations. The enemy AI is poor, relying on scripts rather than adaptive logic.
First released for the PC platform, it was later released in a simplified version for the Sony Playstation. An expansion was scheduled and advertised but never released.
The gameplay is one of unit-oriented operational battlefield tactics with infantry, cavalry, and archer squads and artillery pieces as well as supporting hero and wizard units as the fundamental unit to command; that is, beyond rare and special hero characters, no individuals can ever be given orders. The Warhammer Fantasy world is comparatively eclectic and the game freely mixes cannons, arquebuses and steam-powered tanks with bows, cavalry and magic. Except for heroes, which are always by themselves, units consist of as few as four or five individual members for stationary artillery pieces to up to 50 members for larger ordinary units, but are usually of ten to 20 individual members in size. Units suffer from psychological effects and can be routed, and individuals in units may be lost (but can be replaced between missions unless the entire unit is lost). Units advance in experience as the game progresses, and between battles (although not within a 'mission', unlike contemporary RTS games such as Command & Conquer) the player's forces can be brought up to strength, replacing losses, and upgraded by adding armour and equipment using money gained by killing enemies and accomplishing objectives within the mission. New units, including allied Elven and Dwarf units, can also be added at certain points in the campaign, often as rewards for successful completion of critical missions.
While the army can consist of many units only ten may be employed simultaneousy in one battle - selected before the battle commences - making the scope of the battles more of skirmishes than of epic army confrontations, a scale of theatres cemented by the relatively confined maps. Though thus of smaller scope than, for instance, games in the Total War series, in consequence it does afford the commander (player) better overview and more meticulous control over unit formation, orientation and positioning.
Choosing the optimal initial dispoisition, arrangement and position objectives for the army as well as suitable unit formation and depth when engaging the opponents is of paramount importance to the unfurling and outcome of the battle. Archers and artillery should not be in direct mêlée with opposing troops and cavalry is best employed to outflank and shock engaged or harrying fleeing opponents. Care must be taken to avoid friendly fire from artillery. Terrain and elevation must be taken into consideration for attack and defense. Predicting enemy entry and ambush points and movement routes is highly important for a player's tactics. Most real-world medieval or Napoleonic tactics can be employed, including ambushing and outflanking (see list of military tactics). Movement likewise reflects historical reality in that units must rotate or "wheel" from the centre or edges when changing facing.
Dark Omen also has a multiplayer component, where both players 'purchase' an army with a predefined amount of money before facing each other in battle, and can choose to play as the Imperial, Orcish or Undead forces.
The dialogue script was written by dark fantasy and science fiction novelist, Stephen Marley.
The game's introduction movie shows the resurrection of an evil undead King in lands far to the South of the Empire. Meanwhile to the North, the player (as mercenary commander Morgan Bernhardt, the main character from Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat) is defending a small trading post from attack by goblins. The army is soon recalled to Altdorf where you are told that Orcs are invading the Empire from the South.
After fighting a number of battles against the orcs, it becomes clear that something is making them flee into the Empire. The player returns to Altdorf to make his report, and is assigned to a series of expeditions to fight the imminent undead threat. These campaigns consist of several battles each, and there are a number of occasions where the player is required to choose between alternative paths, with consequences in the battles ahead. Along the way you meet many friends and enemies, including several from the previous game in the series.
Eventually, after defeating undead incursions in Kislev, Bretonnia and within the Empire itself, the location of the Undead king is discovered and the final battle is pitched. Throughout the game, the player character Bernhardt changes from a mercenary who only cares about money to a hero willing to lay down his life to save others.
The game was described on its official website in March 1998 as:
War never looked so good.
Dark Omen is a real-time 3D battle game based on Warhammer, 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 in your role as a mercenary army captain, tasked with wiping the hordes of darkness from the face of the map.
Of interest is that the listing of the game's key features principally describes an archetype of the real-time tactics genre. It also lists technical aspects highly advanced, novel or rare at the time. In the original description these include
- Dynamic campaign plot that develops based on the players decisions
- Constantly varied and evolving army to be maintained and deployed at the player's discretion
- Enhanced fantasy battle engine with superior A.I. and tactics
- Immersive game play with realistic shadows and 3D lighting effects
- A state of the art particle graphics system for special effects and explosions
- Full 3D terrain which effects troop movement
- True 3D line of sight system
- True 3D targeting/projectile system
- 2 Player Network play
- Further information: Production Credits
- Review of Warhammer: Dark Omen at Gamespot
- Polish Warhammer: Dark Omen Fansite
- German Warhammer: Dark Omen Fansite
- Russian Warhammer: Dark Omen Fansite