A wonderful (but often frustrating) Warhammer experience
There are many outstanding aspects of Warhammer: Dark Omen, but the beautiful graphics stand out above the rest. Even without 3D acceleration, the terrain flows wonderfully, special effects, and other nuances of realism are noticeable. With it on, the eye candy is absolutely gorgeous.
The story, a standard 'evil warlord is vying to take over the lands and you must prevent it' fare, is presented between missions with talking 3D heads. Nevertheless, the writers did their jobs well, as the tension and atmosphere of the story were executed perfectly. The voice-acting is also top notch, especially for your alter-ego, Commander Morgan Bernhardt, a greedy mercenary reluctant to do anything without a big monetary payoff.
Dark Omen is one of the best real-time fantasy wargames (read: no resource management in battle) ever made. There are numerous tactical considerations the player must keep in mind, such as terrain, morale, formations, since there is no direct control of individual units, but rather orders are given to entire regiments. Also, the various unit types show distinct qualities and some, such as mortar, are double-edged swords: their attacks devastate both friend and foe indiscriminately.
As with its predecessor Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat
, this game is frustratingly difficult. Actually, each individual mission's difficulty is fairly challenging, but not frustrating -- it is the design of the campaign system that renders this game almost unplayable.
Essentially, you never have the resources to fully restore lost units, so as the game progresses, your army gets smaller and smaller unless you lose less than 5% of your troops in each battle. That is next to impossible. This makes the the last third of the game insanely difficult (I will admit I had to cheat to complete the game).
This also affects replayability in two ways: First of all, in order to minimize losses, most missions will have been re-played many times already. Second, it was such a painful experience that one probably will not want to go through it again. In the same vein, the campaign is fairly linear except for a few places where it is possible to choose between two missions.
The Bottom Line
Overall, this would be a great game if not for the frustrating campaign design. Mindscape did just about everything right - the combat engine is excellent, the story was well written, and they captured the feel of the Warhammer universe. Plus, the fact that units gain experience and can be given wonderful magical artifacts gives Dark Omen a light RPG feel.
Multiplayer is fun because the evil orks or undead are also available to use, but there is only 2-player deathmatch available.
Still, this is definitely recommended for any Warhammer fan.