Warhammer: Dark Omen

Moby ID: 2240
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This sequel to Warhammer: Shadow Of The Horned Rat is an overhead role playing game in which you play Morgan Bernhardt. The game consists of a series of battles where you view the battle from overhead via a rotatable view. You go through the game managing your army, deciding whether to fight in optional battles, and advancing through a deep and engrossing storyline via a series of conversations played out by talking portraits.

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Critics

Average score: 77% (based on 28 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 24 ratings with 2 reviews)

A wonderful (but often frustrating) Warhammer experience

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

Windows · by grimbergen (433) · 2001

Tough, but worthwhile.

The Good
Being someone who has never played anything else Warhammer, I was skeptical when I first played the demo on an old April '98 PC Games demo disc. However, what I found was far beyond me expectations, and I subsequently bought a copy of the game as soon as I could find it.

This game shines mostly because of it's battle management. No more resource gathering, no more tech trees (well, not really), and no more painful waiting-an-hour-before-you-can-attack-anyone syndrome. This game plops you straight into the battlefield, and after placing your units, fur flies almost immediately.

This game makes excellent use of varied units, and additionally, has the second largest unit catalogue I have ever seen (first being Total Annihilation+Core Contingency). Units are fun, varied, and never too expendable. In this game, every regiment counts; not only because of the difficulty resulting in their necessity, but the fact that they are just more personable then the nameless, faceless units found in most other 3D strategy games. The AI is also skilled, and quite advanced for it's time. Units will set up ambushes, combine forces, retreat when outnumbered, and dodge your projectiles. Several times I cast Flamestrike (causes selected portion of ground to catch fire) and the enemy regiment, which normally would have walked right through it, instantly turned and went around the trap. Mages are particularly fond of teleporting out of view to dodge your ordinance, then back into view to hurl their own.

The game's sound is also top-notch. Effects are visceral and enthralling, and its just plain wonderful to hear the "clink clink" sounds of swords locking in combat. Dark Omen's FMV sequences are also well done, but used disappointingly sparingly.

And most importantly, Dark Omen's story is what makes it shine the most--something rare for a real-time strategy game. The narrative/cinematic sequences are originally presented but not abstract enough to look bad. The storyline, while seemingly created from some sort of medieval game story template, is well put and is one of the best representations of the "bad guys commanding hoards of cronies to piss you off" scenario.

The Bad
But just as this game is excellent in it's own right, it also has some equally annoying flaws.

First of all, this game is hard. Extremely hard. Battles may require several retries to complete successfully. One mission, which I had been trying to beat for a month off and on, I finally beat because the enemy artillery got lucky and hit their own mage (killing him of course). Oftentimes you are replaced in restrictive scenarios, and all too often the bad guys converge on all sides to wipe out that cannon you thought was protective.

Second, while the AI in Dark Omen is excellent, it can often be equally as stupid, and just as unpredictable. The main problem is that your artillery doesn't lead their shots, making it nearly impossible to hit moving regiments unless you target each shot. Many units will also just stand their ground until they die when they are being bombarded with artillery, arrows or spells, while others will dodge your cannonballs.

Thirdly, you dont get enough gold to completely reinforce your army at the end of a mission. The result of this is a slowly degenerating army, resulting in missions being subsequently harder unless you can lose no more than 5% of your units in a battle.

The Bottom Line
This game is fun, but extremely hard. However, I still recommend this to any Warhammer fan, and anyone who isn't. The amount of hours spent in stress are repaid equally in fun factor. A definite good buy.

Windows · by luciphercolors (67) · 2002

Discussion

Subject By Date
Dark Omen Community Olly Haynes Dec 3, 2008
Dark Omen - Strategy, Playing on XP, Short about PolB (55) Oct 6, 2007

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Game added by Gene Davison.

PlayStation added by xcom1602.

Game added August 26, 2000. Last modified April 6, 2024.