Warhammer: Battle March
Herecy, genocide, a ton of orcs and thin clothed elves, there’s only one franchise where all this comes together and that’s Warhammer! The last couple of years it was mostly the futuristic version that got all the attention but Namco Bandai decided to bring the “normal” Warhammer back into the spotlight and with a first expansion they want to see whether the game can acquire the necessary fans also on console. A quick way to earn some extra cash or a beautiful experience for a ton of new gamers, you’ll read it here!
The brighter readers amongst you could already deduct from my statements above that the X360 version isn’t a completely new game but a gathering of the PC Games Warhammer: Mark of Chaos[/b$ and its expansion [b]Battle March. In the original campaigns you play on one side with the Empire and High Elves while on the other side you get to go with the Orcs and Dark Elves and get to experience the events that happen after the original.
The big difference with other standard RTS games is that here you don’t build bases but only have a couple of units at your disposal. This results in the fact that you have to think carefully with every move you make as one wrong step can lead to defeat. This way of playing immediately reminds of the old Warhammer games for the PC and Playstation 1 from 1995 and 1998, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat and Warhammer: Dark Omen.
The reason I bring up these titles is the way of playing. At the beginning of a battle you get the possibility to place your heroes and armies in a set terrain. From the moment they’re positioned to your liking, the fight starts. The battles consist out of escorting units to a certain point, defend or do a siege on a castle, or simply exterminate all enemy units on the map.
To accomplish this you of course first need troops that are insane enough to want to die for you and as you progress you’ll need to get those joining your army. The first regiments at your disposal seem to be more cannon fodder than experienced soldiers, but with the necessary upgrades you can level them so they do mean something on the battlefield, or you can replace them by stronger units later on in the game. There’s plenty of variation in units, going from heavy cavalry to giants, demons and siege weapons. All these regiments also gain experience and the more they have the more they’ll be of value. It can for instance be that a new regiment consists out of 20 soldiers but at the highest level up to 36. It’s therefore advisable to not waste the more experienced units of your army.
The people who will lead your forces are heroes and consist quite some RPG properties that can be adjusted with the weapons and other objects you find in the game. Next to that you can also teach them new skills which fall under three categories: combat, duel and command. The first will only give your hero some advantages, duel helps your hero with skills against another hero, and command gives your hero’s regiment several bonusses.
As the second category above already stated, you can duel with other heroes. During a large scale battle you can choose to go into a duel to limit the damage to your troops. Normal soldiers then won’t intervene, but with some luck and skill you can defeat a strong hostile that way without leting your own troops suffer.
To lead your armies you need decent controls and that’s always been a fragile point on console. Warhammer: Battle March as such doesn’t have bad ones but there are some downpoints which we can’t ignore. Opting for the basic controls are the easiest for new and experiences playes but you can only control 4 groups. While this is plenty for single player, online this becomes a true nightmare. The second option is Advanced and is a complete disaster. There’s no cursor and you first have to use the right trigger to make it appear. Personally I don’t understand why a company would add such an irritating (although optional) system in a game. It’s therefore advisable to stick to the basic controls eventhough it isn’t perfect online.
The multiplayer has a wide variety of options and you can make and adjust your own armies. Plenty of modes are present, going from simple deathmatch to King of the Hill and Siege games. There’s a maximum of 4 players but this isn’t a bad thing as there’s more than enough action on the battlefield already. The only things we found to be too bad is that there aren’t really that many players online. We fear therefore that this will die a quick death if we don’t see a large community being created soon. If a game so quickly after release has hardly any online games, chances are slim that you encounter a vivid online community in six months.
Finally we still have two important elements to talk about that that are the graphics and sound. If you care a lot about the first the game won’t be anything for you. It’s quite clear the makers didn’t pay much attention to polish the game and there’s even a visual difference between the campaigns with the second looking slightly better while the in-game cut-scenes are even remarkably more beautiful. Overall the surroundings do remain quite disappointing and we even occasionally encountered some frame drops. Another piece of evidence that the devs could have put some more effort in optimising the engine for the 360.
The sound is as we could expect from a Warhammer game: pretty good. The voice-overs and main characters fit perfectly and the voices of the different regiments are also logical, going from funny voices with the goblins to the more serious stuff from the Empire.
If you’re a Warhammer fan then we would certainly suggest this game, thanks to the long lifespan of the campaigns. You can easily count up to 15 hours to finish the single player. Graphically the game isn’t flying high (eventhough the adjustability of your armies is a welcome option) and also the controls don’t feel perfect in the end, especially in multiplayer. Something for the lovers of the genre so to speak.