Why are they always Scottish? Dwarves, that is. I've often wondered who it was that originally decreed that these stunted beardy hedonists should speak with a Glaswegian twang? Same goes for elves - pompous, meticulously spoken, stupid feather caps; and what about humans - unreliable weak-minded fools who unwittingly find themselves as the only race capable of opposing a darkness that threatens to enslave the world.
As you've probably already guessed - and if you're already a Warhammer fan, you'll already know - Mark Of Chaos is an RTS that indulges these fantasy mainstays in a world where humanity, elves and dwarfs must hold back the
tide of the rampaging Hordes Of Chaos - or monstrous, gravelly-voiced bad people with large axes for the uninitiated.
Despite its somewhat predictable premise, Mark Of Chaos proves itself to be a deep and compelling romp through a world ravaged by war, perfectly complemented by an excellent plot and two semi open-ended campaigns utilising rolling resources and offering both optional and story-essential missions.
So, we're off to a pretty good start. Which is always nice.
WAR'S A BREWIN'
Mark Of Chaos kicks off just months after Emperor Magnus's victory against the Hordes, plopping you into the conflictravaged Warhammer universe and instantly immersing you in a world where diametrically opposed factions attempt to cleave each other into submission.
With two campaigns on offer, you can choose to guide either the Empire or the Hordes Of Chaos to glory. Playing as the Empire sees you assuming the mantle of Stefan von Kessel, a commander in the Empire's army, branded with the Mark Of Chaos as a child due to his daddy and grandpappy's dabblings with the dark side. As the campaign progresses, you'll discover the truth behind your family's past, one that will ultimately forge your destiny - and that of your people - and see you uniting with (and commanding) both elves and dwarves.
If that's all sounding a bit too namby-pamby and you fancy ripping out some entrails while sacking villages instead, then you'll probably be wanting to head straight for the Hordes Of Chaos (backed up by the Greenskins and the Skaven) campaign, a rampaging romp of destruction and death that sees you attempting to wipe out the Empire and install yourself as the new champion of the Chaos gods.
A NEW CHAPTER
Whichever side you end up opting for, the campaign's format remains unchanged. Divided into chapters, each segment presents you with a map dotted with towns, caves and enemy strongholds, which must be liberated from your foe. In this sense, Mark Of Chaos bears more than a passing resemblance to Rise Of Nations: Rise Of Legends, tasking you with moving your army through the land with the chance to deviate from your main objective via optional side quests.
Though Mark Of Chaos never quite manages to hit the same ethereal heights as Big Huge Game's closet classic, and while the campaign map is so ugly that the likes of Medieval II would only ask it out as part of a pig-orientated dare, there's still a game of genuine intelligence to be found here, an RTS bristling with ideas and hours of slaughtering entertainment.
Once you reach a hotspot on the campaign map, the action switches to a 3D battlefield in which your upgradeable Hero units lead your troops into action. Each Hero has an abundance of abilities and spells that can be called upon, ranging from scorching fireballs to magical shields that protect an entire regiment from enemy onslaughts. They can also pick up dropped magical items from the battlefield, which further swell their powers. Much like Warcraft III and Rise Of Legends, these Hero units are integral to your success and used shrewdly, can turn the tide of even the bleakest of battles.