Before hostilities commence, you're given the opportunity to position your troops within a deployment zone. However, unlike Med II where your pre-battle positioning is paramount to eking out an advantage over your enemy, Mark Of
Chaos's deployment phase often proves about as productive as trying to hack off someone's head with a nail file (don't try it at home kids, it bloody hurts). And with the majority of missions tasking you with exploring the map, your starting position often proves obsolete, though defensive levels are a notable exception.
THINK ABOUT IT
While your army's starting position often proves unimportant to a level's outcome, the same certainly can't be said for the strategies you employ during skirmishes. Forced to think tactically at every turn, there's a genuine sense of strategy from the moment you advance to the moment the final foe falls.
Missile troops are deadly when raining down volleys on your foes, but leave them
isolated and they'll be flanked faster than Daniel O'Donnell in an old people's home. Maybe faster. What's more, with the game thankfully shying away from the build-and-rush mechanic still employed by so many modern-day RTS games - instead opting for a more mature, rolling resource model, which sees you retaining your armies from one battle to the next - you can never just send your troops into a mass brawl and hope for the best.
Utilising height advantage, line of sight, flanking manoeuvres and combined arms
are skills you'll need to call upon if you're to walk away grasping victory in your bloodcaked fist.
You'll develop genuine attachments to your regiments as they survive to fight another day alongside you. You'll also beam proudly as they gain experience and skill, bask in the glow of smug self-satisfaction when they emerge victorious from a battle with minimum casualties, and shed a tear as you pack them off to college with only your old black-and-white TV set for company and a pocket full of £20s to spend on piss-weak booze. Actually, ignore that last one. Maybe in the expansion pack, eh?
WATCH YOUR HEAD
Preserving your troops doesn't only involve preventing the enemy from cleaving them up, as your men can also take damage from your own weapons. Pounding massed enemy ranks with roaring cannons may be a devastating tactic, but neglect to cancel their attack orders in time and they'll do just as much damage to your forces as they engage the enemy.
There's also an excellent morale system - which sees decimated regiments turn and run for their lives - that further swells the game's tactical core and several top-notch missions that allow you to work in unison with an AI ally. All of which means it doesn't take a level-99 mage with +100 Wisdom and an amulet of Perspicacity to work out that Mark Of Chaos is an RTS brimming with tactical substance and brutal, unforgiving realism.
So what about the game's siege battles? Well, I'm glad you asked, as they're a bit... Well... Shit, actually. Which is a damn shame considering how much fun their battlefield counterparts are. Damn shame.
It's hard to shake off the nagging sense that Mark Of Chaos's siege levels are embarrassingly clumsy, like a fatigued father falling off the stage at his son's parent/student talent contest. For starters, the game's somewhat clunky and unintuitive camera interface is compounded by its inability to gauge height and distance during siege warfare, regularly leaving you staring at a fortress's walls as your painstakingly preserved, upgraded and loved army is massacred somewhere out of sight.
As a result, attacking castles is tedious. Yes, that's the word, tedious - utterly bereft of the visceral brutality you'd associate with this kind of onslaught. These castle battles often end up degenerating into mechanical chores, tolerated only in the hope that the next level will be better, or as a means to an end to reach the next segment of the compelling plot.