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Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March

Review: Pressing the button would be more fun

Battle March adds a completely new campaign to the original Mark of Chaos, and also delivers the orc and dark elf armies to the mix for your skirmish and multiplayer slaughtering.

It's a sizeable addition to the already option-swollen belly of this RTS beast. In terms of boosting the army-creating side of this game, Battle March is a decent effort and should be applauded as such. Then again, it's still sat atop the shoulders of the original game, which in itself wasn't without problems.

So, what have we got? Well it's the complete original game pumped up with some new armies. These new armies are revealed via a new campaign focused around an orc invasion of the Empire, led by a charming greenskin warboss.

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Nothing out of the ordinary there, and catering for both singleplayer stalwarts and multiplayer merchants. The campaign is structured via a map that both tells the core story and allows you to romp off into some side missions.

While it's been compared unfavourably to the Total War games, I feel this is the area we should worry about the least: Total War's campaign map is a vast, intricate game all by itself and Mark of Chaos is not trying to compete on that count.

What matters is the action on the field. It's clumsy. This is partly the fault of the UI, partly down to how the regiments interact on the field, and partly the overall feedback you get from what's happening to your folks. Every fight ends up in a huge pile-on bundle, with units that don't have the sense of mass and space they do in the Total War games.

Mark of Chaos gets some things right, like the thump of a cannon hitting the ground near a unit, or the impact of a cavalry unit ploughing into infantry, but it's otherwise rather messy and confusing. It's far harder work than it should be and I wish it could be cleaned up and stripped down to make the interaction between armies more comprehensible and controllable.

A secondary problem, perhaps, is that we've already had the most interesting Warhammer fantasy armies delivered to us in the first game (I'm thinking Chaos and Skaven), and while the orcs are certainly fun to mess around with, the Dark Elves leave me quite cold.

The orcs have masses of character, and their voice-acting captures the kind of comic aggression that makes them so charming. The shaman's complaints about having "too many voices" talking in his head raises a smile every time, while the general grunts, shouts and the boasts of the rolling mob make them entertaining to command.

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There are lots of skirmish maps this time around (something that was sorely lacking in the original game) and so you can set to work hitting strategic points and tackling armies atop huge hills on a whole host of different landscapes.

They're still relatively bland compared to, say, Dawn of War or Medieval II, but their grim character is very much in the spirit of the Warhammer universe, and while it could do with a little more detail here and there, it's not quite as dispiriting as these screenshots might make out. Battle March isn't exactly a pretty game, but its ugliness is complex and deliberate. (The Dawn of War games, by comparison, can be rather cartoony.)

As an aside, I should probably mention that the game still has the best army-customisation system in any RTS I can think of. This is the part of the whole Games Workshop experience that Mark of Chaos got right, and it's only improved by having more armies to choose from.

It's arguable that Battle March deserves a higher score because it's a decent standalone expansion for the original game (and it includes the original Empire and Chaos campaigns) but I still found myself struggling to get into it at every turn.

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