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Rob Zacny

Episode 318: Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat

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Three Moves Ahead 318:

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Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat
Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat (1995) is a gem of a game that has recently been made available again through the magic of digital publishing. The game was ahead of its time: the 3D tactical combat would serve as an inspiration for the gameplay in Shogun: Total War. (The Total War series would eventually meet up with Warhammer later in Total War: Warhammer.) The dark fantasy setting and special hero combat would eventually "inspire" Warcraft 3. Join Rob Zacny and special guest Dan Griliopoulos as they look back on Shadow of the Horned Rat and the nuanced subtleties of the Warhammer universe.

Warhammer: Shadow the Horned Rat

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Wow that's a very pretty new thumbnail~!  I wonder how my memory of this game holds up since I played it before I learned how to speak English :D

 

I remember stopped playing this game because I got to this mission with Dwarf fort under siege and wow the battle was pretty much unwinnable for me.

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The effect of Age of Sigmar on the Warhammer fan base was sort of like this;

 

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I haven't played warhammer in at least a decade (did join a mordheim campaign very briefly about 2 years ago though) but I am not surprised that GW made this unpopular move. The vast majority of their profits (i've heard things like 70%) is just space marines. Not even the whole of 40k. Warhammer fantasy has not made money in a good five or ten years despite GWs repeated attempts to revamp it. So its no real surprise that they ditched it and went or a low risk smaller scale game that had fantasy space marines.

 

I did play dark omen briefly, i found it... hard. Not sure i ever beat more than one mission. Might look at this now its on gog, even if its hard as nails, at least i know what im getting in to.

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I completely missed that this and Final Liberation had been added to GoG. I didn't think that it would ever happen.

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While I never could play Shadow of the Horned Rat, much because, back when it was released both I didn´t know about it and no one distribuited this game here in Brazil. But, for unknown reasons, Dark Omen was not only distribuited in Brazil. but had localized text and even voices (this was quite rare back there, specially a well done voiced localization like this). It was a good game, but not without some problems....

 

To begin, now listening to the podcast I came to realise that Dark Omen was very linear and missed many stuff from Shadow of the Horned Rat: There is no way to replace units (you only got some fixed units along the story with a few other that could be gained doing sidequest), no contracts (the game had a rather linear history with a few sidequest simple branching points), no interface like the one said in the podcast.

 

The fact that you can´t replace units meant that simple losing a unit was almost allways reason to restart the game, to be fair, you could not even afford to suffer heavy loses as you never have money to do anything. I was never able to ended it, because I found it almost impossimble to finish it, since I could not end the mission right before the last one without losing almost all my units. Finding magic items was a pain, because two reasons - one you had absolute no idea which map might have on hidden or not, second some magic items only appear when something was triggered, but again you had not a single idea about that.

 

Much like in Shadow of the Horned Rat, units while had roles, they still didn´t appear to mean much in Dark Omen, except maybe cannons and wizards everything else could do well against everything else there. Also the "press button to do heroic stuff" is there too, but there is a "heroic bar" that fill up as you press the button, but I can´t remember if that actually does anything since the game keep much stuff hidden. Another small touch is a system to represent the winds of magic.

 

However, one nice thing was that units would have a pop up showing animated portrait of their commander, shouting orders and if they got wonded the portrait would reflect that, it was impressive seeing your units wonded asking for help in almost desesperate fashion.

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I certainly hope that one day someone passionate finds themselves in a position to successfully revive and realize the ideas at play in Shadow of the Horned Rat, similiar to how X-Com has been revived after all these years. Personally, there is also something alluring about the fantasy of being the captain of a mercenary company even to this day and video games are one of the few spaces where I can explore such fantasies. The last game I can think of that explored a similar concept is the Mercenary Campaign for Great Battles Medieval; where you also recruited an army, choose which missions to take on, equip your troops and experience gained carries over into future battles.

 

Unfortunately for CA and SEGA I think I'm experiencing Total War fatigue despite any excitement for a long-anticipated Warhammer game, so I would warmly welcome something different which can deliver a similar emphasis on "satisfying" real-time tactical battles while providing each individual battle with some greater meaning through a campaign or similar. Not sure I have the fortitude to try and complete Shadow of the Horned Rat or Dark Omen since I've never been much of a "save scummer" but I still love the premise of the games.

 

Now this begs the question, when is the 3MA show(s) for the 41st millenium's Final Liberation or Chaos Gate? :eyebrow:

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