History: Just on the south side of Baltimore in a one story red brick building with large glass and steel windows is the world headquarters of a group of artists, writers, and designers responsible for the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game setting that Warhammer Shadow of the Horned Rat (SOTHR) is base upon. Just inside the front door is a case of hand painted miniatures, and beyond the portal is a common room that a group of business people conspire to produce more and more game elements, and perform the magic of staying in business playing games.
If you have not seen the miniatures, go by a hobby shop at a mall and get a gander at them. Unfortunately the two dimensional art in the game does not do the miniatures justice. Most of these hand painted figures represent a labor of love.
Plot: The warhammer world is filled with orcs, giants, humans, scaven (rat men - Ed.), elves, dwarves, and humans. Their weapons and experssions are characteristically larger than life, beyond the size that any normal man could wield. The creatures that people this world are anything but ordinary, they live in perpetual war.
Stereotypical racial characteristics fit the extremes that we are familiar with for elves, dwarves, and other beasts The monstrous machines and beasts that are created by these, beasts include magically ensorcled bouncers that kill by smashing their opponents only to bounce out of range of archers and others., and living cannon beasts that disgorge shot, ball and monsters at tremendous speeds
Plot: You step into the shoes of a Morgan Bernhardt, the commander of the small but deadly Grudgebringers, who are initially composed of one cavalry and one infantry unit. Later you can hire and recruit other units, such as the Grudgebringer archers, dwarven infantry, and special hero units which have magical powers but no men to follow them. You are presented with choices to go on missions to find magical artifacts, and almost always your motivation to do good is the gold it brings to hire and train additional units and reinforcements.
Your quest takes you into wilderness towns, dwarven mountains, evish forests, and finally to the city of the emperor before coming to the final battle to restore the elvin artifact stolen by the horned rat and a an evil wizard. The victory at trails end only achieves a temporary peace in this world of perpetual war. For a time the forces of good have staved off the magical hordes of evil.
Interface: The interface is divided into your accountant’s desk which has a way to return to battle, to check out and recruit troops from clicking on a book, check out spells in another book, take assignments from scrolls on the right of the desk in cubby holes. The accountant also provides you with advice, missions, and negotiates prices for services.
Combat: The battle screen is an overhead oblique rotatable and zoomable map screen upon which individual men organized into units are portrayed in colorful Warhammer regalia. Units form up into different formations on command and the point and click interface without hot key equivalents is very difficult to use and mouse click intensive until you get the hang of it. Timing is critical and you would be well advised to save your games.
The larger map view shows unit symbols moving on the map. The fog of war is not shown in black like most games, since you know the terrain, but you are ambushed by various units appearing out of cover in several locations. At the bottom are the commands for casting spells, controlling magical items, military formations, and commands. There is a lot to do and almost to little time to do it.
Voice actors: All characters in the game speak, including during battle. It is not uncommon to hear "kill them", orcs and scaven squealing, "charge," weapons ringing, monsters growling, and the twang of the bowstring or retort of cannon. All sounds are quite good.
Artificial intelligence (AI): The enemy is quite smart and acts quickly, while your troops can act independently (the brain icon), you must control them carefully to attack from two or three sides and overwhelm the enemy. You can not fight even battles you will lose too many troops and you need to build up your armies for later battles, so that the loss of even a few men can be catastrophic.
The game is deadly hard since most of the time you are out numbered and need to apply your advantages quickly and liberally. The AI also hangs your troops, not theirs on terrain, and will charge too eagerly when close to troops, and run when routed by monsters.
Battles: There are over 40 battles, over 20 magical items, and over 25 troop types you can hire. There are an equal number of unit types that fight against you.
Graphics: The two dimensional graphics of the backgrounds were hand rendered, and the sprites were rendered on Microsoft’s SoftImage
Multiplayer: There are no facilities for playing the orcs, cooperating and controlling units against the orcs on the same computer or computers linked by null modem, phone modem, network, or internet.
Nathan Bamford, www.gamepen.com/ledge/games/sothr/sothr.html, (90%).
Microsoft Soft image site: www.softimage.com
Warhammer miniture site: http://winslow.net66.com/~ddburger/whrealms.html
Games Workshop gateway: www.cybernet.dk/users/flarup/gateway.html
hints and cheats: www.au.malaysia.net/people/tangcm/hornrat.htm