Relic and THQ have been exploring the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi genre in their acclaimed games but the original Games Workshop fantasy war game is going to get the RTS treatment as well with the upcoming Warhammer: Mark of Chaos from developer Black Hole Games and publisher Namco-Bandai. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with the game's senior producer Chris Wren to find out more about their plans for Warhammer: Mark Of Chaos.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea come about to adapt the classic Warhammer franchise to the RTS genre?
Chris Wren: In starting the new PC division at Namco Bandai Games, we really wanted to make a fast paced RTS game with an emphasis on battling above all else. Warhammer instantly came to mind for the style of game mechanics and the look and feel of the Universe, and we considered just making our own gaming universe borrowing from this and other fantasy strategy games out there (both tabletop and on the PC), but in the end it made much more sense to just call up Games Workshop and ask if they were interested in making a game with us. As it turned out, they were thrilled with some of the ideas we were kicking around and they thought it would be a great use of their license. By leveraging all the knowledge-base of the actual license, we have been privy to many things we could never glean from books or other peopleís products. In addition to being able to directly reference some historical aspects of Warhammer in our game, and taking advantage of the excellent balancing system, weíve had a chance to ask the creators about this thing called Warhammer and why certain decisions were made, and how we can best use the license to meet our goals for an RTS game.
FiringSquad: Some people will likely compare this game to the Relic-THQ Warhammer 40,000 RTS game series. What do you think of this comparison? Are you prepared for that comparison?
Chris Wren: Iíd say Iím flattered by the comparison to a game I really enjoyed playing myself. The two universes are fairly distinct -- true they both have Orcs and Chaos, but the style of gameplay is different too. With 40K, youíll find yourself running smaller squads around than you will in Warhammer: Mark of Chaos. I think of 40K like the marines from Aliens, or possibly Navy seals, and Warhammer fantasy is more like the Napoleonic wars with magic and demons. Both are good, but not the same.
FiringSquad: How did Black Hole Games get the gig to develop Warhammer: Mark of Chaos?
Chris Wren: Honestly, we went shopping for a team who seemed like they had the inclination and the skills to help us make the game we were thinking of. I had played their previous game Armies of Exigo and saw in that some incredible art direction, technical achievement and a solid understanding of RTS mechanics. We had several houses that were eager to jump on this Warhammer project, but I was convinced these were the right guys to do it. So we did some early prototype stuff with them, and they showed that not only were they capable, but they were ready to sink their teeth into it and make it something special. It didnít take long to go from this to getting a demo up and running at E3 less than two months later.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the single player storyline in the game?
Chris Wren: The story was written by a Writer at Games Workshop, one of the guys who helped author some of the army books for Warhammer, Gav Thorpe. Gav took some high level direction from our early design discussions. In an early design meeting, we had decided the general plot for the two campaigns. We defined all the races we wanted involved and we concluded that we wanted this to not to take place in modern Warhammer, but at a critical crossroad in Warhammer history. From here, Gav wrote some amazing backgrounds and dialogue to bring it all to life. So you will play out the story as either an aspiring champion of Chaos or a captain of the Empire. Under Chaos, you are following in the footsteps of the great Chaos leader Aasavar Kul, in which you must prove your worth among the Chaos tribes by leading them in battle to earn your place among the gods. On the Empire side, you are an up-and-coming captain in the imperial army, in which your past is tainted with accusations of dealings in Chaos. You must rise above all of this to lead the Empireís forces to victory repelling the Chaos invaders and restoring your familyís good name, all the while seeking out the forces of corruption within the Empire.
FiringSquad: What will the playable sides be like?
Chris Wren: They are all very different. Choosing either campaign will give you a good sampling of all of them (either as friend or foe). On the Empire side, you will get to command Elven and Empire armies, and you will fight alongside Dwarves and other mercenary units. Among the Chaos, you will command units from the Chaos gods Khorne and Nurgle and multiple Skaven clans. Undead minions, Orcs and goblins, Giants, Vampire Counts and others all play a role in the campaigns. For multiplayer, you will be creating your own armies; these can include any one of the four main armies, as well as allowing for many combinations of mercenary units mixed in.
The four main armies all have very distinctive play styles. The Empire seems to employ the most pure strategy. They are not the strongest, or the weakest, but they have the widest variety of unit types and this allows some of the most complex strategies to be developed.
The Skaven can be played a few different ways. They have some really strong units like Rat Ogres, and they have powerful weaponry, like the Jezzails, and the Warp Lightning Cannon, so they can be fielded as a brute force and artillery army. The more traditional way to play the Skaven is to use their numbers to your advantage and build a really big army with lots of Clanrats willing to martyr themselves for the Horned rat. Think lemmings with purpose. Fear is their weakness so keeping them motivated with strong champions and the Screaming bell ringing will keep them fighting to the bitter end.
The Elves have the best ranged fighters. Their shadow warriors and archers are devastating from distance. The average High Elf army is not quite as numerous or armored as say an Empire army, but they make up for it in accuracy.
The Chaos army has the strongest individual units and they are not prone to fear or morale loss. They are slow, and have the worst range fighting in the game, but they make up for it with raw brute strength and unshakable will.