Somewhere between an RPG and a wargame, Warhammer offers a refreshing change of pace for fans of either genre looking for a new play experience. Set in the fantasy world of Games Workshop's pen-and-paper roleplaying World of Warhammer, Shadow of the Horned Rat is a compelling adventure that gives you a taste of the life of a mercenary captain.
You start with a small army: a single cavalry and infantry unit. While you peruse a map of the kingdom, the company's accountant and paymaster details the various mercenary jobs currently available and how well each will pay. From here you'll need to select which forces you want to take into battle, and then head out to war. Choose your fights carefully, though; your decisions about whom to support will affect the way the rest of the game is played. As you win more battles, you will gain money, recruit new soldiers, make new friends, and, if you're observant, attain powerful magic items too.
Without overlooking the game's well-written plot and solid voice-acting and animation, it's fair to say that Warhammer's combat system is really its central feature. The game's real-time battles, which are challenging and addictive, require you to observe the land around you and use it tactically. Enemy AI routines are surprisingly realistic and will keep even veteran wargamers on their toes. Unfortunately, the entire combat system is complicated by a movement system that can make it extremely difficult to select your various units.
Warhammer's fantastic character development, addictive warfare system, and absorbing story override most of its interface failings, and most strategy fans will find this title an excellent addition to their game libraries. Be forewarned though: Warhammer is a difficult game, and those with poor tactical skills or little patience will most likely find it too challenging.