Released by Mindscape in 1995 for PC.

Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat was the first real-time strategy computer adaptation of Warhammer Fantasy Battle table-top turn based strategy game. It was later followed up by Warhammer: Dark Omen, technically a lot better game - but no skaven so it was automatically worse in my opinion...

I have not played this game for ages, because it's a prime example of bit rot of epic proportions: The game was coded for Windows 95 and a very early version of DirectX (DirectX version 3, I believe) - much earlier than the DX API matured, anyway. I had problems running some DirectX 5 or 6 games under DX8.1 and probably got my system severely corrupted and need to reinstall some day; My guess is that playing DX3 game would make the thing literally blow up, so I'm scared to try and I'm now trying to get some courage... So, I suspect the game is probably already unrunnable and it was released in 1995!

Update: since my game CD-ROM is faaar away and won't be able to get it for couple of weeks, I tried the version from The Underdogs - and it installed, for some odd version didn't overwrite my installation of DX8, but the intro didn't work because it didn't find the opening cutscene video. Must try this again later, but it actually may work... or not.

The game itself is fairly interesting. It's one of the earliest RTSes I've played that separate economy simulation and bloodshed. You're the leader of a bunch of mercenaries. The principal UI of the game normally consists of the desk of your paymaster, Dietrich. From there, you can hire more mercenaries, get replacements for your dead warriors, and, most importantly, start missions that vary from small, more or less uneventful patrols to epic battles.

First, you choose the marching order of the units. The order of the units is relevant in case of ambushes during your journey to places where things happen - but once safely on the battlefield, you can deploy your units freely before you start the battle.

The combat itself is done in 3D, with units represented with sprites (it'd be also pretty early to expect support for 3D acceleration - the game says a 486DX-66 is recommended, I first played it with a 33MHz machine with lower details and it was mostly playable). In Warhammer fashion, you control regiments, each arranged in ranks and files, each with a commander, and apparently a standard bearer... Real-time adaptation of the turn-based game works actually pretty wonderfully in principle, but the UI is not very well thought of; Selecting units in the combat is a bit tricky (have to know where to click, may take getting some used to) and the mini map isn't zoomable which makes close battles hard to manage. In general, once you get in close battle, you're watching a very hard-to-define pixel mess. You can order your units to attack others, and they try their best to kill the offenders; You can select spells and magic items to use, and try boosting your regiment's combat morale by clicking the "hero" button repeatedly. The magic is still mostly turn-based; you can only use the spells every few moments. After the battle, or during it, you can find some items lying on the battleground.

But with the small oddities aside, it's a pleasant experience. Personally, I really liked this, because the campaign focuses - as the title suggests - on the skaven and the Horned Rat. The orcs and other greenskins also play a major role. The game did have some "epicness" in it at the time. And the sounds are also wonderful - orc "WAAGH!" and other sounds are memorable, and the "Die, you will!" from the skaven is memorable enough. The music is really great, even when the MIDI synthesis was pretty awful on the age's sound cards, but the music probably sounds a lot better now - and some of the music tracks are included on CD as normal audio tracks!

Overall, I think the game was very nice, and it's truly a shame that it was not updated to work on modern systems... even the newer Warhammer game is getting tricky nowadays!

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