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Video Game / Warhammer: Dark Omen

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"You're going into Hell, Bernhardt!"
"I was born there. And call me Commander!"
Matthias & Commander Bernhardt

Warhammer: Dark Omen is a 1998 tactical Real-Time Strategy game for PC and PlayStation, set in the Warhammer universe. It is the sequel to the earlier Shadow of the Horned Rat and features captain Morgan Bernhardt and his mercenary company the Grudgebringers as they seek to defeat the Zombie Apocalypse of the Dread King.

The game takes you through a series of missions, fighting against both the Undead and greenskins. The game is infamously hard, owing mainly to the fact that your army is persistent: Any losses have to be recouped, and since the amount of money you get from completing missions is finite, you can easily end up in a negative loop (where you fail to make enough money to recoup your losses, making it harder to make more money and you sustaining even bigger losses...) Any regiment wiped out completely is also Killed Off for Real. While the game is mostly linear it offers a few "Side missions", that gives you additional rewards (usually bonus regiments) but usually make various battles harder once you get there (as the enemy has more time to prepare)

See Warhammer for the tropes owed to the universe itself.

Tropes used in Warhammer: Dark Omen include:

  • Actionized Sequel: Compared to Shadow of the Horned Rat, Dark Omen places far less emphasis on the managerial aspects of the game (most importantly, you no longer have to pay your troops' wages), focusing almost entirely on the battles themselves.
  • Alpha Strike: At the final battles of both games, perhaps the easiest way to win is to have the Grudgebringers bring only their siege weapons, wizards, archers and some powerful melee. The company is then to concentrate bombardment on the enemies from a safe distance with an all-out barrage of magical and mundane missiles (targeting enemy siege engines and wizards first and archers second) until they all die or panic while keeping your few melee units as a screen or bait.
  • Annoying Arrows: Played with; While the toughest units in the game can shrug of arrows, most units most definitely cannot. And archers will slaughter most infantry.
  • Anti-Cavalry: Sorely missed, no pikemen or equivalent units are present in the game; cavalry reigns supreme and the best counter against it are other powerful mounted units.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Losing Morgan means losing the game. However, unlike in Shadow of the Horned Rat, Morgan will always be the last man of his unit to die. This was done to prevent a cheap game loss because Morgan got taken out by some random mook's lucky blow.
  • Arbitrary Head Count Limit: You can only bring a certain amount of regiments with you into combat.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted by archers and some artilleries and mortars that fire a parabolic shot. Crossbows, cannons and some other machines tend to deliver a more swallow projectile by design.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Powerful enemies can avoid getting injured with either good armour or a high toughness rating. Cannons and most magic will bypass armour (some rare magic armour does protect against these, but your foes won't have them), while high strength attacks improve your chances of getting through armour or a unit with high toughness (this makes units with two-handed weapons like the Dwarven Slayers or Imperial Greatswords useful against isolated monsters, they can mob them with strong attacks) and some spells will bypass toughness.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Charge / Retreat is often heard on the battlefield. Outmatched units that are losing badly will try to disengage due to low morale, an action that render them helpless if they are pursued by a faster unit. Other units are unbreakable and will fight to the last man (or dwarf / elf / goblin / undead / whatever)
  • Bag of Spilling: Partially averted in the transition from Shadow of the Horned Rat to Dark Omen, you don't retain any magic item except the Grudgebringer sword and most of your mercenaries are gone. But the Grudgebringer Crossbows and Grudgebringer Cannon you start with in Dark Omen, were originally independent mercenaries that you had the option of hiring in the first game. Dark Omen assumes that the Grudgebringers defeated Thanquol and not only did they hire the Mercenary Crossbows and Cannon crew, they made these two units a permanent part of the company.
  • Big Bad: Grey Seer Thanquol in SOTHR and the Dread King in Dark Omen are the evil masterminds and final bosses of their respective games.
  • The Big Guy: Urblad Rotgut and his team of mercenary Ogres in Dark Omen.
  • Black Knight: The Undead Army has fearsome ones, the Black Grail Knights, an Evil Knock Off of Bretonnia's Grail Knights created by the Dread King using the Black Grail.
  • Blessed with Suck: Some of the magic items you get are just awful. For example, in the first game Ceridan has a magic sword that does extra damage to dwarves. Unfortunately the only dwarves you encounter are friendly.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Human archers are very poor hand-to-hand fighters. Elves and Undead ranged units are however skilled in melee.
  • Calling Your Attacks: When your infantry and cavalry units charge the enemies.
  • The Cavalry: Literal and you can execute it very nicely. The enemy is so numerous that sometimes your worst regiments have to engage a better enemy while your cavalry is busy fighting another foe. Once the cavalry is free it can help their comrades in trouble with a powerful charge from the rear or the flanks and save their day.
  • A Commander Is You: The player takes the role of an actual character with lot of lines of dialogue and a presence in the battlefield. You are Morgan Bernhardt, the leader of your Grudgebringer Cavalry regiment. Morgan being killed leads to a Game Over.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Dietrich, the shrewd paymaster of the Grudgebringers from Shadow of the Horned Rat, doesn't appear in Dark Omen and he's never mentioned.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The abovementioned Arbitrary Head Count Limit? Doesn't apply to the computer.
  • Cool Tank: A steam one that can run over infantry in melee or blast them with a cannon!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Klaus and Morgan. Both of them. As well as Emperor Karl Franz. Generally the characters are either this, Large Ham or a combination of both.
  • Death from Above: Artillery regiments have a incredibly long range and inflict massive casualties when their shots land accurately on a target. Some of your wizards also like to drop devastating payloads on your enemies.
  • Deflector Shields: A magical object and a spell function as them against ranged attacks, but it's not 100% effective.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • For the earlier "Shadow of the Horned Rat", you automatically get the Amber Wizard, Allor early in game. He's rather meh initially, but when he's levelled enough he can learn "Flock of Doom" which generates a cloud of powerful birds of prey to peck enemy units to death. Those that survive usually have their morale so battered, they break almost immediately. In Dark Omen, you start off with the Grudgebringer Cannon company - there's a reason they start off rated as elite.
    • The sword Grudgebringer counts. Bernhardt starts off with it and its fireball attack means he's almost guaranteed to kill at least one enemy warrior before his cavalry charges into battle. Grudgebringer's bonuses to melee and the cavalry's high stats and armour, means that Bernhardt will usually win most fights.
  • The Dreaded: Some enemies, specially elite undead ones, cause fear to other units. Your captains shout it when this happens and it affects the combativity of their regiments.
    "Flee the abomination!!!"
  • Easy Communication: Partially averted: once in combat your troops will fight until one unit breaks and flees. You can do this manually, but expect to take heavy casualties from the ensuing rout.
  • Elite Army: Yours basically, the famed Grudgebringer mercenary company. The enemy gets there eventually, it starts with generic Mooks but his quality gradually grows up.
  • Elite Mooks: Big 'Uns and Black Orcs for the Greenskins, Wraiths and Mummies for the Undead.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The games provide them through your paymaster Dietrich's books. The in-game encyclopedia's provide a lot of valuable information on various topics as well give a good flavouring of what the Warhammer Fantasy Battle world is about.
  • Famed In-Story: The Grudgebringers were originally an up and coming warband in Shadows Of The Horned Rat, after defeating the Skaven and their Orc allies, the Grudgebringers are so famous that Emperor Karl Franz hires them personally to deal with the Dread King's undead army.
  • Flaming Sword: Among several, Grugdebringer, the sword of Morgan that shoots fireballs and gives name to his mercenary company.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: An overpowering, well executed or ill-defended charge can turn into this. E.g charging a panicked and routed unit.
  • Fog of War: Only enemy units within line of sight of a friendly regiment are visible. This applies to the computer too, making baits and ambushes a very effective tactic.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted, ranged and artillery fire should be watched very carefully (a low flying cannonball will hit anyting in his path) and stopped against enemies in proximity to your troops. The captain of a regiment under friendly fire will openly complain about it
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Artillery and cannons die very fast if engaged in melee. Even if they survive the encounter they lose their deadly ranged fire for the rest of the battle.
    • The Imperial Greatswords elite infantry lack armor to compesate for their heavy greatswords, Flagellants and Dwarven Slayers from the first game have a good chance of hurting enemy units, but these companies lack armour and only have a small number of people making them easy to wipe out.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: A viable method against the continuous waves is to soften up enemy regiments with ranged units (archers, wizards, mounted pistoliers and siege engines) and to lure enemy archers out of their positions with a fast unit or a teleported wizard.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted by any sensible commander, combined arms is the way to go, the enemy should be softened from a distance before engaged, the regiment formation is important, head-on charges are disencouraged, flanks and rear should be ideally targeted instead, concealed units can still be area-bombarded... The AI is not that bright though
  • Horny Vikings: Ragnar's Wolves, a cavalry unit of Norsca warriors with horned helmets.
  • An Ice Person: The Kislev Ice Mages are the only individuals in Warhammer lore who have mastered the lore of ice magic.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: By the time Luthor Flamestrike is capable of learning the spell "Conflaguration of Doom'', there's only a few quests left to do. That said the Conflagration is a One-Hit Kill against almost any enemy and better yet it'll hit ANYWHERE on the battlefield.
  • It's Personal Bernhardt's reaction to the kidnapping of Countess Isabel. Lampshaded
    "See to it that she comes to no harm it's... "
    "Yes, yes, I know, it's personal."
  • Jerkass: All Matthias does in Dark Omen is dissing and threatening Morgan and his men while keeping an Holier Than Thou attitude. And he does nothing to help against the common threat of the undead army.
  • Kill It with Fire: The tough mummies are vulnerable to fire. As Luther Flamestrike the Bright Wizard puts it.
    "Stand firm men! Flesh that is dead may still burn!"
  • Knight Templar: Witch Hunter General Matthias from Dark Omen is an arrogant and paranoid Witch Hunter of the Empire who is quick to accuse anyone of heresy and he burned alive innocent women if Morgan's dialogue is to be believed.
  • Level Grinding: The game is so hard that is very advisable to level up all your units, specially your wizards. Optional misions and detours make the game longer and some missions harder but are provide a good source of experience and sometimes magical items.
  • The Load: Matthias the witch hunter. In addition to his Jerkass Holier Than Thou attitude (see under that trope), he does not help you fight any of your enemies, and at one point actually commandeers one of your artillery pieces, making it unavailable for the rest of the game. The only useful thing he does is rescue Countess Isabella... from an abandoned and empty castle.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Archers and specially cannons and artillery, very powerful units that pose a great danger as they can hit and mutilate a regiment in a single shot while sitting safe behind the first line of combat. Weak in melee combat
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Not as bad as more modern games, but the bloody corpses of your enemies WILL be strewn across the battlefield.
  • Magic Wand: Wizards can use one. It provides Reduced Mana Cost.
  • Magikarp Power: In the first game, the Black Avengers are a company of dispossessed vigilante farmers you can hire. They're poorly armoured and their fighting skills are only mediocre. But there's around 24 men in the company which is a lot (compare that to the Grudgebringer Infantry that only has 16 soldiers). In the beginning, they make good cannonfodder and that's about it. But with enough experience and a mission where many of your company are given chainmail armour from the dwarves, the Black Avengers are strong enough to go toe to toe against elite enemy infantry. To top if off, the Black Avengers hate Skaven so much that they get to re-roll missed attacks on them and seldom flee from collapsed morale when facing Skaven.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: The audience knows that the Dread King is bad news when he gets Manfred von Carstein, one of the canonical Big Bads of the setting, to pledge allegiance and do his bidding.
  • Mana Meter: There's a fluctuating Winds of Magic gauge at the bottom of the screen to indicate how much magic is available for a wizard to tap into.
  • Mighty Glacier: The steam tank is slow-moving but it's heavily armoured and can deal out serious hits with its cannon.
  • Mook: Enemies are this in the beginning of it. They then get serious...
  • Morale Mechanic: You don't have to slaughter a unit to defeat it, if it takes too much morale damage (such as getting flanked or ambushed by a charging enemy) or breaks from facing a fear-generating foe the unit will run away and may flee the battle completely. When fleeing, a unit is helpless against enemies and will get chopped up by meleeing foes that manage to intercept.
  • Mounted Combat: One of the smartest tactics is to charge the enemy from the rear or the flanks with your cavalry, while preventing the enemy from doing the same against you with his mounted units.
  • Nature Hero: Allor the Amber Wizard. A wandering hermit skilled in the magic lore of beasts who joins the Grudgebringers because he sees the Skaven as a dire threat to nature. He also refuses to be paid because he works for Earth, not for the mercenary company.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Thoroughly averted - archers and artillery realistically model different firing methods, projectile arcs, and terrain. Understanding how to use troops and weapons that shoot in a mostly-straight line versus those that shoot in a high arc can and will make the difference between victory and defeat.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: While orcs and undead are available in multiplayer, the single-player campaign is for good guys only. There is a mod to avert this.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Some elite enemies are only vulnerable to magical weapons, otherwise your captains will shout "Our weapons pass through them"
  • Nintendo Hard: Combine the fatal consequences of loss (either entire regiments or just enough men) with the fact that the very FIRST MISSIONS start you outnumbeered about 2-to-1. By the end-game you'll be facing 10-to-1 odds... OF MUMMIES! The game has a horrible tendency to spawn enemies in the worst possible direction, too. Save Scumming is not an option because you can't save the game during battles and neither is giving orders while the game is paused.
  • One-Hit Kill: Artillery fire, deadly when accurate and with a huge range.
  • Orcus on His Throne: The Dread King never gets out of the Black Pyramid of Nagash until the final stage.
  • Passing the Torch: This is how Morgan Bernhardt got the Grudgebringer. A young Morgan Bernhardt had again failed to become part of the knightly orders and went to drown his sorrows. After some drunken back and forth with the patrons of the bar, Morgan gave a Rousing Speech about forming an army better than knightly order. This won the patrons over and they offered to be the first soldiers. A drunken old Bright wizard then comes and declares his admiration, since he's too old to join and fight he gives Bernhard his magical sword and tells him to make good use of it.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Magical items are very scarce and often creatively hidden or carried by an enemy regiment that can flee the battlefield if panicked, taking the object with them.
  • Plot Armor: Some of the units joining the Grudgebringers like the Elf ranger Ceridan in the first game, can't be killed permanently as they're important to the storyline. They'll instead be knocked-out for the rest of the battle. These units can make awesome Cannon Fodder to tie up enemy companies as you never have to fear having them killed off.
  • Power Born of Madness: Units that have the Frenzy trait, are so psychotically furious that they aren't affected by Fear or Terror and they get double their usual number of attacks.
  • The Power of Hate: Units with the Hatred trait, have a particular type of enemy they hate (such as the Black Avengers despising Skaven). When fighting that enemy, they get to re-roll a missed attack roll and their Leadership is treated as 10, so they have a 10 out of 12 chance of resisting Fear and Terror rolls.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Numerous.
    "These towers are plagued by a pestilence that I'm here to cure! WITH STEEL AND FIRE!"
  • Put on a Bus: The Emperor's leased troops and other autonomous forces temporary join your army from time to time and then depart. Some return in the final missions.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: If you win a battle but lose too many regiments, you'll need a mission restart as your campaign won't succeed with so many losses.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Grudgebringers started out as a bunch of drunken and poorly disciplined patrons who formed their mercenary group to spite the Imperial knightly order for rejecting them and hired most of the time by peasants for ale money. When they get hired by the elf Ceridan to thwart the plans of Thanquol, they slowly grow into an heroic Elite Army that includes people from many nations and races.
  • Rousing Speech: Bernhardt does some of it, admittedly some of them boil down to "HACK! SLASH! SLAUGHTER!"
  • RPG Elements: In addition to unit veterancy, the regiments can be equipped with magical items and can purchase upgrades.
  • Saved by Canon: You cannot kill characters from the main Warhammer canon, such as Grey Seer Thanquol.
  • Save Scumming: Not possible during battles, the mission should be completed in one go.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Routed units will try to regain morale and regroup, but will often flee the battlefield if they are surrounded by enemies and the overall situation looks grim.
    • In the first game, if a company lost 75% of its maximum member size there's a chance they'll leave because they feel you're an incompetent commander (Grudgebringer Cavalry is immune to this).
  • Shock and Awe: One of the best magical items (Banner of Wrath) invokes a spell that drops lightnings over the enemies.
  • Siege Engines: Ballistas, catapults, rock lobbers, mortars, steam tanks... the deadliest non-magical units of the game; great range and great destructive power.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Morgan and the witch hunter Matthias have plenty of vitriol between them as pretty much all of their conversations in Dark Omen consist of sniping at each other but they never come to blows.
  • Squishy Wizard: The wizards break havok among enemy lines, but a volley of arrows or a lucky artillery shot kills them quite often.
  • Status Buff: Using the Hero Boost button succesfully will raise that particular company's Strength rating, increasing the chance of hurting a tough enemy. A Potion of Might also increases the user's strength for a short duration of time.
  • Take Your Time: You can swerve from the main course and take on side missions, but the enemy bulk will be on their way, so when you finally arive to the site of the next grand event, you'll find the enemy force much stronger then you could've otherwise or even that the castle you were to defend was taken and now you have to take it back. You also get chewed on by your mentor for your lack of determination. Those quests give precious experience and rare items, though.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! Both Bernhardt and Matthias insist on being addressed by their proper titles. Bernhardt wins
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Lose a critical unit in any battle, and you are royally screwed. In fact, the very instant you see your Fire Wizard drop dead, you might as well restart the battle. Also, having high casualties in one battle and being short of money to refill the ranks usually means that your army won't be at full strength for next battle, leading to heavier casualties, etc. It can degenarte into a downward spiral, where your best option is to restart the campaign and self-impose yourself some "acceptable casualty limits". On the other hand very skilled players who somehow manage to minimize casualties (getting every magical item, specially "Banner of Wrath" is the key) end up having Money for Nothing in the last levels.
  • Veteran Unit: Your precious units get experience, gain levels and get more deadly the more enemies they vanquish. ensuring their survival is a vital aspect of the game because if the last man perishes the whole regiment is Killed Off for Real, and that can happen even to a robust regiment if an enemy cannon gets a lucky shot or heavy friendly fire rains on them.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Unfortunately for you, averted in Shadows of the Horned Rat. Warpfire Throwers are going to be the bane of your existence unless they accidentally roast themselves. They shoot a powerful stream of flame that can occasionally wipe out an entire unit of Grudgebringers in one shot.
    • On the plus side if you manage to kill them with ranged weapons they will explode and wipe out most of the unit accompanying them.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: After a whole game worth of buildup to a final confrontation with Grey Seer Thanquol, he teleports off the battlefield the moment your army gets anywhere near him. This does also follow a whole game worth of buildup establishing his entire race as Dirty Cowards without exception.
  • Villain Teleportation: The computer often executes it masterfully, one of its brigthest moves; a conjurer pop-ups near your army, casts a very harmful spell on one of your best troops and then teleport backs to safety in the blink of an eye. You can try and replicate it with your own wizards, but bear in mind that unlike yours, their ranged units do not need to be given targets manually and will open fire on sight.
  • With This Herring: Averted, the Grudgebringers are equipped to the teeth at the start, especially when compared to the typical Warhammer Fantasy Battle infantry and cavalry companies - having the sword Grudgebringer is merely icing on the cake. You're not starting off with no cooking pot helmets and kitchen knives crap. This goes up further in the 2nd game, when you get a cannon and crossbow company to start.