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Review by: Jordan Thomas
Published: December 22, 1997
Ten thousand Orks stream through an Imperial city, wreaking massive havoc with their bizarre Tek weaponry and berserk battle tactics. Elite space marines appear from everywhere, and a pitched battle ensues. Tanks crush citizens and enemies alike in an effort to quell the impending chaos. The Orks take over. In response, mystic Astropaths weave trans-dimensional offensive attacks through sheer force of will. The Army of the Imperium unites, and explosive mortar shells send invading Orks flying into walls, flailing about like crushed fish. Welcome to the world of Warhammer.
The game is a turn-based strategy title, and a pretty darn good one. A massive library of units, abilities, and history is made available to the user in the online Codex. Each type of soldier is displayed and explained, and statistical information is included with each entry. This made it possible for me to learn all about the armies I would command, and the history of the world on which I would fight. Once I felt comfortable with all this information, I launched the single player game.
Immediately, my face fell. The graphics are extremely dated, and in the days of crisply pre-rendered unit animations in games like Dark Reign and Command and Conquer, 2d sprites can simply not compete. The in-game art is supposed to be 16 bit, but I honestly could not tell. The animations are little more than the sliding of bitmaps, or the slight alteration of what is essentially blocky, poor game art. The backgrounds are very simplistic pixelly images, and the units are little more than icons. Now, this granted, the rest of the game has a lot to offer.
The combat is set against an Ork warlord named Skrogg. You are given the opportunity to deploy your units within a specific range, so that the strategic element of force placement is entirely within your control. Once all the armies have been set, the turns begin. You move your units through a relatively simple motion interface, clicking to select, and then clicking to specify a destination or target. Some very interesting strategies can be employed, due to the suppression factor, which ensures that if a group of units take enough fire, their self-preservation instincts take over, and they turn tail immediately.
The upside to the graphic simplicity of the game is the fact that they are able to go into great depth with the number of available unit types. Both the Imperium and the Orks have a large variety of battlers, vehicles, and artillery. In combat, the units show their special adaptability, and one can have a pretty damn good time going through the various campaign missions, driving the Orks back. The network play mode is very similar to any other RTS title, except that of course, the action is handled in turns, and you can choose to play either side of the struggle.
The in-game sounds are pretty strong, with a satisfying ignition noise when a vehicle is selected, and a sharp, guttural report voice from the individual units to signal that they are ready for command. Explosions resound nicely, and when units perish, you can hear their cries from a long way off. In all, the sound editors did a pretty killer job, and this acoustic quality enriched the gaming environment for me.
Between missions, you are given a Risk-like choice of what occupied area to liberate from the Orks’ control. Each area is unique, with its own structures, objectives, and turning points. These little tokens represent an area of control which, if reached by the bulk of the Imperial army, add to the overall score of performance.
The Orks display a good, solid strategy AI, and will press back your forces relentlessly if given half the chance. The Ork race has a very weird view of the world, and a lot of their weaponry is highly unpredictable and powerful. As the Imperium, you have a slightly more stable knowledge of your own forces, and it’s fairly obvious when you’re going to be defeated. Various flanking and retreat maneuvers are made easy by the game’s movement engine, and so you will find many paths to victory in Final Liberation.
While the imagery looks very old, this remains a solid title, especially for fans of the Warhammer universe. There are many units to choose from, massive-scale strategic combat, and a multiplayer mode for those who prefer the intelligence of a human to the computer AI. While the game’s fundamentals are the same as most turn-based titles, the feel of the Imperial struggle is the original element, and makes for an enjoyable experience.
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