It will be argued between gamers forever if a joypad can compete with mouse and keyboard controls, in this writers eyes that is a definite no (obviously taking out the aspect of player skill). This argument is turned up a notch when a strategy game is thrown into the mix, or to be more precise a real-time tactics game. The sheer amount of control and adaptability required to govern armies and react quickly in the heat of battle is something which is suited for the speedy interface of a mouse and keyboard, which anyone will agree within 10minutes of playing Warhammer Battle March.
Initially when booting up the game I decided that it would be interesting to see how I could handle the game without trying the tutorial mode, simply jumping right into a campaign. The first missions were easy enough to progress with just the A button (select, move and attack), but I could not, for the life of me, find out how to do ANYTHING else. I pressed a combination of triggers and buttons, buttons and thumbsticks and even tried mashing the buttons a little. It is clear to me now where I was going wrong of course; I was only pressing two buttons when I should have been pressing three!
After completing the short (/sarcasm) tutorial, nearly falling asleep twice, I finally learnt that in order to command my troops with finesse I would need to mostly use a combination of the right trigger and d-pad, followed by another key. For example, to make my troops run I would press right trigger, d-pad left and Y. This lengthy and extremely confusing method of controlling the entire game proved to be easier to learn than I initially imagined, but then again I am fond of games requiring endless key-spam combinations (classic Tony Hawks to name but many). It is very likely that the average gamer will want to take the game back right after the tutorial, therefore be warned if daunting controls put you off, as you will soil yourself slightly by Warhammer Battle March.
After a few hours of fighting with myself over the controls, sending my troops running to their deaths a few times by mistake, I finally got to grips with the controls completely. It is official, if you put the time and effort into learning the controls you CAN play games of this nature happily on a console. The question is would you want to? I found the majority of my time with Warhammer Battle March rather bored to be blunt. The storyline, characters and style were all extremely shallow, bland and typically lifeless, which I feel may be something that fans of the Warhammer universe will grab their pitchforks to protest.
The aim of most missions is to simply obliterate all your foes, with a small few additional twists to spice things up from time to time. The main issue I had with the game is the simple fact that being tactical, which is the aim of the genre the game is placed in, was not a requirement. It was easy for me to place my men close to battle and to lure out a single formation of enemy troops and pick them off one at a time. I was even able to use only archer units to destroy them without taking any damage. This begged the question to be asked, what is the point? There are some nice features of the core mechanics such as hero characters which have special abilities that can be called upon (such as fireballs or defence spells) with a deep talent tree that customises the character to your playing style. There is even a wonderful feature of being able to upgrade your units with new armour, weapons, items, abilities and even blessings throughout the course of your travels. The problem with these features and others is that they simply are not required. They mix up the gameplay if used but in the long run it typically turns out easier to just press only the A button, while tricking the idiotic artificial intelligence to succeed.
You have three campaign modes to select from, which are Empire, Orc and Chaos – the three different factions of the game. Each of these possess different stories, characters and missions but ultimately revolve around the same method of gameplay as the requirement for tactical playing can easily be debated. There is also a Skirmish mode for quick battles, the tutorial and an option to create your own army - which are all welcome extras. Lastly is the welcome addition of online play, which offers up a small amount of game options to set before the match for up to four players. Online play is certainly better than playing against the moronic artificial intelligence, but the gameplay issues are obviously still present and the dullness still sets in before long. It is also rather frustrating to encounter fps lag when four players are in the same area. This is rather remarkable considering the sheer blandness of the graphics.
The overall feel of the gameplay is average, bordering on bad, so in combination with the graphics and audio the game takes a run (after struggling to enable run) into bad. The graphics throughout are drab. Environments are empty and lacking in any attention to detail whilst the character models are laughable, even for a game that packs a large number of models into a single space. The boring and predictable voice work of roaring grunts and admirable knights falls perfectly into place in the perfect example of an unintentional hilarious cutscene. Nothing beats watching a cutscene of a knight on a horse speaking to those around him, unable to move his neck to look down at them or around the landscape around him – real knights look straight ahead at all times and speak in a dreary monotone manner!
If you are a hardcore Warhammer fan chances are that you will disagree with anything negative being said (reviewers have reasons to fear fanboys) but the average gamer will no doubt be bored with this poor attempt at RTT gaming on the 360. For gamers eager to try a console based RTT, you can either find one of the better offerings or simply wait for something far superior to come along.