Developer: Relic Entertainment
I couldn’t really tell you why I wanted to originally pick up this game. The only time I ever played the original Dawn of War was back when it first released and they had a demo. Furthermore, I was so flabbergasted by the multiplayer beta they had up on Steam. The thing didn’t even have a proper tutorial! However, I found myself inexplicably drawn to Dawn of War II and could not resist it’s primal pull. I’ve always kind of had a dirty admiration and longing to play me some real time strategy games, and even have that same longing to play the actual tabletop version of Warhammer. My issue is that I could never really get into base building for digital RTS’ and I didn’t have the time and patience to build and paint an army for the tabletop game.
Enter the delicious soup that is Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2. This game is part RTS, part tactical RPG, part Diablo, and completely dope.
The game is Games for Windows – Live enabled so you will actually need to make a gamertag to save campaigns and compete online. The game treats you to a decent opening cinematic that shows a scuffle between some Eldar and Space Marines. All of the opening screens can be skipped with the exception of a single one that actually shows a loading bar. You are then dumped into the main menu where you can choose to start a campaign or go find a multiplayer session. The only thing I will mention about the multiplayer in this review is that if the game detects that you haven’t played a multiplayer match, it will offer to setup a match against an easy computer player for you to learn the ropes. Take it up on that offer, as the multiplayer is a completely different game from the single.
The single player of Dawn of War 2 pits you as the Space Marines through the whole campaign. It breaks away from the typical RTS mold in that there is absolutely no base building. You are essentially given a mission and up to 4 squads of 1 to 4 members to complete it. The majority of the missions are basically the same in that you have to fight from one point of the map and then kill a boss character or destroy certain objectives. You typically have your choice of between two to four missions that vary from defense of certain acquired assets on the maps, destroying a tough boss, or securing special assets. What makes all of this all the more interesting and ultimately fun, is that your squad leaders gain experience and levels as you’re doing this which allow you to spend skill points to unlock more abilities for them to use and toughen them up. The only issue I had with this was certain abilities that you may get from pouring into your characters can’t be used till close to the end of the game. One example of this is the ability to use Terminator armor on a few of your squads. One thing that makes up for this is that defeated enemies drop a decent amount of varied loot that can be equipped on your sqaud leaders after every mission. This allows you to decide exactly what role each squad will play in a mission such as if they will be melee or ranged fighters.
The is also not the standard fare that you’d find in a traditional RTS. Units are able to use the different types of terrain for varying amounts of cover. This doesn’t guarantee their safety forever though as pretty much all terrain can be destroyed and leave them out in the open. Each unit also has various special moves that they acquire from either leveling up or having certain equipment on them. This allows units to do things such as blow up buildings, teleport around the map, increase their damage output, or break suppression which slows down the unit. I found this easy to manage and made the combat a hell of a lot of fun. I almost felt sad when I had to stop doing missions so I could finish the game and put up a proper review. I finished the game between 10 and 12 hours but could have easily gotten an additional 2 or 3 out of it. This is not even taking into account the different achievements that I still would like to get with some additional play throughs.
My time was not always rosy with Dawn of War 2 however. I had some issues where I would give commands to units and they would either not do them or they would have some path issues and just stand around. There isn’t really a tutorial so much as they like to throw you into the game and you may click icons on the side for information should you so choose. Relic is not trying to hold your hand on this at all. While I would have no issue with this if it were a standard RTS, this game is so different even from it’s predecessor that it needs a little bit more explanation for someone absolutely new or has been away from the genre for a bit. And my final complaint is a joint one for both Relic and Games for Windows -Live. Here is an entire forum post over at the official Dawn of War 2 community forum about gamers not getting achievements when they fulfill the requirements. The big one that even hit me, was the one for beating the game. There is no remedy besides to try and recreate the conditions for earning the achievement (i.e. try again). I will say that I have beaten the game twice off of my last save and still haven’t gotten that achievement.
After all of that is said and done though, those are minor annoyances that rarely take away from the single player game. It gives you completely satisfying combat and unit customization with a ton of re-playability. Mind you, this is only playing the single player and none of the multiplayer or doing the campaign co-op with a friend. I’ll leave that review up to Logan as I may be too busy trying to get more loot and playing the game through on a harder difficulty.