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Dawn of War 2 Review

If you have read my reviews before then you will know I love real time strategy games. I’m quite stubborn about what ones I keep going back to and picky about content and how menus are laid out etc. I’m also very picky about sequels and expansions and the next game I’m reviewing has had no less than three expansions but only one sequel.

Ok I admit it; I have been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 and have been for a very long time. But that should not in anyway colour this review with happiness and default positive outlooks. If anything I’m gonna be harsher because Relic could be messing with what I love and could be messing up a great franchise in the original Dawn of War strategy game.

Ok, how about a little back ground? Warhammer 40,000 (or 40K for short) has been around for over 25 years now and first manifested in a table top miniature skirmish game made by Games Workshop(which I still collect, Nurgle FTW!). Because of its rich and vast background story (and I do mean vast!) it is ripe for the plucking for computer game developers. In fact, it has been made into several already. Off my head I can think of Final Liberation, Chaos Gate, Space Hulk, FireWarrior (the first real attempt into mainstream gaming for 40K) and then Dawn of War and its expansions on the PC.

Dawn of War is a real-time strategy game that concentrates on squads of infantry, tanks and commanders all made from your base that you have to build, maintain and upgrade. It’s a classic formula that provided hours of fun and a fantastically challenging multiplayer and solo skirmish. In the campaign of the original game you controlled elements from a Chapter of the Emperors Finest; The Space Marines.

Space Marines are genetically enhanced, super-human warriors incased in the best armour and weapons the Imperium of Man can manufacture. One marine is easy a match for a dozen normal humans and is the archetype that other games and movies super-human warriors stem from (anyone who disagrees is a liar). In Dawn of War you get entire squads of them to build, upgrade and pressed into any horror the galaxy can throw at them. And that was my biggest problem with it.

Marines are so deadly that a hand full is enough to pacify entire enemy divisions but it didn’t show them like this. They became throwaway units (hard as nails basic infantry that was better than any other basic infantry from any other army but still expendable) and we all began to think Relic had forgotten this.

Then Dawn of War 2 was released and Relic did some heavy re-jiggling to the mechanics to the game. They started from scratch and have gotten a new game engine, gotten rid of the base building and reduced the squads in size and make the game more skirmish and less vast armies churning up the map and leaving hordes of dead bodies.

The four factions that make up Dawn of War 2 are the Space Marines (mentioned elsewhere I believe). The Ork, a warlike race of green-skinned warriors whose entire racial drive is to wage war, burn and maim and who actually get stronger and grow in size the more war they wage. The Eldar, once ancient masters of the galaxy now on the verge of extinction who use near magical weapons and psychic might to over come lesser races. The last faction is one of the most anticipated races to immerge, the Tyranids.

The Tyranids have been eagerly awaited on since the second expansion. As alien races go, the Tyranids are the most…alien. They are a race from beyond our own galaxy and are like a swarm of locusts devouring all organic matter on a planet, adding it the hive fleet to make more monstrosities for further invasions. The best way to describe the Tyranids is an unstoppable wave of alien dinosaurs (pretty cool, eh?)

I wasn’t happy at first when I found out there was no base building and no Meta-map campaign that made the last two Dawn of War expansions excellent. But after getting the game and watching the intro movie (which was awesome) I was ready to see what had changed.

We get a Campaign mode and a Skirmish type mode that links to LAN, Online or AI battles. The ability to colour your own army is back and now has dedicated colours instead of a spectrum you pick a colour from. Most of these colours are from Games Workshops own paint range and doesn’t limit you like you think it would. Metallic colours are great looking but I could hear the cooling fans in my PC kick up a notch in response.

Campaign mode is from the perspective of the Space Marines of the Blood Ravens Chapter (Relics own made up Chapter) and you as the Force Commander leading several squads into battle. You start with just one and can eventually get four on the battlefield choosing from six units who are designed for specific roles. For instance the Assault Squad use their jump packs to close in on the enemy, the Tactical Squad which is the backbone of any defence or attack and the Dreadnought, a two storey metal death-machine with the remains of a mortally wounded Space Marine inside.

Each squad can be upgraded with equipment picked up in the field, new guns, better armour, grenades and special abilities. Experience is earned during missions and can be expended on improving several abilities. You “level up” in these abilities as well and they offer you new perks such as being unseen while firing for the Scout Squad.

Missions are shared between three planets. A planet makes a distress call and you can chose to answer it and go to their aid. Each planet is different from the last and each planet has several regions. A main story line does wind through the game but you can deviate from it to achieve victory on another planet and calm the areas of enemies. Each area does have an expiry date on it and you must get to it within a certain time or face losing whatever upgrades there are.

You can keep answering the calls to arms from each warzone as long as you don’t complete certain story missions. This way the game lasts forever but gets very samey. That was my biggest concern that levels sometimes feel repeated.

Now base building has been done away with you get to concentrate more on your troop deployment and upgrading them. This is the same either with Campaign or Online and it works so much better. You really feel the demise of a unit have only 4-6 on the battlefield at once. The new retreat button is excellent and fast tracks what remains of your unit back to your base building for reinforcements. Relic is great at patches and support and are even offering a free DLC for multiplayer soon. The online is fun and the community agreeable.

Control isn’t much different from the first game, Left click is drag and select and Right click is confirm. Scroll wheel is zooming in and out and ctrl 1-0 hot keys squads. Various other key remain for upgrade etc but I’m sticking to the main interface.

Graphics are excellent. Relic really pushed the boat out with them and have made the units and environments shine. Particle effects are flawless and have no harsh lines when making there way over the terrain. Gun fire looks harsh and deadly and not just hollow effects, seeing the Eldars D-Cannon fire is a real “Holy SHIT!” Moment and even the marines Bolters look satisfyingly beefy for a mass-reactive, explosive shell.

Saying that, the sounds of combat have not been ignored. Weapons fire echoes around the area and vehicle explosions are mighty and sound like ripping metal. Voice overs are as accurate as you are going to get and I never once think oh that’s a human in a studio doing an aliens voice. The sound of different units is distinctive and easy to indentify when talking to you when they are off screen. Only issue is with the Tyranids because they are screeching and roaring they can’t tell you when an upgrade is done or unit is built so relic have gone for a human voice over which sounds a bit mechanical.

Dawn of War 2 is a strategy game for the future. Breaking rules and busting down barriers. Some won’t like it some will like the new streamlined game play that concentrates on the fighting and not the building. It’s now a real strategy game and not who can tech up first to get the biggest unit. For excellent balance this game gets top marks. For keeping true to the background of 40K it gets another. It offers a rich atmosphere and challenging battles. Awaiting the first expansion. Bring on the Imperial Guard! Or Chaos!….or Dark Eldar!…Oh! I know! the Tau! No wait, the Necrons! Damn it I’m excited now….Reviewed on the PC. “FOR THE EMPOROR!!!”

91/100

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Dawn of War 2 Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
1 Comment
  • James Joell
    September 9, 2023
    #1
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    Well done Mr Bage.

    Got any further with Dave fixing his PC?

    It´s time he wrote some new material.

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