Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II PC DVD
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Relic Entertainment
I think Relic Entertainment really surprised a lot of people with Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War when it was released back in 2004. The Warhammer franchise hadn't always been handled well by games developers but Relic managed to create a great RTS that not only appealed to fans of the franchise but RTS fans in general. After a success the first time around, and some enjoyable expansions for that game too, it's no surprise that a sequel has been made. However, the nature of the sequel, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, is a surprise. Relic could simply have kept to the typical RTS formula but they done things differently this time around.
Dawn of War II is essentially a game of two very different halves. The single-player campaign (which can be played co-operatively) has some RTS elements but overall it feels more like an action RPG. You'll be playing as a Space Marine who has been promoted to the rank of Force Commander. You're asked to assist Captain Davian Thule who's attempting to see off a massive Ork invasion on Calderis. During the course of the non-linear campaign, which is spread over three planets, you'll also have to battle the Elder and Tyranid races too. Those hoping for a traditional RTS experience here are going to be disappointed but those, like myself, who have become tired of the traditional formula will appreciate that Relic have tried to offer a different experience. In the campaign you won't be doing any base building or most of the other things you'd expect to do in an RTS. Personally I felt the single-player campaign was very enjoyable, although the storyline could have been much more engaging.
You'll control up to four squads, or rather the commanders of those squads, at any one time as you travel around the map completing a variety of objectives. There are some boss battles to contend with too. Each of the commanders has their own unique abilities, and they'll acquire more during the course of the campaign, that you'll make use of to complete your objectives. The commanders will gain experience, level-up, and you'll have the opportunity to acquire new gear for them during each of the game's missions. In between missions you'll get to increase their abilities with any skill points they've earned as a result of levelling up. You'll also get to equip your squad commanders with the superior weapons and armour that you've acquired in the previous missions. All of this gives the game an action RPG feel. RTS purists may be disappointed by this but there can be no denying that the campaign is enjoyable and certainly quite lengthy.
Those wanting a more traditional RTS experience are certainly going to find it in the game's multiplayer elements. The multiplayer mode, which supports up to six players, allows you to either play a skirmish game against the AI, play over a LAN or the Internet. Unlike in the single-player game, you'll have the choice of playing as the Ork, Elder or Tyranid races as well as the Space Marines. Each of the races offers a choice of three heroes you can play as and each hero has their own special abilities and bonuses. Every race has their own collection of units, vehicles and global abilities and as a result they all feel sufficiently different, allow for a wide assortment of tactics and are great to play as. There isn't any base building in the game. You have to take control of various requisition points and power nodes that are scattered around the map in order to increase your power (needed for advanced units and upgrades) and requisition (which is used for purchasing additional units). Seeing as you have to capture various points on the map then and not have to worry about building a base, it means that you're always focused on the action and this makes for a really enjoyable and immersive experience.
Quite a few RTS games are looking impressive these days but most of them perform quite poorly on less than stellar hardware. It was pleasantly surprising then to find that Dawn of War II looks great and performs absolutely fine on my PC which doesn't exactly have cutting edge hardware (in fact it would probably struggle to be classed as a mid-range specification by today's standards). The game's cutscenes are impressive looking and dramatic. The interface is probably as user-friendly as it could be and I had no problems with it all, which is certainly a good sign. The graphic detail on offer, impressive lighting effects and the destructible nature of the environments really add to the sense that you're fighting in a futuristic war.
Dawn of War is fine for deaf gamers. The game's cutscenes are subtitled so you'll be able to follow all of the dialogue in them. There are no character names or portraits to accompany the text here but it's not really a problem. During the single-player campaign all of the important dialogue is subtitled and you will see character names and portraits alongside the text which is shown in dialogue boxes. You won't be aware of the comments the units under your command say when you issue orders to them as these comments are not subtitled. Objectives are shown in text so you'll always be aware of what needs to be done in any given mission. All tutorial comments are subtitled and you can read these at your own pace as you have to click to move them on. The tutorial comments are excellent and only appear when relevant so you don't have to sit through a tedious ten minutes or so and can jump right into the action.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is an impressive sequel that's both refreshing and enjoyable. For those RTS fans who don't mind a fare amount of action RPG elements thrown in, the campaign is really going to appeal but you can see it disappointing those who wanted a single-player experience similar to that in the first Dawn of War. Still the multiplayer game (which offers the opportunity to play skirmish games against the AI) should cater for those looking for a more traditional RTS feel. On the whole Dawn of War II is a great game and I really enjoyed the different natures of the campaign and the multiplayer side of the game and for someone who has become so tired of the RTS genre, as I have, that's really saying something.