Genre: Role Playing Developer: Relic Entertainment Publisher: THQ Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 20th Feb 2009 Platforms:PC
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If you're expecting Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 to be a sequel to the immensely popular RTS title Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - like the sequential numbering system suggests - you're in for a surprise. It's not an RTS for one thing. It's an RTT - a Real Time Tactical game - and it's actually far more Tactical RPG than anything else.
Well it is in single player. Probably the strangest thing about Dawn of War 2 apart from the whole "the only thing it has in common with its predecessor is the universe it's set in" is the strong difference between single player and multiplayer. Multiplayer does away with base building but still has unit building and population caps - single player has nothing like this beyond the team selection before a mission commences. Further, MP is the only place you'll get the chance to play as the Orks, Eldar or Tyranids - though this doesn't mean you won't see them around. A lot.
The SP campaign will take you across three planets as your Blood Raven Space Marines uncover the Tyranid threat - think Xenomorphs from the Alien TrilogyQuadrilogy Series - and the other races in the game prepare to deal with it. It's actually a pretty good story, though the voice acting leaves something to be desired. The characters have some interesting streaks to them, but you never become attached to them more than the cursory "I hope they don't die so I get more experience at the end of the mission".
Co-op gameplay is a little bit interesting - DoW2 isn't really the kind of game you'd expect to play with a friend. It seems like it was thrown on at the last second to justify using Windows Live - the coop player doesn't keep their experience across the game and achievements only apply to the host. It's sort of just there to cross the Is and dot the Ts. Still, it's fun watching your buddy go charging into a horde of Tyranids, you right on his tail until he's way too committed to back out - and then you run the other way.
Multiplayer eliminates this tomfoolery - you can do it, but in a 3v3 battle things ramp up from "room for joking around" to "Oh God, oh God we're all going to die" pretty quickly. 6 players in a map where tech trees and resources are less an earned commodity than they are a right given to the most powerful lends itself to a furious pace - take resource points and power nodes early and you'll struggle to defend them. Fail to take them and you'll struggle to build an army. The other races get to shine in MP as well - the Tyranids are far and away my favourite race thanks to their strength in numbers, but the Eldar and the Orks both show moments of true power in the middle of a battle.
The game's cover system is a bit wonky at times - occasionally you'll snap to the wrong side of a piece of cover and find yourself standing out in the open - pretty annoying in the middle of a huge battle. After getting used to how to position yourself correctly you won't struggle with it until things start to get really intense - beyond this the gameplay is very tight, an excellent combination of Diablo-esque Action RPGs and the Company of Heroes tactics game Relic have mastered.
In SP you'll find yourself tracking down fights on the chance that you'll earn yourself a sweet piece of WarGear or earn more experience - your characters can upgrade their gear as they progress through the missions, as well as level up and unlock new skills - reinforcing the action rpg feel. In MP you'll find creating units and dragging them about the map a breeze as you try out the various race's special abilities - Eldar teleporters, Orc jet packers and the zerg rush tactic of the Tyranid all become a second nature to you after only a short amount of time. I would have liked to see a little more variety in the multiplayer - both in modes and maps - hopefully map-makers won't be restricted from doing their thang.
Consumer warning time - Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 uses both Steam and Games for Windows Live - they're both huge pains, and yet they both perform necessary tasks. Steam provides a working DRM model which doesn't annoy gamers. GfWLive provides a convenient method for matchmaking - and in DoW2 it seemed to put the emphasis on connection rather than some arbitrary skill rating, which is a huge
plus. If either is your mortal enemy however you'll have issues playing the game. I recommend you reconcile your differences with it as it looks like the future of games lies within.
Warhammer 40,00: Dawn of War 2 is a great game. Even with the few bugs it released with DoW2 is a recommended purchase for any PC gamer. It will run on archaic computers fine and still look fantastic, it plays well in both MP and SP - even if the two are very different - and the core decision to switch things up from the previous Dawn of War is a brilliant way to keep the series from becoming stale. Oh, and painting your Space Marine army all pink and leading it into battle will never, ever become stale.
Dawn of War 2 is an interesting jump away from the traditional RTS into the RTT world that I believe has worked very well. It's no longer about who has the most perfected first 30 sec build queue but pushes it into how you deploy your warriors and who you deploy for a more immersive experience.
The SP story is captivating and a definite must for anyone who loves the Warhammer 40K universe. The highly customizable wargear out fiting and control of the units makes for an almost infinitely replayable campaign, as well as harking back to anyone with fond memories of the tabletop game. Being stuck with 1 SP campaign and playable race is a bit annoying considering the standard these days is 2 or 3 campaigns but given the pedigree of Relics games prior to expansions it's to be expected.
Although i'm not as experienced in the MP arena just yet, it's been an interesting experience thus far.
For anyone who loathes steam/GfWLive it's going to take some getting used to and Bigpond lower plan customers be wary that even if you buy the retail version there is still a 4GB patch that has to be downloaded via Steam and not GA just so you can finish the install. Also if you have a slow net connection or none at all at times you cannot play the SP campaign because it requires to be logged in to GfWLive to enable access to the menu.
Putting the BoH issues aside this game has kept me occupied since i got it and overall i think is a great job well done from the guys at Relic.
But next time guys, please think about a 2nd campaign and put all the required install files on the DVD!!!!!!!