Lead me not into Temptation
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising works on so many levels it brings back the excitement of gaming for this oft-jaded reviewer. What a pleasure it was to play this game; it’s as though the developers were actually listening to the rants and whining of game reviewers worldwide and addresses those issues. Chaos Rising may not be perfect, but it’s close enough for this cowboy to let out a hardy yee-ha.
Although I’ve given Chaos Rising a great recommendation right off the bat, hardcore RTS fans should know there’s little in the way of micromanagement, at least in terms of base building and resource gathering. It’s definitely action-based but doesn’t suffer from any lack of depth. It’s perfect for newbies and vets alike, and it’s so packed with content you might overlook. It’s a single-player expansion pack; a standalone game good enough to be considered a game in its own right. So, if you’re ready for action then we’ll begin.
Chaos Rising combines RTS and RPG elements symbiotically. This is a marriage of genres and we’re in the honeymoon phase. It’s really difficult to imagine improving on this version, but while I’m gushing out kudos, I may as well get the bad news out of the way. It’s just too damn short, the single-player campaign anyway. But, at some twenty-plus hours, I’m just being greedy. There’s the multiplayer component that can virtually continue forever, although it doesn’t have the depth of the single-player component. From the gameplay to the graphics and all things in between, Chaos Rising is a solid offering.
The Space Marines are up against the toughest battle of their glorious careers. Not only will they continue to do battle with the likes of the Orkz, Eldar, and Tyranids, but they will face an evil version of themselves, a faction capable of luring Space Marines to the dark side. The Chaos Marines are eerily similar to the Space Marines, but they wield magical powers imbued by the demons and gods they serve. It’s these very powers that will tempt you as a righteous Space Marine. During difficult missions, you will be offered easier and more efficient solutions, but these come at a price. The price is your soul. As tempting as it may be to take the easy way out, even when your squad is being cut down and it seems like the only choice you have, the Chaos side will taint your character and adversely affect your squad and future events. Your decisions will ultimately affect the outcome of the game.
Chaos Rising tempts you almost unfairly in various scenarios. That evil gear is so deviously powerful and so much fun, how can you not want to at least try it on for size? Choosing the path of evil is not detrimental to your existence. There are some items that you’ll be restricted from obtaining if you are tainted by the Corruption, which is actually displayed in HUD form, gauging your moral compass. There’s no immediate punishment for your evil ways, but Warhammer 40K fanatics will be extremely averse to sullying the mighty Space Marine’s reputation and honor; so well-crafted is the character development, you become emotionally invested in your squads and the creed of the Space Marines.
You can import characters from the last DoW II game or start fresh with each squad member at a level 17. It doesn’t take long to start leveling your characters. The missions are clearly defined and mostly linear. Some side missions are offered, but not many. As I mentioned, there is no base building or resource gathering; what would normally be considered micromanagement is the continuing customizing of your squad. I would break the gameplay down into two main sections: combat and dungeon-crawling. The combat is fierce. It’s real time. For the most part, you’ll be controlling a series of tightly structured units of your own design. From the seven offered you’ll be able to choose four. Later in the game there are some epic battles involving scores of units. However, it never feels like you’re controlling a swarm of zombies.
The gameplay changes with each and every new piece of loot that you snag, and there are tons of items for the taking. Armor, weapons, spells, health, and tactics can all be upgraded if not completely replaced with the next big find. It’s addictive not only to see what you unlock next but how you can apply it to your next mission.
Casting magic spells and summoning demons is all in a day’s work for the Chaos Marines. Who wouldn’t want to play as the Plague Champion or the Chaos Sorcerer? There can be no doubt these classes are a lot of fun, so it’s tempting to take the bait. But, the developers aren’t totally sadistic. You can satiate your penchant for supernatural abilities and still retain your sainthood by playing as the new Librarian class for the Space Marines. Jonah is capable of casting spells to unlock a variety of abilities; a good blend of defensive and offensive. Jonah will also warn you, continually, when he thinks you’re corrupting your soul to the dark side. He could stand to lighten up a little.
RTS games aren’t known for their storylines. Chaos Rising addresses some deep philosophical issues without bogging you down with indulgent digital soliloquies. The story could have been presented better, as it’s just revealed in scant cutscenes and radio communication with other characters. But at the same time, they don’t hit you over the head with it, so you can just get on with the action if you’re attention span is being taxed.
Excellent detail comes through in terms of the characters, items, and environments. Sure, there aren’t a lot of different locations, but everything looks great with lots of depth and dimension. Locations such as the ice planet and the Tyrannid’s ghost ship are interactive and destructible. The sound effects and music are perfectly suited for each situation. Multiplayer modes such as co-op, head-to-head and 2v2v2 will certainly give you more than your money’s worth. Only players with the Chaos Rising version will be able to play as the Chaos Marines, and, for some gamers, that’s reason enough to get your hands on this expansion pack.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
Limited environments, but excellent detail and interactivity. 4.8 Control
Even though there are lots of different weapons and items, they are easy to use. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are perfectly suited for the scenes, but more in-game voiceovers would be welcome. 4.6 Play Value
The game begs to be longer. Multiplayer extends the replay value. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.