Let it Dawn on You Too
It’s great when a plan comes together. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II has been in the planning stages for over a decade, and it’s all come together. This is one great game. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just another sequel or a glorified expansion pack. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is an entity unto itself. It’s so good that it almost warrants its own title, but the Warhammer franchise is nothing to be ashamed about to say the least. Dawn of War II does the series proud and is destined to become an instant classic.
There’s lots to like about Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (which will just be referred to as DoW 2 from here on in), especially the redefined and reconfigured micromanagement system that eliminates base building and other tedious tasks in favor of more streamlined and action-oriented gameplay. This game is designed for combat. If you plan on turtling, you’re going to get your shell burst. This RTS combines RPG elements for a unique experience that is fun and fast-paced with plenty of depth to keep even hardcore RTS fans satiated. DoW 2 kicks you in the butt and keeps on kicking, but it hurts so good.
Essentially, you could say that DoW 2 is two games in one. There’s a single-player campaign and an online multiplayer component. Both have different features that make each of them a standalone game in their own right. It’s rare to have one great mode in a game, never mind several.
In the single-player campaign you will only control six units. There is no faceless, nameless, endless army to babysit. Right off the bat this will limit your micromanagement, but not at the expense of depth. It may also seem that having only one faction to play as is also a limitation. While it’s true that you can only play as the Space Marines in the single-player, you can play as the other factions in the multiplayer modes. The Space Marines are more than enough to keep you busy simply because you can upgrade or level-up their attributes and equipment throughout the game. These upgrades are persistent, meaning they will be carried on to new missions. Once again, the leveling-up process is not overly complex, but you’ll notice the effects of these upgrades instantly. The focus is on fun in DoW 2, so don’t expect to get bogged down with a lot of technical issues.
Employing cinema-quality cutscenes with a strong narrative, the tale is told of the battle for control of the galaxy involving various alien factions such as the Ork, Eldar, Tyranid, and the genetically-enhanced Space Marines. Each faction is fighting for their very survival, using whatever unique abilities they have to their ultimate advantage. These differences in weapons, armor, vehicles, and technologies are not restricted to each faction, the RPG-inspired elements let you collect these items from the various factions. Teleporters, chainswords, power axes, storm shields, grenades, turrets, heavy bolters, rockets, tanks, and even air strikes can be acquired, captured, traded, bought, and sold. It’s up to you to determine the direction of your squads’ upgrades and augments to their strengths in such categories as ranged or close combat in addition to energy and health. You will have control of six units, but you can only use four in any given mission.
Missions are intense but relatively short in terms of the average RTS timeline. The game encourages engagement with the totally destructible environments. Places where you can take cover such as buildings, ruins, hills, craters, and other objects such as vehicles will eventually be destroyed by enemy fire, ultimately changing the battlefield and forcing you to flee or fight. With such an array of weaponry and technologies, not to mention the gloriously bloody and graphic combat animation, fighting is definitely the most rewarding option. It’s also a good source of experience points and newly acquired items.
After the single-player missions, there’s a whole new gameplay style to look forward to. But with such a non-linear single-player campaign, there’s plenty of replay value in replaying missions using different tactics, weapons, and upgrades. Along with each mission there are plenty of side-missions that you may have passed on the first time through.
Online multiplayer modes feature Campaign and Skirmish. The Skirmish mode includes one-on-one or three-on-three matches. All four factions are playable, and this time there is a base, but it’s used for producing more units. The key to winning the match is acquiring the most victory points, a task that includes capturing enemy strongholds and eradicating enemy units. To keep things on a level playfield, the leveling-up is restricted to the host in the multiplayer modes, but there is a shift back to the micromanagement as there are more units available for each faction that are produced from the base. To diversify the gameplay even further, you can play the entire single-player campaign cooperatively.
Talking with other online players, I was surprised to hear just how well the game ran on various PC systems. A few were running the bare minimum of the suggested requirements with no problems. I experienced only a little bit of slowdown when the combat really heated up. Keep in mind this game is overflowing with production values. Graphically it’s amazing, with lots of detail and background animation. With a great soundtrack, Hollywood-quality voiceovers, and explosive sound effects, this game begs to be seen and heard. The interface is user-friendly, and hotkey commands will be automatically assigned to units to make production easier.
The only downside to the game may be the repetitiveness of the map and the online gameplay, but if you really love doing something, it’s worth doing it again, and again.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Lots of background detail. Gory, bloody animation. Destructible environments. 4.8 Control
Easy to access interface. Hotkeys make micromanagement slick. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great audio, including voiceovers, soundtrack, and sound effects. 4.9 Play Value
Replay value is off the map. It’s like two games in one with plenty to go back for. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.