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March 8, 2011

REVIEW: Dawn of War 2 - Retribution

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by AdamHarry

When All Else Fails, Hit it With a Really Big Hammer


Hey BoLS fans. AdamHarry here with a game review for the new expansion to Relic’s Dawn of War II series - Dawn of War II: Retribution.


I want to start off by saying I’m not looking to review the game as a professional game reviewer, but as a fan of tabletop gaming and a fan of the the video game series. Also, in the interest of full disclosure I want to mention a few things as well:

1) I had about four days to complete this review. Within that time frame, I wanted to gobble up as much content as possible. So...

2) I started a campaign for every race on easy. This was the the only feasible way I was going to get through as much of the game as possible to give you a fair review. My other plan was to quit my full time job and just play the game...but then I couldn’t pay rent next month so I decided against that.

3) I only completed one campaign all the way through--the Space Marine version. The reason is that the Blood Ravens are the focal point of this story, and completing the game through their “eyes” would give me the best feel for the main plot.

4) I put close to 20+ hours into the game. I had a pretty good time and I plan on going back!
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the game!




New Stuff!
Six playable races - Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Eldar, Ork, Chaos, Tyranids
“Hero” army mechanics
Different skill trees, Abilities for each race and “Hero”
Honor Guard units (or Honour if you’re into extra vowels)
Expanded army painter
Can’t import your old game
Doesn’t require a Windows Live account

If your main complaint from the last game and expansion was that you didn’t get to play as a Xenos race in the main campaign, your Internet rage prayers have been answered. You can now choose which race will save/devour/loot (or all of the above) the Sub Sector of the galaxy. The different Heroes will level up unlocking different abilities after every mission. You can also choose to upgrade, unlock different squads or give your heroes better gear in the form of mission rewards. In other words, you can tailor your army and your squads to your personal play style which is great for replay value.

The army painter is a lot of fun, too. Relic added extra units for each race so you can see your color scheme on the different units, not just the Hero units. On top of that, they added a few other “set” schemes, like the new “Deathwatch” scheme, in multi-player mode. I almost want them to release a version of this army painter just so a hobbyist could test out new army wide schemes without putting paint to a brush. It’s a great resource.




What I Liked

The story is great! There were no C.S. Goto multi-laser wielding Blood Ravens. No, this was a solid piece of fiction about a Sub Sector on the verge of Exterminatus, a Space Marine Chapter on the brink of Chaos, and an Ork Freeboota who just wanted a hat.

It takes place 10 years after the last Dawn of War II Expansion. The Inquisition has been sent to purge the Sub Sector of all life because of the recent Tyranid/Chaos Infestation and Dark Rumors about the Blood Raven’s chapter. I’m not going to go into any spoilers, but if you like the fiction of the 40k Universe, the campaign(s) deliver on that.

Each race had a different style of play. I noticed that while each race had different specialized units, you couldn’t play them the same way. For example, the Marines are all about lightning-fast assaults with overlapping fields of fire while the Imperial Guard were a much more about pouring on the firepower and throwing bodies at the enemy. The Marines are a small, elite fighting force while the Guard had a lot more boots on the ground. Or maybe I was just playing the game that way because that’s how I pictured the different armies working. That’s one of the reasons I really liked this game--it stayed true to the feel of the different armies. Oh, and the Orks are by far the funniest campaign to play. They sounded like Orks talking like pirates, or maybe pirates that sounded like Orks...either way, it was hilarious.

The environments were perfect. I really liked the Imperial planet. It looked like a really awesome city fight board brought to life in a 3D model. Relic did an outstanding job of getting the building and unit scale right. If I had a dream table, it would have been the Imperial Planet. Even the random rubble looked great! I would also build a table based on the new “Space Hulk” environment. If you are in a modeling rut, this game is full of ideas you can “borrow” and make into your own. From the burned-out hull of a Leman Russ to the rickety Ork Trukks, this game nailed it.

Even if you’re not a big RTS fan, you can appreciate the battles. Watching a Marine Dreadnought go toe-to-toe with a Wraith Lord was one of the coolest things I saw. The finishing moves are great and it’s obvious that a lot of time when into crafting the motion of the units.

Basically, if you’ve ever wondered what war would look like in the 41st millennium, then just watch the gameplay in Dawn of War II. The cinematic clips were well done, too!

Multiplayer has something for everyone. If you like competitive, PvP RTS games, this expansion has even more of that. More maps and hero units mean more crazy multi-player games. The Arena games are suited for a co-op experience where you take the place of a Hero and fight off waves of baddies with two friends. This mode is especially rewarding because the more you play, the more your hero levels up and the more abilities become available. Of course you can always hop into a friend’s campaign and basically tag-team the story mode. It’s a really great multi-player experience.



What I Didn’t Like

The load times seemed a bit long. I’ve got a pretty awesome gaming rig, so that was a bit of a detraction from the game, but only because I wanted to get back into the game faster. The loading screens were also, well, boring.

The squad AI was a bit...slow. I remember a few times when I was playing that my squads were just standing in the open doing nothing despite giving them attack or move orders to get behind cover. Sometimes they would run after a squad that had broken and had no chance of catching them. I suppose you could chalk it up to my lack of micromanaging.

The campaigns were basically the same.
This was really the only major disappointment I had with the game. I thought it was just because I played the Marines and IG campaign back to back, but when I loaded up the Xenos races they had the exact same missions. The only redeeming quality was that each campaign did have different dialogue and a different perspective on the same story.

I was really hoping for a unique and distinct play-through experience for each race, but instead I got recycled missions with a light salting of flavor based on the race. Also, the missions usually involved starting with your units on one side of the map, and marching kill-team-style through a winding map to different objectives. And don’t think I didn’t notice that some of the missions were the same maps from the last game but with a different starting camera angle.



Bottom Line

I got more than thirty bucks worth of entertainment out of Dawn of War II. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s something you’re going to want to pick up. If you’ve ever wondered what war looks like in the 40k universe or if you’re in need of modeling inspiration, get this game. It’s chock-full of flavor text, background info, great characters and is a fun, immersing experience into the world of Warhammer 40k.

DoW II is a challenging, tactical game that rewards the player for creating an attack strategy and executing it. But it can be brutal if you walk into an ambush and panic. I plan on going back through some of the other campaigns on a higher difficulty setting when I’m not playing on a deadline. After all -- in the Grimdark, something something war.

I give it 4 outta 5 Thunder Hammers.
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