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Dawn of War II – The Last Standalone

Dawn of War II – The Last Standalone

News just reached us that THQ is releasing the Last Stand feature as found in Dawn of War II as a standalone downloadable game to cater to potential new players. The aptly named ‘Dawn of War II – Retribution – The Last Standalone’ allows new players to dive into the game by experiencing the popular Last Stand mode – no RTS experience necessary. If a player decides this game is his cup of tea, he can easily upgrade to the full version.

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Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising – The Verdict

Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising – The Verdict

The original Dawn of War 2 was an odd beast. Coming from a strong strategy heritage, one firmly entrenched by about a billion add-ons for the original game, it decided to step away from the base-driven confines of its predecessor and into a more squad-based realm. It was a slightly confusing take on things at first, but it opened up the developers to really grab hold of one of the more appealing aspects of the 40k universe, narrative.

Chaos Rising build upon its firm foundations and takes you deeper into the mysterious heart of the Blood Ravens. One year on from the crusade against the all-consuming Tyranids, your nameless force commander is thrust back into action when a rogue planet emerges from the Warp, bringing with it a heretical legion of Chaos Space Marines.

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Dawn of War II – The Verdict

Dawn of War II – The Verdict

Dawn of War 1 was a veritable classic in the real time strategy genre, a vibrant, violent, visceral explosion of all out mayhem. There’s nothing quite like it out there. Dawn of War 2 shares many of its elder brother’s traits, with some interesting improvements of its own. But the bosses are rubbish.

DoW II off-line/coop begins more or less as it ends; you lead a limited number of squads – in fact, if you only have 1 if you play coop – against a vastly numerically superior enemy who you must apply all your knowledge of squad level tactics to combat. If you played Company of Heroes you’ll have a good idea of how it plays in this respect; i.e. carefully positioning your squads to maximise the use and/or destruction of gloriously malleable terrain. Moving on to the next levels you acquire a further squad or 2 if playing solo, and that’s essentially your lot for the campaign. It’s not nearly as bad as it sounds however.


Your squads over time become obscenely powerful, and are every bit the heroic super-humans you expect Space Marines to be. It’s a genuine thrill tailoring each unit to perform a specific role, and the equipment gradually makes your band of heroes look the part too. You’ll find it impossible not to get excited when you find your first power axe for example. I think it’s clear that the standard RTS campaign is becoming more and more tired. You play missions, you get a cut-scene now and then, then you do the same again as another side. Relic’s twist on things is a very, very welcome change, and in fact, they’ve accidentally produced a fine RPG; albeit having picked up the most irritating of RPG characteristics, the boss fight. They’re arbitrarily difficult, and though tactically engaging, they’re particularly uninteresting. And they’re hugely anti-climatic. It’s just not that satisfying fighting them, especially when you find your 10 or so men struggling against one measly Warlock – it would have been a lot more interesting if you were attacking a defended position with less powerful, but numerically increased forces – sort of like if you had to take on a squad as powerful as your own. Case example: Phill and I spent some half an hour on one bloody boss because we had to sneak in, ressurrect our downed chums before we could even think about trying to reduce his health. So yes. The bosses are a dramatic misstep.


Games Workshop’s bleak future-verse is brought to life like never before in DoW II, and it hits home as soon as you get in game; from the bombastic score, to the briefing screens to the FMV, everything just feels so 40k. Particularly nice is the way the campaign map slowly changes as the game goes on. Likewise, when you get to a level you’ll find the Tyrannid influence slowly creeping in as fleshy, chitinous spires begin pincering the levels, and tiny spores replace rain. There are some niggles – the voice acting and dialogue goes from generally good, to horrifically average almost in the same sentence. The Space Marine soap-opera can thus seem a little wooden and stilted as a consequence. Other than this however, it’s very, very excellently styled. On a gameplay level too this is captured spectacularly in the campaign. Your tiny squad of super-humans will end up fighting forces perhaps hundreds of times larger than itself, especially against the Tyrannids on some levels. It feels desperate, but at the same time you just know that once your bolters are levelled, or your assault marines are raining death incarnate from above, they’re going out with a spectacular bang. Or 5: They all have ludicrously powerful special attacks. Winning missions is a case of applying a combination of tactical placement and special power use in order to fight off a far numerically superior force.


Graphically, it continues the Relic tradition, offering some truly awe-inspiring scenes and units. Get up close and you’ll notice the way bolters light up the terrain around them as they stream death into the enemy, while animations expand on those in the original DoW to give you some absolutely brutal looking combat. And I absolutely love the levels – oh the levels. They too perfectly capture that 40k feeling; they’re multilayered, and feature some amazing locations; particularly I think the ancient looking Greek style theatre ruins on one of the jungle levels. They have a physicality that just isn’t present in most games, besides perhaps Company of Heroes. Except now instead of (or rather, as well as) tanks having all the level destroying fun, you’ll be bowling your Force Commander through enemies and concrete blocks. So ridiculous. So 40k.

Online skirmishes are generally a strong point in DoW II, though aren’t without faults. The same punchy, explosive game mechanics of course make for as visceral and tactically engaging a game as the campaign, and it’s in fact quite satisfying to find that it’s almost like having 2 games in one. It seriously could do with more levels. If you played the beta, you basically saw all DoW II skirmishes have to offer, with the addition of 2 new maps. We’re certain to see more maps released I think, especially thanks to the excellent decision to go with Steam. Also on the online front is Coop. Phill and I have been playing it this way mostly, and it’s incredibly good fun. I recommend using Steam voice chat over the piffling GFWL integrated chat which seems laggy and far too quiet. Essentially with coop, troops under your personal command are halved, with the other 2 going to your partner. It feels intuitive, and makes for an even more tactical experience, with the added bonus of communication. Definitely worth a try.


Everything about DoW II screams high production values, and pushes the boundaries of just what real-time clicky-man-ordering can do for us. It combines the best bits of 3 previous Relic games; Homeworld (zero base production, hurrah!); Dawn of War (setting, hyper violence!); and Company of Heroes (tactics!); so in this respect, I suppose it doesn’t do anything totally new, but it certainly feels to me that this is where I want RTS games to be going. De-emphasis on economy. Emphasis on squad management with absurd levels of bone crunching and gooey liquid spraying.

A Pretty Good Game

A Pretty Good Game. Ditch the bosses, sort the bugs, and give us more maps, and you have an easy headshot.

Review too long? Didn’t read? Here’s a Haiku, all for you, about Dawn of War Two

Clash; deadly embrace,
Nob smashing my hormagaunts,
Where is my tyrant?



I’m running on an ATi 4870 512mb, an AMD 6000×2 and 3gb of RAM, on XP SP3. Performance was excellent on the highest settings at 1650*1050 with 4x AA, with a few times when it really gets hot that things slow down a touch, but nothing particularly game breaking.

Some of us are however reporting a lot of CTDs. I’ve only had 1 thus far, but some are crashing repeatedly during campaigns (though luckily saves seems to stay, meaning progress can be made.) If you don’t want to take the risk, watch this space. I’ll try to update it when they patch (said to be coming soon, which is likely, given the Steam use). EDIT: I’ve noticed a patch has come out fixing crashes. I’ll check with the others in a bit to see if it deals with theirs.

On the matter of Steam, don’t worry too much if you’re a Steam virgin. Simply download Steam (or install it from the DoW II disk, I presume it’s on there). You’ll have to create an account, which is no headache. Then simply install, and then Steam will automatically bring it up to the latest version. Easy! While you’re at it join our Steam community here and come have a chat while you’re waiting for it to update your game!

You will unfortunatly also need a Games for Windows Live however if you want to play online. It’ll ask you to create an account for it in game. Irritating I know when they’re already using the excellent Steam system, but there’s no alternative for online play at the moment. At least the achievements / stats are nice.


Dawn of War 2: The Impressioning

Dawn of War 2: The Impressioning

They be me Nobz. They be 'ard and mean.

Dawn of War 2 multiplayer is an exercise in frustration, while at the same time being incredibly compelling and simultaneously tense. It does a lot of small things right, and a few big things wrong, and some things are just a little too confusing. Like many RTS games, the singleplayer would seem to act as a tutorial for the multiplayer, and without that conditioning and slow understanding, the multiplayer is both overwhelming and wonderfully chaotic. Things happen, and you have no idea why or what to do to stop them. That, and you’re far too occupied watching your War Boss crush the exo-skeleton of some piece of tyranid scum.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Dawn of War 2 is the fact that they’ve kept all the negatives of control points with none of the positives. You can no longer build defensive structures (except for some of the defensive heroes, but they cost so much as to be relatively useless anyway), so holding a strategic points (either Requisition or Power points) means leaving troops there, but Dawn of War 2 has streamlined itself so that you only really have a maximum of 7 or 8 units on the field at once. That’s not a lot of men to hold so many points. So, inevitably, the enemy starts to go for the ones you aren’t defending, and then you rush to stop them. Then they take the one you were just defending, and it all starts to get a little… tiring.

This is my Lichtor, dead at the hands of Banana Marines. Humiliating.

Company of Heroes did so many things right, and it’s obviously had an impact on Dawn of War 2. You have fewer units, and more micro management, but perhaps the best part of Company of Heroes, the need to link your strategic points all the way back to your base, has been done away with entirely, meaning that the enemy can easily just slip past your defensive line and start taking points. It confuses me why they wouldn’t take such a brilliant mechanic from one of their series to the other, when they’ve done so with so many other things.

I’m focusing on the negatives, but that’s only because there’s such potential for a really, really fun game here. The convoluted take and hold strategies serve as a distraction, meaning most fights boil down to a brawl at these points, with the enemy just sending one or two units at most each time. It becomes a game of skirmishes, not battles. And Warhammer is all about battles. The only time you truly get to see the full might of your army is when you destroy the enemy base, but by the time you’ve got there the enemy is usually so weakened it can’t put up much resistance.

Relic have said they wanted to streamline the multiplayer mode, giving quick, 15 minute matches that give instant gratification. Perhaps that’s why there is no need to link points back to your base, and why it encourages sending out constant, small forces at the enemy. I think the problem I have with playing the game is the need for minute micro-management. I’m rather bad at controlling more than one unit at a time, so inevitably I just send different units at enemies, then select the hero unit and focus all my attention on making sure he can kill as much as possible. This makes me lose very often.

That’s ok, though, because losing is almost as fun as winning. I still get to see my troops mash away at the enemy. I still get to see my War Boss crushing Tyranids, it’s just he ends up dying at the end. There is a certain cinematic quality to Dawn of War 2 that makes any outcome fun to watch. The micro-management does work if you don’t get bogged down in the fights, and when you pull off a clever strategy it’s incredibly satisfying. When you hold enough of the points your resource stream means you can churn out units absurdly fast, making the enemy struggle rewardingly. And having just the one base unit is a lovely change. I just wish they’d make it even more simplified; they’ve done away with a considerable amount of the faffing involved in building a base, but kept just a few annoyances that become glaring flaws without the bonuses of it.

Maybe I was just hoping for Company of Heroes set in the Warhammer universe. If that’s what you’re looking for in DoW 2 then you’re going to be disappointed. There is a good deal of tactics required, but at the same time you can enjoy the game even if you’re not at all good at it. Just make sure you’re playing with friends rather than struggling against the freakishly perfect random internet goers.

I feel I haven’t focused enough on the positive here, because there really are many. The Tyranids are satisfyingly grotesque, and the carnifex in particular is a glory to watch. The upgrades system lends the ability to customise your units sufficiently that you feel like it’s not just building up an army and winning through pure numbers. The hero units in particular are particularly satisfying to upgrade, as you can really create a very specific toolset that definitely affects the end product. It’s a shame there are only a few really outstanding upgrades though, as most are merely add damage, add health or add armour. But that’s just nit picking.

There is enough of Dawn of War in here to satisfy fans of the series, and there is enough Company of Heroes to make the multiplayer thoroughly enjoyable, if extremely frustrating at times. The fact that I’m still wanting to play it despite it’s few grating flaws is testament to the compelling nature of it. Or maybe that’s just a testament to my love of big green men who shout ‘Daka daka daka daka’ while shooting a very big, and very unstable, gun.


Oh, and Relic; please do away with unskippable cutscenes/Logos. They are driving me nuts.

READY THE DOGS OF WAR!…. or something

READY THE DOGS OF WAR!…. or something

Dawnting. I know, ignore me.

It’ll be worth keeping both your ocular cavities peeled on the Dawn of War 2 Community Site tomorrow, as they’ve all but said there’ll be some news on the Multiplayer beta of the game announced then. Along with that is the system specs for the game, which all seem rather reasonable given how bloody beautiful the game is looking. Hit the jump to check them out in more detail.

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