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What was I waiting for?!
Published on January 13, 2009 By iTZKooPA In PC Gaming

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
Writer's Note: This review was originally started in June 2008, hence the timing inconsistencies.  See below for more.

Wow, should I have played this one sooner.  I have been playing RTSs since I got a computer back at the end of 8th grade, spent my own hard-earned money on it too.  Back then the new hotness was the Command & Conquer series, which I REALLY got into with the release of Command & Conquer Red Alert.  Westwood was shutdown by Electronic Arts shortly after they purchased them (for Command & Conquer basically) and have raped that franchise since.  However, Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 is looking pretty good so far, and having Gina Carano  helps...sorry but she's cute and kicks ass.  I digress though.  The point of this isn't a history of my gaming days, but to point out that I enjoy the RTS genre, and since the release of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos in 2002 I haven't found a new RTS that was really worth digging into.  Well I have now, sadly it's years after it was released.

What the frak is going on?!
I will be honest, even though I played the shit out of Red Alert, I don't really remember the storyline that well.  I remember the basics but it never struck me as being an awesome story.  Dawn of War on the other hand, wow what a great campaign.  The production of the storyline seems to have been of high importance, not just the writing and story, but also the animation, pacing, and especially the delivery of the dialogue.  As any fan of the Resident Evil series could tell you, a game's immersion can be destroyed by terrible voice acting as easily as bad dialogue (or in the case of Resident Evil, both).  The story is nothing groundbreaking, especially those familiar to the miniature board game that the title is based on, but it is a mature story nonetheless.  Did I mention the writing was really good?

Heroes Units Are A Must Nowadays

The only beef I have about the campaign itself is that it is simply too short.  Most RTS titles would introduce all of their playable races as part of the campaign.  Oh, they would also have them be playable, not simply show them.  The developers over at Relic Entertainment only managed to do a campaign mode for the Space Marines, leaving the other three races as pawns in the overall campaign.  It is likely that Relic planned to incorporate campaigns for all four of the highly diverse races, but due to time or budget constraints, had to dump that idea and promote them as expansion features.  Whichever it was, I am glad you focused on the gameplay first, and added the campaign in after that was solid.

Get me into the mix, sir!
Any player of Warcraft III will quickly notice that there is not nearly as much to micro in Dawn of War.  This could be a good or bad thing, depending on the players mindset.  My brother for one thing would hate this because he wants full control over every unit on the screen.  That is pretty much why he is so damned good at Warcraft III though, uber-micro and all.  I, on the other hand, only have an average micro, and would rather focus on the strategy part of a title which is how Dawn of War was designed.  Not only is there substantially less to micro at any given moment, but there is more straight up strategy rather than resource hording and then microing better than you opponent.  Relic Entertainment accomplished this by having units be comprised of more than one individual, therefore they are squads.  These squads are controlled as one, but can be upgraded throughout their life with weapons, leaders and even additional members to fill out the squads ranks, or replace fallen comrades.  The designers also removed the gathering unit, simply giving one resources by controlling key points on the map.

Warcraft III was the one of the first RTS titles to institute terrain mechanics into the core gameplay.  They may not have been the originator, but they did it well enough for it to be an important mechanic to know.  Should you have the higher ground, all ranged attacks have a 25% chance to miss, giving that player a huge advantage.  Relic took that mechanic from years earlier and fleshed it out further, offering defensive buffs or debuffs depending on the terrain your army is traversing.  This is another facet of the title that puts more emphasis on the strategy over one's ability to micro quickly.

The Cover Mechanic In Use

Overview
I can't believe that I let such a stellar RTS slip past me for so long.  Personally, there is no one to blame but the folks at Blizzard Entertainment, and not because I was hooked on Warcraft III, but its big brother World of Warcarft.  While I enjoyed this title thoroughly, I can't really recommend it to many folks now that Dawn of War II, the sequel I am highly looking forward to, is coming out next month.  If you are that interested in Warhammer 40,000 then it is worth the purchase, otherwise wait for DoWII so we can duke it out via Games for Windows Live.

On a more personal note, you may have noticied that I have noted updated this blog in months.  Well, for the foreseeable future that is going to change, starting with a few more quick recaps of titles I beat last year.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Pokemon, Rock Band, Mario Strikers Charged, Mario Kart Wii, Too Human and, believe it or not, Half-Life 2.  As my last few blog posts pointed out, I have been kept busy by writing for a variety of video game sites, which is why these reviews are taking so long.  Over the next few weeks I will be taking the time out to catch up on those posts and adding new ones for more recent titles as well.


Comments
on Jan 13, 2009

I most heartly recommend the expansion, all of them. They add a lot to the gameplay, even if the campaigns are extremely different from eachother - considered better by some and worse by others. You talk a lot of the campaign, but where Dawn of War truly shines is in multiplayer.

One thing I can't agree on is that it has less micro than games such as Warcraft III. The difference is, in my opinion, that much of the micro in Dawn of War is 'stowed away'. The end line is that if you can't manage your microing, you're going to get a 40lbs box of rape in the mail. This, of course, varies into the extremes depending on what race you're playing.

Overall, the game is rather balanced (which a lot of people will disagree on, depending on what race(s) they favour), even though there is a grand total of 9 races - most of which play radically different from virtually all others. This means that after some playing, almost everyone will have their favourite mix of microing, specilization, or swarming.

[...]
I can't believe that I let such a stellar RTS slip past me for so long.  Personally, there is no one to blame but the folks at Blizzard Entertainment, and not because I was hooked on Warcraft III, but its big brother World of Warcarft.  While I enjoyed this title thoroughly, I can't really recommend it to many folks now that Dawn of War II, the sequel I am highly looking forward to, is coming out next month.  If you are that interested in Warhammer 40,000 then it is worth the purchase, otherwise wait for DoWII so we can duke it out via Games for Windows Live.
[...]
Dawn of War II is nothing like Dawn of War, except (of course) the setting itself. So by all means, recommend away!

Edit: WC3 have terrain mechanics? Also, in DoW there's no straight-out terrain mechanics, you don't get a bonus for being in an elevated position - you do however, get a bonus or penalty on certan areas of terrain, such as craters (used as cover, beneficial) or shallow water (detrimental). Your position in height has nothing to do with it.

Edit2: I just have to say this again. Get the expansions. I can't fathom playing with only the Eldar, Orks, Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. No Imperial Guard, no Dark Eldar, no Necrons or Tau.

on Jan 13, 2009

What no. Soul storm is useless. It's CD key, on the other hand, will be very useful come the 21st.... Get Dark Crusade and Winter Assault.

 

A reason why SS is dumb

on Jan 13, 2009

Dawn of War II is nothing like Dawn of War

To each his own, but DoW2 is shaping up to be quite a lot like DoW to me with a great deal of improvements and changes.

As for DoW's expansions, all up to and including Dark Crusade are worth playing if you can get them cheap.  Soulstorm was crap and it's either pretty indicative of why Iron Lore shuttered its doors or evidence that they were in a rush to finish it before they closed down.  Those that bought it can enter their CD Key on Steam and participate in the DoW2 beta on Jan. 21st.

The most promising thing about DoW2 is that Relic is promising a much easier to patch game with more frequent patches since even they admit they failed pretty badly at supporting the original game.  I'm greatly looking forward to the public beta on the 28th.

on Jan 13, 2009

Thrawn2787
What no. Soulstorm is useless. It's CD key, on the other hand, will be very useful come the 21st.... Get Dark Crusade and Winter Assault.

A reason why SS is dumb
You obviously didn't read my entire post. I fully agree that the narrator and the story in Soulstorm is fucking useless. But as I said, DoW only comes to it's right in multiplayer.

And if you can shut out everything that has anything to do with the narrator, the campaign can actually be fairly enjoyable. At least the Stronghold missions. But regardless, as I said, the (quality of) campaigns greatly vary.

Mazuo

Dawn of War II is nothing like Dawn of War
To each his own, but DoW2 is shaping up to be quite a lot like DoW to me with a great deal of improvements and changes.
[...]
Aside from them both being RTS games, I really don't see the supposed similarities people keep claiming there to be. I mean, overall. There's no recruitment, there's no building, squad leaders are immortal.

These are just some of the more glaringly obvious differences between the two. While I reserve final judgement, DoW2 above all appears 'dumbed down' compared to DoW. I'm not saying DoW2 will be bad in any way - it's just that as far as sequels go, it has very little in common with it's predecessor.

Edit: Instead of turning this thread into something we already have - there's a discussion in this thread, where I talk pretty much about the exact same subject.

Mazuo
[...]
The most promising thing about DoW2 is that Relic is promising a much easier to patch game with more frequent patches since even they admit they failed pretty badly at supporting the original game.
Apart from Soulstorm (that regrettably suffered due to the death of Iron Lore, in terms of updates) I never really noticed DoW lacking in terms of patches - also, how easy can patching become? You download it, you run it, and then you're done!

The promise of free downloadable content and so on does sound highly promising, of course. But again, I'd like to reserve final judgement, since we've heard this story before (most recently, Mass Effect) from several developers. Unfortunately, not everyone is Stardock.

on Jan 14, 2009

also, how easy can patching become?

Easy on Relic's end, I meant.  They had a very convoluted QA system in place that caused months of delays to put out very minimal fixes.  They're promising that things that are easy to fix will actually get pushed out the door and fixed.  I'm hoping they won't drop the ball this time.

As for things that need to be fixed, if you visit their forums, I'm pretty sure there are still balance and bug threads that had been reported months or years ago that still aren't corrected.

I'd go to the other thread, but like I was trying to claim before, I don't think anyone's going to be convinced one way or the other that DoW2 isn't how they already perceive it.  I will quickly comment that you should remember that squad leaders are only immortal in that your commander can revive them with low health in SP.  In MP, there are just sergeants and they die just as well as any other grunt.

on Jan 14, 2009

Luckmann
Edit2: I just have to say this again. Get the expansions. I can't fathom playing with only the Eldar, Orks, Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. No Imperial Guard, no Dark Eldar, no Necrons, no Sisters of Battle or Tau.


Fixed.

on Jan 14, 2009

Wintersong

Quoting Luckmann, reply 1Edit2: I just have to say this again. Get the expansions. I can't fathom playing with only the Eldar, Orks, Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines. No Imperial Guard, no Dark Eldar, no Necrons, no Sisters of Battle or Tau.

Fixed.
True, too true. God knows I enjoyed the SoB a lot more than most of the others. Must've just slipped my mind.

on Jan 14, 2009

I touched upon the gameplay notes which applies to the MP as well, but you are correct, I should have mentioned that more specifically.  I had a lot of fun LANing with DoW for a few months with my friends after we all started playing around the same time.  Felt that all the factions were pretty balanced and loved all the mods that were made for the title.  We mainly played with the one that applied the board game rules...ie more realistic.

The terrain tactics I discussed in-depth are from Warcraft III, simple hieght advantage caused a 25% chance to miss for ranged attackers.  That was all that Blizzard implemented though, Relic took it further by the buffs and debuffs as we both noted.

I do plan on picking up the expansions (already have Winter Assault just haven't popped it in) as I see them cheapily.  However, I doubt I will play get to play them before DoW2 comes out, damn reviewing gets in the way of playing games I want to sometimes.  I loved Iron Lore Entertainment's Titan Quest, so I am sad to hear that their addition to Relic's vision of Warhammer 40k was so poor.

Now to get one with writing quick reviews for all those other titles I listed...

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