Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II — Chaos Rising
They Got It right. Looked a bit touch and go there for a while, didn't it? While Dawn of War II was the best Frankensteinian gestalt of strategy and role-playing to date, there were only so many times that walking north up a map until you reached a circular bit with a slightly bigger Tyranid in it could remain entertaining and surprising. "Oh! A big Tyranid! How did you know? Urn - did you keep the receipt?"
In Chaos Rising there's no more of that: missions are scripted, sculpted things, escalating fights packed with apocalyptically crumbling environments, a surprisingly engrossing story and a whole bunch of ethical choices.
Yes, your real-time strategy game now includes moral deliberation - which is a step forward for a genre that's usually about "Shall I build this little man, or this other little man?" As you play the game, you can be careful, considerate and painstaking to keep your clutch of Space Marines pure, or you can grab and smash everything and hang the consequences, which duly corrupts your guys. The further they turn towards the Dark Side - sorry, Chaos - the more brutally cool abilities and perks they unlock. The trouble is they'll lose other abilities, and access to some rather tasty armour and weapons.
The best course of action depends not only on your own personal ethics (eg shall I take the long way, or slaughter my way through a bunch of my mates to get there quicker?) but also on your hunger for tasty powers and items. It's a clever balancing act, making it harder than you'd have thought to stick doggedly to one extreme. Better yet, it's genuinely woven into the story. There are twists, and they are splendid twists.
The major bullet point for this, arguably overpriced, standalone expansion is the return of Chaos and its Marines to DOW. These are a perverted take on Space Marines, who are more about punch than speed, and have a few demons thrown in for good measure. While Chaos Rising's single-player game is a revelation after DOW2, the multiplayer hasn't changed much - it's just enlarged significantly by the inclusion of Chaos and new units. It's a shame these missions aren't a bit wilder, but they fit well, and turn a game that could feel small into a big and beefy one.
Best of all, Relic have dropped an enormous patch for Dawn of War II to ensure that the game's player base isn't split. Once applied to D0W2 players can face off with those playing Chaos Rising, without needing this expansion.
Chaos Rising a splendid next step for Dawn of War II, that avoids the easy route of simply fixing the last game or simply continuing on as before. It does both, and then some.
Download Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II — Chaos Rising
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Dawn Of War II divided the fans when first it crashed down onto our hard drives, flexing its power armour-clad muscles and ranting about The Warp. The new gameplay and the exclusion of everybody's favourite nutcases, the Chaos Space Marines, turned many people off, as did the inclusion of Games For Windows LIVE. Nevertheless, Relic have decided to give the fans some of what they wanted with D0W2's first expansion, Chaos Rising.
Boasting a new and improved campaign that addresses D0W2's issues of map repetition and limited battlefield objectives, Chaos Rising picks up where D0W2 left off, allowing your xenophobic genetically-engineered super soldiers to become even more super. This means a higher level cap, new combat abilities and lots of shiny new toys for your troops to play with.
A lot of attention has been given to the depth of the campaign too. Top of the list of new features is 'corruption', a new story and gameplay mechanic that ties in to the corrupting influence of Chaos. Throughout the campaign, the player will be faced with moral choices, such as whether to risk destroying a sacred building during a battle. Going against the principles and ideology of your Blood Ravens chapter will add to your corruption level. The bad news is this will turn you to the dark side of The Warp, but the good is you may unlock new Chaos-like powers or war gear.
Like all true evil, however, such powerful abilities and equipment are paid for dearly, with an ability that increases your damage, for example, draining your health at the same time. D0W2's story promises to get a little more interesting, with the return of Eliphas (the leader of the Chaos forces in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade) and an increase in communication between such characters and you.
If all of this wasn't enough, the maps are receiving some love too, with a wider variety of battlefields and the arrival of, in the words of Relic, "catastrophic destructive events" later on in the story. An attempt to outshine StarCraftH's rising lava perhaps? Like the original Dawn of War's Dark Crusade expansion, Chaos Rising will be playable standalone, and those who own the core game will be able to access the new Chaos faction when in multiplayer.
With all these fixes, features and a new faction, Relic look set to repeat their history of delivering solid Dawn of War expansions.