Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
As An Avid and, at times, deranged fan of the original, I approached Dawn of War II with hesitation. And by hesitation, I mean I arched my back and hissed at it as soon as I learned that it was to be something other than that which I was accustomed to. Change scares me. That being said, I'm a complete sucker for Steam's recent splurge of weekend and mid-week sales, so my boycott hasn't lasted.
And I'm somewhat glad that it didn't. I say somewhat, as my experience with the game has settled into an odd Marmite-y mix of love and hate. I love the RPG-style character development - it's a testosterone-driven version of a makeover: "Avitus, trust me, you'll look absolutely fabulous with that new Heavy Bolter. And this cloak? This cloak is so you, Cyrus." I swear I spend more time staring at my deadly (and stylish) arsenal than I do battling xeno scum. It also reminds me of Chaos Gate's squad customisation, which fills me with warm fuzzy waves of nostalgia.
But then there's the hate. While it's customary to hurl buse at your virtual minions n strategy games (generally due to your own tactical inadequacies and inability to accept them), never before have I seen the Emperor's Finest exhibiting such utterly painful levels of stupidity. A grenade lands at their feet, and they do nothing. I'm the commander, not their nanny; do I really have to tell them that explosives are bad?
Meanwhile, movement orders are interpreted liberally, and my happy little Space Marines will often decide to take cover on the wrong side of a wall and so present their metal buttocks to the enemy with great V aplomb. And then there's the lack of mid-mission saves, rendering the greatest penalty for mission failure: the knowledge that you'll have to do it again.
Usually such frustrations might tempt me to cast the game aside, but I've just acquired Dreadnought, and he looks lovely in his golden armour.
Download Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
When A Man from THQ came into our office to show us the gameplay of Dawn of War II, the sequel to the excellent RTS set in the Warhammer40,000 universe, we were told we couldn't have a copy of the movie. We had to sit there and watch it on a laptop, which we weren't allowed to touch.
DOW2 has already attracted a lot of speculation - if not for the gameplay video (which was finally shown at E3), then for the teaser trailer which alluded to a new, sky-dwelling terror about to infest the world. The current favourite bet is that the hive-mind Tyranids will be swarming across the maps - if you're not up on your Warhammer lore, they're an awesome super-predator with accelerated evolution. This could be good...
The Bigger Picture
- Near-Death Experience
Hero units won't die, they'll be incapacitated until they're rescued by a commander. This has caused a few concerns from people asking how a game will ever end.
Battling well earns you the power to summon a reinforcements pod from the skies. Getting a pod to land on your enemy will cause massive damage and a gratifying spatter of blood.
- Tyranid Menace?
No-one's confirmed whether the Tyranids are in the game yet. Their similarity to StarCrofts Zerg is obvious, but fans of Warhammer will, tell you that the Tyranids pre-date the Zerg by a good few years.
- Work Together
The environment can be used tactically: if there's a wall in the way, you can either use your commander to jetpack over it to surprise the enemy or blow it up with grenades.
Before you enter battle, you can load out your characters with items found on the battlefield. Each add-on gives the squad an ability boost, and can make a big difference to a battle.
- Now You See Me...
The races' play styles are hugely distinct: Human squads are small but pack a punch, Eldar have the blink-like ability to warp and disorientate their opponents, while Orks are ruddy big and scary.
- Know Nothing
Flames can be used to flush enemies from buildings. Many found Humans were overpowered in previous DOW games, so we're looking forward to seeing how it all balances. Especially if the Tyranids.
So It Was Tyranids all along. That was the great secret Relic were alluding to in their previous teaser video. Not Ork spores or a new race of Deep Crows, but playable, hive-minded, exo-skeletal Tyranids. An unstoppable force of nature smearing itself across the Imperium, devouring planets, and pushing outwards towards the furthest reaches of the galaxy.
They dissolve into the potent RTS mix of Dawn of War II perfectly, with brood nests acting as spawn points for the insectoid menace, massive Tyrants acting as powerful commanders, and a hive-mind mentality which filters into your military tactics. Tyranids connected to the hive glow green as they channel the thoughts, knowledge and intentions of every tyranid around them. But kill their squad leader and they become bewildered and panicked, having had their bearings violently ravaged. They scuttle madly; still a threat but a mindless one. The Space Marine strike force have a more dynamic single player campaign, one which forces you to choose your fights as they come. Rewards such as powerful new weapons will tempt you away from the more humanitarian rescue missions, as up to three different calls to arms will be demanding your attention at any given moment.
Commander-exclusive items such as jetpacks are also available, liberal use of which was made in the demo we were shown. Not only do the packs launch your men over walls, but they'll come down hard on whatever's on the other side, crushing enemies and deforming the terrain.
With the inclusion of Warhammer 40,000's most terrifying creatures, Dawn of War II's fiendish roster is bound to please fans. And even if you're not a fan, you can't argue that a single-minded bipedal cricket with two-storey scythes for forearms isn't one of the best enemies that could've been included.