reviews\ Mar 10, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - PC - Review

Several years ago, THQ and developer Relic dropped Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, an intense and fun strategy game set within the Warhammer 40K universe, offering up some of the most compelling RTS gameplay in recent years. Even after three different expansion packs, the game is still quite fresh, holding up well against other titles in the genre even today.

Now, THQ and Relic have released a full-on sequel, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II. The game goes beyond safe, low-risk sequel territory and makes some pretty fundamental changes, namely the excising of base-building and in its place some RPG-type leveling features for your units. Luckily, this gamble pays off quite well, making Dawn of War II not only successful in carrying on the legacy of its predecessor and the universe in which it is set, but also bringing something new and engaging to the RTS genre.

Dawn of War II features a campaign that takes place in the middle of the war between the forces of Order and Chaos. The campaign is strictly Space Marine, as you’ll play as a new Force Commander from the Blood Ravens as you’ll fight against the Orkish, Eldar and Tyranid forces that threaten your livelihood.

One of the biggest changes that Dawn of War II makes to the RTS formula is the elimination of base-building. You won’t create a single unit throughout the game’s campaign or in its skirmish mode, or build a single building. Each mission will allow you to select four squads, equip them, and put them on the battlefield to complete missions. The game’s streamlined approach takes a lot of the grind work and focuses on the action and the combat. Your units will also be able to take cover and utilize different weapons, adding to the strategy of combat as opposed to simple unit creation and really emphasizes unit quality instead of quantity as in other RTS titles.

Instead of getting a blank slate whenever you move on from one mission to the next, Dawn of War II has some surprisingly deep unit development features. Your units will gain experience points that can be doled out for increased stats and you can even purchase new equipment and weapons to arm them with. This is executed quite well and easily, and feels surprisingly natural, even if you’re a hardcore traditionalist of the RTS genre.

Aside from tackling the campaign alone you’ll be able to play through it and skirmishes online. The campaign mode lets you and a friend play through the game’s missions and sub-missions together. Skirmishes let you play in standard one-on-one matches, or three-on-three, allowing you to play as not only the Space Marines, but the Orks, Eldar and Tyranid races.

Graphically, the game is very impressive for an RTS title, with nicely detailed character models and great animations. The world does a great job of representing the deep and involving Warhammer 40K universe.

Soundwise, the game handles itself quite well. The soundtrack has the sweeping epic feel that you’d hope for, providing a great level of ambience to the on-screen action. The sound effects are also nicely done, but the voice acting is a little bit flat, and could use some work.

Dawn of War II is a solid and engaging RTS game that not only adds some great new content for fans of the Dawn of War franchise, but also shakes up the foundations of the genre for a unique and fun experience.

Review Scoring Details for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

Gameplay: 9.0
The game’s battles are tight and engaging, and the new RPG elements work extremely well.

Graphics: 9.0
The unit models are well animated and have the same type of personality that you’d hope for in the Warhammer 40K universe, and the battles look great.

Sound: 8.5
The epic score works very well with the game’s sense of atmosphere and the sound effects are great, but the voice acting could use a little work.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 9.0
Dawn of War II makes some pretty big changes to the RTS formula, but the risk pays off very well in the game.

Multiplayer: 9.0
The online skirmishes and co-op campaigns are a lot of fun to play.

Overall: 9.0
Dawn of War II is a risky RTS game, but the new RPG elements and streamlined missions are implemented in a way that is engaging for strategy fans and newcomers alike.


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