Warhammer 40K – Dawn of War 2 Review by Honorabili
One Sentence Review:
“Challenging squad combat level based RTS based on the Warhammer 40K universe but based on the game style of Company of Heroes.”
8 out of 10
If you want to read my review & strategy guide for the campaign of the expansion Chaos Rising, click here.
This is the ambitious and different sequel to what is considered (by the computer game industry) the 2004 strategy game of the year. The first game was similar to Starcraft but this one chooses a different route. For the multiplayer aspect/connectivity the game decided to use Games For Windows Live as the backbone. If you have a microphone you will appreciate that the game has a built in voice chat that is used via Games For Windows Live. In general over some older RTS games and introduced in Company of Heroes, the game makes use of cover in the terrain to give defensive bonuses to units.
There are different game modes: single player and co-op storyline campaign, skirmish which you can set to PVE or play with a combination of other players together or against each other in the tradition of online pvp play that’s now commonplace, and the recently added mode of The Last Stand. The campaign consists of you or your gaming partner following a series of linear and also randomly generated conquer and defend missions with your squad of hero units which have leveling through combat/objectives (also a level cap) and the acquisition of relics (wargear) that modify the combat characteristics/tactics of each squad. You can only play as the human Space Marine faction in the campaign. The difficulty is variable. As far as fighting goes, the campaign mainly consists of completing objectives and taking optional ones. As far as skirmish goes, you can opt out to practice against the computer or either do traditional 1 vs 1 and up in groupings of players. For skirmish you can be human Space Marines, Eldar, Tyranids, or Orks. The game includes a ladder system for this mode. In the skirmish mode, this plays out more like a regular RTS with two resources available, power and requisition. You can set the objective to either wipe out the player or hold the most strategic points for x amount of time and so forth. This is a lot like Unreal Tournament 3/Company of Heroes. The newest game mode The Last Stand groups you up with two other human players in a series of levels, each in increasing difficulty, in a game of survival. You get a higher score multiplier for killing all enemies quicker than normal groups, not dying, holding the defense points capped, with all your multiplier being resetted to 1X if any team member dies. There is a high score/ladder system with this mode and the game also keeps track of your best scores for each of the characters you get, those being the Space Marine, Eldar, and Ork.
The campaign keeps you playing until you beat it and it’s worth replaying with another player, usually at the highest difficulty. It’s worth also playing alone in the max difficulty as having another player can (sometimes) make it easier. The skirmish mode can be a lot of fun as the game plays out more like a traditional RTS game rather than the storyline hero system that people will get used to playing if they play the campaign a lot. The Last Stand is probably the funnest game more as it creates a good feeling of teamwork, although it can be disappointing to get paired up with a bunch of noobs that will get you killed faster than you think. If you play the game with a good group of friends the game can be a lot funner as you can start to dominate the ladders and scoreboards. Overall the game will keep you entertained for days, maybe weeks and it’s good to go back to it and visit it once in a while especially if they released new maps for it or modified minor parts of the game. For fun factor I give DoW2 an 8 out of 10.
As far as the campaign goes, I find it rather easy even at the highest difficulty setting. I’ve tested this and made people who never played the game play it at that difficulty right from the start and they found it easy to dominate, even with non-experienced RTS players. I started to play the game with non-favorite/favorable characters and it’s still easy. Still, it’s worth playing through at least once.
The skirmish mode is much more challenging as you are dealing with human players that most likely have been playing the game already in this mode kicking ass and will school you until you get the hang of it. Don’t be discouraged as this is often the case in RTS games online and if you are a good player and played the tutorial, I mean campaign, you will quickly get used to the units, although the campaign only lets one play Space Marines and skirmish allows more races, so one will need to learn all about them from scratch. If you put in the time and effort, you will find skirmish to be the most rewarding as far as a challenge goes. My advice is that you memorize all the cover points in all maps so optimize defense tactics/cover. Don’t worry most other players you will fight already have done this. 😀
The Last Stand is a lot of fun but make sure that you are grouped with great players that know what you are doing and you make a good team effort to make it to the last stages/top of the ladder. The difficulty can be impossible if you play with noobs but don’t feel bad as the game will soon be over. ;-] With my friends we played the hell out of this mode easily for 1-2 weeks nonstop so it can be exciting for a while. In the final stages of the mode when you are fighting the entire screen filled with enemies the difficulty is literally impossible but that’s the point of the mode. It’s really well done in that sense.
The tutorial (campaign) is a cakewalk so I will punish the game for that. Skirmish is great if you put in your time getting used to it so that’s flawless. The Last Stand is what it is and it works as advertised. Overall I give DoW 2 an 8 out of 10 for this category.
I bought the game when it first came out for $50 on Steam. The game is currently sold for about $40 on there as of the time of this writing and if you buy a bundle of THQ/Relic games you can get it for partially cheaper cost. It is also sometimes sold on sale via Steam as the game did not sell as well as they anticipated and they are trying to get more people to play it. Since the expansion pack is a few months away as of now it will probably be on sale again often as they might also bundle the game and expansion together when that’s available. Since the game is not that popular right now, I would say that they should sell it for $30 all the time as the base price to encourage more players to get it. Since the game provides many many hours/days of entertainment and it can become a permanent game to keep playing, I give it a 7 out of 10 in value.
UPDATE: (from my DoW2 Chaos Rising review)
On Steam, they sell DoW2 Gold which has the original game and expansion for $40. The link to the Steam sale is the following. If you were like me and already owned DoW2 then for $30 Steam sells the expansion here.
If you never played DoW2, for $40 both the original and expansion for that price is an amazing value because that’s like a month or more worth of gaming right there, easily. $30 for just the expansion is a bit more steep but if you’re a fan of DoW2 and/or Warhammer 40k then you will probably buy it anyways.
The campaign can be played a good 2-3 times before you never want to see it again. The Last Stand can be very entertaining especially if you have a great team going. Since you have 3 heroes which you level up and unlock special abilities/wargear for, you would have to play many (and I mean MANY) matches to unlock all their powers. You don’t necessarily have to do that to get ranked super high in the scoreboard so long as you are good and your team mates play like a well-coordinated military unit. The skirmish mode will have unlimited replayability depending on much much you liked the game already in general and how you approach ladder pvp RTS games in general. I give the replayability a score of 8 out of 10.
Most of the voice actors from DoW 1 which are professionals are back and you will quickly recognize them. They are well picked, especially units like the Dreadnought (undead human Robocop ED209 unit of an almost dead human soldier stuck in a killing machine that will forever “live to serve”). The sound effects themselves are great especially hearing the explosions and sounds of machineguns letting loose and Eldar weapons flying through the air (shurikens, etc.). I give the sounds of DoW 2 an 8 out of 10.
The music for DoW 1 and its expansions are all epic and may be some of the best soundtracks for a war game in the RTS genre. Relic continues this tradition with DoW 2 and they are to be commended. The music of DoW 2 gets a 9 out of 10.
You can download the entire the Dawn of War 2 OST from this link.
This game looks simply wonderful even in Windows XP running DirectX 9. It improves on the graphics of the first game and you will enjoy the spectacular display of combat and gore of the units. One of my favorites is seeing how effective Assault Space Marines can be on a group of unsuspecting targets/victims. ;-] The graphics get an 8 out of 10. They are pretty enough for an RTS but they’re no Assassin’s Creed.
Overall the game runs pretty well although the netcode can sometimes be laggy. Some people will experience port/NAT errors because of the Games for Windows Live and I researched this and Relic is yet to provide a real fix for it. One might be able to fix this by finding all ports used by Games for Windows Live and forcing them open but I have yet to test this. I found this problem when trying to invite players to co-op campaign and The Last Stand and the game will give a generic NAT routing error message. The game itself is stable as a rock and I haven’t seen the game itself crash to desktop on my hardware. Because of how annoying the NAT error is, and the lag in the netcode, although the game itself is stable, I give this game a 4 out of 10.
The controls are pretty standard for RTS games with abilities hotkeyed and CTRL + number to group/remap unit groupings. The camera control, panning, zooming is standard. Since Supreme Commander has much better zooming capabilities and Battle Forge has better, faster scrolling I give the controls a 6 out of 10. No real innovation there but no annoying attempts to try new control methods that are a failure.
On a modern machine the game runs decently. My brother bought the game but he was not able to get it running on his old machine which uses an ATI X800 video card so make sure you have a video card that supports enough technology in shader models to even run the game. They recommend having at least an ATI X1600 or nVidia GeForce 6600 GT to just be able to run it. I’ve seen the game run kind of laggy on the machine of a friend of mine that had the latest video drivers, a faster CPU than mine and this was at 1600×1200. Even when I scaled it down to 1024×768 it still ran slower than my older machine so I guess the game is kind of a fickle beast. I give the performance of the game a 7 out of 10 for its lack of support of older machines and unpredictable performance (a faster machine should run the game better but in reality didn’t).
My history with this game:
My friends used to have LAN parties every weekend for 2 years nonstop playing mainly DoW 1 as out favorite RTS game and all its incarnations of expansion packs and patch updates. I bought this game when it first came out for 50 bucks hoping that we could continue playing and since the game had a better online client (Games for Windows Live vs GameSpy which was a pain in part 1 to play online because of port issues) but pretty much I was the only one of my friends that bought this game when it first came out since the game got mixed reviews when it came out and fanboys crying like bitches in forums about how they “ruined” the DoW legacy since they went away from the Starcraft roots. About 5-6 months later a few of my friends finally got the game and it’s been a lot of fun to finally be able to play with them again. 😀