Developer: Relic Entertainment
Minimum Requirements: Windows XP SP2, Vista SP1, or Windows 7; Pentium 4 single-core 3.2 GHz; 1.0 GB RAM (XP) or 1.5 GB (Vista); 5.5 GB of free hard drive space; 128 MB NVidia GeForce 6600 GT or ATI Radeon X1600 or better (must have Shader Model 3.0 support); DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
Genre: Real-time strategy
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release Date: Available now
Welcome back to the world of Warhammer 40,000, and the sequel to the popular Dawn of War. Boy, the Blood Ravens can’t catch a break, can they? In the first game, we discovered that the Inquisition had to perform Exterminatus on Cyrene, one of their recruiting worlds, as one of their Librarians had to be executed for heresy, and they inadvertently released a powerful daemon from its imprisonment. Now a threat from beyond our galaxy threatens their other two recruiting worlds. The Blood Ravens must undertake a quest to destroy one of the Tyranid Hive Fleets; if they fail, it will mean the end of their Chapter.
Relic took an interesting step with Dawn of War II. There is no base-building or resource-collecting in the single-player game, and there is a heavier emphasis on cover, and more emphasis on dealing with units in cover. Some weapons, such as explosives, can destroy cover; others, such as flamers, ignore cover entirely. The campaign itself is non-linear, and takes place across multiple zones on the planets Typhon and Meridian. Each zone has special buildings which may be captured. These buildings (shrines, communication arrays, or forges) provide special benefits, but you may have to defend them from destruction in future defense missions. A few missions, especially the defense missions, have a time limit of three days (each deployment counts as one day), though it is possible to earn up to two extra deployments in the same day. While individual units can be killed, you can simply send the rest of the squad back to your drop pod or to a captured teleport beacon to be reinforced. The commander of the squad cannot be killed, but he can be knocked unconscious if all of the other members of his squad are dead. You can only take four squads with you per mission, and the only way to truly lose the mission is if all four squads are completely killed and their commanders incapacitated – which happens fairly often on the higher difficulty levels, since the AI is much better than in previous games in the series.
Relic also put in a few role-playing elements. Your squads gain experience, and when they earn enough experience to gain a level, you get two skill points to divide between four categories: Health, Ranged, Melee, and Energy. Putting enough points in one category unlocks special unit powers or abilities. For example, Cyrus (leader of your squad of scouts) can learn to use shotguns, sniper rifles, or flamers as you add more points into Ranged, and additional stealth abilities (such as the ability to use accessories like grenades without uncloaking) as you put points into Energy. In addition, you gain leveled Wargear in the form of weapons, armor, and accessories; you gain one piece of Wargear as a reward at the end of each mission, and if you are thorough, you will find other Wargear as part of random drops for killing enemies. Some Wargear can be used by only one squad (for example, sniper rifles or shotguns can only be used by Cyrus), but most Accessories can be used by any squad. You can move Wargear between squads before each mission, and even discard gear that you no longer want.
In multiplayer mode, you may play as the Space Marines, Eldar, Orks, or Tyrannids. You also select one of three commanders, and each commander has a different focus. The Space Marine army can, for example, choose from among the offense-oriented Force Commander, the support-oriented Apothecary, or the defense-oriented Tech-marine. All unit production is done from your headquarters building, and unit upgrades are performed on the field of battle itself. You collect resources by capturing and holding resource nodes, and power by capturing power nodes and building up to three generators. In Annihilation mode, your objective is to completely destroy your opponents’ units and structures, while in Victory Point mode, the key to winning is to capture and hold more than half the critical victory points on the map until your opponent’s victory points run down to zero. In online ranked play, you may compete in 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 matches. Free-for-all games and Annihilation games are not ranked.
I have exactly two complaints about this game. One of these is the save system. Once you start a mission, you are committed to it, as you cannot save in the middle of a mission. Having said that, most missions last no more than 30 minutes, and that’s if you’re being very thorough and sweeping every enemy off the map. The game automatically saves your progress after every deployment, which means that if you do badly in a mission, you can’t back up to a previous save and try again. My other complaint is that even though you may play as many as three missions in one territory, the map is exactly the same each time, lending a degree of sameness to the missions after a while.
Despite the above flaws, however, I found myself playing one mission after the other. While there are ways the game could have been better, it’s definitely worth adding to your collection, especially if you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 setting.